003 - Global Patterns in Health

Geographic Knowledge and Understanding

Global patterns in health indicators, including health-adjusted life expectancy (HALE), infant mortality, maternal mortality, access to sanitation and the ration between doctors/physicians and people.


The health of a population can differ between places. Indicators of health can help to explore the possibility of change.


  • To have knowledge of the global patterns of HALE.

  • To have knowledge of the global patterns of infant mortality.

  • To have knowledge of the global patterns of maternal mortality.

  • To have knowledge of the global patterns of access to sanitation.

  • To have knowledge of the global patterns of people per doctor/physician.

Key Terminology

            • Life Expectancy

            • HALE

            • Infant Mortality

            • Maternal Mortality

            • Ratio of People per Doctor/Physician

We will be using the key terms above throughout the course of the lesson so you don't need to define them at this point.

Activity One - Describe - Life Expectancy

By now you should know what life expectancy is and why it is used as an indicator of health, but if not or you have just forgotten answer the questions below.

      1. Define the term life expectancy.

      2. Describe the global life expectancy trend by using Figure One below.

      3. Describe the global distribution of similar life expectancies using Figure Two.

Figure One - Life Expectancy from Our World in Data

Figure Two - Choropleth map of life expectancy - Our World in Data

Useful Resources

Our World in Data - Life Expectancy

'Our Planet's Food and Health' by Stephen Codrington Pages 20 - 22

Activity Two - Describe - HALE or DALY

Clearly looking at just life expectancy is too simplistic when we need to consider a regions health, can HALE do any better?

      1. What is HALE and DALY?

      2. Describe the global distribution of DALY using the map below.

Figure Three - The Burden of Disease

Useful Resources

Health Knowledge

'Our Planet's Food and Health' by Stephen Codrington Pages 25 - 26

Activity Three - Describe - Infant Mortality and Maternal Health

As you are beginning to see it is important to look at a range of indicators to see if countries are making progress in regards to its populations health. We are now going to focus on children and the impact of maternal health.

      1. Define Infant Mortality

      2. Using Figure Four, describe the changes in infant mortality. Don't forget to include data.

      3. What is Maternal Mortality?

      4. Describe the global distribution of Maternal Mortality using Image Five.

Activity Four - Describe - Ratio of People per Doctor

While it is good to look at pure indicators which focus on death as a way to compare the health of regions it is also interesting to look at what is potentially causing the premature deaths.

      1. How is the ratio of number of people per doctor expressed?

      2. Using the first link in the 'Useful Resources' box, describe the global distribution of the number of people per doctor.

Useful Resources

WHO - People Per Doctor Map

'Our Planet's Food and Health' by Stephen Codrington Page 24

Activity Five- Describe - Access to Sanitation

Sanitation is a key component when it comes to investigating health. If people do not have access to good sanitation then there is generally a higher risk of poor hygiene and people are more likely to be exposed to cholera, typhoid and polio. Today there is still over two billion people who do not have access to safe sanitation.

      1. What is meant by the term sanitation?

      2. How can sanitation be measured?

      3. Using Figure Six, describe the share of population with improved sanitation facilities.

Useful Resources

World Health Organisation Definition - Sanitation

Measuring Sanitation

'Our Planet's Food and Health' by Stephen Codrington Pages 23 - 24

Activity Six - Analyse

Write at least one paragraph explaining which of the factors above is the most reliable when it comes to discussing the health of a nation.

Exam Style Question

Explain ONE benefit and ONE problem in using HALE as an indicator of health. [2+2 marks]

This lesson was development in collaboration with Richard Allaway from geographyalltheway. For more resources please visit www.geographyalltheway.com