• This monthly roundup brings you the latest global health and wellbeing news and research.
  • Top health news stories: global confirmed COVID-19 cases pass 500 million; new breakthroughs in cancer treatment and detection; research uncovers 16 types of sleeper.

1. The latest health news

Global confirmed COVID-19 cases passed 500 million since the start of the pandemic in April. The highly contagious BA.2 subvariant of Omicron continued to drive cases across Europe and Asia.

Cumulative confirmed COVID-19 cases globally.
Cumulative confirmed COVID-19 cases globally.
Image: Our World in Data

The G20 has provisionally agreed to launch a global fund for pandemic preparedness. Such a fund would address what it called the financing gap for pandemic preparedness, prevention and action.

In England, nearly 900 type 1 diabetes patients are involved in tests of an artificial pancreas. It would remove the need for finger-prick tests and stop hypoglycaemic attacks, reports the BBC.

The World Health Organization said at least one child has died globally following an increase in acute hepatitis of unknown origin in children. At least 169 cases had been reported in children in 12 countries. Health authorities around the world are investigating a mysterious increase in severe cases of hepatitis - inflammation of the liver – in young children. The majority of cases so far have been identified in Britain.

A new case of Ebola was confirmed on 23 April in northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo. Health authorities moved to enforce urgent containment measures, just four months after the previous outbreak ended.

The UK government announced plans to eradicate slave labour from its National Health Service supply chains. "I want this to be a turning point in the UK’s mission to eradicate slavery and human trafficking in supply chains around the globe," British health minister Sajid Javid said in a statement.

What is the World Economic Forum doing to encourage healthy living in cities?

It can be tough to stay healthy when living in a big city. The Forum is responding through its Healthy Cities and Communities initiative by working to create innovative urban partnerships, which are helping residents find a renewed focus on their physical and mental health.

In 2020, the project continued to expand to new locations and has effectively helped communities impacted by COVID-19. Our work is continuing with concrete actions in 2021 where best practices and learnings from all partner cities will be shared, allowing other cities to replicate and scale.

In Jersey City, USA the Healthy Cities and Communities initiative is working with AeroFarms to deliver locally sourced vertically farmed greens to people in need. The initiative is also helping homeless people who are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

In Mumbai, India (home to more than 20 million people) the initiative is working with the local startup community and engaging them on multiple sanitation challenges.

Learn more and find out how to join the initiative in our impact story.

2. Some of the latest health research to read

A new technique could help in the early detection of pancreatic cancer, a study published in Nature Communications Medicine has found. Pancreatic cancer is difficult to detect early and also has a low survival rate, relative to other major cancer killers, reports Big Think.

Research published in the Science journal has uncovered new clues and patterns in the DNA of cancer. Researchers hope it could help understand causes that are not yet understood, and eventually boost diagnosis and treatment. Lead researcher Prof Serena Nik-Zainal, a consultant at Cambridge University Hospitals, told the BBC the study was like an "archaeological dig" of people's cancer.

Substitution mutational signatures in whole-genome–sequenced cancers in the UK population
Substitution mutational signatures in whole-genome–sequenced cancers in the UK population
Image: Science

A new study suggests that psilocybin, a drug found in magic mushrooms, could help treat severe depression. The research, published in Nature Medicine, cautions that patients with depression shouldn't take psilocybin on their own.

Headache disorders affect around half of people globally, according to new research, with each day, nearly 16% of the world's population reporting a headache. The study cautions that more and better research is needed in low- and middle-income countries, though.

A new study - not yet peer-reviewed - suggests that US life expectancy fell again in 2021. Researchers found that life expectancy dropped another 0.4 years in 2021, having fallen nearly 1.9 years in 2020.

Researchers have used fitness trackers to uncover 16 different types of sleepers. Sleepers were grouped from those who sleep all the way through the night to those who suffer significant periods of wakefulness.

A study published in Science of the Total Environment has found microplastics in the lung tissue of living people for the first time.

A report from McKinsey Health Institute has found that we're spending more years in poor health than at any other time in our history - despite rising life expectancy. However, medical and lifestyle changes could extend the number of quality years lived.