Global From 1990 to 1997, the number of countries where life expectancy at birth is over 70 years has risen from 55 to 84; access to safe water has nearly doubled from 40 to 72 per cent; and infant mortality has fallen from 76 per 1,000 live births to 58. Polio is on the way to eradication, while the prevalence of leprosy, trachoma and Chagas disease has been significantly reduced.

Almost 840 million people, including 160 million children, are malnourished. Every year nearly 3 million people die from air pollution and more than 5 million from diarrhoeal disease through water contamination.

Nearly 1.3 billion people live on less than a dollar a day. TB and malaria are increasing. HIV/AIDS has infected 50 million people and killed 16 million since the epidemic began.

Europe Life expectancy has decreased between 1991 and 1997 due to huge mortality rises in eastern Europe. TB and malaria are renewed threats, while cases of syphilis have rocketed in the former communist countries.

Infant mortality has declined but varies from 1.8 per 1,000 births in Monaco to 45.9 in Tajikistan.

UK Health inequalities have reached record levels and continue to widen, according to the latest figures. The gap in life expectancy between professional and unskilled men is 9.5 years, and for women, 6.4 years.

Sources Human Development Report . United Nations, 1999. Oxford University Press.

The World Health Report. WHO, 1999.

Health in Europe. WHO, 1997.

The Widening Gap. Bristol University, 1999.