“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
“The ruling this week by Australia’s high court to uphold its government’s right to introduce ‘plain packaging’ for tobacco products is a landmark event for global health,” John Seffrin, CEO of the American Cancer Society, writes in this Health-e opinion piece. “As the chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society, I am grateful for this ruling on plain packaging, as it will undoubtedly reduce the cancer burden in Australia,” he continues. “However, the significance of this Australia ruling extends to countries around the world and the global health community,” he adds, noting, “The reason tobacco companies have fought vociferously against plain packaging is because they know this will have a major impact in not only decreasing the number of new consumers who may become addicted, but also because other countries may follow Australia’s lead.”
“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).
In this post in the AIDS.gov blog, Nils Daulaire, director of the Office of Global Affairs in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), examines the mental health needs of people living with HIV, writing, “The burden of being HIV-positive, or caring for loved ones living with the disease, is not restricted to the physical toll. For many people, there are equally important mental health needs (PDF). We at HHS understand that addressing HIV means addressing the whole person” (7/26).
“Chinese health officials on Tuesday called for additional reform of China’s health-care system amid mounting costs, problems at public hospitals and a surge of patients with chronic diseases,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “The call for change comes as China’s leaders are still patting themselves on the back for having recently completed a three-year overhaul of the nation’s health-care system,” according to the newspaper, which adds, “One of the most critical issues is preventative care, said Michael O’Leary, the China representative of the World Health Organization. More than 80 percent of government spending on health care goes to covering the cost of chronic diseases, yet less than two percent is allocated toward primary prevention, said Dr. O’Leary” (Burkitt, 7/24).
In this post in Management Sciences for Health’s (MSH) “Global Health Impact” blog, Sara Holtz, a senior technical officer at MSH, reports on the 53-page outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), which took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil last week. She highlights several health-related commitments…
With the disease burden of AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria expected to make up less than 15 percent of the total disease burden in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) by 2030, and non-communicable diseases to account for nearly 40 percent of the total in the region, “[a] revision of the approach to research and health care in SSA is therefore urgently needed, but international donors and health communities have generally been slow to respond to the changing environment,” Ole Olesen and M. Iqbal Parker of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in South Africa write in a commentary in Tropical Medicine & International Health. “Private and public funding for health research in Africa remains therefore disproportionately focused on the three major infectious diseases, whereas only smaller amounts have been allocated to confront other diseases,” they write and provide examples.
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.
“Secretary Clinton’s inspiring piece on how the interests of the U.S. and India are aligned on issue after issue compelled me to articulate one more way in which the world’s two biggest democracies could pave the way for international co-operation. This is a remarkable opportunity for the U.S. and India to join together in addressing NCDs, chronic non-communicable diseases,” Nalini Saligram, founder and CEO of Aroyga World, writes in the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ “Smart Global Health” blog. She describes several initiatives underway to curb NCDs, including the mDiabetes text-messaging program being implemented by Aroyga World in India. Both the U.S. and India “have the bold leadership and technology advances needed [to tackle NCDs], and both countries consider the pursuit of healthy living a worthy aspiration and believe fully in the power of innovation,” she states (6/15).
AllAfrica.com/Guardian examine efforts to prevent and treat cervical cancer among women in Kenya, where an estimated 3,400 women die of the disease each year and only five percent receive screening. “Kenya’s national reproductive health strategic plan has addressed cervical cancer largely through the roll-out of a low-cost screening tool known as VIA (visual inspection of the cervix using ascetic acid),” but experts agree that more widespread use of cervical cancer vaccines and public education campaigns about the disease would be more effective at preventing and catching cases earlier, the news service reports. “Once the public owns this problem and pushes for it, … then the government would be forced to implement [a vaccine] strategy in full,” Lucy Muchiri, a pathologist specializing in cervical cancer at Kenyatta National Hospital and the University of Nairobi, said, the news service notes (Njoroge, 6/12).