Infectious Diseases before and after German Unification: Trends in Mortality and Morbidity

This article examines disease trends in Eastern and Western Germany after their reunification. The patterns of disease proved to be extremely complex, but deep analysis revealed some interesting nuggets of data. The article demonstrates the ways in which the differences in the social structure in East and West Germany ended up affecting the health of each region’s residents. The most striking statistic, to my mind, is that only 0.3 % of deaths in East Germany were caused by infectious disease, compared to 1% percent of deaths in the presumably better-developed West Germany. The authors hypothesized that the lower death rate was due to East Germany’s stricter immigration policies and higher child immunization rate. The fact that these two factors would end up resulting in infectious-disease death rates 2.5 times larger in West Germany by the end of the 1990s is a very surprising finding. The author makes sure to note that more research must be done to determine if all their findings are correct; though the authors are confident in their analysis, there could be hidden factors affecting death rates. It is useful to examine such analyses because it helps one discover the determinants of good health in a country. By examining the model of Germany post unification, countries in the future can decide which measures to enact to assure a healthy population. When people think about unification they often only consider the broad political or economic consequences; this study demonstrates that there are other consequences, right down to the epidemiological level: an area that is often overlooked, though it is a crucial determinant of a nation’s success. By examining Germany post-reunification, the authors demonstrate that social structure is intertwined with the health of a nation, even in unobvious ways like immigration policy.

by Josh Neufeld

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