botched Ebola response WHO

WHO should have recognised that conventional infectious disease containment measures wouldn’t work in West Africa.

The World Health Organisation (WHO), set up in 1948, is arguably the most important global health body. It manages and responds to health crises and is responsible for many huge successes in global health. Polio has been eradicated from all but three nations largely thanks to a vaccine programme initiated by WHO. It runs huge programmes combating the threat from HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis.

However, WHO has drawn criticism for its response in times of a health crisis such as the 2009 Swine Flu Epidemic, and now, the Ebola outbreak. In a leaked draft document, WHO admitted it failed in its response to the current Ebola crisis, allowing it to spread across west Africa.

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international health news october 2014

The world’s deadliest communicable diseases, and more health stories this week.

International health news

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Qatar expat worker health

Image: Doha by Darwinek (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Qatar is the latest country in the Gulf region to insist expat workers are covered by private health insurance rather than relying on state care. In order to control growing costs and manage the strain on public systems, many governments now make health insurance a requirement when issuing work visas.

The new laws in Qatar mean all private companies will be legally obliged to pay premiums for their expatriate workers by the end of 2015. The regulations will be rolled out in phases, with white-collar workers to be covered by the first quarter of next year, and blue-collar workers must be included by the end of 2015.

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UN global tobacco tax

WHO approves rise in global tobacco tax.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has approved a measure forcing countries around the world to raise excise taxes on cigarettes and tobacco products. In a secret session – the press were prohibited from attending – delegates from 179 countries representing around 90% of the global population voted to move ahead with the plan.

The ruling is a key component of the 2003 Framework Convention on Tobacco Control but critics claim it’s a step towards what will amount to a global tobacco tax. Those present at the conference called for strict pricing and taxation measures to curb the global demand for tobacco after acknowledging that an increase in price was an effective way to control tobacco use, especially among young people.

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13 october 2014 health news update

‘Giant leap’ towards type 1 diabetes cure, and other top health stories this week.

International health news

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international health insurance India

Three health insurers launch products to help Indians travel abroad for treatment.

India is fast becoming a popular medical tourism destination, attracting patients from neighbouring countries and the wider region. However, medical tourism often focuses on cosmetic and dental procedures, many Indians prefer to travel abroad in order to receive cutting edge treatment for more severe diseases.

Travelling abroad is easier said than done, the huge cost is prohibitive for many, and most health insurance plans only cover treatment within India. Realising this, three stand-alone insurance providers – Max Bupa, Religare Health and Cigna TTK – have recently launched products to cover treatment overseas.

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“Vaping bars” are becoming the hot new trend for smokers and non-smokers alike. (Image:

According to a 2013 survey by Wells Fargo, the US investment bank, the answer is yes. They believe that e-cigarettes will be outselling conventional cigarettes within a decade.

The idea for the electronic cigarette was developed by China National Tobacco Co., the largest tobacco company in the world, in 2003. Since then, the market has skyrocketed, with all the major tobacco groups including Altria, British American Tobacco Company (BAT) and Imperial Tobacco jumping on the bandwagon. The e-cigarette market is estimated to be worth £91.3 million a year.

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Aetna UltraCare plans

Aetna launches its redesigned UltraCare plans for locals and expats in China.

Aetna and Starr China launched their redesigned insurance plan, UltraCare, last month. The series of products is aimed at helping expatriates in China, as well as Chinese nationals, to access high-quality healthcare.

Expats and Chinese nationals will be able to access health care locally and globally, with an optional USA extension, through four flexible health plans – UltraCare Standard, UltraCare Select, UltraCare Comprehensive and UltraCare Elite.

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6 October 2014 health news update

Loss of the sense of smell may be linked to lifespan and more health news this week.

International health news

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elderly health benefits animals

A new report collects all the research on the health benefits of owning a pet.

As the world’s population ages and people are expected to live longer than ever, governments are increasingly looking for ways to reduce the pressure on their healthcare systems. The costs associated with chronic conditions and illnesses associated with an ageing population must be managed in order for other services not to suffer and so prices don’t become prohibitive.

A new report published by the International Federation on Ageing reviews the studies carried out on the health impacts of pets on older people between 1980 and 2013. The first-of-its-kind report, entitled, Companion Animals and the Health of Older Persons, explores how pets contribute to physical, mental, and social wellbeing of older people.

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