Child obesity linked to increased risk of heart disease, Seattle to levy special tax on sugary drinks, and more.

The World Health Minute 76 Indians dont have health insurance New Mexico reports first human case of plague in 2017 Delegates from 21 countries take part in an awareness rally on World Tuberculosis (TB) day in Shimla; PTI Photo
news Public Health Saturday, June 10, 2017 - 18:11

The World Health Minute (WHM) provides quick access to global public health news. It’s "news you can use” to inform investment, advocacy, development and implementation decisions.

Preparedness, surveillance and response

  • Three Saudi hospitals report MERS outbreaks since April, WHO says

Three Saudi hospitals have reported outbreaks of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome since April 21, with 12 people catching the potentially deadly disease from infected patients who later died, the World Health Organization said. The hospitals were in Riyadh, in Bisha city and in Wadi al-Dawasir in Riyad province (reuters.com: 06/06/17)

  • WHO ranks antibiotics in a bid to counter drug resistance

The WHO published a new classification of antibiotics that aim to fight drug resistance, with penicillin-type drugs recommended as the first line of defence and others for use only when absolutely necessary. The new essential medicines list includes 39 antibiotics for 21 common syndromes categorized into three groups: ‘Access’, ‘Watch’ and ‘Reserve’. Access drugs have lower resistance potential, the watch list should be dramatically reduced and the reserve list is absolutely last resort (reuters.com: 06/06/17) (brecorder.com: 06/06/17)

  • Letter from Africa: Sudan's rulers 'shirking action on cholera'

Yousra Elbagir criticises the Sudanese government's failure to get to grips with a cholera outbreak. After 10 months, Sudan's Ministry of Health finally confirmed that there have been 265 deaths and more than 16,000 infected cases of "acute watery diarrhoea" in 11 of the country's 18 states. The Federal Minister of Health, Bahar Abu Garda, told parliament that cases of "watery diarrhoea" were not his business - shifting blame to the Ministry of Water Resources and State Ministers (bbc.co.uk: 07/06/17)

  • Husband, wife confirmed with H7N9 virus infection in China's Shaanxi

A man has been confirmed infected with the H7N9 bird flu virus, following the infection of his wife in northwest China's Shaanxi Province, local health authorities said. He tested positive for the virus Tuesday in Yulin city, after days of high fever and coughing at his hometown nearby, the city's disease control centre said. It is the second H7N9 human infection case in the city, the first being his 62-year-old wife, who was confirmed with the virus on May 31 (xinhuanet.com: 07/06/17)

  • Plague: New Mexico reports 1st human case of 2017

New Mexico health officials have confirmed the first human plague case of 2017 in a 63-year-old man from Santa Fe County. The patient is currently hospitalized and being treated. The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) is conducting an environmental investigation at the man’s home to look for ongoing risk and to ensure the health of the immediate family and neighbours. Additionally, staff are going door-to-door to neighbours near the patient’s home to inform them about plague found in the area and educate them on reducing their risk (outbreakanewstoday.com: 07/06/17)

Health systems

  • Will the Lancet study be the wake-up call India needs on public health?

Findings of a recent study published in medical journal Lancet on the healthcare access and quality index across different countries, reveal that there is a reason to worry. This study, which created an index involving 32 causes of death and rated 195 countries for each of these for a period of 25 years, gave India a poor 154 rank. There are calls to back the government’s public commitments to launch an action plan to tackle and eliminate major diseases which are menacing the healthcare system and the economy in equal measure (hindustantimes.com: 07/06/17) (businesstoday.in: 07/06/17)  (huffingtonpost.in: 07/06/17)

  • Kenyan government nurses go on strike over pay dispute, six patients die

Kenyan government nurses have gone on strike over delays in an agreement that will give them pay rises, a union official said, bringing services to a halt in many parts of the country. The deal was meant to have been signed by the union, the national government and county governments, but the state commission that advises on public sector pay rejected the deal, according to an official letter seen by Reuters (reuters.com: 06/06/17)

  • Healthcare faces funding strain if Britain chooses a hard Brexit

The UK’s health budget could be severely squeezed by Brexit and higher recruitment costs if it can no longer attract workers from the continent, according to a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit. Britain’s annual health spending would be lower by about £7.5bn by 2021 under a ‘hard Brexit’. That’s a scenario in which negotiations break down and the UK must depend on World Trade Organization rules starting in 2019, likely to lead to a dent in consumer confidence and the value of the pound (bloomberg.com: 06/06/17)

  • Africa: Nothing Short of a 'Sea Change' Will End Years of Gross Neglect in Mental Health Care - UN Expert

Citing decades of neglect in mental health care, a United Nations human rights expert denounced "biomedical gatekeepers" who perpetuate stigma and urged States and psychiatrists to act with courage to reform a "crisis-hit system built on outdated attitudes." "We need little short of a revolution in mental health care to end decades of neglect, abuse and violence," Dainius Pūras, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health said after presenting his latest report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Turning to the underlying causes of these imbalances delaying the transition to rights-based care, he said that the dominance of the biomedical model, with its overdependence on medication, and the "biased" use of evidence, contaminates knowledge about mental health (allafrica.com: 06/06/17)

  • 76% Indians without health insurance, forcing them to dip into savings

India added 450 million people over the 25 years to 2016, a period during which the proportion of people living in poverty fell by half. This period of rising prosperity has been marked by a “dual-disease burden”, a continuing rise in communicable diseases and a spurt in non-communicable diseases, which accounted for half of all deaths in 2015, from 42% in 2001-03.  While the private sector dominates healthcare delivery across the country, a majority of the population living below the poverty line (BPL)–the ability to spend Rs 47 per day in urban areas, Rs 32 per day in rural areas–continues to rely on the under-financed and short-staffed public sector for its healthcare needs, as a result of which their healthcare needs remain unmet (business-standard.com: 07/06/17)

Communicable diseases

  • India cannot eliminate TB by 2025 without also tackling poverty and undernutrition

The economics of tuberculosis remain neglected and often ignored by policymakers; poverty sustains TB and TB reinforces poverty. TB costs India close to $24bn each year and mostly affects those in the 15-55 age group, impacting on productivity and creating unemployment. In India, a study established that the average period of loss of wages for an individual diagnosed with TB was three months. This is catastrophic for those employed in the ‘informal sector,’ and TB-induced poverty affects nutrition which impacts on recovery time and treatment completion (huffingtonpost.in: 05/06/17)

  • America’s hidden HIV epidemic

The New York Times asks why America’s black gay and bisexual men have a higher HIV rate than any other country in the world. The CDC last year published a survey which predicted that if current rates continue, one in two African-American gay and bisexual men will become infected with the virus. That compares to a lifetime risk of one in 99 for all Americans and one in 11 for white gay and bisexual men. For perspective, Swaziland has the highest HIV infection rate at 28.8%, if gay and bisexual African-American men made up a country its rate would surpass that of this impoverished nation and all other nations (nytimes.com: 06/06/17)

  • Researchers find possible explanation for unprecedented spread of Ebola virus

The world may be closer to knowing why Ebola spreads so easily thanks to a team of researchers from Tulane University and other leading institutions who discovered a new biological activity in a small protein from the deadly virus. The team's findings were recently published in the Journal of Virology. A compound known as the "delta peptide" is produced in large amounts in Ebola virus-infected patients, but its function isn't yet known. The investigators tested the effects of purified delta peptide on cells from humans and other mammals and found that it could be a viroporin, a type of viral protein that damages host cells by making the membranes become permeable (medicalexpress.com: 06/06/17)

  • Sexual transmission of HIV/Aids is alarming

The rate of HIV/Aids through sexual transmission has doubled over the past couple of years in Iran, according to officials. It has increased to 30% from the earlier 15%, after the transmission patterns shifted away from needles/syringes to sexual transmission. Additionally, women are contracting the virus at a faster pace than men. Despite efforts to control the spread of the virus, the desirable level of success has not been achieved due to social and cultural barriers which means a greater need to spread public awareness (financialtribune.com: 06/06/17)

  • Ukraine's fight against TB is at risk from USAID cuts

A United States Agency for International Development-funded digital health program to help Ukraine manage its growing drug-resistant tuberculosis epidemic is a textbook example of effective foreign aid, according to health experts who worked on the project — but the country’s fight against the disease is now at risk from looming cuts to US development aid. Ukraine has the second-highest TB burden in Europe, and one of the highest estimated numbers of multidrug resistant TB, or MRD-TB, cases in the world (devex.com: 06/06/17)

Non communicable diseases

  • Seattle to become the latest U.S. city to levy a special tax on sugary drinks

Seattle's City Council voted to levy a special tax on sodas and other sugary beverages sold to consumers, becoming the latest of several local government bodies across the country to take such action for the sake of public health. The measure, to be signed by Mayor Ed Murray, was approved on a 7-1 vote despite staunch opposition from the American Beverage Association, which said the tax would hit poor and working-class families and small businesses hardest.  Enactment will add Washington state's largest city to a growing national movement seeking to curb consumption of soft drinks and other high-caloric beverages that medical experts say are largely to blame for an epidemic of childhood obesity (reuters.com: 07/06/17)

  • Big returns on small cancer research investment, study suggests

A government-backed research collaboration program started in the 1950s has added over 3 million years of life for cancer patients in the US at an estimated cost of just $125 for each year of life gained based on successful new treatment options developed through the program, a new study estimates. Researchers examined data from 193 late-stage trials from the National Cancer Institute-funded SWOG research program, originally called the Southwest Oncology Group. All of these studies were done between 1962 and 2014 and were designed to prove that new treatments were better than existing therapies; 23 of them succeeded in this goal (reuters.com: 05/06/17)

  • Pregnancy Complications Linked To Heart Disease Risk In Offspring

Children whose mothers experienced pregnancy complications were almost three times more likely to develop heart disease. Complications of pregnancy, such as high blood pressure and infections, are linked to a heightened risk of early coronary heart disease in the young adult offspring, according to research published in Heart Asia. More than 600 million people live in Southeast Asia, most of whom are under the age of 65. But rates of premature deaths attributable to non-communicable diseases are high, with one in three occurring before the age of 60 (asianscientist.com: 06/0617)

  • Child obesity linked to poor heart health

Being overweight or obese, from as young as 3, has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease later in early midlife. New findings, from a study into the health of 1,037 people born in Dunedin in 1972-1973, has found that childhood obesity can have lifelong implications. Lead author of the research paper, published in the International Journal of Obesity, professor Michael Williams said those who were overweight, obese or severely obese in early childhood were more at risk. He said while adult obesity was a known risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease - the number one cause of death worldwide - these findings showed the link could be traced back to early childhood (nzherald.co.nz: 07/06/17) (medicalexpress.com: 07/06/17)

  • Georgia investigating spate of opioid painkiller overdoses

Dozens of drug overdoses, including four fatal ones, in a two-day period in Georgia appear to be linked to potentially lethal substances in opioid painkillers sold on the street, state public health and law enforcement officials said. Five of the overdoses - but none of the deaths - were among people living in the same household in Bibb County, which includes the city of Macon, Gaylord Lopez, director of the non-profit Georgia Poison Center, said. The victims ranged in age from 20s to early 60s, he said. The Georgia Department of Public Health said that emergency responders in the central and southern parts of the state treated dozens of people over a 48-hour period. Some patients were unconscious or had stopped breathing and many had to be placed on ventilators (reuters.com: 07/06/17)

Promoting health through the life course

  • Adopting the sustainable development goals is a business opportunity for Australia

The Business and Sustainable Development Commission, through research conducted by AlphaBeta, shows that the implementation of the SDGs in four major global systems – food and agriculture, cities, energy and materials, and health and wellbeing – could generate tremendous business opportunities. Worldwide the SDGs could unlock US$12tn in business savings and revenues by 2030 through 60 high-potential opportunities for the private sector. In Australia, many of those opportunities are substantial. A big push on the provision of affordable housing could be worth an extra $8bn in revenue annually. A faster rollout of renewable energy could be especially valuable in Australia, creating more than $9bn worth of economic opportunities by 2030. Wider usage of remote monitoring technologies in healthcare could generate savings worth $11bn a year by 2030 (guardian.com: 06/06/17)

  • Fund crunch delays rescue of India's bonded labourers - activists

India's plans to rescue more than 18 million bonded labourers by 2030 have been delayed by a lack of funds, activists said, calling for stricter law enforcement to end one of the most prevalent forms of human trafficking in the country. A year after the Indian government announced a scheme to assist bonded labourers - including a fivefold increase in compensation for these exploited workers - many rescues have been postponed because funding has not come through. The 1 million-rupee ($15,500) funds mandated for each district have not yet been created in southern India, according to Krishnan Kandasamy of the non-profit National Adivasi Solidarity Council, a network for indigenous peoples' welfare (trust.org: 06/06/17)

  • Farm pollutants affect neighbours’ lungs

Air pollution from large-scale livestock farms impairs lung function in neighbours who live nearby, a new study from the Netherlands shows. The team measured several markers of lung function in 2,308 adults who lived in 12 villages near, but not on, farms in the Netherlands, which has one of the world’s highest population densities as well as one of the highest livestock farm densities. The study also showed that neighbouring residents’ lung function was reduced during weeks with higher levels of farm-related ammonia air pollution. The effects on breathing patterns were small but significant (reuters.com: 06/06/17)

  • In Poland, Being a Woman Can Be Bad for Your Health

After last year’s attempt to impose a near-total ban on abortion, the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has introduced a billto limit sales of emergency contraception, or the “morning-after pill,” which can prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex, including in cases of rape.  Under the pretence of ensuring quality health care, Poland’s Minister of Health said the law is to allow women to get medical advice about “whether these substances negatively affect health.” In reality, it is a pretext to further limit reproductive choice (hrw.org: 06/06/17)

  • Gay Chinese battle inertia, conservatism to push rights

When Chinese sexologist Li Yinhe was looking for top-level government support for same-sex marriage in the early 2000s, she asked the then mayor of Beijing, Wang Qishan, a friend, for help.  After decades of Communist prudery about sex of all kinds, during recent years of economic reform and growth, gay Chinese have sprung forward to reclaim the country's long history of relative tolerance towards homosexuality. With no clear, bureaucratic way forward to legalise same-sex marriage, unlike in Taiwan which approved the step last month, and deeply conservative attitudes among the older generation towards sex, gay Chinese are pushing against old social norms and legal uncertainty to assert their rights (trust.org: 07/06/17)

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