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PLOS BLOGS Speaking of Medicine and Health

Update to Blue Marble Health Collection

This week sees a major update to the PLOS Collection “Blue Marble Health: the mismatch between national wealth and population health” with the addition of 50 new papers, including two new editorials published today in PLOS Medicine and PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Blue Marble Health signals a shift in current thinking about global health, highlighting that the stark contrasts associated with health in developing and developed countries may no longer ring true and urging that health outcomes must no longer be defined by simplistic and generalised geographical or economic boundaries.

Blue Marble Health
Blue Marble Health

Writing in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, Editor-in-Chief Dr Peter Hotez cites recent data from the World Health Organization (WHO) to support the hypothesis that neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), long associated with low-income countries, are becoming common afflictions of the world’s poorest people in wealthier countries also. Dr. Hotez notes that the Group of 20 (G20) countries which, together with the nation of Nigeria, represent 86% of the global economy, account for approximately half of the world’s parasitic worm infections, as well as most cases of dengue fever and leprosy.  He concludes that “the global economy could improve significantly through the lifting of the bottom segment of the G20 economies out of poverty,” and that an orientation towards Blue Marble Health at the G20’s 2016 summit could drive “a major breakthrough in global health.”

In the second editorial published today Dr. Larry Peiperl, Chief Editor of PLOS Medicine,  and Dr Hotez examine recent WHO data on years of life lost from non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which include heart disease, diabetes, and most types of cancer.  While such diseases have long been seen as the scourge of wealthy countries, Drs. Peiperl and Hotez argue that their distribution within the G20 countries and Nigeria suggests that the poor living among the wealthy disproportionately share the global burden of NCDs.

This analysis suggests that NCDs may be joining NTDs in following the Blue Marble Health pattern of geographical redistribution with convergence on the world’s poorest people, with adverse implications for human development.  “Strong economies must take responsibility for population-wide preventive action that embraces vulnerable populations now living in extreme poverty.”

The poor living among the wealthy.
Major areas of poverty in the G20 nations and Nigeria, where most of the world’s NTDs occur.

Other additions to the collection provide more evidence to support the Blue Marble Health concept. This includes research into cardiometabolic diseases in rural Uganda, diabetes care in GuyanaLeishmaniasis in Saudi Arabia and the economic burden of Dengue in Mexico, and a Policy Forum calling for national childhood cancer strategies in low- and middle- income countries.

PLOS Medicine and PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases encourage the community of biomedical and social scientists, humanists, health economists, healthcare professionals, and public health workers to submit papers that highlight health disparities among the poor and otherwise disadvantaged populations, those who are often forgotten in the world’s middle- and high-income countries.

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