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January 20, 2019

Rwanda to lead in life expectancy as Kenya stagnates

President Uhuru Kenyatta with Paul Kagame of Rwanda. Currently, Rwanda has an average life expectancy of 67.8 years, compared to 66.9 of Kenya/PSCU
President Uhuru Kenyatta with Paul Kagame of Rwanda. Currently, Rwanda has an average life expectancy of 67.8 years, compared to 66.9 of Kenya/PSCU

People in Rwanda will retain the title of the highest life expectancy in East Africa by 2040, according to a new study.

Kenyans will stagnate at second position if the current health trends continue.

The changes will mostly be determined by what people eat and the environment they live in.

Currently, Rwanda has an average life expectancy of 67.8 years, which could rise to 74.8 years if the current trends continue or to 77.6 years in a better health scenario.

Kenyans have the second highest life expectancy in East Africa today, with an average 66.9 years. 

By 2040 life expectancy in Kenya will rise to 73.9 years, but if the government improves health conditions, expectancy will rise to 78 years and overtake Rwanda. 

The new study of forecasts was published on Thursday by the international medical journal The Lancet. 

“The future of the world’s health is not pre-ordained, and there is a wide range of plausible trajectories,” said Dr Kyle Foreman, director of data science at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation said in Seattle, Washington, while releasing the Study. 

Tanzania, with a current average life expectancy of 64.3 years, will have an expectancy of 72.3 years under current trends or 75.9 years with a better health scenario. 

Currently, Uganda has an average life expectancy of 62.2 years and that will rise to 69.5 years in 2040. 

However, Uganda’s life expectancy could increase to 72.8 in 2040 with better health outcomes. 

The study shows the biggest threats to these outcomes are non-communicable diseases, which are expected to be the major cause of death in East African people by 2040.

These diseases include diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic kidney disease, and lung cancer as well obesity. 

The study argues that the threats by these diseases will lower life expectancies for the East African people by 2040. 

Dr Foreman added that, “But whether we see significant progress or stagnation depends on how well or poorly health systems address key health drivers.” 

The study shows Spain will overtake Japan's long-held position at the top of the world's life expectancy table by 2040.

 People in Spain will live for 85.8 years on average, marginally edging out expected lifespans in Japan (85.7), Singapore (85.4) and Switzerland (85.2). 

IHME researchers leveraged data from the Global Burden of Disease study to produce forecasts and alternative “better” and “worse” scenarios for life expectancy and mortality due to 250 causes of death for 195 countries and territories. 

“The range of ‘better’ and ‘worse’ scenarios enables stakeholders to examine potential changes to improve health systems – locally, nationally, and globally,” said Dr Chris Murray, the IHME director. 

“These scenarios offer new insights and help to frame health planning, especially regarding long lag periods between initial investments and their impacts, such as in the research and development of drugs.” 

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