Health and Healthcare

COP28 hosts first-ever Health Day, and other health stories you need to know this week

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Over $700 million in financing was offered on Health Day by COP28 hosts the United Arab Emirates and various charities to help eradicate neglected tropical diseases.

Over $700 million in financing was offered on Health Day by COP28 hosts the United Arab Emirates and various charities to help eradicate neglected tropical diseases. Image: REUTERS/Rula Rouhana

Shyam Bishen
Head, Centre for Health and Healthcare; Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum
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  • This global round-up brings you health stories from the past fortnight.
  • Top health news: COP28 hosts first-ever Health Day; 5 million deaths annually from fossil fuel air pollution, study says; Bird flu on the rise.

1. COP28 holds first-ever Health Day - this is what happened

COP28 hosted the climate conference's first-ever Health Day on 3 December, with more than 40 million health professionals joining the World Health Organization's (WHO) call for health to be prioritized amid climate negotiations.

The day before, 123 countries signed the COP28 UAE Declaration on Climate and Health, which highlights "the severe health implications of climate change", and the urgent need for governments to prepare healthcare systems to cope with climate-related impacts such as extreme heat, air pollution and infectious diseases.

“The climate crisis is a health crisis, but for too long, health has been a footnote in climate discussions,” commented WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on the new declaration.

Over $700 million in financing was offered on Health Day by COP28 hosts the United Arab Emirates and various charities to help eradicate neglected tropical diseases that scientists expect to see more cases of as a result of the climate crisis.

This comes after the Director-General of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Jean Kaseya, told Reuters that climate change is the biggest threat to human health in Africa and the rest of the world.

I participated in a panel at COP28 discussing the importance of public-private partnerships for healthcare climate action, you can read more about the session here.

Almost 60% of Americans believe the climate crisis is harming their health.
Almost 60% of Americans believe the climate crisis is harming their health. Image: Statista

2. 5 million deaths a year from fossil fuel air pollution – new study

New research has found that air pollution resulting from fossil fuel usage is responsible for 5 million deaths a year – a figure much higher than previously estimated, reports The Guardian.

Close to two-thirds of the 8.3 million total worldwide deaths in 2019 from outdoor air pollution can be attributed to fossil fuel pollution, the study says.

It comes as the European Environment Agency (EEA) reported that almost 400,000 deaths in Europe in 2021 were linked to three types of air pollution – fine particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and short-term ozone exposure.

"Air pollutant concentrations in 2021 remained well above the levels recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) in its air quality guidelines," the EEA said.

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What is the World Economic Forum doing to improve healthcare systems?

3. News in brief: More health stories from around the world

A surge in respiratory illnesses in China in early December has been found to be caused by known pathogens and there is no sign of new infectious diseases, according to a health official there.

In the UK, officials are investigating a case of swine flu in a human who has had no contact with pigs. The person has fully recovered, but investigations continue to discover the origin of the infection, the BBC reports.

Meanwhile, bird flu has begun its seasonal wave. In France, poultry farms are having to keep birds indoors to halt the spread of the disease. More than 11,000 turkeys have been culled in Germany after an outbreak there. And, in Japan, the first case of bird flu this season has been detected at a poultry farm in the south of the country.

Life expectancy in South Korea has fallen for the first time since 1970, according to the OECD. Those born in 2022 are expected to live to 82.7 years – compared to 83.6 years in 2021 – as a result of deaths from COVID-19.

The opposite has occurred in the US, where babies born in 2022 gained around a year of life compared to those born in 2021, data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows.

Early-onset dementia is three times more likely to occur in people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, a new study has found.

A rise in AIDS infections is being attributed to "an unprecedented backlash against human rights that is stigmatizing the groups most at risk of HIV infection", the UN AIDS programme warns.

Cardiovascular illnesses may soon be discovered via a laser camera that can detect a person's heartbeat from a distance, without the need for stethoscopes, or indeed, a doctor's surgery. The technology could be set up in shopping malls or people's homes, reports The Guardian.

4. More on health from Agenda

Progress on malaria in Africa is stalling or going into reverse. New vaccines and mosquito nets provide hope of increasing preventive coverage and protection. While coordinated investments can strengthen health systems in preparation, write Lady Roslyn Morauta Chair of The Global Fund and José-Manuel Barroso, Chair of Gavi the Vaccine Alliance.

The UK has become the first country in the world to approve a CRISPR-based gene therapy for the treatment of sickle cell anaemia and beta thalassemia. Gene therapy is a comparatively new and rapidly growing corner of medicine that may help treat a wide variety of conditions in the future. Here's what you need to know.

A survey by the White Ribbon Alliance asked more than a million women and girls around the world: “What do you want most for your health and well-being?” Among the findings was the need for a more holistic approach to women's healthcare.

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Contents
1. COP28 holds first-ever Health Day - this is what happened2. 5 million deaths a year from fossil fuel air pollution – new study3. News in brief: More health stories from around the world 4. More on health from Agenda

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