LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 10: Morning commuters walk across Waterloo Bridge through smog on April 10, 2015 in London, England. Air pollution and smog has blanketed much of central and Southern England today, posing a possible health risk to those suffering from respiratory diseases, older people and children, according to health charities. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Concerns raised over London smog, April 2017 © Getty
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Would supermarket vouchers encourage you to do more exercise? How about sprinting tracks marked out on pavements? These are just two of the latest ideas in NHS England's Healthy New Towns initiative to put good health at the centre of urban design and planning.

Municipal leaders are in a unique position to influence the health of their citizens, the King's Fund think-tank argued this week. Action is certainly needed. Sadiq Khan, London's mayor, on Wednesday vowed to tackle the UK capital's gross health inequalities. 

More than half of the world's population now lives in cities, which are leading the way in public health initiatives, from New York's calorie-count laws to London's ultra-low emissions zone. Planning is fundamental. Climate, cultural differences, resources and political conditions mean interventions have to be tailored to different countries, and local government everywhere can play a greater role, as highlighted in the World Health Organization's Healthy Cities programme. 

Crusading leaders are a galvanising force. Michael Bloomberg's tenure as NY mayor saw action on smoking and trans fats, and he is still funding campaigns for soda taxes. That particular fight received another fillip this week as Singapore extracted a pledge from "Big Soda" to lower sugar content in their products.

Watch out for the FT’s interview with Mr Bloomberg on this subject next week.


Blood business Trade in human blood plasma between the US and China is flourishing. Stigma associated with paid plasma collection in China means the country relies on imports, driving up sales for overseas exporters. The questionable claim that blood injections are an elixir of youth has also boosted demand. (FT)

News round-up

Malaria 'game changer' Novartis' KAF 156 — developed with the Medicines for Malaria Venture — is the first new malaria drug for 20 years. It is a necessary addition as the parasite develops resistance to existing treatments. (FT) 

Baby bacteria Thousands of newborns in poor countries could be saved with a simple probiotic — a strain of bacteria originally scraped from the nappy of a healthy baby. A large trial in India found that babies fed a special strain of lactobacillus bacteria were 40 per cent less likely to develop a life-threatening sepsis infection. (New York Times)

Guinea worm Profile of the physician who has dedicated 37 years to fighting Guinea worm, a diseasethat has no vaccine or modern treatment but is on the path to eradication.(Atlanta magazine)

Africa threat Demographic changes could lead to a resurgence of infectious diseases across Africa, says Jakaya Kikwete, former president of Tanzania. Strong childhood immunisation programmes are needed as urbanisation gathers pace. (FT)

Online therapy Google, working with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, will invite US users to " check if you're clinically depressed". One in 20 Google searches are health-related, the company says. A San Francisco start-up has developed a chatbot for depression. (FT, LA Times)

Pharma 'gouging' Generic drugmakers can charge high prices even at difficult times for the industry: Hikma sharply increased the price of medicines in the US, including a diarrhoea treatment by 430 per cent. An FT editorial says much could be done to stiffen competition while maintaining rewards for innovation. (FT)

Measles with your drink? It is unclear if the proposed US commission on vaccine safety will get off the ground. Minnesota officials are battling anti-vaccine activists amid the worst measles outbreak in decades. Fears have been raised of "measles parties" to expose unvaccinated children to acquire immunity. (Stat, Washington Post)

The return of syphilis Large outbreaks of the sexually transmitted disease are worrying US health officials. Drug shortages, uneducated doctors and gangs are fuelling a condition that was considered all but extinguished. (New York Times) 

Deadly business Johnson & Johnson entered the death-penalty debate by obstructing Florida's plans to use the company's drugs for lethal injections. The state used an alternative drug — etomidate — to execute a man on Thursday, the first time the sedative has been used in this way. (FT, CNN)

‘Hookers for Healthcare Sex workers in Nevada, the only US state where prostitution is legal, are among those struggling against the collapse of Obamacare. Republican efforts to ditch Barack Obama’s reforms — although so far unsuccessful — have rattled health insurers so much that they have refused to sell policies across huge parts of the state. (FT)

US influencers Susan Collins, John McCain and Lisa Murkowski — the senators who prevented the repeal and replacement of Obamacare — have been named the most influential people in US healthcare. The list is searchable by sector, age and salary. (Modern Healthcare)

Gene editing An NPR reporter is the first to go inside the labs where scientists are editing DNA in human embryos. "She pierces the shell of the egg with the pipette and injects the sperm and CRISPR. Almost before I know it's happening, it's done. A human embryo has been created and edited before my eyes." (NPR)

Casualties of war Mapping the attacks on women and children's healthcare facilities in the Syrian conflict. (Syria Deeply)

Victorian pioneers A look behind the painstakingly researched BBC show Quacks making comedy from the surgeons and medical techniques of the 1840s. (Wellcome Collection)

To boldly go . . . Astronauts have very limited room to take supplies into space. The solution? Recycling their own urine and faeces into nutritional supplements and using them for 3D printing of tools. (Telegraph, American Chemical Society video)

Best from the journals

Hepatitis drugs Effective new hepatitis C drugs have been added to WHO's Essential Medicines List, but governments are struggling to pay for them. Around 180m people have the infection globally. (The Lancet)

Zika and pregnancy The Zika virus is especially dangerous to women in early stage pregnancy. (Nature Microbiology) 

Drug strategies Successfully launching a drug is becoming more difficult in the US. Competition is changing, significant clinical benefits are harder to achieve, there are more restrictions on market access and public pressure on pricing is increasing. (Nature)

Food allergies An overview of pharmaceutical issues for healthcare professionals dealing with allergies and intolerances, from coeliac disease to lactose intolerance, shellfish and e-numbers. An analysis of US insurance claims shows a striking rise in serious allergic reactions to foods such as peanuts. (BMJ, WSJ)

Boomer boozing The number of over-50s receiving substance abuse treatment is expected to treble in the US and double in Europe by 2020. Asia has also seen a rise in "baby boomers" with alcohol problems. (BMJ)

Abstinence doesn't work Programmes suggesting abstinence alone as the way to good sexual health in adolescents are scientifically and ethically flawed and should be abandoned. (Journal of Adolescent Health)

Podcast of the week

The secret to living longer Psychologist Susan Pinker looks at the effect of personal relationships and face-to-face interactions. (Ted Talks Health, 16m)

In case you missed it 

Last edition: Tough times for generic drugmakers 

Back editions and more at

Latest news at and Twitter @FT_Health

Final thought

Making a song and dance about public health Bollywood movies are sometimes decried for their — albeit dazzling — escapism. But the big box office draw at the moment? Toilet: A Love Story. The film is one example of the industry taking on a serious subject. More than half of Indians lack access to a bathroom. Serious public health messages can also be fun. (The Guardian)

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