Shani Dhanda
© Charlie Bibby/FT

One in seven of the world’s population — or 1bn people — have disabilities of some sort. They also have extraordinary abilities and yet are too often neglected — if not explicitly discriminated against — by employers and society.

Some have inherited physical or mental impairments. Others develop problems linked to medical conditions that develop during their lives. Still more disabilities follow injuries at work.

As the FT Modern Workplace: Disability report this week stresses, many more people with disabilities could and should be included more effectively in the workforce. They have much to contribute and their welfare and health will be better for it.

Sometimes that requires employers to invest in physical infrastructure, modify their operations and adopt different, more flexible management practices. Yet the changes required are not always expensive, and they yield strong economic returns as well as significant benefits for the individuals concerned. An increasing number of technologies designed for those with disabilities are now increasingly part of the mainstream.

We look forward to further debate at the Global Disability Summit in the UK in July.

Read the FT report


Indian health reforms Low public health spending has hampered Indian attempts to lift families out of poverty as they struggle with low-grade facilities and out-of-pocket expenses. “Modicare” — the plan to provide up to 500m of the country's poorest with health insurance — is said to be the world's largest government-funded healthcare programme. (FT)

FT Health reader event

Air pollution and health, May 21 Join FT journalists and our guests Laurie Laybourn-Langton of the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change; Ian Mudway, air toxicity specialist from the environmental research group at King's College London, and Darran Messem, Chairman of the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership. Details and tickets here. Use discount code FTHEALTHREADER.

News round-up

Ebola outbreak and outcry President Trump was criticised for proposing cuts to anti-Ebola programmes — just as a new outbreak took hold in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with fears it could spread to cities. A new vaccine, developed by Merck, may be used for the first time. Mr Trump also lost his head of global health security. (Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, Stat, Huff Post)

D-Day for drug prices President Trump's much-anticipated reforms will focus on “high list prices set by drug manufacturers, rising out-of-pocket costs for consumers and patients, foreign governments freeriding off American innovation, and government rules preventing private plans from negotiating better deals for our seniors”. (FT)

Junking fast food There are twice as many overweight people in the world as undernourished, and obesity is growing rapidly in poorer countries. Ultra-processed food is a key cause of obesity — especially for women. In the UK, London's mayor proposed banning junk food adverts from public transport and the head of the NHS called on Facebook to do likewise. (FT, CSIS, Nutrition, Telegraph)

Genomics boom The genetic test market has grown rapidly since the human genome was mapped in 2003. Prenatal and hereditary cancer tests are the biggest selling product groups. (Health Affairs)

Boosting breastfeeding Around 21 per cent of babies in high-income countries are never breastfed but the rate is just 4 per cent in poorer nations. Unicef calls for more funding to raise rates from birth up till the age of two and more regulation of infant formula and breastmilk substitutes. (Unicef)

Charting infectious disease Disease outbreaks around the world are becoming more common, with more varied causes. Here are five myths about outbreaks and three ways to tackle them. (Scientific American, Washington Post, The Hill)

Social determinants of health Michael Marmot, the renowned researcher in health inequalities, discusses how addressing social causes of ill-health can address disparities across the Americas. (Harvard Public Health audio, 37m)

Tobacco tactics A case study shows how a tobacco giant is adapting to falling smoking rates — down by more than half in Japan since 1985 — and competition from electronic alternatives. Rapid increases in smoking in Africa however are causing concerns over HIV and TB. (FT, BMJ)

Mental health crises UK MPs said the government's mental health strategy for the young was too slow and lacked resources — and that is without yet fully understanding the full impact of social media. Dangerous Son, a new documentary, examines the US situation. (UK parliament, Guardian, HBO trailer)

The vision thing Up to 2.5bn people in poorer countries lack the spectacles they need. Alliances of doctors, philanthropists and business are attempting to redress the problem, said by the WHO to cost the global economy more than $200bn a year in lost productivity. (NYT)

Noise annoys Noise-induced hearing loss is on the rise. In the absence of action at national level, at least in the US, protective measures have been left to cities and fought for by pressure groups. (Vox)

Changing habits The WHO said saturated fats should make up no more than 10 per cent of a person's diet. High levels of saturated fatty acids and trans-fatty acids are an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. A separate WHO report looks at ways of encouraging Mediterranean and Nordic diets, known for helping cut risks of disease. (WHO)

Best from the Journals

Sexual and reproductive health “Countries or governments that do not prioritise sexual and reproductive health and rights have disproportionately poor health indicators,” says a new Lancet commission. More than 200m women a year in poorer countries who want to avoid pregnancy do not use modern contraception and more than 25m undergo unsafe abortions. (The Lancet)

Cholera in Yemen A study of the largest cholera epidemic of modern times looks at the causes of the outbreak and calls for urgent action to improve control efforts, vaccination, and water and sanitation interventions. (The Lancet)

Burden of addiction Alcohol and tobacco together cost the world population more than a quarter of a billion disability-adjusted life years in 2015. Central, eastern and western Europeans had the highest alcohol and smoking rates while hotspots for illegal drug use were the US, Canada and Australasia. The Global Drugs Survey details usage patterns across the world. Artificial intelligence is helping addicts. (Addiction, GDS 2018, Daily Beast)

Snakebite strategy Despite killing more than 100,000 people a year and leaving 400,000 more with significant disabilities, action against snakebite has never had sufficient attention from health authorities. That could change this month if the WHO elevates it to a global health priority. (PLoS)

Third-hand smoke The toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke can make their way inside buildings and affect more people than previously thought. (Science) 

Thank you for the music Being successful — or just taking part — in the Eurovision Song Contest is associated with an increase in a population's life satisfaction, says a new study. (BMC Public Health)

Podcast of the week

Man with a mission Interview with Tom Frieden, former head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on his plans for saving 100m lives by fighting cardiovascular disease in developing countries and strengthening defences against pandemics. (UN Global Dispatch, 29m)

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Final thought

Park life A new report attempts to quantify the economic and health benefits of green spaces in UK cities, claiming they save the NHS £111m in reduced visits to the doctor and help tackle obesity and mental health problems. Is it time for urban planners to change their views of such spaces from "nice-to-have" to economically essential?

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