Weekly health roundup January 17

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International health news

A new report by the WHO and the US National Cancer Institute claims that pressure and threats from tobacco companies are preventing poorer countries from effectively tackling the smoking epidemic. Even though smoking costs the global economy $3 trillion per year, countries fear possible lawsuits if they raise taxes on cigarettes and take stronger measures on tobacco control. Experts have been constantly debunking the claims that regulation could damage the economy and pledged support for measures that could reportedly lead to a 9% decline in smoking rates and an estimated 66 million fewer smokers.

The death of a 70-year-old woman in Nevada has reignited attention in the phenomena of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Her infection was found to be resistant to all 26 types of antibiotics present in the US. Though pan-resistant infections are still rare, they are expected to increase in the future. The WHO has launched an action plan to tackle antibiotic resistance in November 2015, focused on safe use of antibiotics and research, and several countries are implementing measures to prevent infections.

Country updates

As the Trump inauguration looms and the repeal of Obamacare seems imminent, the New York Attorney General has proposed plans to guarantee free contraception to all those insured in the state. Several other US states have either implemented or proposed similar measures.

The NHS crisis in the United Kingdom has deepened in the first weeks of the new year. The Observer reports that hospitals are now calling cancer patients to cancel planned surgeries. The soaring patient numbers have put a strain on the already fragile NHS system which lacks both staff and hospital beds. This report comes just after an analysis of the Royal College of Surgeons found that over 190,000 patients had to wait more than 18 weeks for surgery. The pressure on NHS hospitals does not seem to be reducing any time soon and many have called for Theresa May’s government to intervene to alleviate the unsustainable situation.

Brazil has declared a state of emergency last Friday following an outbreak of yellow fever in rural areas, as suspected cases have doubled in a few days. Though cyclical outbreaks of the disease have affected rural Brazil in the past, health experts worry that if it reaches cities infested with disease-carrying mosquitoes, it could set off an epidemic. Ministers in the affected region have reassured the public and stated that the declaration of emergency improves their ability to effectively deal with the disease.

Health advice

Getting healthy in the new year doesn’t have to be made of drastic changes and big resolutions. Experts suggest that smaller changes to your behavior that can be transformed into habits are more likely to be successful and to be maintained in the long haul.

Excessive use of smartphones can affect both physical and mental health. A New York psychotherapist suggests limiting technology in the daily life can positively affect both the brain, which can find time to relax and reboot, and the body, set free of the sedentary lifestyle demanded by technology.

About Laura Gagliardi

Laura is a recent graduate from Italy who currently lives in Madrid, after four years spent studying in the United Kingdom. She loves to travel and spends her free time reading and writing.