Global News Round Up

Politics & Policies

The notion of a shared responsibility to prevent global public health emergencies caused by disease epidemics is hardly new.  The history goes back to the 1851 International Sanitary Conference in Paris that followed the cholera epidemics in Europe between 1830 and 1847.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) dwindling pot of money aimed at fighting infectious-disease epidemics like Ebola will run out this year, and the agency doesn’t anticipate new dedicated funds. So the CDC is scaling back epidemic prevention work in 39 countries, and this has experts, including a United Nations Dispatch on Friday, saying “you should be freaking out.”

It has now been a little more than a year since President Donald Trump, on his first full day in office, reinstated the Mexico City Policy, also known as the “Global Gag Rule,” and a picture of its impact is beginning to emerge.

It was a financial investment in a tobacco company that helped lead to the downfall of Brenda Fitzgerald, who until Wednesday was the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The draft 13th General Program of Work cut across discussions at last week’s 142nd executive board session of the World Health Organization.  But while some stakeholders perceived progress on the current draft, questions remain, including the nagging question on how WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus would be able to finance his vision for the organization.

International health campaigners and alcohol concern groups called on a major global HIV and malaria fund on Thursday to end immediately a partnership it had signed with the Dutch brewer Heineken.

Programs, Grants & Awards

US Alumni Global Health Workshop brought together 22 alumni from US government exchange programs from African nations to share best practices for public health communication.

Paul Farmer, co-founder and chief strategist of Partners in Health, will receive the National Academy of Sciences most prestigious Public Welfare Medal this year.


Researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health have identified a gene associated with lower asthma risk and its role in the disease’s progression — findings that open a new potential pathway for treatment.

Daily use of marijuana as well as past month rates rose for both men and women aged 26 and older in states with medical marijuana laws in effect.  Marijuana use among those younger than 26 years old was generally unaffected by changes in the law.

The results from the largest ever study of septic shock (a life threatening illness that occurs when the body’s response to infection leads to low blood pressure that reduces blood flow to vital organs and tissues such as the heart, brain, kidney and liver) could improve treatment for critically ill patients and save health systems worldwide hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

Diseases & Disasters

Every single year, a group larger than the entire population of Seattle die from heart disease.  While these 846,000 annual fatalities are only half of what they were in 1980, cardiovascular disease is still the leading cause of death in the United States.

Urgent action must be taken to stop the spread of drug-resistant malaria in south-east Asia and potentially beyond, according to scientists. The outbreak in Cambodia, then Thailand, Laos and most recently Vietnam, of malaria that is untreatable with the newest and best drugs we have has alarmed experts. There have been calls for the World Health Organisation (WHO) to declare a public health emergency of international concern, as it did with Ebola in west Africa and Zika virus in Brazil.

Due to fears over Dengue vaccine, parents in the Philippines are refusing to vaccinate their children for tetanus, chicken pox and polio.

There have been 22 deaths and about 2000 cholera cases in seven African countries since the beginning of 2018. The increasing numbers of cholera cases are being blamed on poor sanitation and hygiene.


What if reaching the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals on access to health for all depended on the willingness of all actors to see beyond outdated dichotomies. The concept may seem obvious, but is easier described than done. In an effort to break silos, the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property (IPI) brought together stakeholders of all sides last week to discuss how to harness political and economic will to achieve innovation leading to new medicines that are available and affordable for all in need.

In an effort to stop diabetes patients from progressing to dialysis phase, doctors and researchers in Japan have launched a large-scale clinical study to examine whether internet connected medical devices and a smartphone app could help maintain blood sugar levels.

Environmental Health

Hundreds of tonnes of colistin, the strongest “last resort” antibiotic known to medicine, are being shipped to India to be used on chickens that may not even require the drugs.

Hyperthermophilic composting may have the potential to reduce the abundance of antibiotic-resistance carrying bacteria from composting end products.

Equity & Disparities

Equity in health is the notion that everyone should have a fair opportunity to reach his or her full health potential.  A focus on equity can strengthen the link between health and other development sectors by focusing attention on the most vulnerable populations. If certain populations are continually underserved by their health systems and experience a disproportionate impact, it endangers the well-being of societies at-large and can even hold back health progress for the most advantaged.

A new study has found that blacks, Hispanics and low-income students are at most likely to be exposed to air pollution. The study reveals that in 5 of the 10 worst polluted school counties, over 20% of the population is non-white.

Maternal, Neonatal & Children’s Health

In a new study of childhood mortality rates between 1961 and 2010 in the United States and 19 economically similar countries, researchers report that while there’s been overall improvement among all the countries, the U.S. has been slowest to improve. Infants in the U.S. were 76 percent more likely to die.

Recent studies indicate that infants born prematurely have a higher risk of developing heart disease later in life.  Now, researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle have shown that, in preterm animal models, inflammation due to infection can disrupt the activity of genes crucial for normal heart development.

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