FT Health: Health organisations slow to tackle inequality
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Too many organisations in global health are failing to address imbalances in pay and leadership and doing too little to tackle sexual harassment of women, who make up 70 per cent of the workforce.
That is the conclusion of Global Health 50/50's annual audit of gender inequality. The greatest discrepancies are at the top: seven out of ten executive heads and board chairs are men. They also earn 13.5 per cent more.
“The global health sector stands for fairness and universality, and strives to ensure health for everyone, particularly the most marginalised . . . If there is one sector that should set precedent in this space, it is global health,” says Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand prime minister, introducing the report.
Other reports marking International Women's Day catalogued problems facing women outside the workplace, from the “forgotten emergency” of unsafe abortion — one of the main causes of maternal mortality — to stigmas around menstruation. “Menstruating girls can even be banished to outside sheds where they suffer in cold and isolation, often at risk of illness and animal attacks,” UN experts said.
Despite some positive contributions — such as the UK's commitment to end global “period poverty” by 2030 — there is still a long way to go before women across the world have the rights to control their own bodies, including sexual and reproductive rights, without interference.
FT special report: Women in business
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Child mortality The number of under-fives dying each year has more than halved in recent decades thanks to progress in preventing infectious diseases. (What do the people of the world die from, BBC)
Disease and economics Non-communicable diseases and antimicrobial resistance pose as great a threat to the global economy as climate change and will not be contained unless G20 governments make them a priority for finance as well as health ministers. (FT)
Aids breakthrough A man treated in the UK became only the second person ever to go into remission from HIV after a stem cell transplant, raising hopes of progress in finding a cure. A long-lasting injection treatment has passed late-stage trials. Here's a timeline summarising 30 years of the fight against the virus. (FT, Nature, WHO)
Vaccination and measles New research confirms that there is no link between the MMR vaccine and autism. The vaccine actually has some unexpected benefits. Vaccination is a social contract between the public and its government, says a prominent commentator. Facebook announced a crackdown on misinformation. Just ten countries accounted for three quarters of the total increase in measles in 2018. (Annals of Internal Medicine, NPR, Foreign Policy, FT, Unicef)
Africa health A biennial conference on African health discussed the barriers to achieving universal health coverage. Some 11m Africans are pushed into poverty every year due to medical expenses. Sweeping reforms in Mali promise free healthcare to pregnant women and under-5s. Another success story is Haiti's battle against HIV. (AHAIC, Devex, Guardian, Lancet)
WHO reforms There was a mixed reaction to WHO plans to reform its bureaucracy. The organisation hopes the revamp will help it achieve its five-year targets of a billion more people with universal health coverage, a billion more better protected from health emergencies, and a billion more with better health and wellbeing. (NYT, WHO, Devex)
FDA chief quits Scott Gottlieb unexpectedly announced he was quitting as head of the US Food and Drug Administration. He had used his job to tackle many public health problems, including young people becoming addicted to nicotine. Biotech and tobacco companies alike are nervous about who will replace him. (FT, Politico, Washington Post, Stat)
Dengue drama The Philippines government is set to charge six employees at Sanofi, the French pharma company, as well as health officials, over more than 10 deaths that prosecutors claim are linked to its Dengvaxia vaccine, used in the world's first mass immunisation programme against dengue. (FT)
Ethics and genetics China has set up a national ethics committee to oversee high-risk biomedical technologies and new regulations on gene editing in humans following the furore over the “Crispr babies” incident. Does gene editing increase inequality? (Stat, Nature, FT video)
Depression drug Johnson and Johnson's ketamine-based Spravato nasal spray will be the first approved depression drug in decades. (FT)
Pollution perils A new visualisation shows the severity of air pollution in India and across the wider South Asia region, where 99 per cent of cities surveyed were above WHO pollution guidelines. (AirVisual)
Brexit countdown With less than three weeks until Britain is due to leave the EU, the Royal College of Radiologists warned doctors of possible delays for cancer tests. British NGOs face a knock to their effectiveness abroad if the pound weakens further. The government is considering creating an international research fund to fill a gap left by a loss of EU funding. (BBC, Devex, Nature)
Repurposing drugs Off-patent medicines have often been found to be effective on conditions unrelated to their original use — the most famous example being Viagra's origins as an angina drug — but more incentives are needed to encourage investment. (The Economist)
Alzheimer's hope Alzheimer's disease is difficult to fight because, like cancer, it is not caused by an invading pathogen but arises from our own biology. But, also like cancer, a cure using the body’s own defences could be a solution. (The Observer)
Devices scare The US Food and Drug Administration has let medical device companies file reports of malfunctions in a database hidden from public view. (Kaiser)
Salt shake-up The US National Academies said people needed to reduce their sodium and potassium intake to lower their risk of heart disease. WHO guidance says 2.5m deaths could be prevented each year if everyone reduced their salt consumption to its own recommended limits. (NAAS, WHO)
World Hearing Day The WHO launched a new app to allow people to check their hearing regularly. Birdsong could be one way of encouraging people to take hearing tests. More than five per cent of the world's population — or 466m people — have a disabling hearing loss. (WHO, BMJ)
Ambulance times Critically injured patients in English rural areas face much longer waits for an ambulance in a BBC investigation that mapped response times to postcodes. Public satisfaction with the NHS is at its lowest in a decade. (BBC, FT)
Poop wars Faecal microbiota transplants can treat C.diff, a potentially deadly bacterial infection. The process transfers faecal matters from healthy donors into the bowels of patients, restoring the beneficial effect of gut microbes that have been destroyed by antibiotics. A row is raging over how the process should be regulated. (NYT)
Best from the journals
Migrant health International migrants to richer countries are less likely to use general health services but are at greater risk of poor mental health and dying prematurely compared with native populations. (The Lancet)
Multiplying mosquitoes Disease from mosquitoes will spread over the next few years as environmental changes take hold and humans move to areas where the insects are well established. Up to 49 per cent of the world's population could be at risk by 2050. (Nature)
Sewage secrets The first comparable global analysis of sewage maps the presence of antimicrobial resistant bacteria and highlights where improved sanitary conditions could be most effective. The darker blue areas in this graphic show the highest levels. (Nature Communications)
Patient or consumer? The merging of “patient-centred care” with the concept of sick people as consumers is “confused and potentially harmful,” say researchers, who maintain that healthcare is not a market and that price transparency will not lower costs. The consumer metaphor could also erode physicians' professionalism. (Health Affairs)
Podcast of the week
Nutrition and health A discussion on nutrition as one of the most effective interventions in global health. (CSIS Take as Directed, 24 mins)
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