Process of legalising mica mining begins in India after child worker deaths, Beijing removes 180,000 old, polluting cars from roads, and more.

The World Health Minute India facing acute shortage of doctors South Sudan man-made famine may kill 6 millionDoctors protesting at a rally in Kolkata; PTI Photo
news Public Health Tuesday, May 09, 2017 - 19:57

The World Health Minute brings you a global round up of stories on women and children, access to healthcare, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and mental health.

Access to Healthcare

  • Solar power: A shot in the arm for India’s health centres

A pilot project is launching in Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Haryana states which aims to set up replicable, cost-effective solar power plants at health centres. As the first point of access to a doctor for rural residents, the aim is to increasingly create a more resilient health system in rural India, benefiting primarily women and children (reuters.com: 05/05/17)

  • WHO to help bring cheap biosimilar cancer drugs to poor

WHO is to launch a pilot project this year to assess cheap copies of expensive biotech cancer drugs in a bid to make such medicines more widely available in poorer countries. The UN agency said it would invite drug makers in September to submit applications for prequalification of so-called biosimilar versions of two such drugs on its essential medicines list, Roche’s Rituaxan and Herceptin (reuters.com: 04/05/17) (premiumtimesng.com: 08/05/17)

  • U.S. prescription drug spending as high as $610bn by 2021 - report

Spending on prescription medicines in the United States will increase 4-7% through 2021, reaching $580bn to $610bn, according to a report released by QuintilesIMS Holding. Quintiles, which compiles data for the pharmaceutical industry had previously forecast average spending growth of 6-8% through to 2021. It reduced its projections due to fewer new medicines approved in 2016 than prior years and because drug makers face increasing price pressure and competition  (reuters.com: 04/05/17)

  • Doctors are scapegoats for India’s failing healthcare system

The FT’s Amy Kazmin argues that Indian doctors are scapegoats for the country’s failing healthcare system. Public expectations about treatment simply cannot be met without more public spending. Symptoms of the problem are occurring with a growing number of assaults on doctors by patients. India is suffering from an acute doctors shortage, with just one physician for every 1,800 people. Government spending is just 1.4% of GDP, compared with China which spends 3.1%. As a result the healthcare system has neither the manpower nor the equipment to provide a reasonable standard of care for patients (financialtimes.com: 08/05/17)

  • Tanzania – technology is starting to help bridge the health insurance gap

Mobile technology is beginning to have an impact on the way healthcare is delivered to both urban and rural communities in Africa. One new innovation is mHealth, a mobile technology service providing better access to knowledge and information, improved service delivery and response times during crisis. Tigo Tanzania and its partner Milvik Tanzania recently introduced an improved insurance service called Bima Mkononi which offers healthcare insurance cover at an affordable rate to cushion people from healthcare cost burdens. It offers products such as life insurance, hospitalization and personal accident cover for customers actively using Tigo Pesa (allafrica.com: 06/05/17)

  • Drug pricing must be reformed

The FT’s Andrew Jack argues that drug pricing needs to be reformed. Drug companies can sometimes charge more in poorer countries because they focus on middle-class patients who pay for their own care rather than the population at large. The same issues apply in the USA, where insurance cover for patients is patchy. Investigations in the UK show that complex rules governing generic drugs mean manufacturers can increase prices when there are few or no other competitors – so we need greater scrutiny and more transparency in the way drugs are priced (financialtimes.com: 05/05/17)

  • U.S. approves U.S. $483m budget to fight HIV/Aids in South Africa

The U.S. has approved a U.S.$483m Country Operational Plan 2017 budget for South Africa to tackle HIV/Aids under the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief, according to Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy Ambassador Deborah Birx. The COP2017 budget will support South Africa’s HIV/Aids and TB programmes until September 2018 under the PEPFAR initiative (bernama.com:08/05/17) (malaysiandigest.com: 08/05/17)

  • Drug lobby said to mull membership cuts amid price scrutiny

The pharmaceutical industry’s Washington lobbying group, PhRMA, is proposing that member companies must spend $200m a year on R&D based on a 3 year average. They’ll also have to show R&D spending amounts to at least 10% of their global sales, according to people who asked not to be identified as it is still private. The move shuts out some of the smaller companies that have attracted the ire of insurers, patients and politicians over their business practices and smaller companies that don’t yet have drugs on the market (bloomberg.com:08/05/17)

Sustainable Development Goals

  • India’s indicators for mapping SDGs reveal our flawed understanding of sustainability

As the Indian government released its indicators for mapping the Sustainable Development Goals in the country it became clear that the policy approach to SDGs is marked by apathy and a tendency to make sustainability a burden of technocratic formality rather than a policy-implementable mainstay (thewire.in: 08/05/17)

  • Australia wins landmark WTO tobacco packaging case - Bloomberg

A landmark Australian law on restrictive tobacco packaging has been upheld at the WTO after a five year legal battle, report Bloomberg. The news is a blow to the tobacco industry as such a ruling from the WTO has been widely anticipated as giving a green light for other countries to roll out similar laws  (reuters.com: 05/05/17)

  • U.S. life expectancy varies by two decades depending on location

A new study shows that even as life expectancy is rising across the U.S. there are some places where lifespans are getting shorter and geographical inequalities are being more pronounced. For instance a baby born in Oglala Lakota County South Dakota can expect to live to 66.8 years, while a child born in Summit County Colorado can expect to live to 86.8 years on average. Researchers found risk factors such as obesity, lack of exercise, smoking, hypertension and diabetes explained 74% of the variation in longevity in the United States (reuters.com:08/05/17)

  • Charity warns South Sudan ‘man-made’ famine could kill 6 million

The famine ravaging South Sudan and its neighbours could claim six million lives, a charity warned, as the international community struggles to raise the $4.4bn needed to avert a full-blown disaster. Stop Hunger Now Southern Africa said the chaotic international response to the situation was threatening the lives of millions (newvision.co.ug: 05/05/17)

  • Beijing removes 180,000 old, polluting cars from roads in first four months of year

Beijing authorities removed 180,000 old and polluting vehicles from the roads during the first four months of 2017, the Chinese capital’s environmental bureau said, as part of its efforts to tackle congestion and cut smog (reuters.com: 04/05/17)

  • Meet the world’s most powerful doctor: Bill Gates

The software mogul’s sway over the World Health Organization has spurred criticism about it having misplaced priorities, according to Politico, and Gates having ‘undue influence.’ The article suggests Gates’ influence is likely to increase as the U.S. and the UK threaten to cut funding if the agency doesn’t make a better investment case for its activities. With Gates being the second largest funder, just above the UK, Politico points out that all the DG candidates need to ally with him in some way. It also says Gates’ sway has NGOs and academics worried. They worry as his wealth comes from big business it could serve as a Trojan horse for corporate interests to undermine WHO’s role in setting standards and shaping healthcare policies (politico.eu: 08/05/17)

  • Italy measles cases up amid anti-vax mood

Italy recorded 1,920 cases of the deadly measles virus in the first four months of the year, a 523% increase from the same period a year earlier. The news came as the Five Star Movement defended itself from accusations of actively campaigning on an anti-vaccination platform. Some 88% of the people who contracted measles were unvaccinated, and 73% were aged 15 or above, the ministry of health said. Leading M5S officials have publicised fraudulent studies suggesting that vaccines can be harmful and may cause autism and have campaigned against compulsory vaccination (skynews.com.au: 04/05/17)

  • Big Pharma’s pollution is creating deadly superbugs while the world looks the other way

Industrial pollution from Indian pharmaceutical companies making medicines for nearly all the world’s drug companies is fuelling the creation of deadly superbugs, suggests new research. Global health authorities have no regulation in place to stop this happening. A major study in the scientific journal Infection found ‘excessively high’ levels of antibiotic and antifungal drug residue in water sources in and around a major drug production hub in the Indian city of Hyderabad, as well as high levels of bacteria and fungi resistant to these drugs. Scientists believe the quantities found mean the drug residues originated from the pharmaceutical factories (thebureauinvestigates.com: 06/05/17) (thetimes.co.uk:06/05/17)

  • WHO urges India to up spending on healthcare

Addressing the SYMHEALTH 2017 international conference on healthcare, WHO representative Henk Mekedam told delegates that India needs to increase its spending on healthcare. “Currently investment amounts to 1.2% of GDP. This has pushed 60m people below the poverty line.” WHO had previously recommended 2.5% of the country’s GDP should be allocated to healthcare. Mekedam went on “globalization leaves us far better connected but this poses challenges such as the faster spread of infectious diseases” (timesofindia.indiatimes.com: 07/05/17)

Women and Children

  • Kenya hopes to double maternity leave to boost mother and child health

Kenya is hoping to pass a new law which will see maternity leave increased to six months from three if a bill before parliament is passed in a bid to boost the health of mothers and babies. The bill is opposed by employer groups who say businesses cannot afford to give women the time off, even though the second three months would be optional, unpaid leave (reuters.com: 08/05/17)

  • New Jersey female physicians earn less than their counterparts

A new study shows that female physicians in New Jersey make less than their male counterparts. The report shows the average wage gap in New Jersey was as much as 30%, one of the highest in the north east. Gaps in U.S. doctor compensation exist across 48 specialities, major cities and genders, according to research scientists Doximity, a national online network for doctors (pressofatlanticcity.com: 06/05/17)

  • India begins legalising mica mining after child workers deaths exposed

Authorities in eastern India have begun the process of legalising mica mining, a senior government official said last week, after a Thomson Reuters Foundation investigation uncovered the deaths of children working in illegal mines. A three months investigation in Jharkhand found at least seven children had died in just two months in the illegal mines – as they picked and sorted the prize mineral which adds the sparkle to make-up and car paint (trust.org: 04/05/17) (jakartapost: 04/05/17)

  • Saudi step to relax male guardianship welcomed by women’s advocates

Local Saudi media reports that the King of Saudi Arabia has issued an order allowing women to benefit from government services such as education and healthcare without getting the consent of a male guardian. This move was tentatively welcomed as another small step for women in this deeply conservative kingdom (reuters.com: 05/05/17)

  • In South Africa, mothers lead the push to get pregnant women tested for HIV

South African mothers are leading the push to get pregnant women tested for HIV; mothers2mothers support groups are helping women to understand the value of HIV testing for young pregnant women and how this is leading to a cut in transmission of a virus that can pass AIDS from mothers to babies (reuters.com: 05/05/17)

  • African countries to feel the worst of U.S. health aid cuts, report says

New findings from the Kaiser Family Foundation indicate that African countries, and those where abortion services are legal, will likely feel the greatest impact of the U.S. ‘global gag rule’ – also known as the Mexico City Policy. The U.S. provided bilateral global health assistance to 65 countries in fiscal year 2016, and more than half of them (34) were African. With the reintroduction of this policy $8bn in U.S. global health assistance is at stake which was previously tied to just U.S. family planning funding. Potentially expanded guidelines for funding roll this out wider across the 34 nations and encourage NGOs to discontinue legal activities in order to comply (devex.com:  05/05/17)

  • 1m children are refugees from South Sudan’s civil war

More than 1m children have fled South Sudan’s civil war, two UN agencies said on Monday, part of the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis. Roughly 62% of refugees from South Sudan are children, according to the UN, and more than 75,000 are alone or without families, about 1.8m have fled South Sudan in total (kwwl.com: 08/05/17)

Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs)

  • Golden heart health extends the ‘golden years’

Better heart care during young adulthood and middle age means people end up living longer and spending fewer years in later life with any kind of chronic disease, according to new research. This prolonged good health also saves money on health care and reduces health care spending, the research team said, pointing to helping people better understand the development of risk factors and the linkage to disease earlier in life (reuters.com: 05/05/17)

  • Greater total pollution exposure tied to higher cancer risk

Living in areas with higher total exposures to harmful pollutants in the air, water and land is associated with greater odds of developing cancer, a U.S. study suggests. Researchers examined incidences for cancers in each country across the U.S. and found an average of 451 cases per 100,000 people. Counties with a higher environmental quality ranking the lowest saw an average of 39 cancer cases each year per 100,000 residents (reuters.com: 08/05/17)

  • GSK ‘real world’ drug test notches up a second asthma treatment success

The success of the 4,233 patient trial, which tested Breo in day-to-day practice across Salford in northern England, followed on the back of a similar ‘win’ for the medicine in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease trials a year ago. Unlike a randomised controlled trial of the type typically used to win initial drug approval, the real world studies aim to mimic the way medicines are actually used by patients when they are not being closely monitored by researchers (reuters.com: 05/05/17)

  • Many eye care providers may not catch macular degeneration

A new study suggests primary care optometrists and opthalmologists may sometimes fail to detect age-related macular degeneration, the most common cause of vision impairment in the elderly. Researchers examined data on 1,288 eyes from 644 older adults two had a diluted eye exam. Based on these exams none of the participants were diagnosed with macular degeneration by primary care specialists. After retina specialists took another look, they diagnosed eye disorder in 25% of the cases (reuters.com: 05/05/17)

  • 400,000 Vietnamese die from non-communicable diseases every year – health ministry

Some 400,000 Vietnamese people die from non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer every year, health officials told the media. Of the annual fatalities, up to 70% are due to non-communicable diseases and of the NCDS, up to 40% of the patients die before the age of 70. Many locals are not aware of preventing the diseases, with 49% of men smoking and 77% of the whole population drinking. Smoking related diseases in Vietnam are estimated to cause losses of U.S.$1bn per year (xinhua.net: 08/05/17) (vietnamplus.vn: 08/05/17) (plenglish.com: 08/05/17)

  • Studies show socioeconomic and racial disparities in lupus

Researchers have identified a link between socioeconomic and racial disparities in the severity and treatment of lupus. The studies showed a link between poverty and worse lupus disease associated medical complications, and an increased frequency of adverse pregnancy outcomes in African American and Hispanic patients with lupus compared to white lupus patients (upi.com: 08/05/17)

  • Silent killer affecting 13 million Thais

At least 13m Thais have suffered from hypertension for years with many not realising they had the condition, Thai health experts said. Hypertension contributes to a four times higher risk of brain blood vessel diseases and twice the risk of heart muscle paralysis, according to information released by the World Health Organization (bangkokpost.com: 08/05/17)

Show us some love and support our journalism by becoming a TNM Member - Click here.