Health and Healthcare Systems

Measles warning from WHO plus other top health stories

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A vial of measles vaccine is checked at a field logistics base run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the town of Boso-Manzi in Mongala province in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

More than 50 million deaths from measles have been averted by vaccination since 2000, the WHO says. Image: REUTERS/Hereward Holland

Shyam Bishen
Head, Centre for Health and Healthcare; Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum
  • This global health round-up brings you health stories from the past fortnight.
  • Top health news: Rising measles risk, WHO says; “Worrying increase” in young people reporting mental health problems; Leaky blood vessels may cause long-COVID brain fog.

1. More than half the world is facing high measles risk, WHO says

More than half of the world’s countries will be at a high or very high risk of measles outbreaks by the end of the year unless urgent action is taken, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Measles is a highly contagious, airborne virus that mainly affects children under the age of five. It can be prevented by vaccination – more than 50 million deaths have been averted since 2000, the WHO says.

But after falling for decades, cases have been rising across most regions, mainly due to missed vaccinations during COVID-19, Reuters reports.

A chart showing how reported cases of measles have fallen across the globe in recent decades.
Reported cases have fallen across the globe in recent decades. Image: Our World in Data

Death rates from measles are higher in poorer countries with weaker health systems, but the WHO warned middle and high-income countries were also at risk. Recent outbreaks have included clusters of cases across England and a small but growing outbreak in Florida.

Natasha Crowcroft, a WHO Senior Technical Adviser on Measles and Rubella, called for urgent action from governments to protect children.

"We can see, from data that's produced with WHO data by the CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), that more than half of all the countries in the world are going to be at high or very high risk of outbreaks by the end of this year," she told a press briefing in Geneva.

Alongside getting vaccine programmes back on track, countries must detect and respond quickly to outbreaks to limit further transmission, the World Economic Forum wrote earlier this month.

2. Rise in number of young people out of work due to ill health

Young people with mental health problems are more likely to be out of work than their healthy peers, a new study says.

The report from the Resolution Foundation found the share of young people struggling with their mental health has risen over the past decade. The number of young people who are economically inactive due to ill health has risen in tandem, to 1 in 20.

“Those in their early 20s are more likely to be workless due to ill health than those in their early 40s, a radically different picture to that of the past,” the study says. “Twenty-five years ago, there was a clear pattern that the older you were, the more likely you were to be not working because of ill health.”

There has been a "worrying increase" in the share of young people reporting mental health disorders in recent years, the report says. In 2021-2022, more than one in three young people aged 18-24 reported symptoms that indicated they were experiencing a ‘common mental disorder’ such as depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder.

This upward trend has been "turbocharged" by a sharp rise in the share of young women with poor mental health, it adds.

The report calls for policy interventions that address the impact poor mental health has on young people’s educational and employment outcomes, as well as action to support those who are in work.


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

3. News in brief: Health stories from around the world

February 29, also known as Leap Day, is designated as Rare Disease Day, a global movement dedicated to championing the cause of the 300 million people living with rare diseases. To find out more about the experiences of those living with a rare disease, watch the video below.


Cases of norovirus are rising in the US, CNN reports, with data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) showing it's particularly prevalent in the Northeast. Since late January, more than 13% of tests for the virus, which causes gastrointestinal symptoms, have been coming back positive in the region.

“Brain fog” experienced by long-COVID sufferers could be caused by leaky blood vessels, according to new research published in Nature. It is hoped finding the possible cause of the condition will help develop treatments for patients in the future.

Scientists have developed a simple test they say can accurately detect breast cancer from proteins in saliva. It may be some way from reaching the market, the BBC reports, but the initial results have been described as “highly promising” and could in future reduce the cost and length of time it takes to screen and detect the illness.

A study from the American Heart Association suggests that doing as little as 30 minutes of weight training a week could lower heart disease risk. Along with improving risk indicators such as high blood pressure, resistance training can also improve other factors linked to heart disease, such as sleep and mood, the authors found.

New research has identified immune cells that maintain allergies over long periods. The discovery could lead to new ways to diagnose or treat long-held food allergies.

More than 2.5 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis were reported in the United States in 2022 as sexually transmitted infections continue to grow in the country, CNN Health reports.

Researchers at Stanford University have found that using virtual reality can improve feelings and interactions among older people, AP reports. The study is part of an effort to adapt VR to benefit seniors’ health and emotional well-being and help lessen the impact of dementia.

4. More on health from Agenda

The imperative for global health equity has never been more acute – it can uplift the most vulnerable and marginalized and strengthen the global community against future health-related challenges. Here's how organizations can work to advance it.

Identifying people at high risk of cardiovascular illness and other diseases, and steering them through clinical pathways to prevent it or reduce its impact could revolutionize healthcare. This piece looks at how strategic public-private partnerships are making it possible.

With greater awareness and funding, research can help to close the gender health gap. Here are three examples of initiatives helping to transform women's health.

1. More than half the world is facing high measles risk, WHO says2. Rise in number of young people out of work due to ill health3. News in brief: Health stories from around the world4. More on health from Agenda

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