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…
Non Communicable Disease/Chronic Disease
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.”
In a statement released on Monday, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said “[s]everal recent media articles are creating misinformation and confusion in the public health arena” by “erroneously suggesting that, in working to reduce non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes, WHO receives funding from the food and beverage industry,” the U.N. News Centre reports. Referring to an October 19 article by Reuters suggesting the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) had accepted money from the industry and a similar November 1 piece by Mother Jones, Chan said, “The allegations in these articles are wrong,” and she added, “When WHO works with the private sector, the organization takes all possible measures to ensure its work to develop policy and guidelines is protected from industry influence,” the news service notes (11/19).
“Doctors were at the forefront of the AIDS treatment revolution a decade ago, denouncing stigmatization and inequality from conference platforms and lobbying politicians alongside the activists,” Guardian health editor Sarah Boseley writes in her “Global Health” blog, asking, “Could we see cancer doctors take up the banners and the slogans on behalf of the poorest in the same way?” She continues, “Until last weekend, I personally did not think so. But in a lakeside hotel in Lugano in Switzerland, at a meeting of the World Oncology Forum, I watched what looked like a process of radicalization take place.” She adds, “Nearly 100 of the world’s leading cancer doctors were there,” noting, “The question for discussion over a day and a half was ‘Are we winning the war on cancer?'”
WHO member states meeting in Seoul, South Korea, on Monday unanimously approved a new international treaty to combat the illegal tobacco trade, VOA News reports (11/12). “The Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products commits countries to establishing, as a central measure, a global tracking and tracing system to reduce the illicit trade of tobacco products,” a WHO press release states (11/12). “I can think of no other undertaking that can make such a huge contribution to better health in every corner of the world. And that includes the health of young children and unborn babies,” WHO Executive Director Margaret Chan said at the opening of the Fifth Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), the U.N. News Centre reports. “Tobacco use is responsible for five million, or 12 percent, of all deaths of adults above the age of 30 globally each year — equivalent to one death every six seconds — noted a WHO mortality report released in March this year,” the news service adds (11/12).
“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).
“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 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).
“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).