Weekly health roundup February 21

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International health news

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, Bill Gates warned that “a fast-moving airborne pathogen could kill more than 30 million people in less than a year”. He stated that it would either occur naturally or as a bioterrorist threat, and could develop within the next 10 to 15 years. The warning came with an urge for stronger international planning and cooperation to cope with such an occurrence.

Following Trump’s reintroduction of the Mexico City Policy, the Australian government has announced that it will give AUD $9.5 million to the International Planned Parenthood Federation, one of the organisations targeted by the ‘global gag rule’. The money will help to fill the enormous gap in international funding for abortion services and abortion-related information created by the policy.

Researchers at the University of Cardiff have created a new, faster way of making disease-fighting compounds, including that of the antimalarial drug. The process so far has been both slow and expensive, but the new method should help to resolve both issues, whilst hopefully attracting drug manufacturers.

Country updates

A report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information found that Canadians wait longer to receive healthcare than most people worldwide. Only 43% are able to get a same-day or next-day appointment with their local or regular doctor, compared with 77% in the Netherlands. Despite this, 74% of Canadians stated that they received ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’ health care from their local provider.

Insurance companies in Dubai have introduced a new international health insurance plan aimed towards SMEs. The plan will offer more healthcare benefits to employees, benefitting much of the expat community within the emirate.

Health advice

Taking vitamin D pills could be more effective against flu than the flu vaccination itself. Researchers at Queen Mary University of London found that fortifying food with the vitamin in countries with low levels of sunlight, like the UK, could prevent millions of people each year contracting the flu.  

Scientists have warned that using fitness and health apps could be more harmful than beneficial. Researchers like Professor Greg Hager of John Hopkins University have stated that instead of having a basis in science, these apps promote generalised goals that are not tailored to individuals.