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Canadian Study Quantifies Effects Of Safe Water, Sanitation On Health For First Time

“In a study of 193 countries to be released Thursday, Canadian-based researchers say they’ve been able to quantify — for the first time — how safe water and public sanitation efforts affect health when factoring out other variables such as a nation’s wealth, fertility or location,” USA Today’s “Your Life” reports (Koch, 2/15). Dividing the countries into four quartiles, researchers at the United Nations University and McMaster University “found that countries ranked in the bottom 25 percent in terms of safe water had about 4.7 more deaths per 1,000 children under five years old compared to countries in the top 25 percent tier” and “when judged on access to adequate sanitation, countries ranked in the bottom 25 percent tier had about 6.6 more deaths per 1,000 children under five years old compared to countries in the top 25 percent tier,” a United Nations University press release states (2/14).

“Maternal mortality is also higher in these areas, with the odds of new mothers dying increasing by 42 percent compared with the top tier,” the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics notes in a news story on its website (Mackenzie, 2/15). “‘The fact we can see a linear relationship … was a surprising finding,’ says co-author June J. Cheng of Ontario-based McMaster University,” according to USA Today. “Luke MacDonald, a scientist at Johns Hopkins Global Water Program, says the report ‘helps to quantify the mortality’ due to lack of sanitation and safe water but doesn’t provide a ‘full picture’ of how they affect health,” the blog writes, adding, “He says dirty water and sewage also cause illness and lost productivity” (2/15).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.