Correlating Disease Prevalence and Wealth Patterns

Correlating Disease Prevalence and Wealth Patterns


World Countries have different wealth status. Transitional countries refer to countries that are moving towards industrialization. These countries have an average Gross National Product (GNP) of about $3,100. Numerous countries fall under this category. One of these transitional countries is China. On the other hand, wealthy nations have average GNP of about six times that of the transitional country. Luxembourg is considered the wealthiest nation with an average GNP of $ 43,000. The US also falls among the wealthy nations with an average GNP of $ 48,323.

Prevalence of diseases also varies from one country to another. Some countries have a high prevalence of diseases than others. This paper has hypothesized that there is a relationship between disease prevalence and wealth patterns. For the purpose of this correlation, this paper has compared disease prevalence in the United States and China. The paper reveals that transitional nations have a higher prevalence of diseases than the wealthy nations. This has led to there is a relationship between disease prevalence and health patterns.

Prevalence of Diseases: China vs. the USA

Infectious diseases are some of the most prevalent disease in different areas of the world. These diseases are difficult to control due to their infectious nature. The most prevent infectious diseases include TB, influenza, low respiratory infections, hepatitis, syphilis, gonorrhea and HIV. TB cases have reached an epidemic level on China. The country records the second highest cases of TB infections in the world.  China report 1.3 new cases of TB every year (Freeman, 2009). In the United States, cases of TB are significantly low. In 2011, the US reported one of the lowest rates of new infections of 10,528 (Center for Disease Control, 2012). The US rate of new infection is about 100 times lower than that of China.

Influenza is also a common infectious disease around the world. This is a viral disease that is easy transmitted among humans, but can also be transmitted from animals to humans. The world has experience numerous cases of influenza outbreak. The worst case of influenza outbreak was the Spanish flu reported in 1918. The flu killed an estimated 50 million people around the world (Freeman, 2009). The most recent flu outbreak was the SARs and HIN1. The two diseases led to the death of thousands of people around the world.

In the outbreak of these two strains of influenza, China recorded a larger number of infections than the US. China recorded 5,328 cases of SARS infections as compared to the 71 cases of infections that the US recorded (Freeman, 2009). Three hundred and forty of the cases reported in China were fatal. This was an extremely high number of fatalities as compared to the US, which recorded only four deaths from the disease. Some experts believe that SARS originated in China.  In the outbreak of H1N1 virus, China recorded 120,000 cases of infection while the US recorded slightly over 100,000 infections (Freeman, 2009).

HIV infection rate in China is relatively lower that the infection rate in the United States. Statistics estimate that there are about 1 million people who are infected with HIV in China. The Center of Disease Control also estimates the number of American living with HIV to be 1.2 million (Center for Disease Control, 2012). The US infection rate is much higher when considering that the population of US is three times smaller than of China. Though HIV prevalence rate is low in China, this is not the case in other transitional nations. For instance, South Africa, which is among the transitional country, is one the nations that have the highest HIV prevalence rates on the globe. According to the Statistics of South Africa (2011), there were 5.5 million HIV positive people in South Africa in 2011. This is about 10% of the country’s population given that South Africa has a human population of 50 million.

The comparison of the prevalence of the three most infectious diseases indicates that transitional nations have high disease prevalence rates than the wealthy nations. China records higher rates of new TB infections than the US. It also recorded high rates of infections during influenza pandemics. China has low HIV infection rates than the US. However, this is case applies to China and a few other transitional countries. Most other transitional countries have high rates of HIV infections. While infectious diseases are prevalent in transitional economies, wealthy economies are grappling with life style disease. Life style diseases are such as; diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and stroke. The cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the US (Center for Disease Control, 2012). However, this paper has focused on infectious diseases.


One of the explanations behind the relationship between wealth and disease prevalence is that wealthy nations have low disease prevalence because they have the resources to control these diseases. Presence of financial resources has enabled the wealthy nations to install superior systems for health surveillance (Freeman, 2009). Hence, it is easy for these wealthy countries to identify disease outbreaks and control them. The United States was able to manage the SARS epidemic more effectively that China because it had a superior surveillance system. Since the SARS outbreak in 2003, China has made significant efforts in developing the country’s health surveillance system. This was visible during the 2009 H1N1 outbreak, where China was able to manage the disease in an effective manner.

Wealthy nations also have the resources to investor in healthcare (Keselman, 2009). The US has one of the most expensive healthcare systems in the world. The health care industry is also highly advanced in terms of technology and facilities. Availability of resources gives wealthy country an enhanced capacity to deliver healthcare services and respond to disease pandemics (Keselman, 2009). The transitional countries are making significant steps toward improving their healthcare systems. However, they are still behind most wealthy nations.

Health literacy is also a significant reason for the disparity between the wealthy and the transitional countries in terms of prevalence of disease (Lee & Kuo, 2010). Health literacy refers to the degree of health awareness among the individuals. Population in wealthy countries tends to have higher health literacy than the population of transitional countries. This is partly attributed to the high literacy levels in the wealthy nations. Educated people can take better care of the health than least educated people (Lee & Kuo, 2010). High health literacy in the wealthy nations is also attributed to the massive investment in health promotional campaigns. The wealthier nations have adequate resources for investing in health promotional campaigns. Consequently, more people become informed on how to take care of the health.

The standard of living is also a significant contributor of disparities between the wealthy and transitional countries in terms of prevalence of diseases (Keselman, 2009). Though the social conditions for the transitional countries have significantly improved, there are still enormous disparities between citizens of wealthy nations and those from transitional nations. Many workers in China work for long hours and deplorable conditions. Most occupations in China are industry based and, therefore, have more impacts on health than the service based occupations within the United States.

The housing conditions in the US are much better than that of China were a significant part of the population work in the rural areas. These areas have inadequate clean water and sanitation facilities thus affecting their health (Sanglimsuwan, 2012). Quality of the environment is also a significant social differentiating factor between the rich and the transitional economies. Most rich economies are service based while the transitional economies are industrial based. Concentration of industries leads to pollution and hence low quality of life.


There are a lot of disparities among countries in terms of wealth. Some wealthy countries have average GNPs that are more than six times higher that the transitional countries. There are also a lot of disparities among world countries in terms of prevalence of disease. This paper has explored the relationship between disease prevalence and wealth. The paper has compared the prevalence of infectious disease in China with prevalence of these diseases in the United States. The paper concludes that there is a strong relationship between prevalence of diseases and wealth. This paper has also explored some of the factors that lead to disparities between wealthy and transitional nations in terms of disease prevalence.


Center for Disease Control (2012) Heart Disease. November 24, 2012.
Center for Disease Control (2012). HIV in the United States. November 24, 2012.
Center for Disease Control (2012). TB in the United States. November 24, 2012.
Freeman C. (2009). China’s Capacity to Manage Infectious Disease. November 24, 2012.
Keselman D. (2009). Poverty and Health from the Health System Perspective. Israeli Journal of Emergency Medicine. 9 (3): 42- 46\
Lee S. & Kuo K. (2010). Health Literacy, Health Status and Healthcare Utilization of Taiwanese Adults. BMC Public Health Journal. 10 (614)
Sunglimsuwan K. (2011). The Relationship between Health and Environment. November 24, 2012.[5].pdf
The Statistics of South Africa (2011). Mid Year Population Estimates 2011. November 24, 2012.

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