Sequencing of the virus by CDC revealed it is similar to A (H3N2) viruses circulating in swine in the mid-western United States during 2019-2020. Viruses related to this A (H3N2)v virus were previously circulating as human seasonal A (H3N2) viruses until around 2010-2011 when they entered the USA swine population. Thus, past vaccination or infection with human seasonal A (H3N2) virus is likely to offer some protection in humans.
The World Health Organization's second call for entries to its Health for All Film Festival has received 1 175 submissions from 110 countries. More than 40% of the short films feature themes related to COVID-19, revealing the pandemic's pervasive and universal consequences.
Entries came from such countries as Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Philippines, Portugal, United Kingdom, the United States of America, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey and Uganda.
Launched in 2020, the festival aims to nurture a new generation of film and video innovators focused on health topics. WHO engaged with independent film-makers, production companies, NGOs, communities, students, and film schools, to ensure a diverse range of entries.
“Telling stories is as old as human civilization. It helps to inspire, motivate, build empathy and share problems so we can find and share solutions together. Everything WHO does is about stories because everything we do is about people. We’re excited about the quantity and quality of entries in this year’s Health for All Film Festival. Ultimately, we hope the festival is not just a way to tell stories, but to change the arc of people’s stories around the world, towards better health,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
Three GRAND PRIX will be awarded in May 2021 for each of the following categories, which are aligned with WHO’s global goals for public health:
- • Universal health coverage (UHC): films about mental health, non-communicable diseases, major communicable diseases, innovative health services and other UHC stories not part of emergencies;
- • Health emergencies: films about health emergencies, such as COVID-19 and Ebola, as well as health responses in the context of humanitarian crises and conflict-affected settings;
- • Better health and well-being: films about environmental and social determinants of health, such as nutrition, sanitation, pollution, and/or films about health promotion or health education.
WHO also plans to award three special prizes: a student-produced film, a health educational film aimed at youth, and a short video designed exclusively for social media platforms.
Entries can include short documentaries or fiction films (3 to 8 minutes in length) or animation films (1 to 5 minutes).
The composition of the Festival jury will be announced in the coming weeks and will include a number of critically-acclaimed artists from the film and music industries, along with WHO experts. The jury will recommend winners to WHO’s Director-General, who will make the final decision. Initial short lists for each category, comprising 15 films per category, will be announced in March.
Richard Curtis, film director and writer from the United Kingdom, who was a member of the 2020 jury, said: "Being a Juror for the Health For All Film Festival was a deeply satisfying job -- so many subjects I knew nothing about suddenly coming to life in the work of some remarkable film-makers. And the actual judgement day was gripping -- really varied and passionate points of view from everyone on the panel. It was a real pleasure and a real privilege."
Wagner Moura, an actor and film director from Brazil, who was also among the jurors in the first edition of the Festival, said: "It was truly an honour for me to participate. The films that I have seen educated me a lot about different health issues around the world, and I want to encourage all persons concerned to keep doing these films, to keep talking about your communities, to keep exposing the vulnerabilities of the communities that you filmed. This is the perfect moment to praise the work of volunteers, of doctors, of health sector workers, that have sacrificed their lives for the sake of the most vulnerable ones."
CDC Readiness and Planning Tool: To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 in Primary and Secondary Schools in Low Resource Non-U.S. Settings
The global cancer landscape is changing, according to WHO experts, on the eve of World Cancer Day 2021.
Breast cancer has now overtaken lung cancer as the world’s mostly commonly-diagnosed cancer, according to statistics released by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in December 2020.
So on World Cancer Day, WHO will host the first of a series of consultations in order to establish a new global breast cancer initiative, which will launch later in 2021. This collaborative effort between WHO, IARC, the International Atomic Energy Agency and other multi-sectoral partners, will reduce deaths from breast cancer by promoting breast health, improving timely cancer detection and ensuring access to quality care.
WHO and the cancer community are responding with renewed urgency to address breast cancer and to respond to the growing cancer burden globally that is straining individuals, communities and health systems.
In the past two decades, the overall number of people diagnosed with cancer nearly doubled, from an estimated 10 million in 2000 to 19.3 million in 2020. Today, one in 5 people worldwide will develop cancer during their lifetime. Projections suggest that the number of people being diagnosed with cancer will increase still further in the coming years, and will be nearly 50% higher in 2040 than in 2020.
The number of deaths from cancer has also increased, from 6.2 million in 2000 to 10 million in 2020. More than one out of every six deaths is due to cancer.
While changes in lifestyle, such as unhealthy diets, insufficient physical activity, use of tobacco and harmful use of alcohol, have all contributed to the increasing cancer burden, a significant proportion can also be attributed to increasing longevity, as the risk of developing cancer increases with age. This reinforces the need to invest in both cancer prevention and cancer control, focusing on actionable cancers like breast, cervical and childhood cancers.
Late diagnosis and lack of access to treatment exacerbated by COVID-19 pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problems of late-stage diagnosis and lack of access to treatment. These occur everywhere but particularly in low- and middle-income countries. In addition to having to cope with the disruption of services, people living with cancer are also at higher risk of severe COVID-19 illness and death.
A WHO survey conducted in 2020 indicated that treatment for cancer had been disrupted in more than 40% of countries surveyed during the pandemic. The findings of the survey have been backed up by published studies indicating that delays in diagnosis are common, while interruptions to and abandonment of therapy have increased significantly. Meanwhile, enrolment in clinical trials and research output have declined.
All stakeholders are working to respond. Some governments have been enabling their populations to seek cancer care safely. Health professionals have adapted treatment to meet the needs of their patients, including through the use of telemedicine, and civil society has supported patients by helping them coordinate their appointments and complete their treatment plans.
World Cancer Day
World Cancer Day, with its slogan “I can and I will”, is also an opportunity to show WHO’s commitment to other major global cancer programmes, on cervical cancer and childhood cancer.
The adoption of the Global strategy to accelerate the elimination of cervical cancer as a public health problem and its associated goals and targets by the World Health Assembly in 2020 has provided added momentum to cervical cancer efforts. Three targets have been set for 2030: 90% of girls fully vaccinated with the HPV vaccine; 70% of women screened; and 90% of women identified with cervical cancer receiving treatment.
Cancer is also a leading cause of death for children and adolescents, with an estimated 400 000 children diagnosed with cancer each year. On International Childhood Cancer Day, 15 February, WHO will be releasing a “how-to” guide for policy-makers and programme managers on strengthening childhood cancer programmes; a new assessment tool to facilitate harmonized data collection and to enable expedited, real-time interpretation of collected data on cancer among children; and an online community-of-practice information-sharing hub for childhood cancer.
Breast, cervical and childhood cancers all have a high chance of cure if diagnosed early and treated appropriately. This World Cancer Day, WHO is moving ahead with our partners around the world in efforts both to prevent and control cancer and also to provide support to all people living with cancer, wherever they live and whatever their circumstances.
In February of 2020, when much of the world was just wrapping its mind around the COVID-19 fundamentals, and trying to navigate the flood of information about it, WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, raised the alarm that “we’re not just fighting an epidemic, we’re fighting an infodemic.”
During a WHO online consultation that was held in April 2020 a framework for managing the COVID-19 infodemic was developed. Within that framework, 50 key actions were listed, one of which was to hold the first WHO infodemiology conference.
Fast forward three months to June, when that first conference came to life. WHO convened more than 100 experts from 20 different disciplines and 35 different countries to define this nascent field of science for infodemicmanagement. From this conference, a vibrant community of research and practice was born, and a public health research agenda was established to implement guidance to understand, measure and respond to infodemics, so that going forward, people in every corner of the world have timely access to understandable health information and advice for making good health choices.
At the conference, the professionals split into multi-disciplinary teams and workshopped for days. From those discussions, five streams of thinking emerged for where to focus infodemic research.
Within the five streams, 65 research questions were developed and prioritized so that the practice of infodemicmanagement has a focus, structure, a methodology that’s rooted in evidence and room to further evolve as a discipline.
Stream 1: Measuring and monitoring the impact of infodemics during health emergencies
1.1. Standardize taxonomies and classifications
1.2. Develop new metrics to measure and quantify infodemics
1.3. Analyse and triangulate data from multiple sources
1.4. Improve evaluation approaches for infodemic interventions
Stream 2: Detecting and understanding the spread and impact of infodemics
2.1. Understand how information originates, evolves and spreads on different platforms and channels
2.2. Assess the role of actors, influencers, platforms and channels
2.3. Understand how misinformation affects behaviour in different populations
2.4. Develop regulatory and ethical principles to mitigate the spread and propagation of harmful health information
Stream 3: Responding and deploying interventions that protect against the infodemic and mitigate its harmful effects
3.1. Design a behavioural change model applicable to infodemic management
3.2. Intervention design for different levels of action to mitigate the infodemics
Stream 4: Evaluating infodemic interventions and strengthening resilience of individuals and communities to infodemics
4.1. Develop interventions that address individual, community, cultural and societal factors affecting trust and resilience to misinformation
4.2. Understand and learn from the way misinformation has affected behaviour among different populations and in different contexts for specific infodemics
4.3. Identify factors associated with successful infodemic management by health authorities, the media, civil society, the private sector and other stakeholders
Stream 5: Promoting the development, adaptation and application of tools for managing infodemics
5.1. Use implementation research evidence in programme improvement and policy development
5.2. Promote evidence-based interventions and approaches between countries
5.3. Improve effectiveness and response times to the infodemic during acute health events
Infodemics are as much about combatting mis- and disinformation as they are about supplying good information where there are existing information voids. As technology evolves, so do the methods for infodemics to perpetuate. With increasingly sophisticated technology, infodemics can evade detection and prey on those who are vulnerable and least suspecting.
Infodemics are multi-faceted and impact individuals and communities, causing physical harm, stigma, violent aggression among community members and dismissal of proven public health measures. Therefore, the public healthresearch agenda is a living resource. It must work for policymakers and health institutions, for private-sector players, for community leaders and for individuals young, old, rural, urban and everything in between.
The public health research agenda for infodemic management can be used by WHO, partners, research agencies and academia as a reference in identifying key research and evidence gaps to underpin infodemic management interventions and their evaluation.
The next steps will be to develop reviews of evidence in each of the five workstreams, build out the community of research and practice to track implementation of the agenda, build a competency framework for an infodemiology skillset and develop online tools to train people across all of society to become infodemic managers.
The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the World Health Organization, as co-leads of the COVAX initiative for equitable global access to COVID-19 vaccines, alongside key delivery partner UNICEF, are pleased to publish COVAX’s first interim distribution forecast.
Building on the publication of the 2021 COVAX global and regional supply forecast, the interim distribution forecast provides information on early projected availability of doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in Q1 2021 and the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine candidate in first half 2021 to COVAX Facility participants. This announcement comes less than two weeks after the announcement of the signed advance purchase agreement with Pfizer/BioNTech and a little more than a month after the first COVID-19 vaccine received WHO Emergency Use Listing (EUL).
The purpose of sharing the interim distribution with countries, even in today’s highly dynamic global supply environment, is to provide governments and health systems with the information they need to plan for their national vaccination programmes. Final allocations will be published in due course.
The interim distribution forecast outlines projected delivery of vaccine doses to all Facility participants, with the exception of participants who have either exercised their rights to opt-out, have not submitted vaccine requests, or have not yet been allocated doses.
The interim distribution forecast is available here.
Notes to editors
The latest COVAX global supply forecast is available here
The latest list of COVAX Facility participants is available here
Michael R. Bloomberg and Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus call for global focus on noncommunicable diseases to save lives from COVID-19
In recognition of Bloomberg’s contributions in improving public health, WHO confirms his third term as WHO Global Ambassador
Michael R. Bloomberg, Founder, Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, today joined Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, in calling for urgent action to tackle noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, cancer and respiratory diseases, which account for over 74% of deaths globally and worsen outcomes of patients with COVID-19.
This comes as WHO confirms that Bloomberg will continue for a third term as WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and Injuries.
His WHO Ambassador role follows decades of involvement in health policy, including his three terms as mayor of New York City, and a long-standing collaboration with WHO to take on some of the biggest global health challenges. In his role, Bloomberg will continue to raise awareness about the link between COVID-19 and noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), advocate for investment in measures to tackle NCDs and injuries, mobilize cities for better health, and support the use of health data to drive programs and policies.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the full danger of noncommunicable diseases – and signaled the urgent need for stronger public health policies and investment to prevent them,” said Dr Tedros. “We urge world leaders in business and government to take aggressive steps to prevent noncommunicable diseases. Fewer NCDs would have meant fewer deaths during the pandemic.”
“The majority of those who have died from COVID-19 had an underlying noncommunicable disease, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic lung disease or cancer. NCDs account for nearly three-quarters of all deaths around the world, and the scale and urgency of the problem was thrown into sharp relief by COVID-19. NCDs can be prevented, and we know what works,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and Injuries. “Bloomberg Philanthropies has been working with WHO to reduce tobacco use, support healthier diets, fight cardiovascular disease, and strengthen health data to guide our work. We look forward to expanding our efforts to help more cities and countries take action on NCDs and to save lives.”
NCDs currently kill over 40 million people every year. These chronic conditions have also increased the death toll from COVID-19, which has already taken over two million lives. People who are obese, who use tobacco, and who have hypertension are at increased risk of being hospitalized and dying from COVID-19.
In addition to COVID-19, Bloomberg’s work with WHO and investments more broadly in public health focus on major, life-saving initiatives to reduce tobacco and youth e-cigarette use, support healthy food policy, reduce drowning, and improve road safety and maternal health, among others.
In 2017, Bloomberg Philanthropies partnered with WHO and Vital Strategies to launch the Partnership for Healthy Cities, a network of 70 global cities, covering nearly 300 million people, committed to preventing NCDs and injuries since 2017. Over the past year, it has expanded its support to urban leaders around the world to include the resources and tools to overcome the challenges of the pandemic.
After more than 15 years of collaboration, WHO and Bloomberg Philanthropies have shared major achievements across public health:
- 5 billion people covered by at least one strong tobacco control measure
- 3.3 billion people have benefitted from stronger road safety laws
- 70 cities covering almost 300 million people, committed to preventing NCDs and injuries
- Countries around the world have been supported to strengthen their health data systems through the Data for Health Program. The newly released SCORE Report is the first to gauge countries’ progress in producing sustainable health data.
WHO and Bloomberg Philanthropies will continue to drive change in tobacco control, prevention of noncommunicable diseases, road safety, injuries and improving health data. Later this year, in partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies, WHO will launch a new “NCD investment case” outlining the value of investing in policies and interventions to prevent NCDs.
So far, a total of 56 countries— over a quarter of all WHO Member States— responded to the WHO radon survey. The vast majority have set national reference levels for homes and workplaces, 44 per cent have developed national radon action plans, and 39 per cent have included it in codes for new buildings.
Globally, in 2019, residential radon exposure alone was estimated to have caused 84,000 deaths by lung cancer; in some countries, it is among the leading causes of lung cancer.
The naturally occurring radioactive gas is an important cause of lung cancer in people who have never smoked. While smokers are 25 times more at risk of developing lung cancer from radon exposure than non-smokers, radon is also a lung cancer risk factor among smokers.
Most radon-induced lung cancers develop through exposure to low and moderate doses over time in people’s homes, where the gas can seep in through a variety of ways.
Odourless, colourless and tasteless, radon is produced when uranium, an element found in varying amounts in all rocks and soil, naturally decays; it escapes from the ground into the air, emitting heavily ionizing radiation called alpha particles, which are electrically charged and latch on to aerosols and dust, then inhaled and deposited on cells lining the airways, where they can damage DNA and cause lung cancer.
It can accumulate in buildings— homes, schools and workplaces— and can be found in water, but its health risk can be reduced. Well-tested, durable and cost-efficient methods exist to prevent radon in new houses and to measure and reduce it in existing homes.
More countries have recognized the opportunity to prevent radon exposure, and have been developing policies, regulations and national action plans to respond to this indoor air pollutant, including through education for building professionals and the provision of financial support to remove it from existing buildings.
But so far only 12 per cent of surveyed countries have provided radon education for building professionals, 15 per cent provided financial support to fix existing buildings, and no country has included mandatory radon measurements in property transactions.
Awareness and action on radon have grown in the nearly 16 years since the WHO first surveyed countries as part of the WHO International Radon Project, and much is still needed to be done for most countries to achieve radon concentrations at or below the WHO recommended reference level of 100 Bq/m3 if possible, or at least not to exceed the international recommended 300 Bq/m3
The World Health Organization recommends that countries adopt reference levels of the gas of 100 Bq/m3 (Becquerel per cubic metre). If this level cannot be implemented under the prevailing country-specific conditions, WHO recommends that the reference level should not exceed 300 Bq/m3.
It’s a crucial step towards reducing lung cancer risk worldwide, alongside global tobacco control activities and initiatives on healthy indoor air.
The 2019 survey forms the basis of newly launched WHO database on radon, which provides a detailed snapshot of efforts to manage the risk from radon exposure around the world.
The radon database, in turn, forms part of the Global Health Observatory, a comprehensive repository of current statistics and information on global health issues.
WHO’s first detailed survey on radon, which attracted responses from 36 member states, was conducted in 2005 as part of a three-year WHO International Radon Project, a collaboration across a global network of radon scientists, regulators and policy makers, which, among other aims, sought to create a global radon database and provide improved global estimates of the disease burden associated with radon worldwide.
The results of the project’s work fed into the WHO handbook on indoor radon: A public health perspective. The handbook, published in 2009, provides policy options to help national authorities to develop, promote and strengthen activities at country or regional level, covering measurement, prevention and mitigation, evaluating cost-effectiveness of radon control, risk communication and national radon programmes, as well as details of its health impacts.