Today we have a similar emergency on our hands, but one that is largely silent and failing to secure the necessary global attention and funding. The prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is comparable to the greatest global health challenges we have had to confront in recent history.
The evidence that e-cigarettes help people quit smoking was described in the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recent report as “scant and of low certainty”. Predictably, this triggered the latest round of claims and counterclaims in an ongoing, and often acrimonious, dispute about the potential of e-cigarettes.
I recently sat with a mother and her baby in an intensive care unit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The baby was tiny, with lots of dark hair and a beautiful name. He also had microcephaly – and the doctor euphemistically said that his face was disproportionate to his head.
In rich countries, tuberculosis is sometimes thought of as a thing of the past, the disease that claimed Keats, Poe, Chopin. But globally, TB is today the number one infectious killer, causing an estimated 1.8m deaths in 2015.
India faces a ticking-time bomb when it comes to public health. In 2015 it reported 27% of all neonatal deaths and 21% of all child deaths in the world, and the country accounted for 20% of the global burden of disease in 2013. More than 70% of ailing persons sought (PDF) care in the private health sector in 2014 and it is well known that a large proportion of this private sector is informal and unrecognised.
In April 2013, the National Health Service (NHS) in England was subject to the biggest reorganisation since its creation in 1948. NHS leaders famously described the changes as “so big you could see them from space”. In a very short space of time, new organisations were created, old ones abolished and responsibilities for public health were transferred from the NHS to local authorities. In the midst of these changes, we investigated what happened to the national immunisation programme.
Global leaders at the United Nations General Assembly have signed a declaration that their 193 countries will take steps to rid the world of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). It is only the fourth time in the history of the UN that a health topic has been on the General Assembly agenda. AMR has been increasing since we began the mass production and use of these medicines in the 1930s-40s. The scale of the problem therefore is unsurprising, however the lack of detailed knowledge about how to successfully address it is.
It’s the time of year when hundreds of thousands of teenagers are beginning an exciting new chapter in their lives. Freshers’ week will see friendships fostered for life, but for some unfortunate students it will also mean experiencing something not quite as welcome. Close contact between large groups of young adults is the perfect breeding ground for infectious disease. Perhaps surprisingly, measles is one of them.