Public Health
South India’s scorching drought forces farmers into debt bondage, it's false to believe antibiotic resistance is only a problem in hospitals, and more.
An elderly woman with her goat at the parched bed of a pond in a village in Hubli district, Karnataka; PTI

The World Health Minute brings you top health stories from around the world.

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs)

  • Delhi’s love of booze has brought the city to the brink of a heart disease epidemic

A unique set of data generated by Indian researchers has confirmed a trend doctors have been worried about for some time, Delhi is heading towards an epidemic of cardiovascular diseases, chiefly heart attack and stroke cases, due to a prevalence of alcohol use, obesity and raised blood pressure – all illnesses which have grown in number over the course of the last twenty years (indiatimes.com: 18/04/17)

  • Over 1,800 amputations done between 2014-2016

The Fiji deputy secretary for Hospital Services, Dr Luisa Cikamatana said Fiji has an urgent need to make healthy lifestyle changes now with the ever increasing rate of non-communicable diseases in the country. She revealed that 1,869 amputations have been carried out between 2014 and 2016, of which 835 were females and 1,034 males who had lower limb amputations. She said she is seeing a growth in four major types of NCD: cardiovascular disease, cancers, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes (fijivillage.com: 15/04/17) (fijivillage.com: 13/04/17)

  • Trans fat ban linked to fewer heart attack deaths – and it is going national

Three years after banning trans fats from eateries in some New York counties they have seen a 6.2% reduction in heart attacks and strokes compared with those that didn’t, researchers report in JAMA Cardiology. Another set of researchers reported last year in Journal of Health Economics that the ban appeared to have cut deaths from cardiovascular disease by 4.5%, sparing 13 lives from cardiovascular death per 100,000 people each year  (arstecnica.com: 18/04/17)

  • Study finds body’s zinc supply affects heart health

Researchers in Germany have identified a link between the level of zinc in the body and the risk of cardiovascular issues related to oxidative stress. Researchers found that the concentration of glutathione and vitamin E in the heart muscle declines with the level of zinc affecting the heart’s ability to handle oxidative stress (upi.com: 18/04/17)

Mental health

  • Prince William warns that a ‘stiff upper lip’ approach can damage your mental health

Prince William has warned that British men who ‘keep a stiff upper lip’ are bottling up their emotions and this is detrimental to mental health. The two princes, and William’s wife Kate, are spearheading a campaign called Heads Together which encourages people to open up about mental illness and seek help (reuters.com: 18/04/17)

  • South India’s scorching drought forces farmers into debt bondage

One of the worst droughts in decades across south India is forcing tens of thousands of farmers and labourers to take out loans to survive, pushing them into debt bondage and increasing the risk that they may be exploited, activists warn. Then there follows on from this that there is a chance of not managing to cope, leading to a higher risk of suicide (news.trust.org: 18/04/17)

  • Cash support for Saskatchewan indigenous communities’ mental health programmes

The Canadian federal government is putting up $1.2m over two years for more mental-health support in two northern Saskatchewan indigenous communities. The money will expand culturally safe mental health and addiction services (globeandmail.com: 19/04/17)

Women and Children

  • In India, the ratio of young women will drop sharply, study says

The ratio of women to men among India’s young people, which has been low compared with western nations for decades, will drop further in coming years, the Indian government reported. The decline outpaces a more modest drop in the sex ratio among the general population and indicates the continuing practice of sex-selective abortion, experts say. India outlawed prenatal sex determination in 1994 but enforcement is lax (nytimes.com: 19/04/17)

  • India to see largest roll out of child-friendly TB drugs across country this year

India is to be the first country to roll out the world’s first easily-dissolvable and flavoured TB drug. The child-friendly tablets, which are a combination of two or more medicines in a fixed dose combination, have been recently introduced through the government’s TB control programme in six states and will now be launched privately and through government centres in the remaining states this year (timesofindia.indiatimes.com: 19/04/17) (timesofindia.indiatimes.com: 19/04/17)

  • The trans women fighting for survival as rights crackdown continues in Tanzania

Recently 40 private drop-in clinics offering HIV/AIDS services to key populations such as gay men, transgender people and sex workers were banned by the Tanzanian government. A program supported by The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and malaria and implemented by Save the Children to assist key populations eligible for HIV treatment in Tanzania has been put on hold. Another Global Fund grant to distribute water-based lubricants ended in December and lubricants are now banned for promoting homosexuality. The government appears unwilling or unable to tolerate education on LGBT matters and the crackdown on activists can be harsh (sbs.com.au: 19/04/17)

  • EU gender equality report reveals women still have a mountain to climb

Launching the EU’s annual gender equality report, Vera Jourova, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality told Government Global Forum that the EU still has a mountain to climb with women across the continent continuing to face a glass ceiling in reaching management and leadership positions (globalgovernmentforum.com: 18/04/17)

  • Feature - Kenya’s pastoralists look beyond patriarchy to property rights for women

Over-grazing and the sub-division and privatisation of land and its transfer to agricultural use has forced Kenyan herder communities to accept and adopt new land strategies, including applying for security of tenure and women in land transfer and inheritance.

Access to Healthcare

  • It is false to believe antibiotic resistance is only a problem in hospitals – GP surgeries are seeing it too

A new study shows that the belief that antibiotic resistance is ‘only a problem for hospitals’ is completely false and that GP surgeries are seeing the problem appear too. The study indicated examples like women suffering from the commonest E.coli urinary tract infection, which was resistant to the prescribed antibiotic, had up to four times greater odds of having the symptoms for longer than those cases where they responded to the antibiotic. They not only had the symptoms for longer, the symptoms were more severe (theconversation.com: 18/04/17)

  • Aid agencies accuse Nepal government of hampering their work

International aid agencies in Nepal say the government is hampering their work. Their projects face lengthy delays and they have to pay the government hundreds of thousands of dollars to get them approved. “When you have an environment that is opaque, it is a lot easier for bureaucrats who want to abuse the system to do so” said one NGO director speaking on condition of anonymity (theguardian.com: 19/04/17)

  • Barring pharmaceutical imports will not heal Africa’s economy

A Business Day opinion piece says plans by the East African Community to implement a plan to foster local drug production and protect domestic markets through high tariff walls against medicine imports is wrong, given the woeful track record that policies such as these have had in Africa over recent decades. Africa should create environments that afford the protection of intellectual property and offer competitive tax regimes to attract investment, research and development and construct educational institutions to support that investment (busineslive.co.za: 19/04/17)

  • Ugandan government spends Shs140bn treating 140 officials over last three years

The Ugandan government spent $2.8m on health treatment for 140 senior government officials abroad over the past three years, according to Auditor General John Muwanga’s report for the period ending December 2016. The officials received specialist treatment for heart and kidney conditions, eye problems, cancer and diabetes in hospitals in Kenya, South Africa, India, China and the United States during these years (monitor.co.ug: 19/04/17) (allafrica.com: 19/04/17)