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WHO Faces Challenges In Setting Priorities

In this BMJ Groups Blog post, Amanda Glassman, director of Global Health Policy at the Center for Global Development, writes about the challenges the WHO faces in “[s]etting priorities and fully funding those priorities.” She defines the criteria by which the WHO could outline its priorities, including by identifying “global” and “shared” concerns and adequately funding and staffing priority areas. Glassman concludes, “There is tentative movement towards limiting the number of new resolutions based on ‘an assessment of their strategic value, financial and administrative implications, and reporting requirements and timelines.’ That sounds very good, and would inspire more confidence if the assessment were rigorous and transparent to member states and the public. Still, the reform seems to have punted on the WHO’s priority-setting problem” (5/17).

WHO DG Chan Addresses World Health Assembly; HHS Secretary Sebelius Speaks At Plenary Session

“Opening the 65th annual World Health Assembly (WHA) [on Monday in Geneva], World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan said she sees a bright future for health development, despite financial crises that many countries are facing, which has shrunk support for many initiatives,” CIDRAP News reports. According to the news service, “Chan said the WHO can leverage its leadership role to make the most of small and wise investments” and that “[u]niversal health coverage is the best way to maintain health gains that have been made over the past decade” (Schnirring, 5/21). Focusing on innovations that bring social benefit rather than profit, as well as research and development into new treatments, also are important, Chan noted, Devex reports (Ravelo, 5/22).

Sugar Poses Significant Health Risks, Should Be Regulated Like Alcohol, U.S. Researchers Say

“Sugar poses enough health risks that it should be considered a controlled substance just like alcohol and tobacco, contend a team of researchers from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF),” in an opinion piece called “The Toxic Truth About Sugar,” published in the journal Nature on Wednesday, TIME’s “Healthland” blog reports (Rochman, 2/2). “While acknowledging that food, unlike alcohol and tobacco, is required for survival, [authors Robert Lustig, Laura Schmidt and Claire Brindis] say taxes, zoning ordinances and even age limits for purchasing certain sugar-laden products are all appropriate remedies for what they see as a not-so-sweet problem,” the Wall Street Journal’s “Health” blog writes (Hobson, 2/2).

Closing The ‘Cancer Divide’ Between Developing And Developed Countries

Noting “there is a huge ‘cancer divide’ between rich and poor,” with more than half of new cancer cases and almost two-thirds of all cancer deaths occurring in developing countries, this year’s World Cancer Day theme, “Together It Is Possible,” “calls on all individuals, organizations and governments to do their part to reduce premature deaths from cancers by 25 percent by 2025,” Felicia Knaul, secretariat for the Global Task Force on Expanded Access to Cancer Care and Control in Developing Countries, and Jonathan Quick, president of Management Sciences for Health, write in a Huffington Post opinion piece. “But there have been four myths that have held back cancer care and control in developing countries,” they write.

More People Than Ever Overweight, Obese In Developed Countries, OECD Report Says

“More people in developed countries are overweight or obese than ever before, dooming them to years of ill health, pushing up health care costs and piling more pressure on health systems, a report [.pdf] by the OECD found on Tuesday,” Reuters reports. Though the report found that obesity rates are diverse — “from a low of four percent in Japan and Korea to 30 percent or more in the United States and Mexico” – “in more than half of the 34 OECD countries, at least one in two people is now overweight or obese, and rates are projected to rise further,” according to the news agency.

Blog Examines Gap Between Mental Health Disease Burden, Attention Given To Problem

This post in KPLU’s “Humanosphere” blog examines the “gap between the disease burden of mental illness and the amount of funding and attention devoted to solving the problem,” referencing a post published Friday in the Global Health Interest Forum’s “Blog of Scientists for Global Health,” written by Paul Southworth, a visiting scholar on malaria and vaccine science at the NIH. The blog provides a breakdown of the global burden of disease in terms of disability adjusted life years (DALYs) and notes, “As you can see from the pie chart, mental illness (aka ‘neuropsychiatric disorders’) is the biggest slice in the pie. Yet it is rarely even mentioned at global health meetings or confabs, says Southworth” (Paulson, 2/21).

Curbing Consequences Of Obesity Takes Personal Responsibility

A recently released OECD report (.pdf) “spells out the toll obesity can take on one’s health and on health care costs,” Indianapolis Star reporter Barb Berggoetz writes in this Star opinion piece, adding, “Obese people die on average eight to 10 years sooner than people at normal weight.” She notes that, according to the report, “[o]besity — responsible for between five to 10 percent of total health spending in the U.S. and one to three percent in most countries — will cause a rapid rise in health spending in coming years, as obesity related diseases set in.”

WHO Should Regulate Alcohol Consumption With Legally Binding Convention, Global Health Expert Says

The “WHO should regulate alcohol at the global level, enforcing such regulations as a minimum drinking age, zero-tolerance drunken driving, and bans on unlimited drink specials,” Devi Sridhar, a lecturer in global health politics at the University of Oxford, argues in a commentary published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, Scientific American reports. “[A]lcohol kills more than 2.5 million people annually, more than AIDS, malaria or tuberculosis,” and it is a leading health concern for middle-income populations, “greater than obesity, inactivity and even tobacco,” according to the news service (Wanjek, 2/15).

South African Researchers Call For New Framework To Help Prioritize Global Mental Health

“For mental health to gain significant attention, and funding from policymakers globally, it is not enough to convince people that it has a high disease burden but also that there are deliverable and cost-effective interventions — according to South African researchers writing in this week’s PLoS Medicine,” a PLoS press release reports, adding, “Mark Tomlinson and Crick Lund from the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health based at the University of Cape Town argue that global mental health must demonstrate its social and economic impact.” According to the press release, the authors “discuss a framework to help understand why some global health initiatives are more successful in generating funding and political priority than others” (2/28).

Health Experts Call For U.N. Special Session On Mental Illness, Illicit Drug Use

“Mental illness and drug abuse can wreak havoc in global societies and economies, and the U.N. General Assembly should devote a special session to the matter, global health experts said” in a PLoS Medicine article published on Tuesday, Agence France-Presse reports (1/17). “Mental, neurological, and substance use disorders (MNS) … are leading contributors to the global burden of disease and profoundly impact the social and economic well-being of individuals and communities,” a PLoS press release states, adding, “Yet the majority of people affected by MNS disorders globally do not have access to evidence-based interventions and many experience discrimination and abuses of their human rights” (1/17).