Please see below selected recent health-related change. This page includes general updates on mental health, but please see Halcyon's pages on anxiety, depression and therapy for more detailed content on those elements.
- What's New? - Health
- What's Changing? - Anxiety
- What's Changing? - Depression
- What's Changing? - Therapy
- As the coronavirus pandemic entered its second year and vaccination rollout efforts gained momentum, experts expressed cautious optimism for a return to something resembling normal life by the Northern Hemisphere summer, but such an optimistic scenario requires many things to go right, according to the Atlantic:
- Vaccination supply chains and distribution programs will need to operate at a nearly flawless level.
- Enough people will need to be willing to get vaccinated and then continue to take precautions like wearing masks and social distancing.
- And the vaccines on hand will need to be able to fend off the virus's mutations.
- And if all goes as planned, The Atlantic added, we'll then need to take full stock of the economic, institutional and psychological damage this crisis has caused.
- The lead scientist at the World Health Organisation warned that there will be no global COVID-19 herd immunity in 2021. Without it, the virus will continue to spread. There are three main factors that will slow the return to normalcy, according to health experts: Poorer countries will take longer to receive large quantities of vaccine, a significant number of people in all countries will avoid vaccination, and mutations of the virus will make containment a moving target, noted GZERO Media.
- A global study revealed that lockdowns intended to stop the spread of the coronavirus had a negative effect on people's physical and mental health. More than 27 percent of respondents (out of a study of 8,000) said they had gained weight after going into "lockdown," according to a study published in the Journal of Obesity. Many also reported battling mental health ailments as a result of the economic and public health crises, noted GZERO Media.
- The most severe restrictions on personal liberty since the Second World War were bound to have an effect on mental health. Writing for the World Economic Forum in the early stages of the pandemic, Elke Van Hoof, a Belgian clinical psychologist, noted that around 2.6bn people worldwide were then under some form of lockdown, which she termed “arguably the largest psychological experiment ever.”
- “Going to the doctor” could soon take on new meaning. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, healthcare providers in Europe and the US have been employing AI-powered chatbots to diagnose millions of people, according to consultancy Oliver Wyman. These “doc-bots” can serve patients day and night, they continuously learn and improve, and they are “economically compelling”.
- The mental health impacts of the pandemic came into sharper focus, and even though almost all employers implemented some kind of COVID-related policies to support their workers, research suggested more needed to be done. According to a survey by McKinsey, workers need more targeted support: 62% of employees identified mental health issues as a top challenge, and the number was higher among workers from minority backgrounds. Companies could address the issue by rethinking performance measures, boosting benefits and promoting work-life boundaries, the report suggested.
- A major global study of human health said we're caught in a perfect storm of rising rates of chronic diseases, persistent infectious diseases and public health failures that has fuelled deaths during the pandemic.
- However, strong international cooperation on COVID-19 vaccines could boost global income by $9 trillion by 2025, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
- Reporting for the Trades Union Congress (TUC), writers Becky Allen and Howard Fidderman provide in Your Health at Work a comprehensive overview of workplace hazards and chronic diseases, discussing mental illness and health conditions that the workplace generates or aggravates. Although their focus is the United Kingdom - and although this was written before the COVID-19 pandemic - they offer solutions and ideas for employers and employees worldwide.
- Quartz warned that Covid-19 undid 25 years of global health progress in 25 weeks. Poverty, immunisation rates, education, gender equality, clean water access, and more may take years to get back to pre-pandemic levels. Infant and childhood mortality; maternal health; the financial sustainability of agriculture; HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria incidence; access to education; gender equality; access to toilets and clean water: All these global development indicators worsened in 2020, or showed no progress for the first time in decades.
- For some better news, a Chatham House article explained how the swift exchange of expertise among doctors around the world dramatically improved the survival rates of coronavirus patients in intensive care.
- Poor mental health is said to cost the UK economy between £74 billion and £99 billion a year according to a government report, with a direct cost to employers estimated at between £33 billion and £42 billion. It is therefore no surprise that numerous campaigns are raising the profile of mental health through a focus on awareness, education and support.
- Singapore plans to pay its citizens to keep healthy. It’s partnering with Apple Watch to reward people for activities like meditation, walks, and getting immunisations.
- Almost one million women in the UK missed vital breast screening appointments due to coronavirus, a leading charity estimated. Breast Cancer Now calculated that around 8,600 women who have not had a scan - after screening programmes were temporarily paused in March - have undetected breast cancer.
- The WHO confirmed that Africa has defeated wild polio after the virus was finally eliminated in Nigeria. The Africa Regional Certification Commission, a task group appointed by the WHO to eradicate the disease, certified the continent free of wild polio four years after the last recorded case. Africa’s polio immunisation programme was launched by Nelson Mandela in 1996, but progress in Nigeria was stymied by geography, scepticism and militant groups.
- Prior to the pandemic, noted HBR, many companies had increased their focus on workplace mental health (often in response to pressure from employees) and those efforts are even more imperative today. As we navigate various transitions over the coming months and years, leaders are likely to see employees struggle with anxiety, depression, burnout, trauma, and PTSD. Those mental health experiences will differ according to race, economic opportunity, citizenship status, job type, parenting and caregiving responsibilities, and many other variables.
- McKinsey warned that, despite the progress of the past century, in a typical year, poor health and health inequity continue to limit economic prosperity. This plays out in two ways. First, premature deaths limit growth by reducing the size of the potential labour force. Over 17 million people lost their lives prematurely in 2017. Second, poor health or morbidity makes it hard for those suffering from health conditions to be economically active and realise their full productive potential. For example, a total of 580 million person-years was lost to poor health among those aged 15 and 64 in 2017, leading them to be absent from work or quit employment altogether.
- The World Health Organisation appointed a committee to evaluate the global response to the COVID-19 crisis, as well as the WHO's own handling of the pandemic. The move came at a critical time for the global public health body, which had come under fire from President Trump for being too cozy with China. The WHO denied that the review had anything to do with pressure from the US, but the question is whether a panel appointed by WHO member states will be powerful enough to conduct a credible probe, noted GZEROMedia.
- In Prioritizing health: A prescription for prosperity, McKinsey measured the potential to reduce the burden of disease globally through the application of proven interventions across the human lifespan over two decades. By intervention, McKinsey means actions aimed at improving the health of an individual. These range from public sanitation programs to surgical procedures and adherence to medication and encompass interventions recommended by leading institutions like the World Health Organisation or national medical associations, as well as the potential to reduce the disease burden from innovations over the same period.
- In Mental Health Strategies That Work and Don’t Work, authors Katie Ledger and Alan Watkins argued that mental health is rooted in physiological and emotional regulation. Many people use the term mental health incorrectly, because most of the problems that fall under the mental health label - such as anxiety or depression - occur in people who have perfectly normal cognition. Their problems aren’t mental. They stem from an inability to regulate emotions. Most children learn some degree of emotional regulation around age three to four, but development often stops there.
- 20% is the estimated share of Americans who suffer from a mental health condition. Of these, people, about 43% received treatment for their condition in 2018.
- At least 5.4 million Americans lost their health insurance between February and May 2020 because coverage was linked to jobs that they lost. That's a 40 percent increase in uninsured workers from the previous high a decade ago when 3.8 American adults were stripped of their health insurance during the 2008-2009 recession.
- Public health signs will most likely be prominent in people's lives for the foreseeable future - and prominent is exactly what they need to be. Quartz analysed the careful thought that goes into signs that could actually change people’s behaviour.
- With three fifths of employees experiencing mental health issues related to work, business leaders have acknowledged that the wellbeing of their staff is at least partly their responsibility. But, while there has been some improvement in the amount of support offered to workers, more needs to be done.
- The World Health Organisation warned that because health systems in developing countries have been overwhelmed by COVID-19, many women are at greater risk of dying from complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Lack of access to critical medical care could result in increased infant and child mortality rates, too, the group has said. Even before the pandemic, millions of women in Africa, Asia and Latin America struggled to access safe, affordable, and timely sexual and reproductive healthcare, with 94 percent of all maternal mortalities occurring in low income countries. Maternal and newborn deaths are now expected to skyrocket in remote and poor areas, far outpacing deaths from COVID-19 itself.
- IBM is coordinating an effort to use supercomputers to combat COVID-19, As part of the newly launched COVID-19 High Performance Computing (HPC) Consortium. It represents the blend of computers and biology: they’ll be using powerful computers to do high volumes of calculations and speed up understanding of COVID-19, including viral interaction, viral structure and drug repurposing.
- Technology in healthcare is increasingly becoming big business. According to a recent report from Markets and Markets, the global healthcare IT market is projected to reach $280.25 billion by 2021, up from $134.25 billion in 2016, representing a compound annual growth rate of 15.9 per cent. It’s not surprising that some of the world’s biggest IT players are turning their attention to this rapidly expanding field. Big data, artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things all have clear applications in the world of healthcare, and the major players are getting in on the act.
- As the world's health systems divert most of their attention to coronavirus, as many as 28 million elective surgeries could end up postponed, according to a new University of Birmingham study. While most are for benign conditions, more than 2 million are for cancer.
- The World Health Organisation estimated that since early March 2020 there had been 159,000 more deaths in Europe than is normal for this time period. The excess deaths include those known to have died from COVID-19, as well as people who may have struggled to get medical treatment because of the overwhelmed state of hospitals.
- Lots of companies were already working on biometric scanning and identification systems before the pandemic. Amazon was granted a patent technology that enabled its Alexa devices to determine your emotional state and whether you’re sick (if you cough, sniffle or mention you’re not feeling well.) Walmart filed a patent for a biometric shopping cart handle that would let it better determine if you were ill, based on your temperature or heart rate. As Covid-19 cases have spread, there has been increased investment to develop and deploy biometric scanning technologies, noted Future Today Institute.
- Cuba has 8.2 doctors per 1,000 people, by far the highest rate of any country in the world. For decades the Cuban regime has sent them abroad to earn cash and win hearts and minds. In early 2020, hundreds of Cuban doctors have fanned out across the world to help other countries fight the coronavirus.
- An April 2020 edition of UK-based women’s magazine Grazia featured healthcare workers on the covers. Replacing its usual celebrity cover stars were doctors, nurses, and paramedics from the National Health Service, fighting COVID-19 on the frontlines. The four covers showcased an anesthetist and intensive care doctor, an emergency physician, a paramedic and a senior staff nurse in an emergency department.
- Predicting the coronavirus outbreak: How AI connects the dots to warn about disease threats: Canadian artificial intelligence firm BlueDot was able to warn about the new coronavirus days ahead of the official alerts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organisation. The company was able to do this by tapping different sources of information beyond official statistics about the number of cases reported. BlueDot’s AI algorithm, a type of computer program that improves as it processes more data, brings together news stories in dozens of languages, reports from plant and animal disease tracking networks and airline ticketing data. The result is an algorithm that’s better at simulating disease spread than algorithms that rely on public health data – better enough to be able to predict outbreaks.
- New research highlighted how AI can accurately detect breast cancer A study undertaken by researchers from Google, Imperial College London and Northwestern University, which showcased the ability of AI to accurately detect breast cancer in mammography images. The system, which was trained on images from around 29,000 mammograms, was able to accurately identify cancer with a similar degree of accuracy to experienced radiologists.
- Key information sources on coronavirus:
- AI is better than doctors at reading mammograms. A new study found that an algorithm outperformed six radiologists in detecting breast cancer.
- The world will need 18 million more health workers by 2030. That’s based on new data from the World Health Organisation.
- A study found evidence that childhood exposure to significant traffic-related air pollution, or TRAP, is linked with structural changes in the brain. Conducted by the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Centre, the study discovered that children who were exposed to higher levels of TRAP during their first year of life had reductions in their grey matter volume. That includes in the cerebellum. They also had reductions in cortical thickness at age 12 relative to their peers. Gray matter includes areas of the brain that are involved in sensory perception and motor control. Cerebellar abnormalities, according to the researchers, are "consistently associated with numerous mental health disorders including anxiety, ADHD, ASD, and schizophrenia.
- The World Health Organisation (WHO) – the United Nations' top public health body – released a list of the most pressing global health challenges that will shape the coming decade. Chief among them, according to WHO, is the climate crisis: Air pollution kills an estimated 7 million people every year, while climate change causes more extreme weather events, exacerbates malnutrition and fuels the spread of infectious diseases such as malaria. Delivering healthcare in conflict zones and investing in healthcare workers and resources are also listed as health challenges worthy of greater public attention.
- More than 13% of US adults, some 34 million people, have reported having a friend or family member who has died in the past five years because they couldn't afford medical treatment, according to a new Gallup poll.
- There are increasing concerns about individuals' control over their own heath records. A Financial TImes investigation found that 79 percent of health websites were collecting data on users, of which 78 percent were sending data to Google’s advertising subsidiary DoubleClick.
- An ever growing number of people are being treated for mental illness. Some blame the modern world, yet critics warn that psychiatrists and big pharma have an interest in describing normal, even essential, human behaviour as an illness or disorder and suggest that we should be sceptical of claims that 25% of the population suffer from mental illness each year.
- Despite the fact that over 200 million workdays are lost due to mental health conditions each year (US$16.8 billion in employee productivity), mental health largely remains a taboo subject. The majority of employees have never spoken to anyone at work about their mental health status.
- The world is getting older. By 2030, the population that is over the age of 65 will rise by nearly 40 percent. By 2050, it will more than double. How can healthcare systems manage a big uptick in chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, or Alzheimer's without going broke? Is immigration the answer? Or robots? These are just a few of the questions the next generation of political leaders will have to grapple with as our populations get older.
- A report by the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (a joint body of the World Bank Group and the World Health Organisation) warned that the world is facing an uptick in infectious disease outbreaks that are increasingly difficult to control. Between 2011 and 2018, WHO tracked 1,483 separate epidemic events – diseases that spread to a large number of people in a specific population within a rapid timeframe – in 172 countries. In addition to the human cost, epidemic events devastate economies.
- Obesity is the leading cause of death in America, costing the health care system $1.72 trillion, leading some to call for fat shaming as a means of transforming the lethargic mindset about obesity.
- 19 years after the World Health Organisation declared the country free of the disease, the Philippines has declared a polio outbreak, an illness that primarily affects children. (The country has also grappled with a range of epidemics, including measles and dengue fever, as vaccination rates there continue to plummet.)
- Soon, we might fight cancer with better food: Researchers are presenting a machine learning model for identifying ‘cancer-beating’ bioactive molecules in foods. The model predicted anti-cancer therapeutics with classification accuracy of 84–90%. Researchers used their findings to construct a ‘food map’ with anti-cancer potential of each ingredient defined by the number of cancer-beating molecules they contain.
- Lack of knowledge, discrimination and stigma are often the biggest obstacles to seeking, or providing, care to people with mental health issues and the World Health Organisation (WHO) has been systemically addressing the problem with its Mental Health Action Plan since 2013, striving to bolster productive leadership for global mental health, improve information systems and provide comprehensive mental health services in community settings. This is particularly important in developing countries where the combination of poverty, myth and ritual often mean so many people suffer in silence without accessing treatment. Up to 85% of people with severe mental health issues receive no treatment in low and middle-income countries, according to WHO.
- Malaria has been eliminated from Algeria and Argentina, an important milestone in fighting the mosquito-borne disease, revealed the World Health Organisation, adding that there were now 38 countries and territories that have been declared free of the disease, which had been making a comeback globally.
- The world’s poorest countries are paying some of the highest drug prices, with everyday medicines costing up to 30 times more than in rich nations The Washington-based Center for Global Development examined billions of dollars in spending by developing countries, concluding that low- and middle-income countries were paying 20 or 30 times more for medicines such as omeprazole, for heartburn, or paracetamol, a common pain reliever, found the Financial Times.
- The World Health Organisation warned that the world has entered a new phase in which big outbreaks of deadly diseases like Ebola have become a new normal. The announcement came after the Democratic Republic of Congo faced the second largest outbreak ever of the Ebola virus and just a few years after the largest was brought to an end.
- The first cooking school for cancer patients, Life Kitchen, opened in the UK. One side effect of chemotherapy is altered taste: cancer patients often find that their sense of taste changes significantly, or may even temporarily disappear. The Life Kitchen’s three-hour classes teach attendees how to cook meals that are designed to be more enjoyable for those with an altered sense of taste.
- Raconteur warned that there are large disparities in how governments around the world address mental health services, but a number of initiatives are prompting conversations and raising public awareness. Lack of knowledge, discrimination and stigma are often the biggest obstacles to seeking, or providing, care and the World Health Organisation (WHO) has been systemically addressing the problem with its Mental Health Action Plan since 2013, striving to bolster productive leadership for global mental health, improve information systems and provide comprehensive mental health services in community settings. This is particularly important in developing countries where the combination of poverty, myth and ritual often mean so many people suffer in silence without accessing treatment. Up to 85% with severe mental health issues receive no treatment in low and middle-income countries, according to WHO.
- The proportion of elderly people in developed economies will continue to swell as life expectancies rise, but the impact this will have on health services will be unprecedented. Healthcare spending per capita rises sharply in older age as the number of people with more than one health condition (known as multiple comorbidities) expands.
- Popular Science warned that recent measles outbreaks are a harbinger of doom and that governments need to step in before deadlier diseases take advantage of a drop in vaccinations. 2019 was the worst year for measles in the United States since 1994. All over the world, in fact, places that had previously eliminated or drastically reduced these kinds of outbreaks are seeing flashes of the potentially-deadly virus.
- Today the average lifespan of a person with Down syndrome is approximately 60 years. As recently as 1983, the average lifespan of a person with Down syndrome was 25 years. The dramatic increase to 60 years is, exerts in the field, largely due to the end of the practice of institutionalising people with Down syndrome.
- The tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, killing more than 8 million people a year. More than 7 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while around 1.2 million are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke. Around 80% of the 1.1 billion smokers worldwide live in low- and middle-income countries, where the burden of tobacco-related illness and death is heaviest. Tobacco users who die prematurely deprive their families of income, raise the cost of healthcare and hinder economic development.
- Malawi began a pilot programme for the world’s first vaccine giving children partial protection from malaria. The RTS,S vaccine, produced by UK pharmaceutical giant GSK, trains the immune system to attack the malaria parasite. Meanwhile, a global atlas for malaria, containing better maps - ones that show where the disease is and how it moves around - are revolutionising the fight against malaria, according to Bill Gates.
- Measles cases reported around the world have quadrupled over the past year to more than 112,000, according to the World Health Organization. Africa has been worst-hit, with cases of the dangerous respiratory illness up eight-fold across the continent. Cases are also rising in the US, Thailand, and other countries with traditionally high levels of vaccination – a trend that a WHO official attributed to online anti-vaccine conspiracy theories, noted GZEROMedia.
- Infectious diseases, epidemics and pandemics have shaped the evolution of the modern state, the growth of cities and the disparate fortunes of national economies. However, noted Chatham House, for the first time in history, viruses, bacteria and other infectious diseases are not the leading cause of death or destabilisation in any region of the world.
- While there have been important improvements in global health, there are also looming problems for the global population. A Chatham House speaker argued that the increase in chronic diseases, over-population and the resulting mega-cities, climate change, civil unrest and conflict, displaced populations and diminishing resources, will all impact the progress that has been achieved in high, middle and low-income countries.
- Spain - with its Mediterranean diet and high life expectancy - is the world's healthiest country, according to Bloomberg 2019 Healthiest Country Index.
- A second person was reported to have been cured of HIV, reported Quartz. Researchers said that an HIV-positive man in the UK has been cleared of the virus that causes AIDS after he received a bone marrow transplant from an HIV resistant donor. It marks a major milestone in the global AIDS epidemic, confirming that a cure for HIV infection is possible, scientists said.
- In Venezuela, around 13,000 doctors have fled in the past four years, and there’s currently an 85 percent shortage of medicines. AIDS-related deaths have tripled in recent years, according to the FT. Diseases thought to be all but eradicated - like yellow fever, diphtheria, and tuberculosis - are resurgent, warned GZEROMedia.
- Further reading:
- For Quartz, probably the biggest invisible improvements the world sees year to year are essential indicators of overall global public health, like rates of infant mortality, maternal mortality, childhood stunting, and teen pregnancy. These are important, because they represent access the average person alive has to health care professionals, facilities, medicine, and more. All of these rates have been falling in the past few decades, in some cases dramatically.
- The right to health care is encompassed in numerous human rights instruments. According to the World Health Organisation, Universal health coverage implementation should ensure that governments provide all individuals and communities, including migrants, adequate health services without causing financial hardship. However, the conflict between international obligations and national legislation covering health and migration is evident in the barriers, both formal and informal to health care which migrants increasingly experience, warned Chatham House.
- Chatham House warned that many people in humanitarian crises suffer and die from chronic diseases, which now account for 7 in 10 of all deaths worldwide. Conflicts contaminate the air and water, reduce access to nutritious food and create stressful living conditions. This makes people sicker and more susceptible to chronic illness. At the same time, health workers flee, hospitals are targeted and there are medication shortages.
- Quartz's complete guide to Crispr explored how disruptive gene editing tools are triggering explosive innovation—and investment—in every industry that involves living things.
- Further reading:
- Checkpoint inhibitors: what are they? - Raconteur
- Genome sequencing can provide the key to cancer prevention - Raconteur
- How Google Plans To Use AI To Reinvent The $3 Trillion US Healthcare Industry - CB Insights
- Nature’s notification: once-a-year orchid distributed to women in the Amazon - Trend Watching
- Rare diseases need radical new funding methods for treatment - Raconteur
- A new report from the American Cancer Society found that deaths from cancer have dropped 27% over the last 25 years, with an estimated 2.6 million fewer people dying of the disease. According to the report, the reduction can largely be attributed to a decline in smoking, better detection methods, and treatments of cancer at earlier stages, according to CB Insights.
- Scientists discovered a breakthrough treatment to fight cancer, and claim the disease will no longer be deadly for future generations. Researchers at the Francis Crick Institute in London believe it is possible to strengthen the body’s defences by transplanting immune cells from strangers. The team now wants to establish “immune banks” to store disease-fighting cells, meaning scientists and doctors could become more like engineers, upgrading the body rather than bombarding it with toxic chemotherapy.
- Australian researchers claimed in 2018 that they had developed a 10-minute test that's capable of finding cancer cells at any location in the body. If further testing achieves the same results, this accomplishment could be a real breakthrough in fighting cancer. The potential for quick diagnoses could help detect and treat cancer early, potentially helping the outcomes for millions of people. The test works by looking for a unique DNA nanostructure that seems to be common to all types cancers. What's especially remarkable is that the variability of cancers makes finding one simple signature shared by them all very complicated.
- Raconteur pointed to a vision that "hovers on a distant horizon", in which every citizen will recall their blood pressure and cholesterol levels as easily as their bank card PIN number. Most would have trained in cardio pulmonary resuscitation and the location of the nearest life-saving defibrillator machine would be triggered by an emergency call. Drones would fly in medication to beat traffic delays, medical-grade scanning booths could be positioned at supermarkets while condition-tracking sensors would be implanted in our bodies making hospital care an element of health rather than the overbearing and budget-draining norm.
- Digital health is transforming the way that health care is delivered in many parts of the world, while empowering individuals to more effectively manage their health and navigate an increasingly complex health care system. With increasing number of hospitals implementing digital solutions, digital offerings have improved to more rapidly meet their needs. However, EY warned that costs are rising, physicians are under enormous time pressure, and health consumers are requiring more complex care. Careful thought needs to be given to how to build effective and efficient services. Health businesses should therefore think about digital investments that bring the consumer and physician closer together, building on the trust of that special bond to encourage data sharing.
- Healthcare platform Ping An Good Doctor unveiled its first staffless medical clinic and pharmacy. The ‘One-minute Clinics’ include a Smart Medicine Cabinet and Independent Advisory Room. Patients enter the booth to receive a virtual consultation. This is initially via Ping An’s ‘AI Doctor' software, which helps assess a patient’s condition and supports the company’s human physicians’ diagnosis. Patients can then get their prescriptions from the attached Smart Medicine Cabinet vending machine, which stocks over 100 medications; any medicines not in stock can be purchased through the Ping An app and delivered in an hour.
- It is estimated there are more than 7,000 identified rare diseases, yet only around 400 have licensed treatments. A rare disease is defined as affecting less than 200,000 people, but in some cases it could be as few as one or two families. Therefore, due to the smaller end-market, traditional drug-discovery financing models are often inadequate, noted Raconteur.
- Anticipating the most needed drug in the future is a key role of pharmaceutical companies and recent years have seen a big shift in focus to cancer treatments, which are expected to make up almost one fifth of all drug sales by 2024.
- Diabetes, once a condition that predominantly affected richer nations, is a growing epidemic the world over, warned Raconteur. With the number of people suffering from diabetes expected to increase by a half within three decades, it is estimated that one in ten people worldwide will be living with diabetes by 2045.
- In 2018, the death of 9,000 chickens on a single farm in northeast China didn’t make global headlines; perhaps it should have. The poultry died from the lethal H7N9 virus. No humans suffered this time, yet this flu kills more than one in three people who catch it; 623 have already died in Asia. The next coughing bird could be incubating a lethal virus that humans could pass on too, warned Raconteur. Like climate change, death and taxes, a global pandemic is a certainty, and with the 100-year anniversary of the Spanish flu making headlines, there’s now a lot more interest in the next large-scale epidemic and what it could look like. In 1918, up to 100 million people died, this time the death toll could be three times as much, more than the population of America.
- More than 420 million people worldwide have diabetes, four times as many as in 1980, according to the World Health Organisation. But this global figure masks major difference between countries and regions, both in the prevalence and course of the disease, as well as in the problems associated with it. Diabetes prevalence has been rising more rapidly in middle and low-income countries, but some poorer countries have much greater numbers of undiagnosed disease than Europe and America.
- Technology in healthcare is increasingly becoming big business, reported Raconteur. According to a recent report from Markets and Markets, the global healthcare IT market is projected to reach $280.25bn by 2021, up from $134.25bn 2016, representing a compound annual growth rate of 15.9%. It’s not surprising that some of the world’s biggest IT players are turning their attention to this rapidly expanding field. Big data, artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things all have clear applications in the world of healthcare, and the major players are getting in on the act.
- What might healthcare look like in the coming decades? CB Insights looked at different demographic, technological, and cultural shifts that are poised to change the landscape of healthcare in the next 10-15 years and where the opportunities might be. This includes:
- The aging boomer population in the US as well as very different age distributions across other countries
- How technologies like AI, genomics, and new types of monitoring are developing
- The changing physician-patient relationship and societal/ethical implications of new technologies
- New jobs that might exist in healthcare or grow in demand like genetic counseling and digital coaches
- Regulatory shifts that might be highly impactful,
- Debilitating mental illness that wrecks lives and careers is increasingly being addressed as a workplace issue, as employees and business leaders alike strive to overcome the stigma of mental illness.
- The Wall Street Journal found that while holistic approaches to mental as well as physical wellness often include nutrition, the connection between food and mental health is now gaining traction in the medical community, too. Research in the field of nutritional psychiatry supports the scientific claim that what you eat and how you feel may be connected, especially when it comes to managing anxiety and depression.
- Chatham House warned that, similar to climate change or antimicrobial resistance, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) represent a ticking time bomb for societies and economies. Yet global progress to tackle the rising burden of NCDs has not been adequate. NCDs such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer kill nearly 41 million people each year - many of them well under the age of 70.
- Raconteur reported how, as the incidence of heart disease continues to climb with an ageing population, digital technology is transforming every aspect of prevention, diagnosis and management. Already, many doctors hold virtual clinics in which test results are reviewed and communicated to the patient, saving the need for further trips to the clinic and remote monitoring really comes into its own when a person needs a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter defibrillator device to control an abnormal heart rhythm or restart the heart if it stops.
- How do you care for today while building the health of tomorrow? Explore the options in EY’s annual report, New horizons: Executive insights on the future of health. Delivering health to a growing, ageing population will require digital technologies, a focus on health consumerism and a changing care model. Investment in digital solutions that focus on disease management and prevention is rising: diagnosis and monitoring of disease were the top funded digital health products in Q1 FY18 at US$270 million, according to EY.
- Outlining a range of new forecasts, Shaping Tomorrow claimed that by 2023, markets will be under pressure to find revenue, and governments and healthcare sectors will be entering a period of significant disruption.
- Just one third of India’s 1.3 billion people has health insurance, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has now launched a plan called Ayushman Bharat (Long-Life India) to extend coverage to hundreds of millions more. Under the plan, needy families will receive nearly $7,000 a year in hospital expenses before they pay a penny.
- There are many different ways to treat cardiovascular disease (CVD), but drugs and surgery alone will never be enough to reverse the so-called “Western way of death”, warned Raconteur. A healthy lifestyle is critical. Support from relatives can also help, while also encouraging entire families to lead healthier lives. Lifestyle changes can produce dramatic results. For example, an estimated 60% of cases of type-2 diabetes could be prevented or delayed by measures such as weight reduction, diet and regular exercise.
- As regards mental health, The School of Life believes that, in the midst of a breakdown, we often wonder whether we have gone mad. We have not. We’re behaving oddly no doubt, but beneath the surface agitation, we are on a hidden yet logical search for health. We haven’t become ill; we were ill already. Our crisis, if we can get through it, is an attempt to dislodge us from a toxic status quo and an insistent call to rebuild our lives on a more authentic and sincere basis.
- In many countries, the way patients receive medical care has drastically changed over the past decade as most hospitals and doctors’ offices have transitioned from paper charts to electronic health records that help clinicians order medications, document treatment decisions, and review laboratory results. These digital records can introduce numerous efficiencies and give patients and medical professionals more complete information on which to base decisions.
- Medical research suggests that happiness certainly can reduce the risk of heart problems, reported Raconteur. People with a positive outlook, who experience joy, happiness, excitement and contentment in their lives, are less likely to suffer heart disease, according to researchers from Harvard School of Public Health.They set out to examine the association between positive psychological wellbeing and cardiovascular disease, conducting a systemic review of all relevant existing research.
- The US gave an update on the spread of a polio-like disease, reported Quartz. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention will provide weekly updates of new cases of acute flaccid myelitis, a disease that affects the spinal cord and can cause paralysis in children. The US has seen a substantial rise in cases in recent months.
- In These are the economies with the most (and least) efficient health care, Bloomberg asked: want medical care without quickly draining your fortune? Try Singapore or Hong Kong as your healthy havens. The U.S. will cost you the most for treatment, both in absolute terms and relative to average incomes, while life expectancy of Americans - about 79 years - was exceeded by more than 25 countries and territories, according to an annual Bloomberg analysis in almost 200 economies.
- The World Health Organisation found that more than 90% of the world’s young people, around 1.8 billion children, are exposed to toxic air pollution today. That’s a ticking health time bomb for many countries around the world, warned GZEROMedia.
- Further reading:
- UNICEF offered life-saving treatment to 4 million children for severe malnutrition in 2017.
- Humanity has only ever eradicated one disease: smallpox. Progress has been made with big killers such as malaria and AIDS, but much work remains to be done, warned The Economist.
- Indeed, there are about 10,000 known human diseases, yet human doctors are only able to recall a fraction of them at any given moment. As many as 40,500 patients die annually in intensive care in the U.S. as a result of misdiagnosis, according to a 2012 Johns Hopkins study. A British entrepreneur believes that AI can help doctors avoid these mistakes.
- Early diagnosis saves lives. This sounds obviously correct, and much early diagnosis can, without doubt, be a very good thing. What’s surprising is that in the wrong circumstances, it can also be a very bad one, argued Prospect.
- A WHO report estimates that more than a quarter of people worldwide - 1.4 billion - are not doing enough physical exercise, a figure that has barely improved since 2001. Inactivity raises the risk of a raft of health problems, such as heart disease, type-2 diabetes and some cancers.
- In the first-ever UN event dedicated to mental health, the head of the WHO met with activists and scientists to discuss the epidemic that causes 800,000 suicides globally, every year.
- A whole host of factors, from diet and alcohol intake to physical activity and blood pressure, can affect cardiovascular health - an infographic explained the importance of each and their impact on the heart
- By 2050, half the world’s population - up to five billion people - are expected to be short-sighted compared to roughly 1.4 billion people today, according to a 2016 study published in the journal Ophthalmology. More intense education and a lack of time spent outdoors is leading to an explosion in the condition, warn experts. From glaucoma to cataracts, incidence rates for the range of eye conditions worsen as people get older. An ageing population means a growing number of people will suffer from some form of sight loss in the future - see Raconteur infographic.
- Too often, public transit is insufficiently designed for people who are blind or have a low level of vision. Be My Eyes and Moovit teamed up to pursue one common goal: to make public transit more accessible for people living with blindness or vision loss.
- Further reading:
- Currently, nine in ten people around the world breathe air that has high levels of pollution, according to data from the World Health Organization (WHO). The agency estimates that 7 million deaths each year can be attributed to pollution.
- According to GZEROMedia, India spends about 1.4% of its yearly economic output on healthcare, less than half what China spends as a portion of GDP, and less than a quarter of US healthcare spending. However, the government is set to roll out the first phase of a new programme designed to provide poor Indian families with up to $7,100 each year to cover healthcare costs.
- Healthcare systems play a crucial role in supporting human health, argued new analysis from the Bruegel thinktank. They also have major macroeconomic implications, an aspect that is not always properly acknowledged.
- A large new global study published in the Lancet confirmed previous research which has shown that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption. The researchers admit moderate drinking may protect against heart disease but found that the risk of cancer and other diseases outweighs these protections. A study author said its findings were the most significant to date because of the range of factors considered. The Global Burden of Disease study looked at levels of alcohol use and its health effects in 195 countries, between 1990 and 2016.
- Academics at Stanford University demonstrated that a “deep learning” algorithm was capable of diagnosing potentially cancerous skin lesions as accurately as a board-certified dermatologist. The cancer finding, reported in Nature, was part of a stream of reports offering an early glimpse into what could be a new era of “diagnosis by software,” in which AI aids doctors - or even competes with them. Experts say medical images, like photographs, x-rays, and MRIs, are a nearly perfect match for the strengths of deep-learning software, which has in the past few years led to breakthroughs in recognising faces and objects in pictures.
- Sperm counts in men in westernised countries fell by 50-60 per cent between 1973 and 2011. That decline has been happening steadily over the years and there is no sign of the drop abating. There are reportedly almost zero treatment options to offer currently, making this an a little known public health disaster.
- Gene-editing tool CRISPR is changing the ways we develop new medical treatments, power our vehicles, and even brew our beer. CB Insights identified the industries this cutting-edge technology could disrupt. From treating diseases like HIV and sickle cell to designer babies and custom-made pets, CRISPR has the potential to affect nearly every area of our lives. While still in the fairly early stages of development, the gene-editing tool’s price tag and flexibility makes it widely accessible and applicable, allowing scientists to edit genes with unprecedented ease and precision. Essentially, researchers can use CRISPR (often in the form of CRISPR-Cas9) as a pair of “molecular scissors” to cut into and alter DNA.
- Air pollution causes a “huge” reduction in intelligence, according to new research, indicating that the damage to society of toxic air is far deeper than the well-known impacts on physical health. The research was conducted in China but is relevant across the world, with 95% of the global population breathing unsafe air. It found that high pollution levels led to significant drops in test scores in language and arithmetic, with the average impact equivalent to having lost a year of the person’s education.
- In 1980, only two out of 10 one-year-olds were vaccinated against polio. Globally we had around 350,000 paralytic polio cases every year. Today: 9 out of 10 are vaccinated. In 2016 there were 42 cases of polio globally.
- For decades, people have heard advice to eat hours before heading off to bed, noted Big Think. Now a new study offers an even more profound piece of evidence as to why an early dinner is essential: it reduces the risk of breast and prostate cancer. The study, conducted at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health found that those who eat dinner before 8 pm (or at least two hours before bedtime) experience a 20% reduction in the likelihood of developing the types of cancer listed above.
- Health Divides is an in-depth analysis of how the politics and economics of the place you live in influence your health. It explains why health inequalities exist both among nations and within them, examines such inequalities past and present, and details their ubiquitous, longstanding nature. Reducing them – and making people’s lives safer and healthier – will require vast changes in political and economic priorities. In other words, “where you live can kill you,” but often it’s death by politics, argued the author.
- Bill Gates asks us to imagine a world where diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease is as simple as getting your blood tested during your annual physical. Research suggests that future isn’t that far off, and Diagnostics Accelerator, which Gates has invested in, moves us one step closer, he claimed.
- Also known as bioelectronics, electroceuticals are implantable devices which alter electrical signals in the body, according to Disruption Hub. When attached to bundles of nerves, they can change the signals sent to the brain, organs, and other body parts. Possibly the next step in personalised medical treatment, electroceuticals can be used to record, stimulate, and block the neural signals which control our organs and limbs. Altering our electrical impulses in precise ways can give balance to organs producing the wrong amount of hormones, reduce inflammation, and even restore function to paralysed limbs. Crucially, the targeted operation of electroceuticals removes the side effects experienced with many modern medicines. Although not yet available to human patients, it is expected that electroceuticals will arrive in clinical medicine over the next few decades.
Hans Selye, the Hungarian-Canadian scientist who gave the world its modern understanding of stress as a biological function, never meant for the word to take on such a negative connotation, suggesting for Quartz that we’re still missing out on some of stress’s benefits because of our misunderstanding of his theories.
A warning emerged that CRISPRd cells may have a higher incidence of cancer.
Deepak Chopra and Rudolph E. Tanzi’s “The Healing Self: A Revolutionary New Plan to Supercharge Your Immunity and Stay Well for Life” shows that many chronic diseases begin years before showing major symptoms and focuses on how to care for our bodies, improve immunity and prevent dangerous inflammations while ageing gracefully.
Society is stuck in its search for an Alzheimer’s cure, warned Quartz. There hasn’t been a new treatment in over a decade because, although dementia isn’t a disease itself, it is caused by many, and for every question answered about Alzheimer’s, two more appear, making the condition like a hydra that modern medicine struggles to tackle.
Health Precision medicine has the potential to transform how we treat or even cure cancer and other genetic diseases, claimed Harvard Business School. However, inefficiencies continue to slow the advancement of this breakthrough treatment approach. Challenges of this magnitude cannot be solved through scientific endeavours alone; they require novel business solutions.
Obsessive video gamers know how to anticipate dangers in virtual worlds. The World Health Organisation says they now should be on guard for a danger in the real world: spending too much time playing. In its latest revision to a disease classification manual, the U.N. health agency said that compulsively playing video games now qualifies as a mental health condition.
Over just a few years the CRISPR gene-editing technique has revolutionised science, affecting everything from medicine to agriculture. Two new breakthrough studies have just been published describing dual methods that make the process more precise and efficient paving the way for scientists to safely alter DNA mutations that cause thousands of different human diseases.
- CRISPR could help humanity overcome some of the biggest and most persistent challenges in global health and development, according to Bill Gates, while Goldman Sachs noted that gene therapies that cure patients could challenge the business models of firms dependent on recurrent sales of drugs.
- Disease can strike any of us at any time. However, many now believe that diseases can be completely eradicated. The most important of these so far is smallpox, which thanks to vaccination, was removed from the world in 1977.
- The death toll from malaria has been reduced by more than half since 2000, thanks to a multi-pronged attack. But a lot more remains to be done. There’s no vaccine for malaria yet, but the world has been getting better at treating and preventing the deadly disease, according to a new study. Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the death rate from malaria in sub-Saharan Africa has dropped by 57% since 2000.
- While HIV/AIDS is still a serious health threat, with the availability of antiretroviral treatment, the number of deaths from AIDS has been declining over the last decade.
- Analysing the top causes of death worldwide, one finds that 13% of all human deaths are now caused by heart attacks; in the richest countries, 16% and in the poorest, 6%.
- Drug-resistant TB is now at record levels according to a UN report calling for better diagnosis of the disease.
- Every year 600,000 non-tobacco users, mostly women and children, die from exposure to tobacco smoke.
- The latest data from the World Bank suggests an improving situation for women's health.
- Please also see a related infographic by Chloe Tseng.
- It was claimed that a Human Genome Project for personalised health care is needed, linking up genetics with promising research on the impact of environmental factors affecting disease, using alternative scenarios based on diet and lifestyle that can increase or decrease the likelihood of cancer, diabetes, or heart disease, and other illnesses.
- It was also claimed that we might be entering an age of pandemics.
- A laboratory in Mali started to rear Africa's first mosquitoes that are genetically modified to resist malaria, according to Glimpses of the Future.
- In order to provide universal access to reproductive, maternal and newborn health services in the 51 countries with the lowest incomes and highest burden of disease, more than 4.2 million health workers are required. The World Health Organisation recognises the role that midwives play in reducing infant mortality rates and wants to increase the number of midwives. Unicef offered18-month midwife training programs in Pakistan and Afghanistan - see here.
- With most focus on HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB, relatively few resources are devoted to tropical diseases like dengue fever, hookworm and schistosomiasis afflicting some 1bn people.
- News broke in India of patients infected with tuberculosis (TB) that has become resistant to all the drugs used against the disease. Physicians called the strain TDR, for Totally Drug-Resistant TB. This followed earlier moves by health ministers from countries with the highest rates of extreme drug-resistant (XDR) TB committed to an action plan to stop and reverse the global epidemic of the disease.
- Ain't no cure for love, sung Leonard Cohen, but now it appears that perhaps there ain't no cure for life either, leading some experts to express strong concern at the increasing medicalisation of vast swathes of society. This could lead to almost every piece of human behaviour can be classified as being in some way aberrant, with a tendency for new categories, new ways not to be 'normal' to be invented, allegedly often at the behest of drug companies looking for a new drug.