More than 100 world leaders, along with thousands of participants from governments, the private sector, NGOs and other groups, are meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this week for Rio+20, the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development, to address ways to reduce poverty, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection. The following blog post, opinion piece, and press release address health aspects of the conference.
Non Communicable Disease/Chronic Disease
In this Bloomberg Businessweek opinion piece, Charles Kenny, a fellow at the Center for Global Development and the New America Foundation, examines the global obesity epidemic, writing, “It may seem strange to be worried about too much food when the United Nations suggests that, as the planet’s population continues to expand, about one billion people may still be undernourished,” but “[g]rowing obesity in poorer countries is a sign of a historic global tipping point.” He continues, “After millennia when the biggest food-related threat to humanity was the risk of having too little, the 21st century is one where the fear is having too much.”
“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).
“Bacteria, viruses and parasites cause around two million cases of cancer in the world each year, experts believe,” the Press Association/Guardian reports. According to the news service, “Scientists carried out a statistical analysis of cancer incidence to calculate that around 16 percent of all cancers diagnosed in 2008 were infection-related,” and “[t]he proportion of cancers linked to infection was three times higher in developing countries than in developed ones.”
International Community, U.S. Should Increase Resources, Mandate For Fighting NCDs In Developing World
In this Foreign Affairs essay, Thomas Bollyky, a senior fellow for global health, economics and development at the Council on Foreign Relations, examines the increase of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the developing world, writing, “When most people in developed countries think of the biggest health challenges confronting the developing world, they envision a small boy in a rural, dusty village beset by an exotic parasite or bacterial blight,” but “NCDs in developing countries are occurring more rapidly, arising in younger people, and leading to far worse health outcomes than ever seen in developed countries.” He notes, “According to the World Economic Forum’s 2010 Global Risks report, these diseases pose a greater threat to global economic development than fiscal crises, natural disasters, corruption, or infectious disease.”
“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).
“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.
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).
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).
“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).