30 Years in Global Health: A Look at the Numbers Then and Now

This year IntraHealth celebrated 30 years of global health work. Here’s a look at how far the world has come in some global indicators. These trends reflect changes in technology and in medicine and the commitment of health workers all over the world and offer hope for a healthier future.*



Child mortality
Death of live-born children before five years of age**

Infant mortality
Death of live-born children before one year of age

Maternal mortality
Number of women who died due to pregnancy-related causes †









The drop in maternal mortality is particularly dramatic when you consider the world’s overall population grew by 50% over the same time period.

Since its founding in 1979, IntraHealth has been a leader  in improving the health of women, newborns, and children  by providing people with access to contraceptives,  reproductive health care, appropriate newborn and pediatric care, and improved pre-, peri-, and post-natal care. Health workers are the critical force behind all of this work and can be credited in many ways with the the improved statistics in maternal mortality released this year. This new data was published by The Lancet  and highlighted on our blog by Sara Stratton, director of Maternal, Neonatal, and Child Health/Family Planning Programs, and Martha Carlough, IntraHealth’s safe motherhood and newborn health clinical advisor. 

However, not all areas of health are improving like maternal mortality. Malaria cases appear to be holding steady. In 1980, approximately 3.4% of the world’s population was infected with malaria and in 2008 it was 3.6%.‡ In part, this may reflect the rise of drug-resistant malaria strains and a shortage of health workers, which makes it difficult for millions of people to get the malaria prevention and treatment they need. Finally, in the last 30 years we’ve seen the spread of previously unknown virus—HIV. Today, more than 33 million people are living with HIV, and every year 2 million die of AIDS. But there is hope and ongoing commitment to stem the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Read more about how HIV has changed global health work from Pape Gaye, president and CEO of IntraHealth.

Behind each health statistic are people—people who depend on health workers. As IntraHealth begins the next 30 years of global health work, we’re working to put the right people with the right skills in the right places—because health workers save lives.

More 30th Anniversary Features:

* All statistics are from the World Health Organization, unless otherwise noted.

**Standard public health reporting refers to “Probability of dying under five per 1,000 live births” and “Maternal mortality per 100,000 live births.” These have been changed to percentages and absolute numbers here for ease of comparison.

†MC Hogan, Foreman KJ, Naghavi M et al. May 2010. Maternal mortality for 181 countries, 1980—2008: a systematic analysis of progress towards Millennium Development Goal 5. The Lancet. 375;9726:  1609 – 1623.

‡NTJ Bailey. 1982. The Biomathematics of Malaria. Charles Griffin and Company LTD: London.