World Health Statistics 2020

World Health Statistics 2020

A visual summary

Now, more than ever before, we have tools that help us to harness the power of data. To collect, process and analyze data faster than ever before. To understand the world – and to change it for the better.

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – which Member States have fully committed to – are vital measures which enable us to track whether we are on target to an improved future for everyone. 

They help us understand how equipped we are to meet the challenges of guaranteeing that all people enjoy greater health, peace and prosperity in 2030.

Indeed, we are living through extraordinary times. The global outbreak of COVID-19 will have an unprecedented – and as yet unknown – effect on our work towards a healthier world.

This year’s World Health Statistics report makes clear that the global efforts in recent decades have been paying off. Looking at the most up-to-date data we have on some of these vital SDG indicators, it reveals health trends across Member States, regions and the entire world. 

The data shows that we are continuing to make enormously encouraging progress in many ways – but also that we lack progress in other ways. Inequality persists, with some regions still falling behind. We must continue to work together to remain focused on our goals. 

Data blindspots – lack of available data, infrequency of data collection – remain an urgent challenge but also a great opportunity. Because wherever we can measure, we can make progress. 

This report gives us further galvanising evidence, not only of what has been achieved but what can be.


Photo of two elderly Vietnamese women walking to a health appointment.

Hoa Binh City, Vietnam. Two elderly women, both visually impaired, visit a local Health Centre to have their eyesight tested.

Healthy Life Expectancy (HALE)

Life expectancy gives an indication of how long a population is expected to live on average. But Healthy Life Expectancy (HALE) reveals the true health of a population.

It’s about both length of life and quality of life. Not just the number of years the average person lives, but the number of years they can expect to live in good health. And the encouraging news is that, between 2000 and 2016, HALE increased globally by 8% from 59 years to 63.


This data visualization shows WHO member states separated by the six WHO regions. They are positioned (x-axis) by the ‘percentage of healthy years in life expectancy’ and bubbles scaled by the member states ‘healthy years of life (HALE)’. You can toggle between data for the years 2000 and 2016. Ranges for ‘percentage of healthy years in life expectancy’ go from 83% to 91% in 2000 and 84% to 92% in 2016. The range for HALE goes from 36 years to 73 years in 2000 and 45 years to 76 years in 2016.

This visualization reveals the interplay between life expectancy and healthy life expectancy, and allows us to see how this has changed between 2000 and 2016.

The further to the right a country appears, the greater the proportion of life is lived in good health by people in that country. A larger bubble represents a longer healthy life expectancy.

The data tells us a story of great global progress: HALE has increased globally during this time period. Yet from this chart, we can see there are many disparities between regions.

A country further to the right with a small bubble might appear to be in a good position. But it means that although a large proportion of life is healthy in this country, the average healthy life might not be long.

By contrast, in a country further to the left with a large bubble, the proportion of healthy years is lower but the length of healthy life could be much longer.

We want to achieve equality across all regions. But currently there is a clear difference in equity between Africa and Europe.


Photo of a pregnant woman being given a finger-prick blood test in Salvador, Brazil.

Salvador, Brazil. A health professional performs a finger-prick test to check the blood glucose level of a pregnant diabetic woman.

Death, disease and intervention

There are great challenges to surviving and thriving through life’s chapters, from infanthood to old age. And some regions face far greater challenges than others.

From declining mortality rates to ending epidemics of infectious diseases, the world has made significant forward strides. But there is much more to be done. 

These visualizations highlight the progress made in recent decades, where we stand today and reveal the challenges we still face.


This chart has under-5 mortality rates in 2000 and 2018 and maternal mortality rates in 2000 and 2017. Each chart shows data for the six WHO regions and also highlights the global average. Under-5 mortality and maternal mortality have both decreased across all regions from 2000 to 2018. Africa has made some great progress in reducing their under-5 mortality rate by 50% from 152 deaths per 1000 live births to 76 deaths per 1000 live births between 2000 and 2018. However, they still experience significantly more deaths than any other region. The picture is even worse for maternal mortality, where in 2017, they still experience three times more deaths than the next closest region (525 deaths per 100 000 live births in Africa vs 164 deaths per 100 000 births in Eastern Mediterranean).

In some contexts, the beginning of new life – motherhood and infancy – presents life’s greatest health challenges. 

Yet the downward trend of these two charts reveals major progress has been made in both under-5 mortality and maternal mortality. Most of this progress was achieved this century as part of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). 

Since 2000, the risk of a child dying before their fifth birthday has halved in the African region. This is due, in part, to gains made in vaccination coverage for specific diseases.

From 2000 to 2018, global coverage of DTP3 (Diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis) immunization rose from 72% to 86%. In those same two decades, MCV2 (Measles-containing-vaccine second-dose) immunization coverage increased from 18% to 69%. And from 2008 to 2018, PCV3 (Pneumococcal conjugate 3rd dose) immunization coverage also increased from 4% to 47%. 

However we can see that under-5 mortality remains a significant problem in Africa, where the rate is more than eight times higher than the European region in 2018. Many countries require a significant effort to get on track for the 2030 goal: to reduce under-5 mortality to at least as low as 25 per 1000 live births. This goal is in sight, but there is more work to be done.

Most maternal deaths are preventable. The death of women as a result of complications during or following pregnancy and childbirth reflects the global inequalities in access to quality health care. 

Globally, between 2014 and 2019, 81% of births were attended by skilled health personnel. But this differs significantly between regions. We can see from the chart above not only how much progress has been made in reducing maternal mortality but also where more efforts are needed. 

By 2030, we aim to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 deaths per 100 000 live births. Africa’s current ratio is 525 maternal deaths per 100 000 live births. That’s more than seven times greater than the target.


This chart shows the rates of malaria incidence, TB incidence and new HIV infections. The chart has data for 2000 and 2018, and also highlights the 2018 global average. There has been overall improvement from 2000 to 2018, except for an increase in new HIV infections in Europe and Eastern Mediterranean. More general trends show malaria incidence in Africa is 23 times greater than the next closest region in 2018 (229 per 1000 people in Africa vs 10 per 1000 people in Eastern Mediterranean). There is a very similar story for new HIV infections, with Africa 5.5 times higher than the next closest region in 2018 (1.07 per 1000 in Africa vs. 0.19 per 1000 in Europe). The distribution for TB incidence is far more evenly spread in 2018, with Africa having 231 incidences per 100 000 people, South-East Asia with 220 per 100 000 and Eastern Mediterranean with 115 per 100 000.

Infectious diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis (TB) and HIV have long been some of the world’s biggest killers. 

The African region still lags far behind the global average in all three, yet the past two decades have seen dramatic progress. 

Incidences of HIV, TB and malaria have decreased globally since 2000, yet they still pose a major threat. Indeed, progress in the fight against malaria has stalled in most regions since 2014 and HIV has increased in Europe and Eastern Mediterranean compared with 2000.


Photo of a female healthcare worker showing a Syrian teenager how to administer her insulin shot.

Zaatari refugee camp, Jordan. A healthcare worker with the Jordan Health Aid Society shows a Syrian teenager how to administer an insulin shot.

Noncommunicable diseases and risk factors

Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) can affect anyone, anywhere, regardless of age or gender. These diseases are not transmissible directly from person to person and, crucially, premature onset and deaths from NCDs are largely preventable.

NCDs are primarily cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes. Interventions that reduce environmental, metabolic and behavioural risk factors – air pollution, tobacco use, obesity, hypertension, an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and harmful alcohol consumption – could reduce risk. 

Despite the fact that these diseases are preventable, the number of NCD-attributed deaths are increasing – and increasing everywhere as demographic changes offset the decline in NCD mortality rates. They are becoming an even larger proportion of total deaths. This trend cuts across all income groups, globally, from low-income countries to wealthier nations. Consequently, NCDs now account for the vast majority of global deaths each year. 

This reflects both the world’s great progress in tackling some SDG indicators – including infectious disease and child mortality, and the need to now focus on achieving accelerated progress in NCDs. However, such progress in combating NCDs is slowing.


This chart highlights the global slowing decline in age-standardized deaths from four major NCDs. It shows the total rate of change from 2000 to 2010 was -15.1%, while from 2010 to 2016 it was -6.1%. We annotate the yearly percentage change slowing from -1.6% between 2000 to 2010 to just -1.1% since 2010. In the first six years since 2000 (e.g. 2000 to 2006), the decline was much faster than between 2010 and 2016.

Despite the reduction in premature mortality from the four major NCDs (cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases) achieved at the start of this century, this progress has not been sustained. 

This chart shows an alarming slowdown in the average annualized rate of decline in NCD mortality, from -1.6% between 2000-2010 to -1.1% between 2010-2016.


This sequence of three charts looks at risk factors for NCDs and how these are changing over time. The chart highlights alcohol consumption, age-standardized prevalence of tobacco use and age-standardized prevalence of obesity amongst adults between the years 2000-2018, 2000-2018 and 2000-2016, respectively. You can switch between showing global values and the six WHO regions. General trends show that obesity in particular is on the rise globally and alcohol use is also increasing in some regions. Meanwhile, the decline in tobacco use is slowing.

This is in parallel and partly attributed to the lack of progress in addressing NCD risks. 

By using the dropdown menu on this chart, you can explore three risk factors that are linked to the slowed progress in NCD mortality reduction. 

Obesity in particular is on the rise globally and alcohol use is also increasing in some regions. Meanwhile, the decline in tobacco use is slowing.


Photo of a midwifery teacher instructing students at a training school in Afghanistan.

Faizabad, Afghanistan. Trainer Farzana Darkhani teaches students at the Faizabad Midwifery Training School, started by WHO in 2007.

Health workforce

A well-prepared health workforce under adequate working conditions is essential to strong health systems. Health professionals such as medical doctors and nurses are the people who respond to both emergencies and everyday needs. And the world needs millions more of them if it is to achieve universal health coverage by 2030.

This is why the World Health Assembly has designated 2020 the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife.


This chart uses dots to show the number of people for every single nurse/midwife and medical doctor. It reveals the disparities observed between regions. For instance, for every medical doctor in Africa there are 3224 people compared to just 293 people in Europe. The same for nurse/midwife: where Africa has one for every 985 people, this one for every 120 people in the Americas.

Here we can see the dramatic disparities in the number of people versus the number of health workers across different world regions. It reveals just how varied the distribution is throughout the world and highlights the unacceptable scarcity of health workers in some regions.


Photo of a WHO agent greeting a doctor at a hospital in Kinshasa, DRC.

Kinshasa, DRC. A WHO agent greets a doctor at the Sino-Kinois Hospital during a yellow fever vaccination campaign in 2016.

International Health Regulations

The International Health Regulations (IHR) (2005) are an agreement between 196 countries and territories to work together for global health security. They are a commitment to develop and improve public health capacities that make the world ready to respond to emerging public health emergencies.

The IHR scoring system exists to measure a country’s ability to prepare for and respond to these health emergencies.

The data presented here is reported by countries on 13 core capacities which include, for example, measures taken at ports, airports and ground crossings to limit the spread of health risks.


This heatmap looks into the International Health Regulation (IHR) score globally and at a regional level for the 13 core capacities. It buckets the scale from 0-20, 20-40, and so forth, until 80-100 (100 being the max score). It highlights that, with the exception of Africa, all regions are in a similar position when looking at the average of the 13 core capacities. All regions fall within the 60-80 bracket, with Africa in the lower end of the 40-60 bracket. There is still much room for improvement, with no score across the 13 core capacities achieving above 85.

A country (averaged out on this chart for the six different regions) reports a score from 0 to 100, with 100 representing the maximum.

The patchwork shading of this visualization reveals that while certain regions are better prepared than others, no region currently achieves a score of more than 85 for any of the 13 indicators. 

It’s a timely reminder that readiness for health emergencies is complex and multi-layered. So across the world, there remains much room for improvement across these 13 core capacities.


COVID-19 outbreak

The outbreak of COVID-19 has been the most urgent test of national capacities to respond to a health emergency in more than a century. This chart presents the epidemiological curve for COVID-19 from 11 January to 5 May: how the virus spread rapidly and globally, affecting nearly every country and territory.


This chart shows the number of daily reported cases and deaths of COVID-19, broken down by region, as of 2 May 2020. It shows how this pandemic spread rapidly from a limited number of cases in one region to thousands of cases worldwide. We highlight critical WHO responses such as declaring COVID-19 a public health emergency of international concern and when it was declared a pandemic. Both of these moves were taken well before the exponential growth.

This chart’s shape reveals the global evolution of the outbreak. Cases were first detected in China, with the outbreak coming under control domestically as the first cases were appearing internationally. In a matter of days after it began to spread, the outbreak was confirmed as a public health emergency of international concern.

From there it grew exponentially, spreading across the world. As confirmed cases increased, the number of deaths followed. In just weeks, it was characterized as a pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the need for global cooperation to improve population health. In order to achieve the health targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it is critical that we monitor progress on all fronts in our efforts to reduce inequalities, address climate change and strengthen health systems, so that no one is left behind.

Note: WHO Member States are grouped into six regions.


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