emergency

This April 7 th marks World Health Day (WHD). The first World Health Assembly, held by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1948, declared that WHD would be celebrated on this date from 1950 onwards. I am pleased to see that for the first time ever, WHO has chosen diabetes as its theme for WHD in 2016. The decision to dedicate the day to diabetes is timely as diabetes is one of the largest global health emergencies of the 21 st century. Each year growing numbers of people are living with this condition, which can result in life-changing complications, including heart diseases, stroke, blindness, amputations and kidney failure. The risk of these complications can be reduced through early and accurate diagnosis of the disease, good blood sugar monitoring and sound management – but we need to empower health professionals and people with diabetes around the world with information and technologies if the burden of diabetes is to be controlled. According to the latest estimates published by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), 415 million adults (83% in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) were living with diabetes in 2015 and this number is expected to rise to 642 million (or 1 adult in 10) by 2040 despite better awareness and new developments in treatment and prevention. I am particularly concerned that around half of people currently living with diabetes do not know they have it. Failure to diagnose diabetes reduces the likelihood that the disease will be well managed, opening the door to complications. WHD on April 7 th is a golden opportunity for all of us – individuals and organisations – working for the benefit of people with diabetes and people at risk of diabetes. We must highlight the importance of all types of diabetes and continue our efforts for enhanced...
It’s remarkable that Europe’s obesity challenge doesn’t get more policy attention. The share of the population that’s overweight or obese is already high and growing fast. By 2030, around 40 and 30 percent of Brits and Germans, respectively, will be obese. These are large numbers and should concentrate political minds on coming up with better policies addressing the scale and growth of obesity. For sure, that’s important for those who suffer from obesity and type-2 diabetes, sleep apnea, musculoskeletal diseases, or other diagnoses linked to obesity. It is also important for Europe’s economy and fiscal health. Nutrition intake shapes the productive capacity of an individual, or indeed of a whole population. Hundred years ago, feeding people with more calories was a good way to boost the economy. Now the economic challenge is rather about finding ways for people to eat healthier and treat obesity at source. Governments should respond by improving methods and choice of dietary counselling and boost the efficiency of programmes for lifestyle changes, but also recognize that access to treatment – among them surgery – is key for those patients that could no longer benefit from prevention measures. That should be part of an economic strategy for Europe because it’s far cheaper to treat overweight and obesity than to finance all the medical symptoms directly linked to weight problems. Obese people, shows the OECD, has 25 percent higher healthcare costs than the average. In the UK, the government’s Foresight study estimated that obesity will represent 13% of total healthcare costs by 2050. A colleague and I did some calculations on the cost of obesity treatment compared to the cost of healthcare systems from obesity-caused type-2 diabetes, and what we found suggests that healthcare systems in Europe can save resources. We studied five countries (Germany, France, Spain, Sweden,...
In the last few weeks we have seen the emergence of a new global public health threat, the Zika Virus (ZIKV). Both the World Health Organization ( WHO ) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control ( ECDC ) are monitoring the spread of the Zika, a mosquito borne arbovirus. The WHO recently declared the diseases linked to the Zika virus as a global public health emergency. Several Zika cases have been reported in Europe from people who have contracted the virus while travelling. The bigger risk however is when mosquito populations in Europe become infected and start acting as a vector for the disease. The map shows the distribution of Aedes albopictus which can become a carrier of Zika in Europe. At this stage, a lot of critical questions remain: What are the risks associated with Zika? Is there a potential link between Zika infections in pregnant women and microcephaly results in newborns? The Role of Diagnostics Developing adequate diagnostic tools becomes critical especially since Zika infections can display no symptoms or symptoms similar to other viral infections. In the short term, diagnostic tools will track the spread of the infection. Understanding how the epidemic spreads will be a critical step in controlling it. Accurate diagnostic tools will be needed to understand the relationship between Zika and microcephaly. Diagnostic tools, in the long term, will be essential in developing treatments and vaccines to combat Zika. If the link between Zika and microcephaly is confirmed, it will be equally critical to manage the potential risks during pregnancy. Detecting active Zika infections and determining the immune status of the mother with regards to Zika will be essential in reducing its impact during pregnancy. Precautionary measures are now being taken to ensure the safety of the blood donations – travellers...