In the second part of a series of Slate articles highlighting issues being examined by the Copenhagen Consensus Center, Bjorn Lomborg, director of the center, examines the global burden of non-communicable diseases, which “receiv[e] the smallest amount of donor assistance of all health conditions, having lost ground since 1990 relative to infectious diseases,” he writes. “In a research paper released today on chronic disease, Prabhat Jha and a team of researchers argue that chronic diseases already pose a substantial economic burden, and this burden will evolve into a staggering one over the next two decades,” according to Lomborg.
Non Communicable Disease/Chronic Disease
“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).
The Economist’s “Graphic Detail” blog features an infographic depicting the probability of dying from a non-communicable disease, by country. “You are more likely to be killed by a non-communicable disease (NCD), like cancer or heart disease, than anything else,” the blog notes, adding, “In 2008 they accounted for 63 percent of the 56 million deaths worldwide” (6/1).
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.”
“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.”
“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).
“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.”