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Hopeful, but mindful of the challenges

Welcome to a new and exciting year of continued growth in healthcare development in the region and scientific innovation from the labs around the world. As each year dawns it gives us time to wonder what new medical breakthroughs we will see in the year ahead. Looking at the rate of bioscience development over the past years, the pace of future innovation must now surely verge on the exponential. These are exciting times.

In this expanded issue we report in “the laboratory” section – as we do in every issue – on the results of some of the latest medical research emanating from bioscience labs around the world. Of interest in this issue is research that shows a biochemical mechanism underlying the formation of long-term memories. Another report looks at research on the activation of brain receptors that trigger the hunger hormone ghrelin, which could have implications for the treatment of obesity. In Europe and the US, there is now a lot of money being poured into research of the brain specifically, so we can expect many more interesting discoveries in this field in the near future.

Also in the issue we publish an important report which looks at the tragic consequences of war on children – specifically the long-lasting effects of warfare on the health of Syrian children – devastating psychological effects that can last a lifetime. Let’s hope that this year will see an end to this horrendous war in Syria. The climate change conference in Paris in December resulted in an historic accord with the Paris Agreement, which will see countries around the world aiming to cut their greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to halt the potentially disastrous effects of global warming. In a Climate Change and Health report, we look at the effects of climate change on public health and note that, as Margaret Chan, WHO director-general, puts it, the climate change agreement is also a significant public health treaty. We must all – individuals, communities, nations – now make a concerted effort to fulfil the obligations of the Agreement.

At the close of last year, the WHO released a number of reports indicating the positive progress we have made in a number of fields – TB mortality has been halved since 1990; measles vaccinations have saved 17 million lives since 2000 – which bodes well for the future. Yet, at the same time, the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies set up the Health Care in Danger project, an initiative to address the issue of violence against patients and health workers following a number of attacks on healthcare facilities in Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan and other countries. (You will find reports on all of this in this issue.)

So as we forge ahead in the healthcare arena in 2016 there is a lot of positive news to be hopeful about, but we must also keep in mind the many difficult challenges we face, which need resolution.

Wishing you prosperity, good health and happiness.

Callan Emery

(Jan-Feb 2016)

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