Day 586

“In an interconnected world characterized by profound mobility of people and goods, few threats to health are local anymore.
Air pollution is a trans-boundary hazard that affects the global atmosphere and contributes to climate change.
Drug-resistant pathogens, including the growing number of “superbugs”, travel well internationally in people, animals, and food.
The marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages, especially to children, is now a global phenomenon.
Safeguarding the quality of pharmaceutical products has become much harder, with complex manufacturing procedures and supply chains spanning multiple companies and countries.
Ensuring the quality of the food supply is also much harder when a single meal can contain ingredients from all around the world, including some potentially contaminated with exotic pathogens.
The refugee crisis in Europe taught the world that armed conflicts in faraway places will not stay remote.
The Ebola outbreak in 3 small countries paralyzed the world with fear and travel constraints.
Last year, a business traveller returning home to the Republic of Korea, infected with the MERS coronavirus, disrupted the country’s economy as well as its health system.
The rapidly evolving outbreak of Zika warns us that an old disease that slumbered for 6 decades in Africa and Asia can suddenly wake up on a new continent to cause a global health emergency.
This year’s appearance of urban yellow fever in Africa, now confirmed in the capital cities of Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo, is yet another serious event with potential for further international spread.”
– an except from the address to the 69th World assembly by Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization. Geneva, Switzerland. 23 May 2016.

While there was much to celebrate and worry about in her speech, it mainly focussed on physical illnesses. ‘Non-communicable disease’ and ‘drug problem’ were the possible indirect references to mental illnesses. 

In 2013, the Lancet published the largest study looking at Global Burden of Disability (GBD) caused by mental illness. It used DALY as the unit of measurement. DALY stands for Disability Adjusted Life Years.  One DALY equals 1 year of healthy life lost. The highest DALYs attributable to mental illness and Substance use disorder were found between 10-29 years of age. Majority were due to depression, followed by anxiety and then Drug and alcohol disorders. As compared to 1990, the rise in disabilty from these causes in 2010 were 37.6% higher. These findings show the striking and growing challenge that these disorders pose for health systems in developed and developing regions. In view of the magnitude of their contribution, improvement in population health is only possible if countries make the prevention and treatment of mental and substance use disorders a public health priority.


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