Friday October 20, 2017

WHO: Tax on Sugary Drinks Could Help Curb Global Obesity

The widespread consumption of sugar is a major factor in the growing global obesity epidemic

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FILE - Sodas and energy drinks line the shelves in a grocery store in Springfield, Illinois, May 18, 2016. The World Health Organization recommends countries use tax policy to increase the price of sugary drinks as a way to fight obesity and diabetes.(VOA)
  • The WHO estimates 42 million children under age 5 were overweight or obese last year. This represents an increase of about 11 million during the past 15 years. Nearly half of these children live in Asia and 25 percent in Africa
  • The WHO report says China tops the worldwide obesity rankings with 43 million men and 46 million women.
  • The United States, which has been bumped into second place, has 41.7 million men and 46 million women who are obese.

Geneva, October 12, 2016: The World Health Organization (WHO) says the widespread consumption of sugar is a major factor in the growing global obesity epidemic. To help counter the trend, the U.N. agency is calling on governments to tax sugary drinks to lower consumption and reduce this worldwide health risks.

The call coincides with the publication of a new WHO report that found that in 2014 more than one third of adults around the world were overweight, with half a billion considered obese.

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More troubling, the WHO estimates 42 million children under age 5 were overweight or obese last year. This represents an increase of about 11 million during the past 15 years. Nearly half of these children live in Asia and 25 percent in Africa.

The U.N. agency says unhealthy diets are behind the rise in diabetes, which now accounts for more than 422 million cases and an estimated 1.5 million deaths a year. It says the consumption of sugar, including products like sugary drinks, is a major factor in the global increase of obesity and diabetes.

Temo Waganivalu, coordinator for WHO’s Department for the Prevention on Non-Communicable Diseases, told VOA putting a tax on sugary drinks would reduce consumption and save lives.

FILE - A woman walks along a boardwalk in New York. The WHO recommends people keep their sugar intake at below 10 percent of their total energy needs.(VOA)
FILE – A woman walks along a boardwalk in New York. The WHO recommends people keep their sugar intake at below 10 percent of their total energy needs.(VOA)

“If we increase the tax and that gets passed on to the consumers resulting in a 20 percent increase in price, you are more likely to get, and I say proportional, a 20 percent reduction in the consumption. In addition… you will be more likely to achieve the ultimate health outcome we are aiming for, which is the reduction in obesity and diabetes,” she said.

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Waganivalu said Mexico, which in 2014 introduced a 10 percent tax on sugary drinks, had a 6 percent reduction in consumption by the end of the year. Among poor people, the number of consumers decreased by 17 percent.

The WHO report says China tops the worldwide obesity rankings with 43 million men and 46 million women. The United States, which has been bumped into second place, has 41.7 million men and 46 million women who are obese.

The WHO recommends people keep their sugar intake at below 10 percent of their total energy needs, and reduce it to less than 5 percent for additional health benefits. It warns people to be careful in their calculations because sugar is everywhere.

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For example, one tablespoon of ketchup contains one teaspoon of sugar and an average cup of breakfast cereal contains about 4 teaspoons of sugar.(VOA)

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10 Quick Facts About Delhi Pollution Problem

Delhi pollution problem is a matter of grave concern for the authorities in the capital, especially before Diwali and the upcoming winter season. Supreme Court insists upon following strict environmental regulations by the government in order to prevent the release of toxic substances such as carbon, sulfur and coal.

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Smog New Delhi
Vehicles move through morning as smog covers New Delhi. voa

According to a current report by the World Health Organization (WHO), among the 20 most contaminated cities on the earth, 13 are in India, in which Delhi tops the list.

Every year air pollution in New Delhi causes smog during the winters

Here are some important issues and steps which are being taken to control the Pollution level in Delhi.

  • The Supreme Court has banned the sale of firecrackers in Diwali, India’s largest festival, to deal with the air pollution problem in Delhi, that causes smog during the winters.
  • The Court has declared 24th October as a deadline for the government to regulate the use of petcoke fuel.
  • Every day nearly eight residents are dying in India’s capital due to air pollution.
  • Despite the authorities in the capital setting rules to clear the air by cutting traffic, air pollution continues to be a severe threat to the lives of the residents of the capital.
  • A new fuel, petroleum coke, which is the replacement of coal, has further enhanced the problem of the air pollution.
  • Petroleum coke, also known as Petcoke is found in tar sands in the pits of Canada. These are some of the dirtiest crude oil sources. At US Gulf Coast, it is refined where petrol and diesel are removed. Petcoke is the left out substance that produces further harmful substances such as carbon, sulfur and heavy metal emission such as coal.
  • It is exported to the countries like India and China where it is used as a fuel. Thus the developed counties manage to make money out of this harmful waste material due to lax environmental laws in China and India.
  • China has reduced its dependence upon petcoke since 2014. Now India is the largest importer of petcoke.
  • In February, Supreme Court has ordered the government to ban the use of petcoke or put a limit on the sulphur emission in the process.
  • The regulations have limited the sulfur emissions to 4,000 ppm but the regional environmental agencies confirm the presence of 72,000 ppm of sulphur in the petcoke.

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UN Should Name and Shame Countries Failing to Protect Doctors in War Zones: Aid Expert

Leonard Rubenstein, head of Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition, said impartial investigations and reforming both military training and practice could improve safety for health workers

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Health workers
The ruins of a hospital in Idlib province in northern Syria are seen in this image provided by Doctors Without Borders Feb. 15, 2016. VOA
  • International law bounds all warring parties to respect and protect medical personnel, but the provision is largely disregarded
  • At least 80 people were killed in attacks on health facilities in 14 countries in the first three months of 2017, according to the World Health Organization
  • An expert Leonard Rubenstein said impartial investigations and reforming both military training and practice could improve safety for health workers

New Delhi, August 19, 2017: The United Nations should name and shame countries that fail to protect health workers in war zones and audit what steps they take to keep medics safe, Leonard Rubenstein- an aid expert- said on Thursday.

International law bounds all warring parties to respect and protect medical personnel, but the provision is largely disregarded, with hospital and medics often deliberately targeted in conflict areas, aid agencies say.

Last year, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution calling for an end to impunity for perpetrators, but little has been done to implement it, said Leonard Rubenstein, head of Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition, a network of aid groups.

ALSO READ: Indian-American Doctors raise voice regarding Shortage of Physicians in US and Hate Crimes against the Community

“Since 2016, we have had complete international paralysis,” he told an event in London, blaming the stalemate on divisions between Russia and other members of the Security Council.

At least 80 people were killed in attacks on health facilities in 14 countries in the first three months of 2017, according to the World Health Organization.

More than half the attacks were in Syria.

Rubenstein said impartial investigations and reforming both military training and practice could improve safety for health workers — but nations had to be pushed into adopting them.

“The only way to get them to do it is to shame them,” he told a panel at the Overseas Development Institute via video link, ahead of World Humanitarian Day on Aug 19.

In order to do so, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights should issue annual reports highlighting what steps countries have taken to implement resolutions made the year before, Rubenstein said.

“It’s not the most powerful mechanism that we have — but it is the only one that we (have) really got at the moment, and I think that would go a long way to forcing the states to take the actions that they have committed to do,” he said. (VOA)

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Simple Therapy Proves to be Effective in Helping Women against Gender-Based Violence: Study

It is estimated that more than a third of women around the world have been exposed to such violence

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Gender-based violence
Women gather at a clinic at Dagahaley camp in Dadaab in Kenya's northeastern province, June 8, 2009. VOA
  • An intervention based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) was more effective than traditional therapy in helping women struggling with gender-based violence
  • WHO will begin distributing the treatment more broadly to areas with little mental health infrastructure
  • cognitive behavioral therapists work to reveal thoughts and behaviors that currently contribute to a patient’s troubles

US, August 17, 2017: An intervention based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) was found to be more effective than traditional therapy in helping women struggling with depression or anxiety after experiencing gender-based violence, research shows. It is estimated that more than a third of women around the world have been exposed to such violence, which includes rape, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence.

The intervention, developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) to help anyone facing adversity, had already been proven effective for Pakistanis struggling emotionally after exposure to terrorism.

Psychologist Richard Bryant at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, developed the program with colleagues there and others from WHO and the World Vision Institute. To test its effectiveness, 421 women in Nairobi, Kenya, were treated with either five sessions of the CBT program administered by a lay health care worker or were referred to area health care centers for standard treatment administered by nurses.

The nurses had four more years of education than the lay workers, who had no previous experience with mental health care. A program simple enough for lay volunteers to administer is important in areas with little mental health infrastructure.

ALSO READIndia’s first Online Course on Infusion Therapy for Nurses launched, Aims to Train over 3,000 nurses in the Vital Medical Procedure

Reducing symptoms

The study, published Tuesday in PLOS Medicine, found that women who received the CBT treatment showed 20 percent fewer anxious and depressive symptoms five weeks after the end of treatment than the control group, and 45 percent fewer than they did before treatment. Following this work, WHO will begin distributing the treatment more broadly to areas with little mental health infrastructure.

“The vast majority of people in the world don’t get access to evidence-based care for mental health problems,” Bryant told VOA. “So there really is, from a global mental health perspective, an urgent need to have a different way of thinking about how we deliver care. And we can’t be relying on specialists. We can’t be relying on lengthy sessions, lengthy treatment durations. We can’t be relying on systems that require long trainings to upskill people.”

CBT was developed in the 1970s. Unlike psychoanalysis, which aims to reveal the historical, root causes for a patient’s problems, cognitive behavioral therapists work to reveal thoughts and behaviors that currently contribute to a patient’s troubles.

Bryant said this particular intervention was designed to be as easy to administer as possible and focuses on changing behavior. The WHO treatment coaches patients to be active, engage in social networks, and problem solve. Bryant said much of the cognitive side of CBT was left out, not only to make it easier to train practitioners but also to make the intervention shorter. That allows treating more people with less money. Traveling to treatment can be expensive and dangerous in many places, and missing work is costly, so a treatment that requires fewer sessions is beneficial to patients.

Avoiding stigma

One challenge in helping people who have been exposed to gender-based violence is finding them. Rape and abuse carry a heavy stigma, and it can be dangerous for women to speak out.

Consequently, the program wasn’t advertised as being about gender-based violence. Researchers instead looked for women experiencing anxiety and depression. However, during treatment, they found that four out of five participants had experienced some form of gender-based violence — most often from an intimate partner.

“Really, I think what this tells us is that when you go to many of these settings where we know that gender-based violence and other forms of violence are so prevalent, you can actually assist these people — alleviate many of their mental health problems in an effective way — without actually creating the problems of identifying them and exacerbating the social stigma,” Bryant said.

Since the completion of the study in 2015, 1,400 volunteer counselors in Kenya have been trained in CBT, and 3,500 women have received the treatment.

Researchers in Australia have been leaders in CBT, Bryant said. In the early 2000s, researchers at Australian National University developed MoodGYM, free software that allows anyone with an internet connection to receive online CBT treatment at any time.

Numerous studies have shown that patients who complete internet-delivered CBT fare as well as those who receive treatment in person. However, those self-administering CBT without external encouragement are much less likely to complete a full course of treatment. (VOA)