Global Health blog

27 April 2016

Can the air we breathe be increasing our risk of diabetes?

World Health Day
this year focuses on diabetes prevention and treatment with emphasis on what lifestyle changes people can make to stop themselves getting diabetes. There is some intriguing evidence that although lifestyle factors are influential we should also be considering some other environmental factors that could be influencing the risk of disease. One of those factors is air pollution.

Read more at: CABI's blog "Handpicked and carefully sorted"

23 March 2016

Traffic congestion lowers air quality and increases risk of road traffic accidents

Traffic congestion causes air pollution and road traffic accidents
Traffic jams are bad for your health and the environment

congestion is a public health issue. It increases air pollution which is a known cause of asthma, lung cancer and cardiovascular diseases, and in particular creates "hotspots" of low air quality borne by local residents.  It increases the risk of traffic accidents through poor driver behaviour and judgement. 

One morning last week, I was stuck in a traffic jam several miles long on the A40 outside Oxford, caused by the super-duper high-flow-thru roundabout at Headington being brought to a halt by roadworks eliminating one lane on one exit and a traffic light failing on another!

Those of you who commute to Oxford will pick up my ironic tone: we have had to endure doubling of commuting times & traffic jams for the past 2 years as Oxford has “improved” each roundabout by turn around the ring road!

Philosophical (I wasn’t going anywhere fast), I found myself wishing the clock turned back to a time when most people lived and worked in the same town, and then I moved on to wishing for a reality where “pass me the floo powder and where is the nearest fireplace?”[Harry Potter], or “beam me up scotty!” [Star Trek]  were actual options. These options would improve my quality of life, my health, and my climate. And of course everyone else’s.

Read more on Handpicked and Carefully Sorted


22 March 2016

Cities improve air quality and public health by banning cars

Air pollution caused by traffic is major health problem in Indian cities
India:Traffic jams cause air pollution

In January 2016, Delhi [India] conducted a 2-week  air pollution reduction experiment, with private cars allowed on the streets only on alternate days, depending on license plate numbers.   The idea is not new and has been tried elsewhere (Paris and Rome) but I guess its novelty (“who’d have thought” brigade) to the USA explained why it made The New York Times! 

Last year, it was all headlines about Bejing [China] and the air quality citizens had to deal with. However it would seem that actually Beijing’s levels of PM10 (particulate matter up to 10 micrometres in size), a measure of air quality, decreased by 40% from 2000 to 2013, whereas Delhi's PM10 levels have increased 47% from 2000 to 2011.

Delhi's PM10 levels are nearly twice as much as in Beijing, and that explains the license plate experiment.

Read more on Handpicked and Carefully Sorted

24 February 2016

Aedes aegypti - why is it such a good disease vector?

Aedes_breeding places_94883_10

Seeing the Zika virus epidemic in South America it is hard to believe that just 50 years ago the Aedes mosquitoes that spread it  and several other tropical diseases were nearly eliminated in that region. Ever since then it seems we have been going backwards in mosquito control. Aedes aegypti seems to be adapted to city life and is thriving in the rapidly growing mega cities of South America.

Read more on the CABI blog "Handpicked and carefully sorted"

04 December 2015

Can eating insects feed the world in 2050?

Deep-fried locusts, crickets and beetles for sale on a food stall in Bangkok, Thailand.
CC By-SA 3.0.

Many non-western cultures already eat insects [entomophagy]: in Thailand its a common streetfood as you can see in the picture, but its an unusual  and frankly unheard of cuisine in the UK.  AS you will see though, CABI staff have an interest in entomophagy AND we have blogged about global entomophagy before [Roasted grasshopper with a sprinkling of termites].

On 18th November 2015, studio guests, and listeners, of BBC Radio 4 - Midweek were treated to the experience of eating insects as food!  Dr Sarah Beynon, an entomologist was a guest: she is on a mission to both educate the UK public on the importance of insects (including wasps and spiders) and to provide sustainable food by farming tropical insects. 

She had brought in samples of insect protein  which is on the menu at her café, The Grub Kitchen. The café is the latest venture for her Bugfarm in Wales, which functions as  a research & education centre as well as providing dungbeetles for UK farmers to convert dung into compost! 

Guests sounded wary but chef Michel Roux Jnr pronounced the chocolate cookie made with ground cricket flour, sugar and chocolate, as “very nice” and described it as both chocolatey and having a novel “meaty” taste.  Another description was “marmity”: hardly surprising considering marmite was developed from yeast as an alternative to meat extract. 

Weight for weight, we were told, cricket flour is higher in protein than beef. 

Other delicacies available at the café include grasshoppers (taste like tea), mealworm hummus, and gourmet bug burgers containing mealworms, crickets and grasshoppers. By customer request coming soon will be burgers containing crunchy intact mealworms!

Food security for 2050: using insect protein will take the pressure off agricultural land

“WE need to look at new ways of producing food and we think this [tropical insect farming] is one of the ways of doing it” declared Dr Beynon.

In this post, I will also highlight CABI's role in ProteINSECT, the EU programme trialling insect protein in animal feed as a way to meet the meat demands expected for 2050, and at the same time minimise environmental impact.

Read more

03 December 2015

What is a sustainable diet? - a vision from the FENS conference

Climate change is on everyone’s lips, but we are only just beginning to see how our diets might need to change to help prevent it and deal with the challenges of a growing population. I heard more about the question of sustainable diets at a series of sessions at the FENS conference on nutrition last month that I attended in my capacity as nutrition subject specialist for Global Health database.  Dr Karl von Koerber of the Sustainable Nutrition Working Group in Munich, Germany, gave us the best view of what might constitute sustainable diet in Europe. It looks more like this:


than this:


Read more on Handpicked and Carefully Sorted....

30 November 2015

The sugar industry and the World Health Organization – still at odds

Pixabay_crystalI recently attended the International Sugar Organization’s annual conference in London, hoping to hear Dr. Francesco Branca of the World Health Organization explaining the rationale for the WHO’s recommendations on how much sugar people should eat, and see what response he got from the assembled sugar industry representatives and how he responded to that. As a reasonably independent observer (CABI publishes Sugar Industry Abstracts, but does much work on nutrition and health as well) I was looking forward to this. Unfortunately, however, he didn’t turn up due to other commitments, and sent a video presentation instead.

Continue reading "The sugar industry and the World Health Organization – still at odds" »

18 September 2015

Migrants fleeing conflict: lessons for mass-migration due to climate change

A Syrian refugee and her newborn baby at a clinic in Ramtha, Jordan
Image: CC.Russell Watkins/Department for International Development, UK

 AS I write this I have a sense of déjà vu.
Public health professionals as far back as the 6th ECTMIH conference [2009], which I attended, recognised that very little was being done in Europe to address mass migration (at that time from Sub-Saharan Africa). Travel medicine specialists were refocusing their research onto migration and asking why this was not being reflected in travel medicine text books and journals.

“Does anyone ever ask if migrants suffer from diarrhoea?” asked Manuel Corachan [CRESIB, Spain], one of the plenary lecturers at the conference.  

At that time, Italy (conference host) was bearing the brunt of illegal migration. The conference debated the needs of illegal migrants to Italy, the importance to public health in the host country of giving them access to health services and of having an awareness of disease prevalence & cultural attitudes in the migrant’s home country. In 2011, the  organisers of ECTMIH , the Federation of European Societies for Tropical Medicine and International Health (FESTMIH) devoted the entire conference to “global change, migration & health”. 

But this foresight was not just ethically driven, it was in expectation of mass migration into Europe due to climate change.

What we are now seeing, less than 6 years later, headlining our daily news and social media is a trial run for what is to come. What was previously perceived as a problem arising out of climate change has hit the EU earlier than might have been anticipated because of people fleeing conflict and dictatorship.

Read more at:  Hand Picked and Carefully Sorted 

14 September 2015

TTIP and its potential impacts on health in Europe

Pixabay_business-361488_640Concern is rising in the European public health community about the TTIP trade agreement, an agreement being negotiated between the US and the EU Commission to reduce barriers to trade. While there may be economic benefits, the agreement could have a health and environmental cost. The public health and environmental communities think it will weaken the power of governments to make laws to protect their citizens’ health and the environment.

Read more at: Hand Picked and carefully sorted


31 July 2015

MERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Virus Syndrome) strikes the UK

  Coughs  Sneezes Spread Diseases2

This week, the UK became the latest country in 2015 to suffer suspected MERS cases.  Two suspected cases of the Middle Eastern Respiratory Virus Syndrome (MERS) have forced a hospital in Manchester to shut its emergency department.  In May, similar events in South Korea [Republic of Korea], mishandled through ignorance and poor infection control within several hospitals, caused multiple outbreaks and a national emergency. 36 people died and thousands of contacts had to be traced. Manchester has obviously learnt from their experience.

MERS is the latest virus to act as a global threat, hot on the heels of Ebola and SARS. It emerged in 2012 and has been an ongoing problem spreading to 10 countries in the Middle East, but the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014, replaced it in world headlines (read MERS the next pandemic threat,  one of our previous blogs).

What would happen should MERS ever reach a country with a poor health system?

Read more on Middle Eastern Respiratory Virus Syndrome strikes the UK

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