The 10 Biggest Global Health Wins of 2018
This year puts us one step closer to achieving good health and well-being for all.
Access to good health is essential in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, as good health and well-being are fundamental to all actions in life.
Without access to good health, children struggle to attend school. Girls miss out on opportunities due to sexual and reproductive health issues, and the cycle of poverty persists as economic empowerment becomes less likely for those missing out on education and basic health care services.
Below, check out these big global health wins from 2018 — they’re just the start of good things to come in the fight to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030.
In January, vaccine manufacturer Bharat Biotech announced that the World Health Organization (WHO) had approved the development of a new rotavirus vaccine, ROTAVAC — which costs only $1 per dose.
A vaccine this contagious virus could prevent millions of deaths as rotavirus and other diarrheal diseases are the second biggest killer of children under 5 years old.
The Italian government announced in March that the country had reached its vaccination goal after making vaccines mandatory for children attending nurseries and schools.
Months later, however, Italy’s health minister Giulia Grillo announced that proof of vaccines would no longer be needed. Time will tell how that will impact future vaccination goals.
There were two Ebola outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2018, and while one continues to pose a serious threat, the first was successfully defeated in large part to the deployment of a new Ebola vaccine.
This vaccine could drastically reduce the number of deaths attributed to Ebola and prevent a devastating outbreak like the one that killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa betwen 2014 and 2016.
Sadly, the current outbreak has proven more difficult to combat, as there is conflict and war in the outbreak zone. Still, there is hope for recovery, as new experimental treatments seem to be working for patients, the New York Times reported.
In June, it was confirmed that Paraguay hadn’t seen a case of malaria in five years, so the WHO announced that the country had officially eliminated the disease.
Ghana became the first country in the WHO’s African Region to successfully eliminate trachoma as a public health problem.
Trachoma is a neglected tropical disease (NTD) that is the leading cause of preventable blindness in the world, and affects about 1.9 million people around the world, according to the WHO.
Researchers at the University of British Columbia found a way to convert all types of blood to the universal type O-negative, according to CBC.
O-negative blood works as a universal donor — it can be given to people with type A, B, AB, or O, but it is the rarest form and often the most in need.
The WHO confirmed in November that Australia had officially put an end to rubella, joining a group of over 30 countries who have all successfully eliminated the vaccine-preventable disease.
The GFF focuses on the health and nutrition of mothers, children, and adolescents around the world.
Norway’s International Development Minister Nikolai Astrup announced at the Global Citizen Festival in New York that Norway was committing $360 million to the GFF until 2023.
Today, world leaders answered the call to improve health and nutrition for millions of women & children. Thank you to @norwayMFA, @erna_solberg, Burkina Faso and the @WorldBank for hosting us all. pic.twitter.com/lA6jS7iWu8— Melinda Gates (@melindagates) November 6, 2018
Then, at the replenishment conference in Oslo in November, the UK pledged £50 million to the GFF until 2020; Germany committed €50 million subject to parliamentary approval; and Canada promised CAD $50 million specifically for 2019.
There were also donations from Denmark, Japan, Qatar, the Netherlands, and the European Commission. Countries like Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and Cote d'Ivoire committed to investing more in their domestic health budgets, and there was even a commitment of $75 million made by an anonymous donor.
Breastfeeding has multiple benefits for both mother and baby, and should never be stigmatized. This summer, it finally became legal to do it publicly across the US.
Breastfeeding could prevent 823,000 infant deaths and 20,000 maternal deaths every year, worldwide, according to the WHO.
The Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 in Johannesburg saw impactful commitments against NTDs from the END Fund, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, UK Aid, Virgin Unite, the Children's Investment Fund Foundation, the ELMA Foundation (UK), Mozambique, Botswana, and Belgium — all worth $154.9 million.
NTDs are preventable and treatable diseases, so commitments like this can go a long way in ensuring adequate attention is paid to them, and ultimately go a long way in ensuring global health security.