Weekly Wednesday’s What’s-happening-in-the-world: a round-up of news articles at noon 31/01/2018

Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

Sick of news-article round-ups that start with some definitive and authoritative statement – like you ‘need to’ or ‘must’ know – only to feature celebrity stories or what are minor incidences in the grand scheme of things? These lists often reflect the bias in many news outlets towards the novel, tangible, famous and Western. Plane crashes – one of the lowest annual killers – will dominate news coverage over the ongoing epidemics of cancer and heart disease and the enormous number of preventable deaths that occur from them; terrorist attacks in western cities ring-out over much larger massacres in non-western countries or the daily carnage occurring in disadvantaged areas in the US.

So here is an alternative list of media articles that are chosen for their important societal implications (apologies for the articles missed):

  1. With climate change exacerbating extreme weather events it is adding to global health problems through what are commonly (and perhaps misleadingly) referred to as natural disasters. While media reporting on these disasters tends to focus on immediate death tolls the fallout from the events is often much higher. While the death toll in Puerto Rico from the recent storm was 64 the subsequent disruption to healthcare increased the number of related deaths to over a 1000. Climate change can bring on natural disasters or worsen them and these disasters can in turn worsen existing socio-economic and health disparities. It is a systemic problem not limited to the occurrence of the disaster alone but to the existing societal conditions and the advancing onset of climate change. Therefore, the writers of this piece argue that “any health care strategy must address the social and environmental vulnerabilities driving poor health in the first place”.
  2. The important cultural dimensions to the gendered policing of relationships are continuously overlooked by many LGBT advocates and simplistic pop songs like Lady Gaga’s Born This Way. Here is an interesting piece involving a study of 9 preschool classrooms that identifies multiple subtleties through which teachers reinforce cultural acceptance of heterosexual standards regarding romantic norms.
  3. How the current dominant political economic system is contributing to poor mental health by exposing people to: increasing individualization, increasingly ridiculous performance measures and expectations, welfare and work rights rollback, poorly funded services, and growing inequality.
  4. There has been a surge in violence across Afghanistan. Saturday saw the detonation of an ambulance (or a vehicle made to look like an ambulance) packed with explosives in a crowded street. While this article gives earlier death toll numbers, the figures now appear to be over a 100 dead and around 235 injured. Over 10,000 members of Afghanistan’s security forces have been killed in the past year according to Afghanistan’s government figures. UN figures claim that 10 civilians on average were killed every day for the first nine months of 2017. The Afghan government is in disarray and there are fears regarding its stability (another article this week refers to large parts of the country being controlled by the Taliban).
  5. An important study looks at cancer survival rates in 71 countries between 2010 and 2014. The study finds an improvement in survival rates but more so in developed than developing countries. Upper income countries are particularly faring much better in treating childhood cancers – a lot of this might be due to better supportive care of children during chemo when their immune systems are severely weakened. Annual screenings in countries like Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan have proved particularly effective in dealing with stomach and oesophageal cancers and show higher survival rates than the US. Investment in cancer screening and treatment is clearly important.
  6. This piece is quite speculative and, with one small reference to trust in your neighbours, it relates more to the built environment than what I would consider ‘community’. However, it does raise important questions about the degree to which our location and neighbourhood contribute to heart disease. Greater walkability, access to green spaces, lower fast-food outlets, all receive a mention.
  7. Life expectancy in the UK is flat-lining. The authors attribute this to the kind of austerity brought in under David Cameron’s coalition government which has particularly affected the poor and the elderly. As a consequence, a million extra preventable deaths are projected to occur by 2058.

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