State of the World's Health

Martin Khor

The premier international conference on public health policy is the World Health Assembly, organised by the World Health Organisation, which attracts Ministers of Health and other top health officials as well as non-governmental organisations to Geneva every year. This is where the latest trends in public health problems are presented and debated, and action plans for solutions are adopted. This year’s Assembly, which closed on May 24, had 3,500 participants and saw a record number of issues debated and resolutions adopted.

One of the key buzzwords during the Assembly was “universal health coverage” (UHC). This is being promoted by the WHO and several governments as one of the goals for the United Nations’ post-2015 Development Agenda. There is no precise definition for the term, but it is widely taken to mean that everyone should have access to medical treatment and other health services. Inability to pay should not prevent someone from being “covered” by the health system, and people should not become financially burdened in order to receive treatment.

The UHC concept is a great one, similar to the “health for all by the year 2000” slogan that the WHO adopted in the 1980s. The “right to health” is one of the human rights recognised by the United Nations.

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State of the World’s Health

Martin Khor

The premier international conference on public health policy is the World Health Assembly, organised by the World Health Organisation, which attracts Ministers of Health and other top health officials as well as non-governmental organisations to Geneva every year. This is where the latest trends in public health problems are presented and debated, and action plans for solutions are adopted. This year’s Assembly, which closed on May 24, had 3,500 participants and saw a record number of issues debated and resolutions adopted.

One of the key buzzwords during the Assembly was “universal health coverage” (UHC). This is being promoted by the WHO and several governments as one of the goals for the United Nations’ post-2015 Development Agenda. There is no precise definition for the term, but it is widely taken to mean that everyone should have access to medical treatment and other health services. Inability to pay should not prevent someone from being “covered” by the health system, and people should not become financially burdened in order to receive treatment.

The UHC concept is a great one, similar to the “health for all by the year 2000” slogan that the WHO adopted in the 1980s. The “right to health” is one of the human rights recognised by the United Nations.

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Antibiotics Are Becoming Ineffective All Over the World, Why?

Martin Khor

Triple Crisis contributor Martin Khor has written recently about the rising problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Here, he is interviewed by The Real News Network producer Lynn Fries about the issue. Khor pulls no punches about the magnitude of the danger, calling it “as serious to human life as the climate change crisis that we are all trying to address and fighting against.” He goes on to address the necessity of government action on antibiotic resistance, as well as the impediments to such action (including a different kind of resistance—from the pharmaceutical industry).

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Alarm Bells Over Antibiotic Resistance

Martin Khor

The World Health Organisation’s most comprehensive report to date sounds a warning that we are entering a world where antibiotics have little effect.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has sounded a warning that many types of disease-causing bacteria can no longer be treated with the usual antibiotics and the benefits of modern medicine are increasingly being eroded.

The comprehensive 232-page report on anti-microbial resistance with data from 114 countries shows how this threat is happening now in every region of the world and can affect anyone in any country.

Antibiotic resistance—when bacteria evolve so that antibiotics no longer work to treat infections—is described by the report as “a problem so serious that it threatens the achievements of modern medicine.”

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The Social Agenda in 2014

Martin Khor

While political events will no doubt dominate the news in 2014, social issues such as health and environment and coping with the rising cost of living will be just as important in the new year.

Good health is the basis of everything else that is positive in life. Thus, a preview of key social issues in 2014 should begin with health.

In Malaysia, a major concern is the dramatic rise in dengue, with 39,222 cases in 2013, a 90% jump from a year before.

There is a re-emergence of the deadly human variety of avian flu, with 47 deaths from 147 cases in China coming from the new H7N9 strain in April-December last year.

A few years ago there was the expectation that a flu epidemic could sweep through the world, affecting millions of people. The flu pandemic in 2009 killed thousands of people, including in Mexico and Indonesia, but it was fortunately contained.
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TPPA affecting health policies?

Martin Khor

Are big companies making use of trade and investment agreements to challenge health policies?  Evidence is building up that they do so, with medicine prices going up and tobacco control measures being suppressed.

This issue came up in Parliament last week when International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapha Mohamed said the government would not allow the Trans- Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) to cause the prices of generic medicines to go up.

He added he would defend existing policies on patents and medicines, and if we don’t agree with some of the terms, we can choose not to sign.

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TPPA affecting health policies?

Martin Khor

Are big companies making use of trade and investment agreements to challenge health policies?  Evidence is building up that they do so, with medicine prices going up and tobacco control measures being suppressed.

This issue came up in Parliament last week when International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapha Mohamed said the government would not allow the Trans- Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) to cause the prices of generic medicines to go up.

He added he would defend existing policies on patents and medicines, and if we don’t agree with some of the terms, we can choose not to sign.

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India’s Patently Wise Decision

Arjun Jayadev

The Indian Supreme Court’s refusal to uphold the patent on Gleevec, the blockbuster cancer drug developed by the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis, is good news for many of those in India suffering from cancer. If other developing countries follow India’s example, it will be good news elsewhere, too: more money could be devoted to other needs, whether fighting AIDS, providing education, or making investments that enable growth and poverty reduction.

But the Indian decision also means less money for the big multinational pharmaceutical companies. Not surprisingly, this has led to an overwrought response from them and their lobbyists: the ruling, they allege, destroys the incentive to innovate, and thus will deal a serious blow to public health globally.

Read more at Project Syndicate

India's Patently Wise Decision

Arjun Jayadev

The Indian Supreme Court’s refusal to uphold the patent on Gleevec, the blockbuster cancer drug developed by the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis, is good news for many of those in India suffering from cancer. If other developing countries follow India’s example, it will be good news elsewhere, too: more money could be devoted to other needs, whether fighting AIDS, providing education, or making investments that enable growth and poverty reduction.

But the Indian decision also means less money for the big multinational pharmaceutical companies. Not surprisingly, this has led to an overwrought response from them and their lobbyists: the ruling, they allege, destroys the incentive to innovate, and thus will deal a serious blow to public health globally.

Read more at Project Syndicate

Lies, Damn Lies, and the Economist

Matias Vernengo

The World in 2013 by The Economist has been out for a while. Got it at the airport this weekend and read a few pieces. Really bad. Nothing new. One piece caught my attention though. On the fiscal cliff and the elections this terrible article says:

“Mr Obama will maintain that his victory, along with continued Democratic control of the Senate, constitute a mandate for his version of deficit reduction. But in fact the elections produced mixed results: Mr Obama narrowly won the popular vote and the Republicans retained their majority in the House of Representatives.”

First, facts; yes the GOP won the House, but Democratic House candidates won more of the popular vote than their Republican counterparts. Redistricting or Gerrymandering is what explains this failure of democracy. Dems probably need more than 55% of the popular vote to win the majority in the House.

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