Africa hits public health milestone in life expectancy: WHO

DRC – Healthy life expectancy in the African region has increased on average by 10 years per person between 2000 and 2019 due to improvements in the provision of essential health services, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) assessment reports.

The report entitled ‘The Tracking Universal Health Coverage in the WHO African Region 2022’ highlights that healthy life expectancy, also the number of years an individual is in a good state of health, increased to 56 years in 2019 compared with 46 in 2000.

According to the WHO report, high and upper middle-income countries tend to have better health service coverage and higher healthy life expectancy at birth than lower-income countries with around 10 additional years of healthy life expectancy.

The health study revealed that the improvement in healthy life expectancy in the African region is greater than in any other region of the world during the same period, noting that over the same period, global healthy life expectancy increased by only five years.

The Tracking Universal Health Coverage in the WHO African Region 2022 study conducted across 47 countries that make up the WHO African Region from 2000 to 2019 reveals that essential health service coverage improved to 46% in 2019 as opposed to 24% in 2000.


The WHO report noted that improvements in the provision of essential health services, gains in reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health together with major progress in the fight against infectious diseases helped to extend healthy life expectancy.

COVID-19 has shown how investing in health is critical to a country’s security.

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa Tweet

The sharp rise in healthy life expectancy during the past two decades means that more people are living healthier, longer lives, with fewer threats of infectious diseases and with better access to care and disease prevention services,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

Dr Matshidiso Moeti acknowledged the African region’s drive for improved health and well-being of the population while encouraging countries to enhance measures against the threat of cancer and other noncommunicable diseases.

The health report further cautioned that progress in healthy life expectancy could be undermined by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic unless robust catch-up plans are instituted, observing that there are ongoing efforts to restore essential services affected by the pandemic.

In addition, WHO has called upon African governments to step up public health financing including increasing their national health budgets in order to enhance health services and ensure they are adequate, of good quality and accessible to all.

African countries were also urged to set up a sub-national system and critical monitoring systems that will ensure countries have the capacity to capture early warning signs for health emergencies and system failures.

The better Africa can cope with pandemics and other health threats, the more our people and economies thrive. I urge governments to invest in health and be ready to tackle head on the next pathogen to come bearing down on us,” the WHO Regional Director for Africa stressed.   

Furthermore, WHO encouraged governments to reduce catastrophic out-of-pocket expenditure by households, noting that health expenditure is considered as not catastrophic when families spend less than 10% of their income on health expenditure irrespective of their poverty level.

Other recommendations include countries to accelerate efforts to improve financial risk protection, rethink and repivot health service delivery with a focus on incorporating noncommunicable health services as part of essential health services, involving communities and engaging the private sector.

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