This week’s roundup brings us as close as we get to celebrity news on the PATH Blog, albeit celebrity news of a serious sort. Bill Gates has released his fifth Annual Letter outlining his thoughts on global health. This year, he focuses on how we measure the impact of our work to improve lives. As he points out, it doesn’t sound sexy, but it’s crucial if we’re to achieve greater progress. As for Lady Sybil from the popular series “Downton Abbey,” get ready for a spoiler that might also inform you about a condition that is still a major cause of maternal deaths.
My annual letter: how we measure impact to improve lives
Impatient Optimists, January 30, 2013
Today I am launching my Annual Letter. This year, I concentrate on the power of clear goals and accurate measurement—simple concepts really—to improve the lives of the poorest people around the globe. It may not be the sexiest of themes, but the proof of its impact is undeniable. The lives of the poorest have improved more rapidly in the last 15 years than ever before. During that time, the number of people living in extreme poverty has been reduced by half—extraordinary progress in a short period of time.
Lady Sybil’s shocking death. Did it have to happen?
Washington Post, January 28, 2013
Most of the viewers of “Downton Abbey” who saw Lady Sybil die in childbirth Sunday night were left with a long list of questions accompanying their shock and grief. What did she die of? Was the diagnosis clear? Could she have been saved? In a show with punctilious art direction, how realistic was this death?
Lady Sybil died of eclampsia, a condition of unknown cause that used to be called “toxemia of pregnancy.”
Should you get the HPV vaccine?
Slate, January 25, 2013
The human papillomavirus has the dubious distinction of being the sexually transmitted disease you are most likely to get. It’s also the leading cause of cervical cancer. January has, somewhat arbitrarily, been dubbed Cervical Health Awareness Month (also National Hobby Month and Hot Tea Month, the last at least for good reason). While cervical cancer is the disease most commonly associated with HPV, a recent report from the American Cancer Society emphasizes that HPV’s threat is not gender-specific or organ-specific. While cervical cancer cases are in decline (as are general cancer rates), cancers linked to HPV are on the rise.
How the world gets sick and dies
The Atlantic, January 24, 2013
The Manhattan Project created the atomic bomb through an unprecedented combination of brainpower and money. Fifty years later, the same model helped the Human Genome Project map our genetic code. The ambition of these projects was matched only by the public hoopla surrounding them. But last month, with little fanfare, public health revealed its own foray into “Big Science”: the Global Burden of Disease.
At its most basic level, the Global Burden of Disease addresses three questions: what makes people sick; how sick does it make them; and what causes people to die? To answer these questions, 486 researchers around the world came together to make model of the world’s health. The report, published last month in The Lancet, has no explicit policy positions. But, by creating a holistic portrait of health around the world, it creates unrivaled evidence for how health has changed over time and what areas need the most attention. Health policy and funding from the WHO and many other organizations will focus on the areas of need outlined by the Global Burden of Disease.