10 Facts on the Dominican Republic’s Life Expectancy: Policy Changes and Future Challenges

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A developing country in the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic has historically faced challenges such as high poverty rates and strained economic growth. Given these conditions, life expectancy in the Dominican Republic used to be far lower than rates found in more developed countries. In recent years, however, decreasing poverty rates have contributed to the country’s consistently improving living standards. This decline has been greatly facilitated by factors such as government programs, economic stability and humanitarian aid.

10 Facts Regarding Life Expectancy In The Dominican Republic

1. Life expectancy at birth continues to steadily increase. While life expectancy stood at approximately 68 years in 1990 and a mere 58 in 1970, this number increased dramatically in 2017, reaching 74 years. Both genders find themselves on this upward trend, with male life expectancy reaching 71 years and female expectancy hovering over 77 years. As a result of this development, the Dominican Republic recently surpassed the average life expectancy at birth of the global population, which was 72.0 years in 2016. According to World Public Health Nutrition Association member Thomas Samaras, life expectancy largely depends upon factors such as education, access to health care and sanitation. An increasing life expectancy rate in the Dominican Republic suggests that such conditions have improved. 

2. Increasing life expectancy is also linked to the country’s sustained economic growth for the past decade. The Dominican Republic has consistently endured accelerating GDP rates since 2008, reaching an economic growth rate of 7 percent in 2018. According to the World Bank, such growth is the main reason for decreasing poverty rates in the Dominican Republic. Since 2016, the government has put a great emphasis on inclusive economic growth and equity. As a result, wealth inequality rates have been consistently decreasing. An expanding middle class suggests a greater amount of the country’s population able to afford basic life commodities and health resources.

3. The Dominican government passed Quisqueya sin Miseria in 2012 in order to support impoverished areas. This initiative serves to increase citizens’ literacy rates and stir economic growth in poor communities, supporting the growth of the middle class in historically marginalized regions. Citizen access to employment resources aid and similar improved socioeconomic conditions ensure an upward trend of life expectancy.

4. The implementation of inclusive government policies is required in order to ensure that all Dominican children are legally accounted for. Approximately 1 in every 5 Dominican children under 5 years old lacks a birth certificate. In the poorest of the country’s regions, this figure rises to over 2 in 5 children. As a result, these children are deprived of resources imperative for their health, as well as from protection against crime under the law. Children who are not legally recognized are hence substantially more vulnerable to unhealthy living conditions and shorter life-spans.

5. High maternal mortality rates can be traced back to mothers’ lack of access to medical resources. According to the World Health Organization, maternal mortality rates can be directly attributed to the quality of health care. While maternal mortality rates are no longer increasing, the maternal mortality rate in 2015 was estimated to be 92 per 100,000 births. This figure is up to 24 times the rate of countries in the developed world. Among the leading causes of mortality are toxemia and hemorrhages, serving to diminish average life expectancy in The Dominican Republic. On the ground, organizations have built clinics and launched strategies in impoverished areas in order to improve maternal health through efforts such as improved access to laboratory tests and prenatal examinations. Campaigns such as these must spread to other marginalized lands in order to significantly reduce mortality rates

6. NGOs are working to ensure that newborns have access to health care. Despite overall life expectancy in the Dominican Republic improving, the country continues to have the second highest infant mortality rates in Latin America and The Caribbean. These rates prove the highest in rural areas. NGOs such as “Project Hope” continue to donate medical supplies and establish health facilities to the poorest of Dominican regions in order to diminish infant mortality rates.

7. The National Institute of Student Welfare has made the health of schoolchildren ages 5-9 years old a priority. The implementation of the School Meals Program works to combat child malnourishment. Just as well, the institute’s deworming health campaign serves to ensure the healthy well-being of schoolchildren. Measures such as these not only promote a healthy learning environment in schools nationwide but can influence the quality and longevity of a child’s life. 

8. THe INAPA set up a drinking water monitoring system in order to monitor water quality in numerous provinces. This effort serves to combat clean water accessibility problems, particularly in disproportionately affected rural areas. While 1 in every 10 urban homes do not use an improved water source, this ratio increases drastically to 1 in 4 in rural homes. Basic sanitation standards in rural regions are thus far less likely to be met, contributing to the 2010 cholera outbreak. Access to clean water in these areas would serve to improve health standards and further increase life expectancy in The Dominican Republic.

9. The “Hospitals Safe from Disasters” initiative was implemented in order to ensure that hospitals wouldn’t collapse in the event of a natural disaster. The he Dominican Republic is vulnerable to extreme weather phenomena, and thus the initiative makes certain that health facilities consist of certified safety evaluators. Moreover, the initiative provides guidelines for stable hospital design. The initiative upholds the Dominican Republic’s increasing life expectancy trend not only by protecting vulnerable civilian lives from disasters. Furthermore, it prevents economic strains that may ensue from infrastructure damage. As established by the World Bank, national economics directly correlates with life expectancy. 

10. Further increasing the Dominican Republic’s life expectancy requires targeting young people’s education. 20 percent of adolescents have neither studied nor worked, and these individuals compromise a significant portion of the impoverished Dominican population. These adolescents face stagnant socio-economic statuses and inferior health, affected by high STI and obesity rates. According to The Global Partnership for Education, efforts to provide access to schooling can increase an adolescent’s chance of having a healthier life. Sustainable education projects facilitated by NGO, private sector, and public sector partnerships at the local level would likely be most successful. 

Conclusion

With each passing year, living conditions in the Dominican Republic continue to consistently improve as a result of new economic programs that support a growing middle class, government policies that ensure human security, and NGO action that increases accessibility to medical assistance. To further increase the Dominican life expectancy rate, these initiatives must expand to include marginalized groups and impoverished populations; only then will the Dominican Republic be able to compete among developed nations.

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect those of the Glimpse from the Globe staff, editors or governors.

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