Weekly health roundup January 30

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International health news

US President Donald Trump has reinstated a rule that blocks all funding to international organizations that provide abortions or information on abortion. Introduced by Reagan in 1984, the law, known variably as the ‘Mexico City policy’ or ‘global gag rule’, has been alternatively repealed and reinstated every time the White House has changed its colours. Detractors have criticized the policy as dangerous for women’s health and lives, especially in developing countries. The order has left NGOs worldwide scrambling to find funding elsewhere to be able to keep in place their family planning programs.

According to a report by the British Medical Journal, the world is still not well-equipped to deal with international health emergencies. The experts highlighted shortcomings in the response to Ebola and found that these have not been adequately addressed, suggesting that over 11,000 lives could have been saved.

The World Health Organization has advised countries around the world to monitor and report any signs of a new bird flu epidemic. New cases of people affected with different strains of the flu have been reported in Europe and Asia.

Country updates

Last Monday news broke that the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) had canceled a planned conference on the effects of climate change on health just before the Trump inauguration. Many have linked this to the skeptical position of the new administration regarding the issue. Later last week, it was announced that the conference will in fact go ahead, albeit a shorter affair that won’t include the CDC. Many of the original participants are expected to attend.

Health practitioners in the state of Washington are fighting a mumps outbreak that began at the end of last year and has infected at least 80 people. Although many of the affected had been vaccinated, experts say the vaccination program has been effective, reducing the potential cases to a minimum.

The Dutch government is contributing €10.7 million to an international fund it created that provides healthcare to women in developing nations. The initiative is in response to President Trump’s reinstatement of the “global gag rule”, which bans funding for organizations that provide abortions.

The Health Insurance Authority in Ireland has put in place a new rule that requires foreign students from outside the European Economic Area to have full health cover, instead of the basic coverage that was previously required. This change is projected to increase the individual expense from €40-150 to €500-1000.

Health advice

A new study published in Psychiatry Research has concluded that mindfulness meditation can be an effective tool to handle stress. The people who went through a meditation course were able to perform better under stress compared to the control group.

Scientists at Iowa State University studied gym goers and found that they displayed a wide range of benefits and better health indicators, including better cardiovascular measures and lower rates of obesity.

Eating burned starchy foods can increase the risk of cancer. The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) reported that high temperatures can produce acrylamide, a harmful chemical. The FSA has described the risk as not significant but easily reducible.