The gender health gap is improving, and more health stories

  • This global summary brings you health stories from the past two weeks.
  • Top Health News: Gender Differences in Health and Survival Show Slight Improvement; WHO expands list of prequalified HPV tests; Afternoon naps can delay brain shrinkage.

1. The global gender gap in healthcare shows improvement

The global gender gap in health and survival has improved year on year and is one of the smallest gaps measured in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report 2023.

The report shows that men and women are 96% in favor of equality on health and survival issues. This is a small improvement of 0.2 percentage points since last year, but is actually a decrease of 0.3 percentage points since the index was first launched in 2006.

The remaining 4% for achieving equal treatment and equality is one of the smallest gaps to fill – and contrasts with the political empowerment gap at the other end of the scale, which is just 22% towards equality.

More broadly, gender parity around the world has recovered to previous levels after the onset of the pandemic, but the pace of change has stalled due to the polycrisis.

A graph of the gender gap worldwide showing that the health and survival gap is 96% closed.

The gender gap in health and survival has widened.

Image: Global Gender Gap Report 2023

2. WHO prequalifies additional HPV tests in the fight against cervical cancer

The World Health Organization (WHO) has added a fourth test to its list of prequalified tests for human papillomavirus (HPV). Under certain circumstances, HPV can lead to cervical cancer. Therefore, screening for HPV infection is an important tool in controlling the disease.

The WHO prequalification program for in vitro diagnostic devices evaluates a range of tests and is helping to make them available to countries. Increasing the number of tests on the list is part of WHO’s mission to help countries reach more people with quality screening.

Although cervical cancer is preventable and curable, it remains a significant health burden for women around the world, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

Roche Molecular Systems Inc.’s cobas HPV test now joins QIAGEN GmbH’s careHPV test, Abbott GmbH’s Abbott RealTime High-Risk HPV and Cepheid AB’s Xpert HPV, bringing the number of tests to four.

The World Economic Forum Center for Health and Healthcare works with governments and businesses to identify and scale up solutions for building resilient, efficient, and equitable health systems. Here are some examples of how the center works:

Worldwide vaccine delivery: The Forum actively supports global vaccine delivery efforts and its contributions to COVAX have resulted in the shipment of over 1 billion COVID-19 vaccines. The forum also played a crucial role in the creation of Gavi, the vaccine alliance that has helped save more than 13 million lives over the past 20 years.

Davos Alzheimer’s Collaboration: Through this community initiative, the Forum is actively working to accelerate progress in discovering, testing and delivering interventions for Alzheimer’s disease.

Mental Health Policy Toolkit: In partnership with Deloitte, the Forum has developed a comprehensive toolkit to help legislators develop effective policies related to mental health technology.

COVID Action Platform: In the midst of the pandemic, the Forum launched more than 40 initiatives in collaboration with various organizations worldwide to address the challenges posed by COVID-19.

Global Coalition for Value in Healthcare: The Forum’s coalition promotes a sustainable and equitable healthcare industry. It has launched innovative, value-based health centers to tackle inefficient global health spending.

UHC2030 private sector constituency: The constituency hosted by the Forum plays a crucial role in advocating for universal health coverage and highlighting the potential of the private sector to help achieve this ambitious goal.

To get involved or learn more about other World Economic Forum initiatives, please contact us.

3. News in Brief: More health stories from around the world

The World Economic Forum has released a China edition of its Global Health and Healthcare Strategic Outlook report, which looks at the advances and challenges facing healthcare systems in China. Despite the challenges, the report concludes that the vision for health and healthcare in 2035 is “ambitious yet achievable” and China is “in a strong position” to foster public and private partnerships that transform healthcare systems for the better can design.

New research suggests that short naps may help slow age-related brain shrinkage. Researchers at UCL and the University of the Republic of Uruguay used data from the UK Biobank and found that habitual napping may be associated with larger brain volume. This could be relevant as brain shrinkage is accelerated in people with cognitive problems and neurodegenerative diseases.

The Netherlands is offering its citizens free sun protection this summer in a bid to fight skin cancer in the country. The government provides sunscreen dispensers in schools, parks and various public places. Many types of skin cancer are caused by excessive UV radiation. Therefore, a broad spectrum sunscreen that filters out these rays is an important part of a protection strategy. However, the chemicals in some sunscreens have also been shown to be harmful to the environment.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recommended that the updated fall coronavirus vaccines should target one of the XBB variants currently in circulation. The news comes at a time when childhood immunization rates in the world’s poorest countries are showing signs of recovery after being impacted during the pandemic. Global health groups had described the impact of COVID-19 on vaccination rates as “the biggest relapse in a generation”.

4. More on health from Agenda

Increasingly aging populations – particularly in China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam – will have a major impact on the global economy by 2035. The impact is likely to be particularly acute in China, where 30% of the population will be aged 60 and over. Technology can help bridge the generation gap without compromising the benefits of independent aging.

By the end of 2022, over 100 million people had become refugees due to conflict, violence, persecution and climate change. Refugees and rural host communities face greater barriers to access health services, despite often having greater health needs.

Africa is lagging behind Universal Health Coverage (UHC) targets: around 43% of the population does not have access to basic healthcare and around 11 million people fall into poverty every year because they have to pay for it. But the technology powering the fintech boom can transform healthcare systems and reach those who are most marginalized.

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