President Obama gave an interview on climate change with Dr. Sanjay Gupta after a roundtable discussion on the topic at Howard University. The President stated that his interest in the environment began after enrolling in Occidental College in Los Angeles, and noting the poor quality of the air and health consequences of smog on individuals with respiratory conditions. He then credited the Clean Air Act with helping reduce the prevalence of asthma and other respiratory diseases between 1970 and 2010. Throughout the course of the interview, the President also went on to explain how he considers climate change a public threat, with rising global temperatures increasing the risk of heat stroke and insect-borne diseases. Natural disasters such as hurricanes or droughts, he believes, are making the impact of climate change much more visible to the public. Dr. Gupta states that the President is attempting to re-frame the conversation around climate change to reflect a public health perspective. More >>
The Ebola epidemic, which has claimed 10,000 lives in West Africa, has served as a point of analysis of current public health and disease control systems: namely, their lack of presence. This has served to highlight the need for increased preparedness and protocol in the case of future epidemics which have the potential to be even more lethal. Ebola, Gates notes, requires physical contact for transmission as well as active symptoms. Drawing comparisons to the Spanish flu which killed approximately 30 million people in 1918, diseases that are either airborne or are contagious before the onset of symptoms are a great threat to our increasingly mobile society and require adequate systems in place to control an outbreak in the future. While conversations about Ebola have centered primarily on whether the WHO or the CDC responded effectively do not highlight the fact that there are very rudimentary and ill structured systems to address a crisis of this size. The Ebola crisis made clear that there is little protocol for essential functions of disease control in vulnerable regions such as volunteer deployment, transportation of patients, diagnostic procedures, and data collection.
Gates calls for increasing infrastructural capacity and encouraging the development of global warning symptoms for epidemics. Local health systems need to be adequately prepared and strengthened in order for these measures to be effective. In addition, there must be a more efficient way to have medical professionals and experts on call, standard deployment measures, organized data collection measures, and emergency resources ready and accessible. More>>
Obama announced the removal of almost all troops from the fight against Ebola in West Africa, while encouraged continued vigilance of the recent epidemic. In order to continue to mitigate the outbreak, civilian workers of government agencies, volunteers, and approximately 100 military personnel will remain on duty. The president thanked the service men and women for their efforts to contain the outbreak, and that the US will continue to work towards eradication of Ebola. He also recognized the dedication of volunteers who have continued invaluable work in West Africa despite threats to health and personal safety.
Evidence suggests that the spread of Ebola in West Africa –especially Liberia—has been slowing considerably. The epidemic, estimated to reach 1 million deaths, has claimed about 9,000. Recent reporting states there have been only a about a dozen in the past three weeks. More>>
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released the results of its groundbreaking, global report concerning suicide. According to the report, approximately 800,000 persons commit suicide every year, meaning that one person takes his/her life every 40 seconds. 75% of suicides occur in middle or low-income countries, and the most affected age groups include persons aged 70+ as well as young adults between ages 15-29.
After announcing these alarming rates, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan outlined various steps for countries to mitigate the issue of suicide.
Primarily, Dr. Chan advocated that countries integrate basic mental health screenings and services into existing primary care delivery. Additionally, she urged governments to create policies limiting residents’ access to firearms and poisonous chemicals, the two most common tools used in committing suicide. Finally, the WHO invoked countries to develop national guidelines to govern how media outlets report on celebrity suicides. Numerous studies demonstrate that sensationalizing the methods by which various celebrities have ended their lives can cause spikes in copycat suicides. Consequently, Dr. Chan urged worldwide media outlets to “report responsibly” on suicide deaths.
The WHO report and recommendations signify crucial steps in the process of reducing international suicide rates and improving mental health services. Currently, only 28 of 195 countries possess official strategies to prevent suicide, and mental health issues are frequently stigmatized in many societies. Nevertheless, the WHO projects that implementation of its recommendations could reduce global suicide rates by 10% over the upcoming six years, and it could fuel momentum for augmenting mental health services worldwide. More >>
A key recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO)’s response is making polio-vaccination documents mandatory for anyone travelling out of ten countries in regions where polio has been detected recently. The proposal is part of efforts to achieve the global goal of eradicating polio by 2018. But it would also be one more barrier for migrants — especially those fleeing armed conflict or human rights violations. A possible solution is vaccination facilities for refugees and others forced to migrate. more>>
While great strides are being made to halt the spread of the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, women and girls continue to bear a disproportionate and unacceptable burden of the disease. A new public-private partnership agreement between the International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM), a nonprofit product developer, and the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, a major research-based pharmaceutical company – could help address this and ensure women have the tools to protect themselves from infection. more>>
Just weeks before the start of the World Cup, Brazil was responding to concerns that international visitors could get infected with dengue fever and bring the disease back to their home nations.
“This year, dengue transmission has been much more significant in Sao Paulo than in other years,” says Nancy Marcal Bastos de Souza, a biologist who works with the city authorities. “We spray neighborhoods where we have a confirmed case of someone contracting dengue so we know there are dengue-carrying mosquitoes there,” she says. more>>