Action to prevent TB deaths needed, childhood vaccination increase, and other health stories you need to know about

A medical researcher studying the BCG vaccine for tuberculosis examines test samples in a laboratory.
TB is the world's deadliest infectious disease – despite being curable and preventable.
Image: REUTERS/Mike Hutchings
  • This global round-up brings you health stories from the past fortnight.
  • Top health news: failure to implement TB prevention strategies could lead to a million deaths; childhood vaccination levels improve after pandemic decline; UK depression and anxiety rates driving increase in people too ill to work.

1. Action needed to avoid 1 million TB deaths

UN health innovation agency Unitaid has warned that failing to implement contact tracing and prevention measures for tuberculosis could lead to close to a million deaths by 2035.

A joint study by Unitaid, John Hopkins University, and the Aurum Institute suggests that implementing a combined strategy of identifying household contacts and providing TB preventive treatment could save 850,000 lives by 2035.

TB is the world's deadliest infectious disease – despite being curable and preventable. The UN agency underlines that prevention is the most cost-effective strategy.

“At the moment, too many family members of people diagnosed with TB are slipping through the cracks and too many lives are being lost,” said Tess Ryckman, faculty member at Johns Hopkins.

The research comes as pharma giant Johnson & Johnson has agreed on a global deal to allow generic versions of its TB drug to be supplied to low- and middle-income countries, The Guardian reports.

Death rate from tuberculosis, by age, world, 1990 to 2019.
The global tuberculosis death rate is declining - but it remains the deadliest communicable disease
Image: Our World in Data

2. Immunization levels rebound – but coverage still falls short of pre-pandemic levels

Global immunization efforts reached more children in 2022 than 2021, new figures from the World Health Organization and UNICEF show, but more children continued to be missed than before the pandemic.

Data show 20.5 children missed out on one or more vaccines in 2022, compared to 24.4 million in 2021. This figure stood at 18.4 million in 2019, before the pandemic.

The recovery in immunization rates has not been equal globally, however. Progress in well-resourced countries with large infant populations, such as India and Indonesia, masks slower recovery, and in some cases a continued decline, in most low-income countries. This is particularly the case for measles vaccination.

Centre: Health and Healthcare

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The Global Health and Strategic Outlook 2023 highlighted that there will be an estimated shortage of 10 million healthcare workers worldwide by 2030.

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Learn more about our impact:

  • Global vaccine delivery: Our contribution to COVAX resulted in the delivery of over 1 billion COVID-19 vaccines and our efforts in launching Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, has helped save more than 13 million lives over the past 20 years.
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3. News in brief: More health stories from around the world

Depression and anxiety are the biggest drivers behind a growing number of people in the UK too ill to work. Official figures show that compared to before the pandemic an extra 412,000 people aged 16-64 were unable to work in the three months to the end of May. This marks a 20% increase.

The news comes as the Biden administration in the US is calling on insurers to improve access to mental healthcare with a proposed rule change to the 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act.

Japan is a step closer to getting its first COVID-19 vaccine, after the country's health ministry recommended approval for Daiichi Sankyo's mRNA-based shot. The vaccine, which has the brand name Daichirona, was submitted to regulators in January, and is proposed as a booster after regular immunization.

Scientists have created a new device capable of detecting coronavirus in the air within five minutes. The machine uses cyclone technology to allow near-real-time surveillance. Widespread adoption of the technology could help public health officials quickly implement disease control measures, the researchers say.

4. More on health from Agenda

Progress on reducing mother and baby deaths has stalled since 2015, according to a new World Health Organization report. Each year, 4.5 million mothers and babies die in pregnancy, childbirth or the first few weeks of life. The problem has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, rising poverty and worsening humanitarian crises, which have put immense pressure on maternity and newborn health services.

A recent study has shown a significant increase in early-onset cancers in millennials. A Western diet of processed food and a sedentary lifestyle are possible contributors, the researchers say. Over the past 30 years, cancer rates in the G20 nations have increased faster for 25- to 29-year-olds than any other age group, according to the Financial Times.

As temperatures soar in many places around the world, older adults are particularly vulnerable as their bodies don't cool down as efficiently as younger adults. Extreme heat and heat stress can exacerbate existing conditions like heart, lung and kidney disease, as well as trigger delirium.

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