Globalisation impacts the epidemiology of communicable diseases, threatening human health and survival globally. The ability of coronaviruses to spread, quickly and quietly, was exhibited with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in 2002–2003 and, more recently, with COVID-19. Not sparing any continent, the World Health Organization declared a COVID-19 pandemic on 11 March 2020. In an article published in the Journal of Royal Society of Medicine, we discussed how higher income countries can support the response to Covid-19 in low income countries.
Despite high-income countries being inordinately impacted, due to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases, SARS-CoV-2 continues to represent a looming threat to the Global South, leading the World Health Organization to previously state that ‘Our biggest concern continues to be the potential for COVID-19 to spread in countries with weaker health systems’ and that Africa could become the next epicentre.
However, while academics, public health experts and macroeconomists discuss among themselves, using collaborative strategies to reduce morbidity, mortality and economic devastation, these discussions have not involved low- and middle-income countries. COVID-19 may cause unprecedented humanitarian health needs in countries already subjected to unaffordable, fragmented and fragile health systems; as COVID-19 unfolds a worldwide economic crisis, with the poor and other vulnerable groups affected disproportionately, building health system resilience, through an urgent and coordinated global response, that allocates resources and funds efficiently, must be prioritised in this dynamic and shifting pandemic.
Globally, more than 2 billion children and adults suffer from health problems related to being overweight or obese, and an increasing percentage of people die from these health conditions, according to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, to which I contributed.
They are dying even though they are not technically considered obese. Of the 4.0 million deaths attributed to excess body weight in 2015, nearly 40% occurred among people whose body mass index (BMI) fell below the threshold considered “obese.”
The findings represent “a growing and disturbing global public health crisis,” according to the authors of the paper published today in The New England Journal of Medicine. In the UK, nearly a quarter of the adult population – 24.2% or 12 million people – is considered obese. Additionally, 1 million British children are obese, comprising 7.5% of all children in the UK.
Among the 20 most populous countries, the highest level of obesity among children and young adults was in the United States at nearly 13%; Egypt topped the list for adult obesity at about 35%. Lowest rates were in Bangladesh and Vietnam, respectively, at 1%. China with 15.3 million and India with 14.4 million had the highest numbers of obese children; the United States with 79.4 million and China with 57.3 million had the highest numbers of obese adults in 2015.
The study was reported by many media outlets including the Guardian and CBS News.
The School of Public Health at Imperial College London has been awarded funding as part of a UK drive to tackle global health challenges. The work is funded by Research Councils UK as part of the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), a £1.5 billion fund launched by the UK government in 2015. The fund aims to support cutting-edge research which addresses the global issues faced by developing countries in areas including agriculture, medicine, well-being and infrastructure.
The GCRF funding will also enable Imperial Professors Azeem Majeed, Toby Prevost and Mala Rao to investigate low cost technologies for screening for diabetic eye disease, a leading cause of blindness in India, in partnership with clinicians from Moorfield’s Eye Hospital in London. Professor Mala Rao, who is leading Imperial’s contribution to the project, said: “This award offers a very exciting opportunity for us to work together to transform the lives of people with diabetes and diabetic eye disease in particular, not only in India but worldwide, and to reduce the costs of diabetic eye screening in the NHS. We are thankful for this amazing chance to make a difference.” The project lead is Professor Sobha Sivaprasad from Moorfield’s Hospital in London.