Health and Global Stratification
Global stratification, inequalities among nations based on economic and political resources, can be seen in the different levels of health and illness around the world. Significant health disparities exist between high-income and low-income nations. These disparities are shown through measures such as average life expectancy, maternal mortality rates, infant mortality rates, deaths of children under five years old, numbers of people who cannot afford health care, numbers of doctors and other health care providers, and numbers of people facing hunger and hunger-related diseases. The highest life expectancies are found in wealthy nations such as Monaco, Japan, and Singapore. People in these nations, on average, live past age 80. The shortest life expectancies are found in low-income nations such as Afghanistan, Cambodia, and Chad, where on average people live to be just over 50. War and infant mortality rates play a significant role in life expectancy in some nations. For example, the average life expectancy in Afghanistan, around 51 years, is impacted by both war-related deaths and a very high infant mortality rate. Stresses on pregnant women related to poverty and war result in very low birth weights for babies, a major risk factor for infant mortality. Women in high-income countries are much more likely to have a skilled person present to attend and assist with birth. Another issue is the rate of girls (those under age 19) who give birth. Complications during pregnancy and childbirth are leading causes of death for girls under 19. These rates are much higher in low-income countries. In countries with less wealth and less infrastructure, people are more likely to die from treatable illnesses such as pneumonia, diarrhea, and malaria.Sociologists use data from several sources to understand health and health care in different nations. The World Health Organization (WHO) is a part of the United Nations that studies and works to improve issues of health around the world. The WHO conducts research and publishes country profiles and reports. It also runs programs in different countries, aiming to improve outcomes and prevent disease and health emergencies. The World Bank also publishes data related to disease control, health systems, and issues including maternal health and child health. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington also conducts and publishes research about global health issues. Numerous privately funded groups work to combat global health disparities. Sociologists look at how forces including globalization, capitalism, war, climate change, and other issues impact health and health care in different countries. They also look at the ways that culture, racial and ethnic identity, gender roles, and other factors of social identity impact levels of health and wellness, access to care, and understandings of medicine in different countries and regions.