Major Study Finds That Overall Population Health in U.S. Has Improved, But Has Not Kept Pace With Other Wealthy Nations
Americans are living longer lives but are spending more years afflicted with major illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease, kidney disease, and mental and behavioral disorders, according to a study published online in the Journal of American Medical Association. Researchers show that the overall population health improved in the U.S. in the last few decades, however, illness and chronic disability now account for nearly half of the country’s health burden.
The objective of the study was to measure the burden of diseases, injuries and leading risk factors in the U.S. from 1990 to 2010 and to compare these measurements with the 34 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The researchers found that U.S. life expectancy for both sexes increased from 75.2 years in 1990 to 78.2 years in 2010; during the same period, healthy life expectancy increased from 65.8 years to 68.1 years. During this time period, improvements in population health in the U.S. did not keep pace with other wealthy nations. The authors note that the U.S. spends the most per capita on health care across all countries yet lags behind other high-income countries for life expectancy and many other health outcome measures.
In a recent national public opinion poll, two-thirds of Americans (66%) say that their quality of life has been improved by medical research and that the cost of health care is the most critical health issue in America today. We must continue to urge policy makers about the importance of funding medical research if we want to live healthier – not just longer – lives.
The full study is available online: http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1710486
Editor’s Note: This study is supported in part by the Intramural Program of the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The United Nations Foundation is an unwavering supporter of global health, from prevention of malaria deaths to polio eradication (in partnership with Research!America, the Global Health Council and others the UN Foundation held a briefing about the importance of the polio vaccine in 2011). With support from Johnson & Johnson and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, their latest initiative is the Global Mom Relay, an innovative campaign to raise money and awareness in support of women and children’s health around the globe. Until May 8, there will be a daily story about motherhood on the Huffington Post from a variety of global authors. Each time a relay post is shared via Facebook, Twitter or email, Johnson & Johnson (a Research!America member) and the Gates Foundation (a long-time Research!America supporter) will donate $5 to one of four UN Foundation initiatives helping women and children around the globe: Girl Up, the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action and the Shot@Life campaign.
Please visit www.unfoundation.org/globalmomrelay/ to learn more and share today’s post!
New research from Research!America member Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis shows that a component of bee venom can be safely used to target and kill HIV virus particles while leaving human cells intact. The compound, called melittin, punches holes in the outer protective coat, or “envelope,” of viruses, including HIV. Researchers modified the nanoparticle to protect human cells from the toxin by adding “bumpers” to prevent the toxin-laden particles from fusing with cells, yet the smaller virus particles are able to fit between these bumpers and interact with melittin.
The lead author on the study, Joshua L. Hood, MD, PhD, says that application of this new compound should be highly effective in preventing new infections and controlling existing infections, particularly in HIV strains that are resistant to current therapies.
“We are attacking an inherent physical property of HIV,” Hood said in an article from the WUSTL Newsroom. “The virus has to have a protective coat,” making it theoretically impossible for the virus to adapt to the toxin and become resistant to a therapy based on melittin. Researchers say that this nanoparticle can be administered through a vaginal gel to prevent new infections or intravenously to control existing infections.
This new research, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, gives new life to the nanoparticle that was originally developed as an artificial blood product. Though the particle “didn’t work very well for delivering oxygen … it circulates safely in the body” and can be adapted to fight many kinds of infections or disease processes, according to Hood’s interview with WUSTL. These early findings are based on work done in a cell-based research system but show great promise for clinical trials. Hood and his colleagues are confident that these nanoparticles could be easily manufactured in large quantities to make clinical trials possible. Read more about this study in the Huffington Post or see the original scientific article, published in Antiviral Therapy.
Advances in biomedical research like this study are at risk of losing funding under sequestration, which took effect March 1. And with these across-the-board cuts to federal research agencies, clinical trials with this nanoparticle antiviral compound or other promising drugs may not happen. Without basic science research into novel therapeutic strategies or mechanisms of disease, potential cures for deadly disease will remain elusive.
-by Megan Kane, Communications Intern
On February 5, the Task Force for Global Health, a non-profit based in Decatur, Georgia announced that it received a $28.8 million, five-year grant from the Gates Foundation for neglected tropical disease research. This funding will support the new Neglected Tropical Diseases Support Center and will allow the center to work with the NTD community to address challenges in implementing NTD control programs. The Center will focus primarily on operational research and will work to develop new solutions to increase the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of NTD interventions. The grant will also support the development of a “Coalition for Operational Research for NTDs,” which will allow for more collaboration between international NTD researchers. Awarded just over a year after the London Declaration on NTDs, this grant is an important step forward in the fight against NTDs as it “will support the research needed to eliminate and control these dreaded diseases.”
-Morgan McCloskey, global health intern
The International AIDS Conference has been in town all week, stirring up community excitement, celebrity activism, political commitment and scientific progress for global health, specifically for HIV/AIDS. There is talk of achieving an AIDS-free generation.
“We can’t hope to eliminate AIDS in this country or around the world if we just tinker with one little problem or another timidly, at one time, if we let short-term thinking rule the day,” Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told a packed room Monday. “Some will claim … that in the midst of a global economic crisis we don’t have the luxury of leading on this issue, that we ought to scale back PEPFAR, reduce U.S. support for the Global Fund. But what they ignore is that this is precisely the moment when our investment is most needed so that past investments are not lost, and we don’t slide backwards.
“So everyone knows that ending AIDS; not going to be easy, not going to be quick, not going to be cheap but we know now that it may be a huge effort or investment, but just like the eradication of smallpox, it’s an investment that is absolutely guaranteed to show enormous returns. It is also my friends, an inescapable test of our values as a nation, as human beings.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, also spoke.
“Now is not the time to retreat, now is the time to pour it on; money does matter. You have seen the benefit of the money being appropriated at Congress throughout the international community beginning to pay dividends,” Graham said. “Now is the time to focus on finding a vaccine like the future of the world depended on it.
“Part of what I am trying to do is encourage the international community and my government to have a vision very much like the [Bill & Melinda] Gates Foundation: Turn this into a business problem and solve it. It is a humanitarian exercise for sure; we all benefit when we do good things for those who are in need, but the opportunity to solve this problem exists now greater than ever.
Bill Gates spoke compellingly about the need for new tools and ultimately for a vaccine in order to seriously talk about moving towards the end of AIDS. He said that while we do not have the tools yet, we will get them if we stay the course in terms of research investments.
“The ultimate tool will be a vaccine. Scientists are making great progress, they understand the shape of the virus, how to count the antibodies … It is very exciting, and the U.S. government is by far the biggest backer, not only of these treatment things we have been talking about, but also all of these research programs. So, it is phenomenal to see that in that ongoing commitment.
“Earlier this year [the Gates Foundation] made a $750 million grant to Global Fund, but equally we support these research activities, so no one should think that we have got the tools yet. We will get these tools but only if we stay the course in terms of the scientific investments.”
Follow Research!America’s presence at AIDS 2012 through our Twitter feed https://twitter.com/ResearchAmerica.