Amazing gains in global health – 2015

Plenty to celebrate in efforts to lessen human suffering and disease

WE GET SO caught up these days in the Donald and Hillary and Ted and Bernie shows.  Yet there is so much else going on in the world about which Americans never hear.

Permit me to draw attention to This Week in Global Health (TWiGH) which has been producing weekly live online programming on global health topics since mid-2014.  Hosted by Dr. Greg Martin, editor of Globalization and Health, (an open access journal) it’s compelling and accessible.  Recently, the group asked its experts to identify big accomplishments in global health in 2015.  The list grabbed my attention, so here it is – see the YouTube video as well.

  1. Malaria: After 30 years and $565 million, 2015 saw the development of the first-ever malaria vaccine; 50 percent of world population is at risk at risk and this development just might transform millions of lives for the better.
  1. HIV: The World Health Organization updated its guidelines for HIV treatment, recommending that it be universal and that everyone should be treated as soon as positive test result is made; those on treatment are far less likely to transmit the virus to another person.
  1. Climate change: The Paris Agreement on climate change puts in place the first international brakes on global warming, with 196 participating nations, and legally binding when signed by at least 35 countries.
  1. Bariatric Surgery: Though the spread of this treatment is controversial, it is considered the most important breakthrough in diabetes care since the discovery of insulin, with unrivaled health benefits.
  1. Ebola: We are seeing the beginning of the end of the West African Ebola Crisis – though the ordeal is far from over for 17,000 survivors.
  1. Polio: Last year we saw the elimination of polio from the African continent – the last cases were in Nigeria, and in September the WHO said that polio is no longer endemic in Nigeria. Only Afghanistan and Pakistan remain as countries with polio.  Eradication is possible!
  1. Approval of the Sustainable Development Goals: 2015 saw the final approval of new international health and social development goals; compared with the earlier Millennium Development Goals, these are more comprehensive, more inclusive, and financed to encourage sustainable development.
  1. Research: A Nobel Prize was awarded to researchers for novel therapies for parasitic diseases and malaria, demonstrating the vital role and positive impact of research on global health.
  1. Ending Extreme Poverty: The number of people living in extreme poverty (defined as less than $1.90 per day) is down 10 percent, down from over 900 million in 2012 to under 700 million now; a big Millennium Development Goal is to end extreme poverty by 2030.
  1. Maternal & Child Health: Infant mortality is down to an all time low, down 54 percent since 1990, down by to 5.9 million, from 63 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 32 in 2015; maternal mortality is down 44 percent.
  1. Water – In 2015, 91 percent of the world’s population had access to an improved drinking-water source, compared with 76 percent in 1990.
Meet the Author

Well, wow!  I didn’t know that! Let’s notice and celebrate real progress for citizens of the world.  Let’s hope that 2016 brings other good news for the world.

John E. McDonough is a professor at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and blogs at healthstew.com.