Leading causes of mortality throughout the world
The question of "saving lives" comes first when someone gets serious about altruism.
However, before discussing what can be done to save lives, it's good to have some statistics on the leading causes of mortality throughout the world.
Source: WHO, 2002
2 causes of mortality tops the list:
1. "Ischemic heart disease"
2. "Cerebrovascular disease"
In summary, ischemic cardiomyopathy is a medical term that doctors use to describe patients who have congestive heart failure that is a result of coronary artery disease
Patients with this diagnosis may at one time have had a heart attack, angina or unstable angina.
High blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, high fat diet, high blood cholesterol, obesity and (rarely) stress can all precipitate ischemic heart disorders.
Cerebrovascular disease: A stroke is when the blood supply to any part of the brain is interupted, resulting in tissue death and loss of brain function.
The risk of stroke is increased by smoking, hypertension, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, and heart disease.
From these informations, a straight-forward way to save lives is to encourage people to exercise and eat healthy food. These changes in life-styles are the most efficient ways to quit smoking... stop drinking... avoid obesity and high cholesterol rates.
However, these diseases don't kill children, teenagers and young adults. What would be the leading causes of mortality for these age groups?
For children under the age of 5: Pneumonia accounts for 19 percent of all child deaths, diarrhea 17 percent . Undernutrition is an underlying cause in more than half of all deaths before age 5. In other words, these causes of mortality affect mainly the children living in the poorest countries of the world.
Worldwide statistics on the causes of teenagers mortality are harder to find! However from the existing statistics for all age groups, we can assume that HIV/AIDS is the most worrying one.
Here is what I found one HIV/AIDS preventions for teenagers (US website discussing the cases of US teens only)
"One common argument against HIV/STD education programs is that exposing teens to information about sex will encourage them to engage in sexual activity. But a comprehensive review of 23 school-based programs found quite the opposite was true: teens who received specific AIDS education were less likely to engage in sex, and those who did were more likely to have sex less often and have safer sex.
Schools alone can't do the job. There remain major obstacles to good HIV/STD education. Some schools lack properly trained personnel. Others refuse to discuss homosexuality. And many offer inadequate instruction on condom use. Although three-quarters of sex education curricula in the nation's schools mention condoms, only 9 percent include information about how to use them.(9) Significantly, studies show that for teens to wear condoms, they must not only believe that sex with a condom can be enjoyable, but trust their technical ability to use condoms in a confident way."
An overall conclusion is that health issues are fundamental for anyone who wishes to "save lives".