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5 Largest Public Health Issues of the Next Decade



There is a popular consensus that the public health challenges facing the global community are many. The recent recession and failing economies of many countries only serve to add to these health problems with dwindling resources available to address increasing medical costs. While wealthy countries face a different set of health problems than their poorer neighbors, the global community recognizes the need to approach public health as a unified force dedicated to managing public health concerns on the world stage.

Wealthy nations are facing a formidable health crisis related to lifestyle choices. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the main cause of death worldwide is preventable chronic diseases and conditions that are noncommunicable. That category includes diabetes, obesity, and tobacco use as major contributors to early death and chronic health problems.

In poorer countries, the number of AIDS cases is growing and vaccinations are not available to meet the growing demand. While it is notable that great progress has been made over the past three decades in the fight against AIDS, there is still a lot of work to be done. Additionally, vaccinations for children in many countries are still not as available as they need to be to promote overall health against debilitating diseases like tuberculosis. This remains a global public health challenge that must be addressed as funding shrinks and needs increase.


Obesity is a major contributor to many deadly and chronic diseases and conditions. A person is considered obese if they have a Body Mass Index (BMI)of 30 percent or more. For most people, that means you are about 30 pounds or more overweight. An estimated 248,000 deaths annually in the U.S. are blamed on being obese. That number represents about 11.6 percent of deaths in any specific year.

Michelle Obama has addressed the obesity epidemic in the U.S. by actively promoting healthier school lunch programs and bringing attention to the problem as First Lady. Since obesity is preventable with the right diet and exercise regimen, tackling this problem has great potential for dramatically improving public health. While the U.S. obesity rate has increased substantially over the past decade, other wealthy countries are also struggling with this health concern.


Type II diabetes is often preventable. Obesity and lifestyle habits can cause a person to develop the disease. Serious complications of diabetes include kidney failure, blindness, and amputations. Early death and diminished quality of life are too often byproducts of this serious problem. For this reason, it is highly recommended that people prevent diabetes by managing weight gain and staying physically active.

Tobacco Use

Tobacco use causes many premature deaths. About 20 percent of deaths in the U.S. annually are blamed on the use of tobacco products. It is no secret that the U.S. has declared war on tobacco by legally requiring warning labels and minimum age requirements. In spite of the fact that it is becoming increasingly hard to smoke in public every day, there is still a substantial challenge to get people to give up highly-addictive tobacco products.


While AIDS treatments have changed this disease from a death sentence to a manageable condition in wealthy countries, the spread of AIDs is still a major public health concern. Two major challenges exist. The demand for HIV treatment exceeds availability by a significant margin. The costs of the latest drugs are very expensive.


Underdeveloped countries still struggle with getting basic immunizations. Not surprisingly, in the event of a health emergency, the wealthy countries have first access to vaccines. Developing countries often experience funding shortfalls to purchase needed vaccines.