January 23, 2018


A Year of Successes in Global Health: Progress on a number of human development indicators exceeded expectations in 2017, with global health benefiting from 18 major successes.  (Melvin Sanicas, Jan. 23rd, 2018, Project Syndicate)

India's elimination of active trachoma was another milestone, as it marked an important turning point in the global fight against a leading infectious cause of blindness. Last year, trachoma was also eradicated in Oman, Morocco, and Mexico.

A third key health trend in 2017 was further progress toward the elimination of human onchocerciasis, which causes blindness, impaired vision, and skin infections.

Fourth on my list is a dramatic drop in the number of guinea-worm disease infections. A mere 26 cases were recorded worldwide in 2017, down from 3.5 million cases in 1986.

Efforts to eradicate leprosy earned the fifth spot on my list, while vaccine advances in general were sixth. Highlights included a new typhoid vaccine, shown to improve protection for infants and young children, and a new shingles vaccine.

Number seven is the dramatic progress made in eliminating measles. Four countries - Bhutan, the Maldives, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom - were all declared measles-free last year.

The war on Zika is number eight on my list of health achievements in 2017. Thanks to coordinated global efforts, most people in Latin America and the Caribbean are now immune to the mosquito-borne virus, and experts believe transmission will continue to slow.

Number nine is polio eradication. Fewer than 20 new cases were reported globally, a 99% reduction since 1988. Although the year ended with reports of cases in Pakistan, health experts remain optimistic that polio can be fully eradicated in 2018.

Rounding out my top ten was the creation of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), which was established to develop vaccines for infectious disease threats. Launched with nearly $600 million in funding from Germany, Japan, Norway, the UK charity Wellcome Trust, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, CEPI aims to reduce sharply the time it takes to develop and produce vaccines.

Huge gains in disease control and prevention were made last year, and the next few items on my list (11 through 16) reflect progress on specific illnesses. 

Of course, the greatest gain is just the decline in extreme poverty, as health is generally a function of nutrition and sanitation as much as vaccines and antibiotics. 

Posted by at January 23, 2018 9:10 AM