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? - Ageing
- What's Changing? - Anxiety
- What's Changing? - Depression
- What's Changing? - Disability
- What's Changing? - Food
- What's Changing? - Memory
- What's Changing? - Pain
- What's Changing? - Sleep
- What's Changing? - Therapy
- What's Changing? - Wellbeing
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Stay-at-home orders and other pandemic-related disruptions caused some 12.7 million children in Africa to miss their scheduled vaccinations between 2019 and 2021, according to UNICEF. It’s the biggest inoculation backslide in three decades, and it leaves the continent’s children especially vulnerable to diseases like measles, cholera, and polio.
- Researchers at a Harvard lab genetically engineered a bacteria, E. coli, to be totally immune to viruses. In addition to blocking every virus the team has challenged it with thus far, their E. coli has also been designed so that its modified genes cannot escape into the wild. “We believe we have developed the first technology to design an organism that can’t be infected by any known virus,” genetics research fellow and study author Akos Nyerges said.
- In Germany, 84% of people support organ donation, yet just 0.001% actually become organ donors. This disparity led to the creation of OptInk. The concept is simple: a distinctive, free tattoo signals an individual's desire to have their organs and tissues donated after death. German legislation mandates express consent for organ donation, typically through a donor card, advance healthcare directive or written declaration while the person is alive. Without explicit prior consent, the decision falls to the donor's relatives, resulting in fewer donations than are needed. OptInk tackles this issue by offering a visible symbol of one's intent to donate.
- The Economist noted that treatments for weight loss have long ranged from the well-meaning and ineffective to the downright dodgy. However, a new class of drugs, called glp-1 receptor agonists, seems actually to work. Analysts think the market for glp-1 drugs could reach $150bn by 2031, not far off the market for cancer drugs.
- Healthcare innovation is accelerating at an unprecedented scale, particularly in the digital sphere, the World Health Organisation said. Advances such as artificial intelligence, 3D printing and CRISPR gene editing are transforming the way diseases are detected and treated.
- Evidence is mounting that smartphones have a negative impact on teenagers' mental health, the FT reported. The share of UK teens who do not consider themselves likeable more than doubled since 2010, which is around the time that smartphones became ubiquitous. Studies found that the more time teens spend on smartphone apps, the worse their mental health is. The gradient is steepest for teenage girls, who spend significantly more time on social media apps than boys.
- Forecasts suggested that 800 million worldwide will have diabetes by 2045, up from more than 500 million today: diabetes is one of the fastest-growing diseases in the world, However, the market for diabetes drugs is projected to grow even faster, nearly doubling in the next decade.
- Congenital heart defects - problems with the structure of the heart, such as holes or improperly sized valves - are the most common type of birth defect, affecting about 1% of newborns. Every year in the US alone, about 10,000 babies are born with congenital heart defects so severe that they won’t survive without heart surgery or some other intervention in their first year of life — a surgeon might need to repair a hole with a patch, for example, or replace a faulty heart valve. Now, however, researchers are developing patches made of stem cells to repair congenital heart defects and if they work as hoped, the patches could eliminate the need for thousands of children to undergo repeated heart surgeries throughout their lives.
- During office visits, pediatrician Charlie Obihara noticed patients didn't always understand their condition or treatment options. Since metaphors often helped flick the switch of comprehension, Obihara decided to enlist colleagues and illustrators to build an online repository of medical metaphors or "mediphors". Medifoor.nl currently features metaphors and accompanying illustrations for 50 different diseases. Mediphors are aimed at helping adults and children grasp complex concepts to help them achieve better health outcomes.
- Gallup research revealed that 40% of U.S. workers report that their job had a negative impact on their mental health in the prior six months, including 7% describing it as having an “extremely negative” impact. Overall, 19% of workers rated their mental health as just fair or poor, which is linked to an extra US$47.6 billion in unplanned absences from work each year due to poor mental health.
- Research has shown that the combination of high demands and low control at work - known in the academic literature as “job strain” - is bad for mental and physical health. One US study, which followed more than 52,000 working women over four years, found that job strain was associated with a greater increase in body mass index, for example.
- Tel Aviv University researchers claim to have developed a novel, noninvasive way to kill tumours: bubbles. Specifically, cancer-killing nanobubbles. These infinitesimal gas bubbles surround the tumour and then can be exploded via ultrasound, creating “therapeutic warheads,” as the team put it in their study, published in the journal Nanoscale.
- Further reading:
- Apps interpreting data from wearable devices are helping people to live better - The Economist
- Data from wearable devices are changing disease surveillance and medical research - The Economist
- Healthcare in a 10G World - 10G
- How to choose a mental health app - Psyche Guides
- How to live with chronic illness - Psyche Guides
- How to trust your body - Psyche Guides I’m a psychologist – and I believe we’ve been told devastating lies about mental health - Curio
- Rest Isn’t the Opposite of Work - Remote Work Prep
- Scientists discover way to target ‘undruggable’ molecules involved in cancer - University of Chicago News
- Some health apps are able not just to diagnose diseases, but also to treat them - The Economist
- The Big Tech in Healthcare Report: How Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Apple, & Oracle are fighting for the $11T market - CB Insights
- The pandemic changed companies' relationship with mental health - Quartz
- Wearable devices are connecting health care to daily life - The Economist
- Wearable devices measure a growing array of health indicators - The Economist
- What working parents need to know about children's mental health - Quartz at Work
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Research suggests that COVID generated a kind of epidemiological aftershock by leaving many people susceptible to a huge range of other conditions, threatening global health systems already struggling with insufficient resources and ageing populations.
- 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.
- Further reading:
- Digital Health 150: The Digital Health Startups Transforming the Future of Healthcare - CB Insights Research
- How health care is turning into a consumer product - The Economist
- How psychopathy might be an evolutionary adaptation - Big Think
- How to Be a Mental Health Ally - HBR
- Making Sense Of Mental Health - IAI Mental disorders aren’t diseases, they’re networks of symptoms - Psyche Ideas
- Pandemic exposes a world of healthcare inequalities - Financial Times
- Squashing malaria could save as many lives as covid-19 has taken - The Economist
- State Of Digital Health 2021 Report - CB Insights Research
- The Upsides of Having a Mental Breakdown - The School Of Life
- Wearable technology promises to revolutionise health care - The Economist
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Funding to mental health tech startups more than doubled year on year in 2021.This was driven largely by the need to build out digital solutions targeting mental health — an area of healthcare that has gained momentum during the pandemic. The majority of 2021 deals were early-stage, indicating there’s room for growth in the mental health tech space, noted CB Insights. Mental health tech startups pulled in a record-breaking US$5.5bn in funding in 2021, up 139% from 2020.
- Arguing that healthcare is turning into a consumer product, The Economist noted that clunky, costly, highly regulated health systems, often dominated by rent-seeking middlemen, are being shaken up by companies that target patients directly, meet them where they are - which is increasingly online - and give them more control over how to access care. Scientific advances in fields such as gene sequencing and artificial intelligence (AI) make new modes of care possible. E-pharmacies fulfil prescriptions, wearable devices monitor wearers’ health in real time, tele-medicine platforms connect patients with physicians, and home tests enable self-diagnosis.
- Technology companies are shaking up healthcare, targeting patients directly through virtual care, digital therapeutics, and more. The digital health sector accounted for 90 healthcare unicorns by the end of 2021, and attracted over $50B in global funding in 2021. And it’s not just startups that want a piece of the healthcare pie - which, in the US, represents 18% of the nation's GDP - big tech companies are also investing heavily in consumer health products, services, and companies, according to CB Insights.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 weeks, four-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.
- A 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.
- A startup called FindCenter, seeks to centralise resources for fighting burnout or seemingly any other personal affliction, as a kind of "Wikipedia for wisdom". Launched in late 2021, the free online portal contains 500,000 pages of articles, podcasts, videos, quotations, and books recommended by an international cadre of book editors, health professionals, and other topic experts.
- More and more people are talking to their bosses about their mental health. Surveys show employees want to work at a company whose culture supports mental health; in fact, it’s becoming one of the most-requested benefits in the wake of the pandemic. This is especially true for young workers: In a recent Deloitte survey of more than 27,000 Millennials and GenZers around the world, nearly half ranked mental health as their first or second priority, noted HBR. See also: How to Talk About Your Mental Health with Your Employer and Navigating Mental Health at Work: A Reading List.
- Telehealth took off during the pandemic, with everything from telepharmacy to teletherapy to remote diagnostics taking off. Add in that telemedicine M&A is heating up, and telemedecine is just getting started, claimed CB Insights.
- For the FT, good brain health allows an individual to optimise their cognitive, behavioural and emotional functioning across an entire lifespan. It’s not just mental health, as we think of it, even though according to estimates from the US National Center for Health Statistics, nearly three times the number of Americans now experience regular signs of depression or anxiety as before the pandemic. Brain health as researchers conceive it also includes interpersonal and work skills such as teamwork, leadership, adaptability and cognitive function, as well as the ability to maintain these qualities over a career.
- There is growing concern about possible cognitive consequences of COVID-19, with reports of ‘Long COVID’ symptoms persisting into the chronic phase and case studies revealing neurological problems in severely affected patients. However, there is little information regarding the nature and broader prevalence of cognitive problems post-infection or across the full spread of disease severity.
- 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.
- 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.
- While 96% of CEOs believe their companies are doing enough for employee mental health, only 69% of employees agree. The data, complied by mental health-care app Ginger, shows that while more than half of CEOs believe talking about mental health makes them a better leader, 56% are concerned it might impact their credibility.
- During the pandemic hit, studies showed that even people were taking fewer sick days, more workers burned out because they worked harder, longer and didn't take holidays. Clinical psychologist Dr. Jodie Lowinger says employees aren’t taking mental health breaks, to avoid being considered weak or slacking. But the "suck it up and get on with it" attitude is having a negative effect, with estimates that mental ill-health costs billions per year. She says making mental health days a normal part of work life will go a long way to improving employee productivity and happiness.
- Malaria may be getting an effective vaccine. Research showed groundbreaking vaccination trial results in Burkina Faso, with a 77% efficacy rate in preventing the disease among those who received the jab. It was the first time a malaria vaccine had exceeded the World Health Organisation’s 75% target, which it says is the bar for declaring effectiveness. The WHO estimates there were 229 million cases worldwide in 2019, the most recent year for which data is available. The annual death toll is around 400,000; two thirds of those who die are African children under the age of five. (The hunt for a vaccine has lasted over 100 years. The malaria parasite contains over 5,000 genes, making it a complex puzzle to solve. Covid19, by comparison, contains 15 genes.)
- Research conducted at the Microsoft Human Factors Lab saw trial participants take video calls while wearing an EEG headset to measure brain activity. The results were clear: back-to-back video calls taken without breaks caused spikes in beta activity, which are associated with stress and decreased ability to focus, reported New World, Same Humans.
- 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.
- Research indicates that consumer wearable devices can help flag new cases of COVID-19 prior to molecular diagnosis. Accepted for publication in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, the institution's Warrior Watch Study provided Mount Sinai Health System workers with an Apple Watch and a custom study app. The results highlighted a significant differences in a heart rate variability metric during the seven days before a PCR COVID-19 diagnosis and the seven days after.
- Opera singers started teaching Covid sufferers how to breathe, with exercises designed to help those with lingering symptoms.
- 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.
- 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.