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Fatal Medical Emergencies on the Rise Worldwide: Study

WEDNESDAY, April 24, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Injuries, heart attacks, lung infections, strokes and other medical emergencies caused about half of the world's 28 million deaths in 2015, a new study reports.

Such deaths are on the rise, and rates are much higher in poor countries than wealthy ones, the researchers said.

"We believe our study is among the first to identify the scope of the burden emergency medical conditions … impose overall and in specific countries," said study author Junaid Razzak. He is director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Global Emergency Medicine, in Baltimore.

Razzak's team analyzed 1990 to 2015 data on 30 types of emergency medical conditions in 195 countries. An emergency condition was defined as one requiring treatment within minutes to hours to reduce the chance of disability and death, and improve outcomes.

Over the study period, there was a 6% increase in deaths from emergency conditions worldwide. Overall, the rate of deaths from medical emergencies was more than four to five times higher in poor countries than in rich ones, the investigators found.

Worldwide, injuries from accidents, falls and burns (22%), heart attacks (17%), lung infections (11%) and strokes (7%) were the leading emergencies in 2015.

Global rates of conditions such as diarrheal diseases and malaria were lower overall, but higher in poor countries.

Emergency medical conditions affect men much more than women, and half involved people under age 45, according to the study published in the April issue of BMJ Global Health.

The United States ranked 47th out of 195 nations in deaths from medical emergencies. China ranked 64th and India 144th. These three were the most populous nations included in the study.

Countries with the lowest death rates due to medical emergencies were Bahrain, Israel and Kuwait, the findings showed. Chad, Niger and Mali had the highest rates.

"The level of disparity between richer and poorer nations is significant, and should not be acceptable to the global community," Razzak said in a Johns Hopkins' news release.

He noted that, in terms of global health, most research has traditionally focused on primary care and disease prevention, rather than emergency care. Razzak said the findings could lead to public health strategies that redirect resources and save lives.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine explains how to recognize medical emergencies.

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Medicine, news release, April 22, 2019

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