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A Mundane Comedy is Dom Kelleher's new book, which will be published in late 2024. The introduction is available here and further extracts will appear on this site and on social media in the coming months.

The 52:52:52 project, launching on this site and on social media later in 2024, will help you address 52 issues with 52 responses over 52 weeks.

This site addresses what's changing, at the personal, organisational and societal levels. You'll learn about key changes across more than 150 elements of life, from ageing and time, through nature and animals, to kindness and love...and much more besides, which will help you better prepare for related change in your own life.

Halcyon In Kaleidoscope features irregular and fragmentary writings - on ideas and values, places and people - which evolve over time into mini essais, paying humble homage to the peerless founder of the genre. The kaleidoscope is Halcyon's prime metaphor, viewing the world through ever-moving lenses.

What's Changing? - Health

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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.


See also:


In figures:


June 2024

  • In a US study published in Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers reported that female patients seen by female physicians had a lower risk of re-admission and death than those seen by male physicians. The roughly quarter-percentage-point difference in mortality rate was small but significant. It translates into 5,000 potentially unnecessary deaths per year. Male patients also fared slightly better under the care of women, though the 0.08% difference in mortality was not statistically significant
  • Researchers are using AI and virtual reality to study Alzheimer's disease and autism, mapping the brains of mice as they develop. Another team published a strategy for using AI to find new targets for immunotherapy and a new start-up incorporated AI into CRISPR, the revolutionary gene-editing technique, to identify novel gene alterations not already found in nature to expand the possibilities of new treatments. Meanwhile, a number of new AI-powered cancer screenings have now been approved and are available for concerned patients, according to CNBC.


May 2024

  • The number of people becoming seriously ill or dying prematurely from conditions such as high blood pressure and obesity has risen 50% since 2000, underlining the challenge diseases linked to ageing and lifestyle pose to health services. This points to a big shift from an era in which infectious diseases and poor maternal and child health were among the biggest threats, to one where health systems must cope with “metabolism-related risk factors”, including high blood sugar and fat levels, that have led to a surge in “non-communicable” diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
  • Researchers at Safeguarding Health in Conflict, a coalition of nongovernmental organisations, recorded over 2500 attacks on healthcare workers who struggled to look after patients in conflict zones in 2023, a 25% increase from 2022. 


April 2024


March 2024


February 2024

  • Young people with mental health problems were more likely to be out of work than their healthy peers, UK research revealed. Between 2018 and 2022, one in five 18-24-year-olds with mental health problems were workless, compared with 13% of those without mental health problems, the report by the Resolution Foundation found. The study also showed that younger workers could end up unemployed or going into low-paid jobs due to the impact of mental health problems on their education. 
  • Gallup analysis showed the extent of young people’s disenchantment with corporate life, finding that "younger millennials and Gen Zs have seen their engagement ratio fall from 3.1 to 2.5 - for every actively disengaged employee, there's only slightly more than one engaged one”. The Resolution report said that in 2021-2022 over one in three young people aged 18-24 reported symptoms of conditions like depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder - up from one in four in 2000. As a result, more than half a million 18-24-year-olds were prescribed anti-depressants.


January 2024

  • Google researchers published a study showing that its medical chatbot more accurately diagnosed respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses in conversations with actor patients than a panel of doctors. Google said the “patients” also gave the chatbot higher marks for bedside manner, finding the bot more empathetic than the human physicians. The experimental chatbot - the Articulate Medical Intelligence Explorer, or AMIE - hasn’t been used on human patients just yet and it also isn’t a peer-reviewed study. But if chatbots could help assess and diagnose patients, scientists argue, it could democratise access to high-quality medical care.
  • In 2014, it was estimated that about two million people around the world were dying from fungal infections annually. The latest estimate put the figure in 2024 at nearly double that: around 3.8 million deaths. To put this in perspective, it accounts for around 6.8% of total global deaths. Coronary heart disease is probably responsible for 16% of the world’s total deaths, followed by stroke at 11% and smoke-related lung disease 6% of total deaths, The most important lethal fungi are Aspergillus fumigatus and Aspergillus flavus, which cause lung infections, affecting those with lung diseases, such as asthma, TB and lung cancer, but also people with leukaemia, those who have had an organ transplant and those in intensive care.
  • Investments addressing the women’s health gap could potentially boost the global economy by US$1 trillion annually by 2040.
  • Generative AI could help researchers discover new drugs and better match ailing patients with correct diagnoses, but the World Health Organisation is also concerned about everything that could go wrong, and formally warned countries to monitor and evaluate large language models for medical and health-related risks. AI systems are susceptible to bias because the inclusion or absence of data could seriously affect its outputs. For example, if a medical AI model is trained solely on health data from people in wealthy nations, it could miss or misunderstand populations in poorer nations and do harm if used improperly.


December 2023

  • A series of studies by the World Health Organisation found that long-term outcomes for severe mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, were better in so-called developing countries that lacked psychiatric support systems. How could this be? In the years since, the ‘outcomes paradox’ (also known as the ‘better prognosis hypothesis’) has been debated but never fully disproved or resolved. One explanation for the paradox is that the symptoms of severe mental illness are more common in non-Western ‘spirit-infused cultures’ and therefore perceived as less threatening.
  • Much of the rich world struggled with rising rates of self-reported mental-health problems, particularly since the COVID pandemic. In the UK alone, around 4.5m people were in contact with mental-health services in 2021-22, a rise of almost 1m in five years. In the past decade no other European country saw a greater increase in the use of antidepressants. In 2023, one in five 8- to 16-year-olds in England had a probable mental disorder, up from one in eight in 2017. In 17- to 19-year-olds the figure increased from one in ten to one in four. 
  • Verve Therapies’ gene-edited CRISPR treatment slashed patients’ cholesterol after a single infusion. The trial, led by Verve Therapeutics, was the first to explore CRISPR for a chronic disease that’s usually managed with decades of daily pills. It also marks the first use of a newer class of gene editors directly in humans. Called base editing, the technology is more precise and potentially safer than the original set of CRISPR tools.
  • Cameroon began rolling out the world’s first malaria vaccine programme for children, and aims to vaccinate roughly 250,000 throughout 2024/25. The WHO-approved vaccine, Mosquirix, is 30% effective and requires four doses and is being portrayed as an important new safeguard against the mosquito-borne illness, which infects roughly 250 million people in Africa each year.


November 2023

  • Research funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) revealed how AI can predict heart attack risk in patients a decade in advance. Implementing the tech in the National Health Service (HNS) could lead to 20% fewer heart attacks and 8% fewer cardiac deaths and strokes, the BHF said, potentially saving thousands of lives a year.
  • The world’s first CRISPR-based therapy received the green light from regulators in the UK, a milestone that comes only a decade after scientists first discovered the gene-editing technology. The drug approved in the UK cures two blood disorders: sickle cell disease and beta-thalassemia. The CRISPR therapy could be more effective and less risky than the current alternatives for patients with these diseases.


October 2023

  • The importance of mental health in the workplace is increasingly recognised, and evidence of the link between a healthy workforce and a strong, thriving economy is growing. An estimated 12 billion working days are lost every year due to depression and anxiety, costing US$1trillion globally
  • Meanwhile, mental health issues cost UK businesses £6.9 billion in lost productivity due to long-term illness in the year to August 2023.
  • The second CCLA Corporate Mental Health Benchmark was released on World Mental Health Day 2023, highlighting the actions that companies are taking to promote positive mental health in the workplace. 110 of the world’s largest companies were assessed. They were measured on their approach to workplace mental health across four major themes: management commitment and policy; governance and management; leadership and innovation; and performance reporting and impact. 
  • When it comes to workplace mental health supports, a healthy culture came out on top among 78% of respondents in a survey of employees, above therapy, Harvard Business Review reports. A safe and supportive culture for mental health came second (67%), mental health treatment third (64%), and self-care resources fourth (60%). But a majority of those surveyed said they felt less comfortable talking to their employer about mental health and less supported than in the past three years. Hybrid workers who could pick which days they went to the office reported better mental wellbeing.
  • Close to 60% of African healthcare workers have seen patients die waiting for medical care. That’s compared with 33% globally, according to a study on workforce attitudes among healthcare workers around the world. In Nigeria, such an environment has caused a medical brain drain.


September 2023

  • Shift work, or work performed outside traditional daytime hours, may make people more vulnerable to certain mental health conditions. Compared with people with 9-to-5 jobs, shift workers are 22% more likely to develop depression and 17% more likely to develop anxiety, a study found. The data also suggests that the risk is greatest among people who are new to shift work - a finding that supports the theory that disruptions to the body's natural sleep/wake cycles are partly to blame. Given the findings, “shift work should be considered an occupational hazard,” the researchers advised.


August 2023

  • In a world first, surgeons in Australia removed an 8cm long worm known as Ophidascaris robertsi from the brain of a woman who had complained of memory loss and depression. This specific parasite had previously been found only in pythons, large numbers of which happen to live near the woman’s home. Scientists said instances of animal-to-human transmission of diseases and parasites are increasing as human and animal habitats increasingly overlap. noted GZERO.
  • Australian researchers found a way to reprogramme cells from adults so that they’re more like embryonic stem cells. These memory-less cells can be reprogrammed to become any kind of cell, potentially unlocking an endless supply of stem cells for research or treatment


July 2023

  • There’s a clear path to ending Aids by 2030, according to a report, which said measures will also help the planet tackle future pandemics. The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/Aids (UNAIDS), said that countries already following the path were “achieving extraordinary results”. Key to success, it added, was an inclusive approach that confronted inequality, upheld human rights and ended HIV-related stigma. The report found that improved access to HIV treatment has averted almost 21m Aids-related deaths in the past 30 years, with 2022 marking the lowest number of new HIV infections (1.3m) in decades. 
  • Australia became the first country in the world to legalise the use of psychedelics to treat some mental health conditions. Approved psychiatrists can now prescribe MDMA to those suffering post-traumatic stress disorder and magic mushrooms for some types of depression.


May 2023

  • AI-enabled drug discovery is accelerating. Three high school students, in three different countries - Norway, the US and China - collaborated with a generative AI engine to identify three genes to investigate as brain tumour therapy targets.
  • As many as 25% of hospital beds across the EU were unused in mid-2023 as a result of shortages in healthcare professionals caused by pandemic-related burnout and retirement. The bloc’s ageing population is likely to exacerbate the problem: more patients, fewer people to treat them.
  • The US surgeon general, the nation’s top doctor, sounded the alarm about the negative impact of social media on adolescent mental health. While the ill effects of apps like Instagram and Facebook on young people are well established, the report revealed that 40% of 8-12-year-olds use these apps even though the minimum age for use of most sites is 13, warned GZERO.


April 2023


March 2023


January 2023


December 2022


November 2022

  • Struggles with mental health are not evenly distributed across the working population. As with other mental health indicators - including depression - women (23%) are more likely to report poor or fair mental health than are men (15%). Nearly one-third of young workers under the age of 30 (31%) do the same compared with 11% of those aged 50-64 and 9% of those aged 65 and over. As such, working women under the age of 30 carry the greatest burden of fair or poor mental health (36%) across all age-by-gender subgroups. Notably, among those aged 65 and older, the mental health gender gap found among younger age groups disappears.


October 2022

  • Research claimed the next pandemic may be unleashed by melting Arctic ice. An analysis of ice from Lake Hazen in the Arctic suggests it is host to ancient viruses and bacteria that could infect local wildlife if the ice melts.
  • There could be a cancer vaccine within the next decade. The team behind Pfizer’s COVID jab say they’ve had some “breakthroughs.”
  • A new AI tool can predict risk of heart disease by scanning a person's retina. A paper in the British Journal of Ophthalmology said the tool analyses veins and arteries in the eye, and can deliver an accurate risk of heart disease and stroke within 60 seconds.
  • A study revealed that a mutation that helped people survive the Black Death 700 years ago is linked to a series of auto-immune diseases impacting people today, including Crohn’s disease. Researchers believe that the event - which killed as many as 200 million people - impacted upon human evolution.
  • Global tuberculosis cases increased in 2021. The WHO said that it was the first time drug-resistant TB infections had seen a rise in almost two decades, climbing 3% year on year. 


September 2022

  • Psyche noted that mental disorders afflict humanity on a vast scale. The World Health Organisation estimates that half a billion people struggle with depression and anxiety. Those who have a mental illness suffer great distress - whether it’s the fear of a panic attack, the angst of remembered trauma, or the horror of compulsive rituals. Collectively, mental health problems account for more than a fifth of all years lived with disability. As important and compelling as these statistics are, however, the story they tell overlooks the other side of the coin - the reality that some percentage of people with mental illness recover and even thrive.
  • A promising malaria vaccine was announced. It could cut deaths related to the disease by 70% by 2030, according to scientists at the University of Oxford.
  • Air pollution causes cancer, but rather than damaging cells as previously assumed, toxic fumes awaken old damaged cells - a discovery that could revolutionise tumour prevention and treatment, reported Quartz.


August 2022


July 2022

  • A study found that increasing daily steps from 4,000 to 8,000 was associated with a 51% lower risk for all-cause mortality (“death from all causes”), and taking 12,000 steps per day was associated with a 65% lower risk.
  • A New Zealand patient became the first person to have their liver gene edited so that it produces less cholesterol. The US biotech startup behind the technique, Verve Therapeutics, claimed it could prove the answer to heart attacks.


June 2022


May 2022

  • n the UK, a new pilot programme embedded in the NHS sought to sequence the genomes of newborns at birth. The hope is that a massive repository of genetic data could allow others to identify and study rare diseases. A person's genetic data would be stored for their lifetime and eventually be used to calculate which drugs would be best suited for a particular condition - those data might also be harnessed to develop precision medicines. Meanwhile, the potential insights from such a wide pool of data would lead to correlations between someone's genetic code and their lifestyle choices. A sequenced person receive a report telling foretelling possible future health risks, so they could make better decisions, undergo screenings, and seek out treatments sooner.
  • As stress and anxiety increased during the pandemic, so did downloads of mental health and wellness apps. Those apps proved useful for many, but some experts have since raised concerns over efficacy and the safety of users' data, reported Axios, worrying that some people with serious mental health issues - including depression and anorexia - turned to virtual services that offered chatbots and breathing exercises, rather than seeking out medical treatment. Researchers also warned that some mental health apps have worse user privacy protections than most other types of apps.
  • Smartwatches, fitness trackers and a rapidly growing array of electronically enhanced straps, patches and other “wearables” can record over 7,500 physiological and behavioural variables, while machine learning can filter a torrent of data to reveal a continuous, quantified picture of an individual's health.
  • Mental health conditions can come with a double burden: on top of the sadness, the anxiety or other symptoms, there is the harm wrought by stigma. Although these conditions are very common - more than 970m people worldwide are estimated to have one - the sense that there is something shameful about experiencing mental illness can make it daunting to open up about it. Sharing details about mental health with family members, friends or people at work or in the community can bring a measure of relief and help people receive valuable support, but it can risk discouraging, unsupportive reactions from others: research has shown that people with mental illness who believe they need to keep it a secret report greater shame and sadness, warned Psyche. On the other hand, research also indicates that one of the most effective ways to combat stigma about mental health challenges is through contact – that is, interpersonal connection with someone who shares their experience of mental illness and recovery.


April 2022

  • The share of our lives we spend in poor health has not diminished over time. On average, people spend about 50% of their lives in less-than-good health including, 12% in poor health. Data suggest that this ratio has not changed much in the past 50 years. The upshot is that we spend more time in absolute terms in moderate and poor health than we have at any other point in history. The situation may even be gradually worsening, particularly in high-income countries, where chronic conditions now afflict growing numbers of people for a significant portion of their lives 
  • A team at University of Michigan developed a non-invasive method of breaking down tumours using sound technology. Their research suggested tumours destroyed by this method have low recurrence.


March 2022

  • Decades of research suggested that limits on calorie intake by flies, worms, and mice can enhance life span in laboratory conditions, but whether such calorie restriction can do the same for humans remained unclear. A study led by Yale researchers confirmed the health benefits of moderate calorie restrictions in humans and identifies a key protein that could be harnessed to enhance human health. There’s still debate about what type of diet is better - low carbohydrates or fat, increased protein, intermittent fasting, etc. - and time may tell which of these are important, but the study suggests already that a simple reduction in calories, and no specific diet, has a remarkable effect in terms of biology and shifting the immuno-metabolic state in a direction that’s protective of human health.
  • Long-term exposure to air pollution could increase the risk of autoimmune disorders, an Italian study found. The study looked at exposure to fine particulate matter, such as that produced by vehicles or industry, and indicated that long-term exposure was associated with increased risk of autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s. However, the researchers cautioned there was no causal link proven and more research into other factors, such as passive smoking, was needed.
  • French start-up Flying Whales announced the development of Flying Care, a mobile hospital that can be delivered by airship to remote areas. The self-sufficient hospital will measure 630 m2. An airship can hover like a helicopter, enabling cargo to be picked up or offloaded without landing. Since it's capable of vertical take-off and landing, no infrastructure is required, making the vessels ideal for disaster response in areas that aren't easily reached by plane or boat or that are temporarily inaccessible due to flooding or damaged roads. Freight can either be held in a cargo bay or suspended below the airship.


February 2022


January 2022


December 2021

  • What if the next global health crisis is a mental health pandemic, asked Gallup, concluding that such a crisis is already here. Anger, stress, worry and sadness have been on the rise globally for the past decade - long before the COVID-19 pandemic - and all reached record highs from 2020. Globally, seven in 10 people report that they are struggling or suffering, according to Gallup.
  • During 2021, more than 9 billion COVID vaccine doses were administered in 184 countries since the shot was first rolled out. Of those, roughly 2.8 billion were administered in mainland China.


November 2021

  • According to McKinsey survey, 37% of employees with mental illness and 52% of employees with a substance-use disorder indicated that they would avoid treatment because they didn’t want anyone finding out about their condition. McKinsey asked: can you imagine anyone with asthma or diabetes avoiding care for fear that others might find out about their condition, so why is this acceptable with mental health? The firm also explained that its analysis of health-insurance claims data showed that people with chronic physical-health conditions have worse outcomes when they also have an unmanaged mental-health condition.


October 2021

  • After years of trials, the World Health Organisation authorised the rollout of the world’s first malaria vaccine, which will be administered to children in sub-Saharan Africa and other regions with high rates of infection. The search for a malaria vaccine has been going on for about 100 years and health experts today rightly called the breakthrough historic. The vaccine was shown to prevent four out of 10 infections and reduce severe cases by 30 percent. Though that might sound low, it is a remarkable achievement given the complexity of the virus. About 94 percent of all cases are in Africa and more than 260,000 children died from malaria across the continent in 2019.
  • HBR noted that, although employers responded to the pandemic with initiatives like mental health days or weeksfour-day workweeks, and enhanced counselling benefits or apps, they’re not enough. Employees need and expect sustainable and mentally healthy workplaces, which requires taking on the real work of culture change. It’s not enough to simply offer the latest apps or employ euphemisms like “well-being” or “mental fitness.” Employers must connect what they say to what they actually do.
  • Periods aren't a niche issue: more than 26 percent of the global population get them. Yet a combination of stigma, sexism and ignorance is making it a public health catastrophe and social mobility barrier for millions of women and girls around the world, warned GZERO.
  • study from the World Health Organisation and the International Labour Organisation revealed that almost 2 million people die from work-related causes each year. The occupational risk factor with the largest number of attributable deaths was exposure to long working hours, linked to approximately 750,000 deaths annually.  While greater workplace health and safety led to an overall decrease in deaths per population by 14% between 2000 and 2016, deaths from heart disease and stroke associated with exposure to long working hours rose by 41% and 19% respectively over the same period.


September 2021


August 2021


July 2021


June 2021

  • Future Normal reported that:
    • 1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental health issue in their lifetime.
    • The cost of mental health issues to the global economy by 2030 will be $16 trillion
    • Over 40 million Americans suffer from mental illness, including depression and anxiety.
    • 1 in 5 people dealing with mental illness say their needs are going unmet.
    • Nearly half of Gen Z and Millennials feel stressed all or most of the time.


May 2021

  • Though Covid-19 resulted in an estimated 122,600 deaths in Africa since the onset of the pandemic, malaria, a disease that is particularly prevalent and deadly in the continent, took more than 400,000 lives in 2019 alone, according to the World Health Organisation, with 94% of cases and deaths in sub-Saharan Africa. However, a global group of researchers released a preliminary study reporting that their malaria vaccine, heralded as a breakthrough due to its safety profile and low production costs, showed up to 77% efficacy in a one-year preliminary clinical trial involving 450 children in Burkina Faso.
  • Scientists at Harvard created a new gene editing tool that they say could rival CRISPR. The Retron Library Recombineering (RLR) technique, and it uses segments of bacterial DNA called retrons to introduce mutant DNA strands into replicating cells.
  • More than a year of the coronavirus pandemic resulted in a rise in feelings of stress, anxiety and depression, and as society began to reopen, experts warned that mental health concerns could rise over the longer term. 2021's Mental Health Awareness Week highlighted the theme of nature, with research showing that going for walks has been a popular coping strategy during the pandemic.
  • Genetic testing companies reportedly now offer pre-implantation testing for IVF embryos. One company, Genomic Prediction, scores embryos based on risk for cancer, diabetes, heart conditions, and somewhat controversially, intelligence and athletic ability. Parents can choose which embryos they want to implant.
  • The Body Keeps the Score is a book published in 2014 by a Dutch professor of psychiatry at Boston University. The book proved immensely significant because it emphasises an idea that has for too long escaped psychiatrists and psychotherapists, by stressing that people who are suffering emotionally are unlikely to do so just in their minds. Crucially, their symptoms almost always additionally show up in their bodies: in the way they sit or breathe; in how they hold their shoulders, in their sleep patterns, in their digestion processes, in the way they treat their spots and in their attitudes to exercise.
  • Future Today Institute pointed to the latest developments in brain-computer interfaces. BMIs are not particularly new; in one form or another they can be traced back to the 1970s. They have direct applications in helping stroke patients, paralysed individuals, and others to regain and simulate certain functions. As it advances, the technology could also be used to treat conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder, addiction, or Parkinson’s disease. So far, BMIs have largely been unidirectional, meaning the transfer of information primarily flows from brain to device. In the case of controlling robotic arms, for example, subjects have mostly relied on visual rather than tactile feedback to operate them. But a study published by the University of Pittsburgh, concludes that robotic arm control can be improved by a BMI that sends tactile information back to the subject’s brain, adding a new dimension and enhanced functionality to these devices.


April 2021


March 2021

  • Leaders of 23 countries and the World Health Organisation supported drafting an international treaty to help the world deal with future pandemics by sharing more information. Neither China - where COVID-19 originated - nor the US, with the world's highest death toll from the coronavirus, were among the treaty's initial backers.


February 2021


January 2021

  • 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.
  • Collateral health damage already caused by the pandemic will be greater than its direct impact in the lowest-income countries, according to the head of the Global Fund. He was among a group of experts discussing those consequences and how the global health community could pivot moving forward.
  • Oncologists are picking up on the hints of an alarming trend: an uptick in lung cancers among people who have never smoked—especially women. For STAT, Sharon Begley wrote on the factors that could contribute to this trend, and how doctors are weighing their options to catch and treat these cases. Sadly, the topic was one close to Sharon’s heart: The veteran journalist, who never smoked, passed away from lung cancer in January 2021.


December 2020


November 2020


October 2020


September 2020


August 2020


July 2020

  • 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.


June 2020

  • 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.


May 2020

  • 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.


April 2020

  • 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.


March 2020 

  • 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 cancerstudy 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:


January 2020

  • 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.


December 2019

  • 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. 


November 2019


October 2019

  • 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.


September 2019

  • 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.)


July 2019

  • 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. 


June 2019

  • 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. 


May 2019

  • 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.


April 2019

  • 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.


March 2019


February 2019


January 2019


December 2018

  • 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.


November 2018

  • 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.


October 2018


September 2018


August 2018


July 2018

  • 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. 


June 2018


Pre 2018

  • 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.