Author Archives: PLoS Translational Global Health

The Global Action Plan for Physical Activity

This month the World Health Organization launched the consultation on the draft global action plan to promote physical activity. The development of this action plan represents unprecedented high-level support for the physical activity agenda and reflects the advancement in science as well as the effective advocacy efforts of many NGOs and civil society. The development of the draft action plan was informed by a group of global experts representing a range of sectors including health, sport, transport, and urban planning, and spanning academics, practitioners and policymakers. The multi-sectoral nature of this group is reflective of the clear intent of the action plan – to highlight the contribution that physical activity can make to a broad range of non-health agendas, and to encourage a comprehensive and coherent response to global and national action. The over-arching goal of the strategy is to get one hundred million people more active by 2030.

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Managing overweight and obesity in children and young people

Why is excess weight a problem in children and young people? Currently too many children and adolescents across the world are already overweight or obese (i.e. too heavy for their age, height and sex). This is a concern because children with obesity are at a greater risk of developing a number of serious problems during childhood such as diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, joint and sleep complaints. Children with excess weight can also suffer from low self-esteem, stigmatization and mental health problems which can lead to reduced quality of life.

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Measuring the double burden of air pollution

On a recent trip to China to collect data on air pollution as part of the China Kadoorie Biobank prospective cohort study, Ka Hung Chan was struck by the limitations of available personal exposure collection and monitoring devices. Without improved devices and data, we won’t clear the air on pollution in heavily burdened LMICs – and generate much needed political attention and investment in prevention.   In the latest Global Burden of Disease study, ambient and household air pollution* were together ranked the 4th leading risk factors of disease burden (after dietary risks, tobacco smoke and high blood pressure), accounting for 6.5 million premature deaths in 2015. Up to 90% of these deaths occurred in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs), many of which are undergoing industrialisation and suffering from ever-worsening ambient air pollution (AAP), as well as unresolved household air pollution (HAP) from domestic solid fuel use – this is the  ‘double burden of air pollution’.   Available evidence While AAP has been rising on the global public health agenda in recent years, early epidemiological investigations begun after the infamous 1952 London smog event

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The global war on tobacco is far from over

0000-0002-1767-4576We should be proud of our efforts in Australia, but we can’t become complacent as Big Tobacco continues to sell trillions of cigarettes globally, and other industries adopt their tactics. ONE could easily be mistaken for thinking the war on tobacco is coming to a close. Lighting up a cigarette mid-flight seems absurd to us now, but was common practice just a decade or two ago. We enjoy restaurant meals and afternoon coffees without the stench of toxic smoke and we can share a night out without having to wash our clothes, or endure a husky, sore throat the following morning. Australia now has one of the lowest smoking rates in the world, with 14.7% of adults aged 18 years and over smoking daily, down from 16.1% in 2011-12.

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Multisectoral action for noncommunicable diseases – what, why, how?

developThe Sustainable Development Goals include a target (Target 3.4) to reduce the burden of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) by one third, by 2030. Several documents guide countries in achieving this target through the implementation of appropriate policy measures, including the Global Action Plan 2013 – 2020. Specifically, a multisectoral approach is one of the key actions recommended for the prevention and control of NCDs. In 2014, the UN high-level meeting (UNHLM) adopted four time-bound commitments to be achieved by 2018. One of them is having an operational multisectoral action plan (MSAP)

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Chronic kidney disease and the global NCD agenda

2017 is an important year for the international nephrology community. March 9 was World Kidney Day, the theme this year being ‘Kidney disease and obesity: healthy lifestyles for healthy kidneys’, highlighting the crucial link between the kidneys and metabolic and cardiovascular health. In April, the Global Kidney Health Atlas, one of the largest health-related country capacity reviews in history, was launched at the World Congress of Nephrology in Mexico City. The Atlas, a first for the nephrology community, is a multinational cross-sectional survey designed to assess need and capacity for kidney care worldwide and provide the foundation for a global surveillance network for chronic kidney disease (CKD) care.

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Can health ignite a political revolution?

Late last month, you could not ignore the chants of “Oh Jeremy Corbyn” to the tune of the White Stripes’ ‘Seven Nations Army’ as it echoed around the fields of Glastonbury. Regardless of your political affiliations, having hordes of young, passionate millennials singing the name of a political leader at a music festival is something which few would have predicted earlier that month. Why the change? – Could it be that young people in the UK feel a new sense of hope as they have been given a voice through health? Hope is something which has been on short supply in the UK of late

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When water doesn’t flow…

I thought it was appendicitis and feared for the worst. The car hit a few potholes and a small crater in the road. My eyes flew open and I dry heaved. ‘You’ve really done it this time, Marisa.

Posted in Aging, Climate Change, Delivery, Environment, Hub Selects, Mental Health, Publications, Research, WASH | Tagged | Comments closed

Our Oceans, Our Future: Fisheries and Climate Change.

“Our oceans, our future” was the slogan of the UN Oceans Conference held in New York in June 2017, which focused on how to sustainably manage our ocean’s marine resources. Recently published research, however, suggests something a bit different. This global analysis shows that least developed countries and Small Island developing states are among the most vulnerable to climate change impacts on fisheries. Having contributed relatively little to the problem of climate change, they may be left wondering: ‘their oceans, our future?’   This week, in newly published research, authors construct a vulnerability index for 147 countries building on the methodology of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which assesses vulnerability as a function of exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity (see Figure 1). The resulting index is based on the most recent socio-economic data, as well as future projections of climate change impacts using a variety of different scenarios and timeframes.

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The secret, hidden pricetag on your cola bottle

0000-0002-1767-4576The line at the convenience store is three people deep. Standing in front of me is a 40-something man with a bottle of cola and a newspaper. In front of him, a mother paying her utility bill accompanied by her young daughter. The mum and child leave, and the man moves forward to pay. “Two dollars?” I overhear him exclaim with surprise… “I remember when a bottle of cola was one!” As he pays and heads for the door, I too grab a newspaper and cannot help but notice the story on the front cover: the mounting crisis of costs from an obesity epidemic gripping not just the nation, but the planet – the economic and health systems already struggling to keep pace.

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World No Tobacco Day 2017

Dear Tobacco Industry Executives, We share a dream that this World No Tobacco Day will be a day like no other. Usually the focus of World No Tobacco Day is based on the fact that 7 million of your most loyal customers will die this year from tobacco use. There will be calls to raise the price of tobacco as this is the singular most important measure in reducing tobacco consumption. There will be calls to use some of these taxes to support smokers to quit by investing the funds in proven measures such as public education campaigns and quit lines. There will be calls to follow the lead of Australia, France, and the UK in implementing plain packaging to ban advertising of tobacco and to mandate smokefree environments.

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“Appendix III” is critical for accelerating progress on NCDs

Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) accounted for 70% of global deaths in 2015, with three quarters of these deaths occurring in low and middle income countries (LMICs). NCDs are a silent epidemic of premature and preventable death and disability from diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, chronic lung disease, and mental and neurological disorders. Their main risk factors – unhealthy diets, alcohol and tobacco use, physical inactivity, and environmental determinants such as air pollution, are transmitted via unhealthy environments. They are directly and indirectly caused by commercial determinants, misaligned public policies in agriculture, commerce, education, energy, health, finance, trade, and social security, and are exacerbated by social determinants including poverty and inequity. In 2011, The United Nations General Assembly declared NCDs a global health and development challenge at a UN High-Level Summit.

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New WHO policy briefs: common drivers and solutions to undernutrition and obesity

0000-0002-1767-4576This week the World Health Organization in Geneva released two new policy briefs focused on the double burden of malnutrition and double-duty actions for nutrition. The global double burden of malnutrition (WHO, 2017) Defined as the coexistence of undernutrition along with overweight, obesity or diet-related NCDs, within individuals, households and populations, and across the life-course, the double burden of malnutrition now grips many nations worldwide and presents a challenging new nutrition paradigm for policy makers and public health. This first brief outlines the three scales (individual, household and population) and many determinants of the double burden. The purpose of this policy brief is to increase attention to, and action for cost-effective interventions and policies to address the double burden of malnutrition within the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition – and, through this, to contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals of ending all forms of malnutrition (SDG2) and ensuring healthy lives and well-being for all at all ages (SDG3). The three scales at which the double burden of malnutrition can manifest (WHO, 2017) The second complementary, standalone brief introduces and explains the concept of double-duty actions

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All roads lead to Geneva

This week, health ministers from across the world are making the yearly pilgrimage to Geneva for the 70th World Health Assembly. For spectators, the importance of this week extends far beyond the official proceedings shared via livestream. It is about the closed door breakfasts, the high-level side meetings, the sponsored receptions and events, and the general atmosphere in expensive, elite Geneva as it transforms into the centre of the global health world. The stakes are even higher this year with the election of a new Director-General of the WHO at a time when new leadership and vision are sorely needed. Much has been written by Laurie Garrett, Larry Gostin, and others on reforming the WHO.

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