Health and Healthcare Systems

Strokes could cause 10 million deaths by 2050, and other health stories you need to read this week

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A stroke survivor walks with a cane and the help of neurological physiotherapist Guissela Rodriguez Palomino during treatment at Casaverde Neurological and Physical Rehabilitation Center in Navalcarnero, Spain.

Stroke is currently the second-leading cause of death worldwide. Image: REUTERS/Susana Vera

Shyam Bishen
Head, Centre for Health and Healthcare; Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum
This article is part of: Centre for Health and Healthcare
  • This global round-up brings you health stories from the past fortnight.
  • Top health news: Report predicts rising stroke incidence could lead to 10 million deaths a year by 2050; WHO issues global plan to tackle post-partum haemorrhage; New research: gene editing could prevent future avian flu outbreaks.

1. Strokes could lead to 10 million deaths a year by 2050, research suggests

The number of people dying of strokes could increase by 50% by 2050 unless significant improvements are made in prevention and treatment, a new report suggests.

Population growth and ageing mean the number of people dying of stroke will increase from 6.6 million a year in 2020 to 9.7 million in 2050, the World Stroke Organization-Lancet Neurology Commission Stroke Collaboration Group estimates. Disability-adjusted life-years will also increase threefold to 189 million by mid-century.

Stroke is currently the second-leading cause of death, the third-leading cause of disability worldwide, and a major cause of dementia. The increasing burden of stroke is also likely to disproportionately affect lower and middle-income countries (LMICs), creating a greater disparity between LMICs and higher-income countries.

Urgent measures are needed to reduce the burden of stroke worldwide and current prevention strategies are insufficient, the report warns.

Pragmatic solutions to reduce the global burden of stroke.
Stroke is a major cause of death and disability, and its burden is projected to rise dramatically. Image: World Stroke Organization-Lancet Neurology Commission

2. WHO aims to tackle maternal deaths with post-partum haemorrhage roadmap

The World Health Organization (WHO) is aiming to address stark geographical differences in survival rates from post-partum haemorrhage (PPH) as part of a plan to ensure more women have safe births.

PPH, or excessive bleeding after birth, results in around 70,000 deaths a year, despite being treatable and preventable. It affects millions of women each year and is the leading cause of maternal death. The vast majority of these deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Quality antenatal care is key to managing many risk factors, while rapid detection and treatment of PPH is also vital. However, the resources and healthcare workers to deliver the care needed are often lacking.


What is the World Economic Forum doing to improve healthcare systems?

3. News in brief: More health stories from around the world

Gene editing could create chickens resistant to avian influenza and help limit the spread of the disease in the future, research suggests. Scientists have shown that chickens with an altered genetic sequence are less susceptible to bird flu, which could have important implications given the economic cost of the virus and the risk it may spread to other species, including humans.

Patients from racial and ethnic minority groups do not have their pain managed in the same way as white patients before they arrive at hospital, according to a study. Based on data from 4.7 million patients in the US with acute traumatic injury, patients from racial and ethnic minority groups were less likely to have a pain score recorded. And among those where a pain score was recorded, black patients were significantly less likely to receive analgesia than white patients.

A course of cheap, existing drugs ahead of radiotherapy treatment could cut the risk of women dying from cervical cancer, or the disease returning, by 35%. Women given two chemotherapy drugs ahead of standard radiotherapy treatment were shown to have better outcomes than other women on the trial who did not receive the drugs. The trial findings have been hailed as "the biggest improvement in outcome in this disease in over 20 years". It is hoped that because the drugs are comparatively cheap and accessible, they may be widely adopted in treatment plans.

Burkina Faso has declared a Dengue epidemic after one of the deadliest outbreaks of recent times in the country has killed more than 200 people. Mosquito-borne Dengue kills around 20,000 people worldwide each year. Cases are on the rise, largely due to the climate crisis - that is allowing mosquitoes to spread - urbanization and people movement.

4. More on health from Agenda

COVID-19 cases are rising around the world and a new highly mutated variant of the virus has emerged. The evidence so far suggests there is no need to start worrying about the Pirola variant, but that vigilance is important. Here's what you need to know.

Dengue Fever disproportionately affects LMICs and can be fatal. Climate change is one of the reasons behind rising cases in recent years and outbreaks are becoming larger and less predictable.

Universal health coverage is one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, but progress has been slowing since 2015. Half of the world is not covered by essential health services and achieving universal coverage by 2030 will require substantial investment.

1. Strokes could lead to 10 million deaths a year by 2050, research suggests2. WHO aims to tackle maternal deaths with post-partum haemorrhage roadmap3. News in brief: More health stories from around the world4. More on health from Agenda

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