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Washing our hands is such a simple act engrained in daily routines around the world. But it is easy to forget that it’s more than just a habit – handwashing saves lives by reducing the spread of infection and disease. Using water and soap after going to the toilet and before eating is one of the most cost-effective public health interventions globally, leading to large reductions in diarrhoea and pneumonia among other transmissible diseases.
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On World Mental Health Day, the new report of the Lancet Commission on Global Mental Health and Sustainable Development offers a timely and fresh perspective on global mental health in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. While the adoption of mental health and substance use targets and indicators in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) reflects significant progress, the Commission underscores the need to transition from commitment to action.
At the start of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil the world’s media gathered en masse in Rio de Janeiro. But it wasn’t just potential medal winners making headlines. The Zika virus epidemic had emerged in Latin America, transmitted by the mosquito Aedes aegypti which is very common in the region’s urban areas and causing a rash and fever in those affected. The mosquito helped the epidemic take off, spreading from city to city, crossing borders, and reaching islands further afield.
Being shorter than expected may sound fairly innocuous, but it’s a marker of underlying conditions that can bring severe consequences: a significantly increased risk of disease and death, as well as long-term effects including reduced learning and earning capacity.

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