“Opening the 65th annual World Health Assembly (WHA) [on Monday in Geneva], World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan said she sees a bright future for health development, despite financial crises that many countries are facing, which has shrunk support for many initiatives,” CIDRAP News reports. According to the news service, “Chan said the WHO can leverage its leadership role to make the most of small and wise investments” and that “[u]niversal health coverage is the best way to maintain health gains that have been made over the past decade” (Schnirring, 5/21). Focusing on innovations that bring social benefit rather than profit, as well as research and development into new treatments, also are important, Chan noted, Devex reports (Ravelo, 5/22).
Non Communicable Disease/Chronic Disease
In this BMJ Groups Blog post, Amanda Glassman, director of Global Health Policy at the Center for Global Development, writes about the challenges the WHO faces in “[s]etting priorities and fully funding those priorities.” She defines the criteria by which the WHO could outline its priorities, including by identifying “global” and “shared” concerns and adequately funding and staffing priority areas. Glassman concludes, “There is tentative movement towards limiting the number of new resolutions based on ‘an assessment of their strategic value, financial and administrative implications, and reporting requirements and timelines.’ That sounds very good, and would inspire more confidence if the assessment were rigorous and transparent to member states and the public. Still, the reform seems to have punted on the WHO’s priority-setting problem” (5/17).
The WHO on Wednesday released its World Health Statistics 2012 report, which “for the first time includes a look at blood pressure and glucose levels, two of the risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” according to the Associated Press/Washington Post (5/16). The “data showed one in three adults worldwide has raised blood pressure — the cause of around half of all deaths from stroke and heart disease — and the condition affects almost half the adult population in some countries in Africa,” Reuters writes (Kelland, 5/16). “One in 10 people are estimated to have diabetes, rising to up to one third in Pacific Island countries,” Agence France-Presse notes (5/16). According to Reuters, “Obesity is another major issue, the WHO said, with data showing rates of obesity doubling in every region of the world between 1980 and 2008” (5/16). “This report is further evidence of the dramatic increase in the conditions that trigger heart disease and other chronic illnesses, particularly in low- and middle-income countries,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said, the news agency reports (5/16).
The Huffington Post is running “a series of blogs by leading NGOs to call attention to a range of issues that should be raised at the G8 summit at Camp David in rural Maryland from May 18-19,” according to the news service. The following summarizes some of the posts published over the past three days.
“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.”
Reuters examines cancer in Africa, writing, “Most of Africa’s around 2,000 languages have no word for cancer. The common perception in both developing and developed countries is that it’s a disease of the wealthy world, where high-fat, processed-food diets, alcohol, smoking and sedentary lifestyles fuel tumor growth.” However, according to the news service, sub-Saharan Africa will see an estimated one million new cancer cases this year — “a number predicted to double to two million a year in the next decade,” and, “[b]y 2030, according to predictions from the [WHO], 70 percent of the world’s cancer burden will be in poor countries.”
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.
The Centre for Global Non-Communicable Diseases, which “brings together researchers, policy makers, funders and patient advocacy groups worldwide to focus research and expertise on this growing global health challenge,” was launched Wednesday at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, an LSHTM press release states. According to the press release, LSHTM Director Peter Piot “said: ‘The emerging epidemic of non-communicable diseases has potentially catastrophic consequences for global health. However, with co-ordinated intervention, we can successfully prevent and treat these diseases, saving millions of lives worldwide. This is a vital strategic priority, and we are working with our partners to establish this new center as a focus for research that can translate into effective action'” (4/25).
“We commend the 130th session of the WHO Executive Board for adopting a resolution calling for a comprehensive response to the global burden of mental illnesses,” Rebecca Hock of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Department of Mental Health, and colleagues, write in this Lancet opinion piece. “The resolution for mental health, led by India, the U.S., and Switzerland, is the result of a crescendo of political support for addressing mental illnesses and received unanimous support from countries on the WHO Executive Board,” the authors write, noting, “The resolution urges countries to protect and promote the rights of persons with mental disorders and to combat stigma against mental illness.”