2016: Of uncertainties and some advances in global health

| Updated on January 12, 2018


This year ends in uncertain times for the world’s political order, the fate of a damaged planet, the seemingly boundless human suffering experienced by civilians and health care staff in war zones, and the continuing failure of antibiotics that once gave medicine its “miracle” cures.

In a statement, World Health Organisation Director-General Margaret Chan said, the world was alerted on the shortage of vaccines in Africa, the harm done to young people’s health by gender and social inequalities, increasing deaths in Europe linked to alcohol consumption, the scale of childhood hearing loss, and the massive health consequences of polluted air. This stimulated research and action. And by working with multiple partners, the WHO helped secure dramatic price reductions for new hepatitis C treatments. The Ebola outbreak was declared over and Zika was designated as an international public health emergency.

The WHO also responded to emergencies caused by natural disasters, armed conflicts in the Middle East, and the vast humanitarian crises in South Sudan and Nigeria. The demands on the resources of the international community, especially in country, were enormous. The year was especially good for tobacco control, with more countries passing laws mandating plain packaging and Uruguay legally defeating the world’s largest tobacco company. Advances in AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria made headlines, as did the outcome of the UN Highlevel Meeting on Antimicrobial Resistance. The support for universal health coverage keeps getting stronger.

The WHO issued economic arguments for investing in mental health and the health workforce, witnessed landmark commitments and urged countries to tax sugar-sweetened beverages. Some of the best news comes with the shrinking map of infectious diseases, as more countries eliminate neglected tropical diseases.

During 2016, the Americas was declared free of measles, Europe was declared free of malaria, and Region of South East Asia beat maternal and neonatal tetanus.

Published on January 02, 2017

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