Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Public health round-up

Sanofi Pasteur has donated a vaccine seed-strain to WHO that is needed to make oral polio vaccine. The type 3 polio seed-strain is the original viral seed used to produce large quantities of vaccines against type 3 poliovirus. This donation now gives WHO ownership of all three seed-strain viruses (type 1, 2 and 3). This means the Organization can work directly with manufacturers to increase vaccine production for the global eradication effort. The strain will be stored at the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Fifty years after the adoption of the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, 12 million people remain without citizenship, meaning they are often denied basic rights and access to education, health care and employment. Only 38 of the 193 United Nations’ Member States have signed this treaty. UNHCR, the United Nations’ refugee agency, calls for more governments to commit to prevent statelessness and to protect displaced people.

Chinese citizens are paying 25% less than in 2008 for essential medicines, with the country’s new national medicines system in place ahead of schedule. According to the Chinese State Council Reform Office, public primary health care facilities are prohibited from applying a mark-up to drug prices and must provide essential medicines to patients at cost. All essential medicines are now on basic medical reimbursement lists and are reimbursed at significantly higher rates than non-essential drugs. Two insurance programmes have increased inpatient reimbursement to 60% or more. These announcements come from a review of China’s progress towards providing universal access to health services by 2020.

Why do some countries cope better in crises than others? A new disaster risk index could help aid organizations shape their responses when disaster strikes. The World Risk Index, launched in September by the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security in Bonn, considers 28 social, political, economic and ecological factors to determine how well a community is likely to respond to a crisis. According to the index, Afghanistan tops the list of the countries most vulnerable to disaster, while the Pacific islands of Vanuatu are ranked at highest risk of a natural hazard due to predicted rises in sea levels.

Europeans spend about 90% of their time in built and artificial environments, some of which pose a serious health threat. According to Environmental burden of disease associated with inadequate housing, a report published by the WHO Regional Office for Europe, inadequate housing causes more than 100 000 deaths per year in the region, and contributes to many preventable diseases and injuries. The report found that many homes in the European Union had health hazards such as excessive noise (22%), dampness (16%), overcrowding (18%) and inadequate heating (9%). Report available at: http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/142077/e95004.pdf

Brazilian doctor, Jose Luiz Gomes do Amaral, will take up the position of president of the World Medical Association at its Annual General Assembly this month in Uruguay. Currently president of the Brazilian Medical Association, Gomes do Amaral trained in anaesthetics and critical care. The World Medical Association represents more than 8 million physicians from 97 countries.