This week in the World Health Minute, we focus on sustainable development goals, outbreaks and access to healthcare.

The World Health Minute Jharkhand to provide free health services to minors in govt hospitalsImage for representation
news Healthcare Sunday, April 02, 2017 - 16:09


The News Minute brings you The World Health Minute, a weekly round-up of major public health stories from around the world. This week we focus on sustainable development goals, outbreaks and access to healthcare. (Here is our series). 

Sustainable Development Goals

Asia suffered $116bn losses from disasters last year, study shows

Total economic losses from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters almost doubled last year, compared with the previous year, with Asia suffering the highest damage. Globally, insured losses were also at their highest since 2012, a study from the research arm of global reinsurer Swiss Re Institute showed ( 29/03/17) (Economic Times India: 28/03/17) (Canadian Underwriter: 28/03/17

Western demand for goods from China is killing 100,000 a year

A new study claims Chinese-made goods bought in western Europe and the U.S. have, in effect, killed over 100,000 people in China in one year alone – as a result of air pollution associated with their manufacture.  Microscopic pollutant particles in the air from increased manufacturing and consumption mean India and China are now shouldering the biggest burden in terms of pollutant-linked deaths. The study authors say in 2007 22% of air-pollution related deaths were associated with goods and services produced in one country and consumed in another (New Scientist: 29/03/17) ( 29/03/17) (Guardian: 29/03/17) (USA Today: 29/03/17) ( 30/03/17)

Childhood lead exposure linked to lower adult IQ

Kids exposed to high levels of lead decades ago may now be approaching middle age with lower IQs and earning potential than they would have had otherwise, a new study suggests (Reuters: 28/03/17)

Waterborne diseases are on the rise

Waterborne diseases appear to be on the rise in Ahmedabad. According to the weekly health report from AMC, five cases of cholera were reported in civic-run hospitals in the city. Last week, 287 cases of waterborne diseases were reported, of these, 186 cases of vomiting and diarrhoea, 39 of jaundice, 70 cases of typhoid and two cases of cholera. Two fresh cases of swine flu have also been reported (Times of India: 28/03/17) ( 28/03/17)

Despite growth, one in 10 Asians live in extreme poverty

A report released at the Asia Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development said â€˜some 400m people, a tenth of Asia’s population, live on less than $1.90 a day – a global definition of poverty – despite the region’s impressive economic growth. Taking into account wider indicators of poverty such as health, education and living standards for the same period (2010-13), the number of poor was higher at 931m, or one in four,’ the UN and the ADB said (Reuters: 29/03/17)

Do you pop pills without consulting a doctor? Inappropriate intake of antibiotics can destroy ‘good bacteria’

Most doctors tend to treat a patient’s symptom and prescribe medicines in haste, sometimes before a consensus on the right medical condition, and then administer antibiotics. This lack of care is producing negligent results as there is an alarming increase in antibiotic resistance and antibiotics are gradually losing their capacity to fight an increasing number of diseases (Economic Times: 28/03/17) (Vanguard Nigeria: 28/03/17)

Pro-poor urbanization, sustainable infrastructure – can unlock Asia-Pacific’s prosperity - UN

Some 400m people in Asia and the Pacific still confront poverty as part of their daily lives due to widening income inequality, despite the region’s impressive gains in reducing poverty in recent decades, a UN-backed report has found. The report underscores the importance of addressing poverty through pro-poor urbanization, effective management of rural-urban transitions and investment in sustainable infrastructure ( 29/03/17) ( 28/03/17)

Pharmaceuticals should work to find a way to reduce drug prices in poorer countries – David Nabarro

On a visit to Guatemala to learn more about the health challenges the country is facing, David Nabarro, candidate to be the next Director General of WHO, said ‘pharmaceutical companies should seek to find a way in which to reduce prices for medicines in poorer countries’( 27/03/17) ( 28/03/17) ( 29/03/17) ( 28/03/17)

41m people in Nigeria are without access to clean water – Water Aid Nigeria

To mark World Water Day, Water Aid Nigeria called for urgent action from the international community and the government to reach the 41m rural people in Nigeria without access to clean water. The organization called on governments to prioritize and fund water, sanitation and hygiene to fulfil fundamental human rights and to build communities’ resilience to extreme weather events and climate change ( 28/03/17) ( 29/03/17) ( 29/03/17)

Tuberculosis – experts blame disease spread on recession and malnutrition

Experts said the high incidence of tuberculosis among rural and city slum dwellers in Nigeria can be blamed, in some part, on the economic recession in the country. The experts also identified malnutrition as a key factor in reducing a TB patient’s chances of surviving treatment. Health professionals said ‘there is a need to focus more on TB screening and treatment as more Nigerians have lesser access to good meals which boost immunity against infection (Punch Nigeria: 29/03/17)

UN strategy for eliminating HIV in sub-Saharan Africa is unfeasible, according to a UCLA study

WHO and UNAIDS propose using treatment prevention to eliminate HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. The strategy would treat people infected with HIV to reduce their ability to infect others as a way to prevent them from transmitting the disease. UNAIDS has set a goal to diagnose and treat 90% of those individuals infected by 2020. Now, a new study by UCLA researchers concludes that although the plan is laudable, implementing it might not be feasible. Spatial demographics of populations in predominantly rural countries will significantly hinder and possibly prevent the elimination of HIV. Only a minority live in urban centres and nobody knows where the vast majority of HIV-infected people live ( 29/03/17) ( 29/03/17)

Indian Supreme Court bans sale of BS-III vehicles from April 1st on health grounds

The Indian Supreme Court restrained auto manufacturers from selling BS-III vehicles from April 1st when emissions rules would come into force. The judges said ‘the health of millions of citizens was more important than the commercial interests of manufacturers’ and directed the government to not allow the registration of polluting BS III vehicles next month (Times of India: 29/03/17) (Deutsche Welle: 29/03/17) (Indian Express: 29/03/17) (Hindustan Times: 29/03/17)


Has the meningitis vaccine failed? Outbreak in Africa kills more than 260 Nigerians

More than 260 people have died in Nigeria as a result of the country’s recent meningitis outbreak, eight times more than the number of deaths caused by the disease in 2016. In a series of tweets, Nigeria’s Center for Disease Control said there were 1,828 suspected cases of meningitis reported so far in 2017. Across the country’s 15 states, 269 Nigerians had died as of last Monday, compared to the 33 people killed by the disease in 2016 ( 29/03/17) ( 29/03/17)

UN – Malaria outbreak kills over 4,000 in Burundi this year

An outbreak of malaria has killed over 4,000 people in Burundi so far this year, the UN said, a dramatic rise over the 700 victims the government announced just two weeks ago ( 29/03/17) (Washington Post: 29/03/17) ( 29/03/17) ( 29/03/17)

Swine flu cases from Jan-March: 63 deaths in Maharashtra which prompts call for a ministerial review meeting

There has been a slight change in the pandemic virus H1N1 – an antigenic drift – according to the National Institute of Virology experts. This has been the reason for the rising number of cases and deaths across several Indian states since January this year. According to experts, from January to mid-March, there have been reportedly over 5,000 cases and more than 125 deaths with the southern and western states being largely affected (Indian Express: 28/03/17) ( 28/03/17)

Singapore – first Zika cluster of 2017 reported this year

Some three months after the Zika transmission in Singapore tapered off, two members of the same household have been found to have contracted the Zika virus, making the area in Hougang the first Zika cluster to be reported in Singapore this year (Today 29/03/17) ( 29/03/17) (Channel News Asia: 29/03/17) (Malaysian Digest 29/03/17)

Sokoto state government treats 10,000 meningitis and malaria patients in just 9 days - Commissioner

The Sokoto State Government in Nigeria says it has treated no fewer than 10,000 meningitis and malaria patients since March 20th following the announcement of a high state of alert in the health sector ( 29/03/17) (Business Day: 29/03/17)

Malaria in the Gantsi district of Botswana

In Botswana, the Gantsi district said it has recorded 16 malaria cases with a further suspected 44 cases. The affected settlements include; Qabo, Grrotlagte, D’kar and D’kar farms ( 29/03/17)

Thousands affected by malaria in Namibia

The Health Minister for Namibia said 11,902 people had contracted malaria in Namibia and 18 had died of the disease since January this year. This figure is an increase of 5,402 since the last figure (6,500) was given by the health ministry earlier this month ( 29/03/17) ( 29/03/17)

Somalia faces major cholera outbreak

Al Jazeera got access to a hospital in Baidoa in the southern region of Somalia and reported that the UN has raised alarm over a major outbreak of cholera in southern Somalia. Aid groups are scrambling to help people suffering from severe drought and mass malnutrition (al Jazeera: 29/03/17))

Bolivia recorded 366 cases of Zika during the first three months of the year

The Bolivian health minister told the press that there had been 366 cases of Zika to date this year with 42 of these cases identified as pregnant women. This number is up on the most recent figure where there were only 19 pregnant women affected at the end of January (Los Tiempos: 29/03/17)

Yellow fever continues to spread across south-eastern Brazil

An outbreak of yellow fever continues to advance across Brazil’s south-eastern region, with Rio de Janeiro state announcing the sixth yellow fever case in the state earlier this week. It was recorded in the town of Sao Fidelis and is the first case of yellow fever in the state not in the town of Casimiro de Abreu ( 28/03/17) ( 28/03/17) ( 28/03/17

New cholera outbreak flares up in Malawi

Malawi health officials reported a new cholera outbreak in Nsanje district in the southern part of Malawi. As of March 24th there were 14 cases recorded and no deaths so far. Nsanje district shares a common border with Mozambique  (Outbreaknewstoday: 27/03/17)

WHO warns of measles outbreak in areas of Europe where vaccinations have dropped

The World Health Organization warned that there is a high risk of large measles outbreaks in countries where immunization levels dropped, after more than 500 cases of the highly contagious disease were reported in Europe in January(South China Morning Post: 29/03/17)

Chikungunya cases jump by 23.4% in just a week leading to a health expert investigation into causes

In little more than a week Pernambuco has registered a 23.4% increase in Chikungunya cases, it is now being found in 73 of the 184 districts within the state, as well as the Fernando de Noronha archipelago. Health authorities taking note of the increase have decided to send experts to investigate further ( 28/03/17)

56 cases of Dengue confirmed in the Coischo region of Peru

Peruvian health experts in the Pacifico Norte region recorded 56 confirmed cases of Dengue in the Coischo health district. The health team told the media that these cases form part of 204 cases in the province of Santa ( 28/03/17) ( 28/03/17) ( 28/03/17)

Access to Healthcare

Why do residents work such long hours?

Resident doctors call the practice of assigning shifts stretching 24-48 hours inhuman and an exploitation of doctors. In contrast, the medical establishment believes it is routine practice and it has been there for ages and should continue. A spokesperson said ‘it is part of the learning process. Residents need to observe and follow a patient over a period of time continuously and see if the disease is progressing or worsening, and this can only be done when they are on longer shift patterns’(Times of India: 29/03/17)

Jharkhand will soon be the second state to provide ‘free health services’

The Health Minister for the state of Jharkhand said he is looking to encourage Public Private Partnership and that Jharkhand is going to be the second state in the country to offer ‘free health services’ for all minors in government-run hospitals ( 29/03/17)

EU rapid drug approval plan worries some national agencies

A push by the European Medicines Agency to speed up the approval of new drugs that show promise is running into stiff resistance from some of the national agencies that will ultimately decide if the medicines are worth buying. Critics worry that lowering the requirement for lengthy clinical trials, selling drugs with relatively little testing data, even if the go-ahead comes with strict limits, will expose patients to greater risks ( 29/03/17) (Reuters: 29/03/17)

Trump FDA nominee wants lower drug costs with more generics

President Trump’s pick to head the FDA is one of the most vigorous advocates of lowering drug costs by approving generics faster. He’s particularly focused on complex medications that combine old drugs with newer deliveries, as well as those with unusually complicated formulations. The main generic drug law, crafted more than 30 years ago didn’t contemplate complex drugs and so it does not provide an efficient and predictable path for enabling generic entrants – Scott Gottlieb wrote in an Oct 24 Forbes column. Revamping the process is likely to be his focus (Bloomberg: 29/03/17)

Men who have sex with men face difficulties getting HIV medicine due to stigma

Homosexuals are a vulnerable group who struggle to access treatment for HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases because of the stigma and discrimination against them, health professionals and NGOs from Eastern and Southern African countries were told at a Johannesburg event to discuss HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment ( 28/03/17)

HIV patients shun hospitals after Aadhaar gets linked to treatment

Linking people living with HIV AIDS with Aadhaar cards has allegedly ‘driven away patients from hospitals and antiretroviral therapy centres’ in Madhya Pradesh. The patients feared that the compulsory submission of an Aadhaar card to get free medicines and medical check-ups under a government’s AIDS control scheme, could lead to disclosure of their identity, inviting social stigma (Hindustan Times: 29/03/17) ( 29/03/17)

Culture of disease diagnosis is inevitable if we want a healthier nation

In an opinion article for the Tanzania Daily News the editorial argues that it is time to introduce a culture of disease diagnosis in the Tanzanian healthcare system. He argues that identifying troubles early mean many diseases are far more treatable and the costs of treatment are lower as they are managed at this initial stage ( 28/03/17)

MP blames provincial government for a shortage of drugs

In Papua New Guinea the local Kerema MP has called out the Gulf provincial government for not addressing the issue of medicine shortages at the Kerema General Hospital. The MP said he had been told there was no medicine at the local hospital and patients were told to use herbal medicine while waiting for new supplies. He said the government must immediately address the issue because people needed the basics like malaria and tuberculosis drugs urgently (The National: 28/03/17)

Zambia fears health programmes will suffer under Trump’s proposal to cut foreign aid

Critical programs across Africa will be impacted  by significant foreign aid cuts proposed by the Trump administration, Zambia warned. A White House blueprint calling for a 28% cut in State Department funding, means drastic reductions in funding to UN agencies with knock on effects around the world; the country’s vice president said a range of health programs involving maternal health, HIV/AIDS and malaria eradication could well be impacted ( 28/03/17)

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