Malnutrition, one example of preventable disease, contributes substantially to childhood disease and death but often goes unrecognized as such. As a result of malnutrition, many children in the developing countries are underweight and are short in height for their age. And many lack iodine and vitamin A. As a result of iodine deficiency, over 120,000 babies in these countries are born mentally retarded, physically stunted, deaf-mute or paralysed.
Another example, diarrhoeal diseases, resulting from unsafe water and poor sanitation coupled with poor food-handling practices, are responsible for a further 3 million deaths a year among children under age 5 in the developing countries, and are a typical example that occurs among people who live in poverty and lack basic heath knowledge. Many of the deaths from diarrhoea could be prevented by using oral rehydration salts, which cost just US $0.07 on average.
What is the root of the disease and death in the developing countries? It's poverty. Poverty is the main reason why children in these countries are undernourished, why clean water and sanitation are not provided, and why curative drugs and other treatments are unavailable. Because of poverty, people in the developing countries don't have enough money to keep their health and get conveniences for sanitary conditions.
Then, what can we do to improve these situations in the developing countries? First, goverments and people in the developed countries can collect money for the developing countries and send money to these countries. Today, as suggested in the World Health Report (1995), the money that some developing countries have to spend per person on health care over an entire year is just US $4 -- less than the amount of small change carried in the pockets and purses of many people in the developed countries.
Second, we can send people of the Japanese medical community to the developing countries for medical education. This will help the physicians in these countries to advance their skill, and this will help the people in these countries to recognize their situations: malnutrition, poor sanitation.
And, I think that the most important thing for people in the developed countries is having greater concern about these situations in the developing countries. Many people in developed countries should become more sensitive to the lack of progress in health matters within the developing countries. And we medical students should remember that we will be doctors, not only for our own country, but for people all over the world.