“In one of the most significant victories for public health policy, the Australian High Court upheld the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act, which effectively removes the last form of advertising available to the tobacco industry in the country — logos on cigarette packs,” Cynthia Lewis, a senior program officer for the tobacco initiative at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, writes in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. “After a multi-million dollar legal battle, the Government of Australia effectively defended its right to legislate to protect the health of its citizens,” she continues, adding, “While the battle is not yet over — Australia still faces two additional cases with Philip Morris Asia and the World Trade Organization — [Wednesday's] victory establishes an important precedent for plain packaging, and encourages those who seek to implement it elsewhere” (8/15).
Non Communicable Disease/Chronic Disease
“Two fifths of men in developing countries still smoke or use tobacco, and women are increasingly starting to smoke at younger ages, according to a large international study which found ‘alarming patterns’ of tobacco use,” Reuters reports (Kelland, 8/17). The study, published Friday in the Lancet, “covered enough representative samples to estimate tobacco use among three billion people” and “‘demonstrates an urgent need for policy change in low- and middle-income countries,’ said lead researcher Gary Giovino,” according to CNN (Levs, 8/17). “‘Although 1.1 billion people have been covered by the adoption of the most effective tobacco control policies since 2008, 83 percent of the world’s population are not covered by two or more of these policies,’ said [Giovino],” Reuters adds (8/17).
“Australia’s highest court Wednesday rejected a challenge from big tobacco companies to tough new plain-packaging laws due to come into effect later this year, in a legal battle closely watched around the world,” the Wall Street Journal reports, adding, “The ruling is a major blow for global tobacco giants that had been seeking to stop Australia implementing the new laws, fearing the move would set a precedent for other countries to follow” (Curran, 8/14). “Tobacco companies British American Tobacco, Britain’s Imperial Tobacco, Philip Morris and Japan Tobacco challenged the laws in Australia’s high court, claiming the rules were unconstitutional because they effectively extinguished the companies’ intellectual property rights,” according to the Guardian (8/15). “The law, approved by Parliament last year, requires cigarettes to be sold in drab dark packaging starting in December, without logos but featuring graphic images of smoking-related diseases,” the Washington Post writes, adding, “Brand names can still be used, but only in a standard font, size and position” (Hume, 8/15).
One Blog Examines GAVI Alliance's Efforts To Accelerate Introduction Of Hepatitis B Vaccines In Developing Countries
“I am looking forward to participating in the 2012 World Cancer Leaders’ Summit, to be held in Montreal, Canada on August 27,” GAVI Alliance Deputy CEO Helen Evans writes in this post in the One Blog. “This will be an opportunity to take stock of where the world is with regards to cancer prevention and treatment and to learn more about action to address the existing challenges to eliminating cancer as a life-threatening disease for future generations,” she writes, and discusses GAVI’s efforts to “accelerat[e] the introduction of hepatitis B vaccines in developing countries since 2000,” noting “GAVI has helped prevent an estimated 3.7 million deaths from liver cancer (caused by hepatitis B)” (8/21).
The Associated Press/Seattle Times reports on a “mysterious epidemic [that] is devastating the Pacific Coast of Central America, killing more than 24,000 people in El Salvador and Nicaragua since 2000 and striking thousands of others with chronic kidney disease at rates unseen virtually anywhere else.” The news service provides statistics regarding kidney disease in various Central American countries, quotes a number of experts regarding potential causes of the disease and notes, “While some of the rising numbers may be from better record-keeping, scientists believe they are facing something deadly and previously unknown to medicine.”
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday announced his charitable foundation will “spend $220 million over the next four years to discourage tobacco use in developing countries, as he seeks to promote strategies around the world that curbed smoking in his city,” the Wall Street Journal reports (McKay, 3/21). Bloomberg announced “the new funding for Bloomberg Philanthropies on Thursday at the 15th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Singapore,” Reuters writes, noting “[t]he commitment takes the foundation’s total pledge to the cause to almost $600 million” (Begley et al., 3/22).
Seattle Times Examines Partnership Between Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Uganda Cancer Institute
The Seattle Times examines a partnership between the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI). In 2008, “the two institutes formally agreed to collaborate on clinical care and research projects, and more recently a major building project at Uganda’s only cancer-research center,” the newspaper writes. Corey Casper, director of the UCI/Fred Hutchinson Research Center Cancer Alliance, “says [the partnership] has the potential to demonstrate ‘that you can do first-rate research that can alter the impact of cancer care in the developing world, and that the craft of oncology can be practiced as well in Africa as it is in the developed world, just like it is with HIV,'” according to the Seattle Times (Silberner, 12/16).
In a Huffington Post “Impact” blog post, Tom Murphy, founder of the development blog “A View From The Cave,” examines Rwanda’s efforts to reduce cancer incidence by implementing screening programs for breast and cervical cancers and vaccinating girls and young women for human papillomavirus (HPV), the leading cause of cervical cancer. Discussing the new programs, Minister of Health Agnes Bingawaho said, “We are a government that is evidence-based and result-oriented. … We always go for a policy first — the science in front of everything. We develop a strategy plan, followed by an implementation plan and then fundraise,” according to Murphy. He discusses Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s push for accountability within the government, the U.N. General Assembly’s resolution recognizing non-communicable diseases as a global problem, and efforts by Merck and the GAVI Alliance to vaccinate more girls against HPV (12/18).
PRI’s “The World” this week features a series examining the challenges of addressing cancer in the developing world. The series, produced in collaboration with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, includes radio stories, multimedia features, an interactive map, and infographics, according to the main page. The radio stories examine cancer prevention, control, and research efforts in Uganda, Haiti, India, and the U.S. (12/3). In an interview with the series’ principal reporter, Joanne Silberner, Lancet editor Richard Horton said, “Cancer is certainly being under-recognized and neglected in low- and middle-income countries. … I think cancer is slowly becoming more recognized but there is a long way to go before it gets the attention it so urgently needs (12/3). On December 5, PRI will host a Facebook chat from 10am-4pm EST that will feature Silberner and cancer researchers and advocates (12/4).
GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog features an interview with freelance reporter and artist-in-residence at the University of Washington in Seattle Joanne Silberner, a former NPR correspondent, about her recent series for PRI’s “The World,” titled “Cancer’s New Battleground — The Developing World.” Produced in collaboration with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, the series examines cancer prevention, control, and research efforts in Uganda, Haiti, India, and the U.S., according to the blog. Silberner said she was “astounded” to learn “there are more deaths from cancer (in the developing world) than if you added up the deaths from HIV, [tuberculosis], and malaria,” the blog notes. She also said she was “surprised” to learn about the stigma against cancer in the developing world, which “keeps people from coming in [to clinics]” and “keeps local governments from supporting treatment efforts.” Silberner also said coverage of global health issues is important to raise awareness and knowledge in the U.S. (Judem, 12/6).