Expert opinion

Dr Naomi Waterlow
In the UK we’re heading full pelt into the normal winter respiratory viral season, something we can all relate to: from a mild snuffle to a week in bed at the mercy of flu. As many parents will be aware, respiratory viral infections are particularly common in children who have lots of contact with others, especially at school.
Prof Colin Sutherland
Over the last 20 years, annual analysis by the World Health Organization has brought good malaria news. Cases and deaths have steadily decreased since the turn of the millennium, although this progress has plateaued in recent years. But things are very different in 2021. This year’s World Malaria Report found deaths were at their highest for nearly a decade with an estimated 627, 000 worldwide in 2020.
Dr Gwen Knight
Even prior to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the question for scientists was not ‘if’ there would be another pandemic, but when. The spread of infectious diseases among populations in history is evident even outside of the pages of epidemiology textbooks – many great 19th and 20th century writers make it quite clear that their fictional characters were besieged by the likes of polio or TB.
Prof Martin McKee
Those working in tobacco control have much to celebrate. Rates of tobacco use globally have fallen. But the world’s population has grown, so today there are still 1.3 billion tobacco users, most of them wanting to quit. Yet, nicotine is addictive and, despite the tobacco industry’s efforts to portray itself as being part of the solution, it continues to actively promote nicotine and tobacco in an ever increasing variety of forms. One thing is clear – the tobacco industry wants to replace its users and maximize its profit by sustaining the use of these products. 
Prof Liam Smeeth
Progress was made here in areas such as financing and emissions reductions, and the conference emphasised the broad impact of climate change with themed days for topics including youth empowerment and transportation.
Prof Donald Bundy
The global closure of schools due to COVID-19 has helped spotlight the value of school meals across the world. In the UK, the conversation between Marcus Rashford and the Prime Minister brought recognition to the role of school food as a social safety net. Meanwhile globally, the support of President Macron of France and President Kigame of Rwanda demonstrated that this was a crisis that affected rich and poor countries alike.
The Dutch famine caused by the Nazi blockade of the Netherlands in the Second World War ended over 70 years ago, but for survivors who were conceived during the famine, the health effects persist. Famine exposure during early fetal development has been associated with higher rates of mortality, obesity, diabetes, and schizophrenia.
Prof Liam Smeeth
Climate change is ‘unequivocal’ and ‘unprecedented’. Take home messages from a recent UN report dubbed ‘a code red for humanity’.
Dr William Stone
International travel is scaling back up, and academic researchers and the general public are advised to be aware of the risks posed by infectious diseases. This can involve serious preparation, at the very least checking your vaccinations.
Malaria may not be a health concern for parents and children in the UK, but for millions of others it's a very different story. In Africa, where 90% of cases are found, families face the risk of their children getting sick or dying from the disease on a daily basis. It’s the reason scientists are working so hard to find innovative solutions and why there were so many headlines heralding official endorsement of the first malaria vaccine for this very complex disease.