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HEALTH – Health Progress at Risk

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The head of the UN warns states. Progress in health is in jeopardy. He said so on the margins of the annual opening of the World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of the WHO.

Global life expectancy has increased by 50% since the World Health Organization (WHO) was established 75 years ago, said Sunday, May 21, 2023, but in the wake of COVID, climate change and other challenges, “progress is at risk.” Secretary-General António Guterres spoke at the annual opening of the World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of the WHO, and said that the agency was born of a spirit of cooperation, leading to dramatic improvements in human health. Global life expectancy has increased by more than 50%, infant mortality has decreased by 60% in 30 years, smallpox has been eradicated and polio is on the verge of disappearing,” Guterres said. But progress is threatened. War and conflict threaten millions of people. The health of billions of people is threatened by the climate crisis,” he warned.

The Secretary-General said that COVID-19 has blocked or even reversed ongoing improvements in public health and is leading to a setback to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But it’s not inevitable,” he said. “ We can find the path to progress again. We can achieve our health and wellness ambitions for all. But only if the world works together. If we cooperate, despite the tensions that weigh on relations between nations.” Guterres added that the long-term promotion of public health requires strengthening the independence, authority and funding of the WHO, “which is at the heart of our international effort.” and must play a key coordinating role in the fight against the next pandemic. As international negotiations continue for a new pandemic action plan, “It is vital to prepare for future health threats – from new pandemics to climate hazards – in order to prevent where we can and respond quickly and effectively where we cannot,” said the UN chief.

Reinforcing this message in his introductory address to the Assembly, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the world’s exit from the dark COVID-19 tunnel was “not just the end of a bad dream we woke up from. We can’t just continue the way we have been,” he said. The painful lessons of the pandemic must be understood. The main lesson is that we can only face common threats with a common response. Like the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the pandemic agreement being negotiated “must be a historic agreement to effect a paradigm shift in global health security, recognizing that our destinies are linked.”, he added. “The time has come for us to write a new chapter in the history of global health together, to chart a new course, to make the world a safer place for our children and grandchildren,” said Dr. Tedros.

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HEALTH

COVID 19 – A new variant we discovered

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According to a senior official at the World Health Organization, a new highly mutated variant of COVID called BA.2.86 has been discovered in several countries including Switzerland, South Africa, as well as Israel, Denmark, the United States and the United Kingdom.

According to “Reuters”, the variant was first spotted in Denmark on 24 July after sequencing of the virus infecting a patient at risk of becoming seriously ill”. And so it was detected “in other symptomatic patients, during routine checks at airports and in wastewater samples in a handful of countries”.

Thus, scientists have indicated that “although it was important to monitor BA.2.86, it was unlikely to cause a devastating wave of serious illness and death given the immune defenses developed worldwide as a result of vaccination and previous infection”.

WHO COVID-19 technical officer Maria Van Kerkhove said, “The numbers are still low”. But the reduction in global surveillance could lead to rapid circulation of the virus…

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HEALTH

TOBACCO CONTROL: Seven out of 10 people protected by anti-smoking measures

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A new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) highlights that 5.6 billion people, or 71% of the world’s population, are now protected by at least one good practice policy to save lives from deadly smoking, five times more than in 2007.

Over the past 15 years, since WHO’s MPOWER measures were introduced globally, smoking rates have fallen. Without this reduction, the UN World Health Agency estimates that there are now 300 million more smokers worldwide. This new WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic focuses on protecting the public from passive smoking, noting that nearly 40% of countries now have fully non-smoking indoor public places. The report assesses the progress made by countries in tobacco control and shows that two other countries, Mauritius and the Netherlands, have reached the level of best practices for all MPOWER measures, a feat that only Brazil and Turkey have achieved so far. These data show that, slowly but surely, more and more people are protected from the harms of tobacco by WHO policies based on evidence and best practices.”said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, congratulating Mauritius on becoming the first country in Africa and the Netherlands on becoming the first country in the European Union to implement WHO’s comprehensive tobacco control policies at the highest level. Eight countries are only one policy away from joining the leaders of tobacco control: Ethiopia, Iran, Ireland, Jordan, Madagascar, Mexico, New Zealand and Spain. However, much remains to be done: 44 countries are not protected by any of WHO’s MPOWER measures. At the same time, 53 countries have still not adopted a total ban on smoking in health facilities. In addition, only half of the countries have smoke-free private workplaces and restaurants.

Passive smoking
“WHO urges all countries to implement all MPOWER measures at the level of best practices to fight the tobacco epidemic, which kills 8.7 million people worldwide, and to oppose the tobacco and nicotine industries, who are lobbying against these public health measures,” said Dr Ruediger Krech, Director of Health Promotion at WHO. About 1.3 million people die each year from second-hand smoke. All of these deaths could be prevented. People exposed to second-hand smoke are at risk of dying from heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer. In this fight against tobacco, the ban on smoking in public spaces is only one of the measures of the Effective Tobacco Control Package, MPOWER, designed to help countries implement the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and stem the tobacco epidemic. The paper shows that all countries, regardless of income level, can lower the demand for deadly tobacco, achieve major public health victories and save billions of dollars in health care and production costs.

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HEALTH

SENEGAL – 400 cases of measles recorded

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Measles is back in force, with more than “400 cases recorded nationally”. It is a revelation of Doctor Boly Diop, responsible for epidemiological and post-vaccination surveillance at the Ministry of Health and Social Action, on Thursday, July 13, 2023.

“Performance in the first half of the year revealed the existence of a measles epidemic,” said Dr. Boly Diop, noting that Fatick is the only one of the country’s 14 regions that has yet to register a confirmed case of measles.

Outside of Fatick, all regions have confirmed cases of measles and there are districts that have become epidemic. This means that today, measles is back in force, there are confirmed cases and epidemics that are recorded throughout the regions,’ he said, on the sidelines of a quarterly coordination meeting for epidemiological surveillance.

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