If I could pick when and where I was born, I’d choose 2016 and Hong Kong, instead of 1986 and the U.S.
That way, I’d have an extra seven years of life — the increase in life expectancy from then until now. As A Hong Konger, I’d have a good chance of living to 84 years old — that society has the highest life expectancy on record. And vaccines for deadly diseases like rotavirus and HPV would have already been invented.
That’s what I learned from Global Health Check, a new interactive tool created by Beyond Words Studio for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Mosaic, a U.K. health magazine funded by the Wellcome Trust. [As our readers may know, Gates is a funder of NPR and this blog.]
Enter the year you were born, and you’ll get a tailored rundown of how global health has changed in your lifetime.
“We wanted to put people in the center of the metrics,” says Duncan Swain, one of the tool’s creators and co-founder of Beyond Words Studio. “It’s a good way to personalize the data and make it relevant to their lives.”
For the most part, the numbers — taken from official sources like the U.N., the World Bank and the World Health Organization — tell a positive story: People are living longer and fewer babies are dying of preventable disease.
Ella Hollowood, the lead researcher behind the tool, found some interesting issues as she was compiling data. “I was surprised that no country had a life expectancy higher than 80 years old until 1996,” she says.
The rising cases of HIV/AIDS and malaria, illustrated in growing circles in the tool, concerns her. “We’ve only just begun managing these diseases. It’s vital we keep on it — but not enough money is going into solving these problems,” she says.
Explore the tool on Mosaic’s website, or scroll through the data below. I pulled it for the year I was born, 1986: