What’s the prognosis for 2014?
Despite all the cuts and controversies, steady progress in the fight against disease is on track for 2014
The WHO hopes to revise its recommended total energy from sugar figure down from 10% to 5%.
Despite the fallout from the Savita Halappanavar case, it’s not all doom and gloom for the health services.
Scientists may have found a way to zap drug-resistant bacteria.
A bionic eye might offer some hope to people with retinitis pigmentos.
Well, we’ve made it through 2013, with no major epidemic threatening the world (although an outbreak of “twerking” traced back to a certain Miley Cyrus did cause a bit of a wobble). So, what’s the prognosis for 2014?
If you’ve been lucky enough to have had a relatively illness-free year, we wish you more good health in the coming year. For many people, however, health problems are an ongoing situation, and the new year may bring only more worries and woes.
It doesn’t help that the health sector in Ireland is facing cuts of more than €600 million, with Minister for Health James Reilly saying that 2014 will be a “massively challenging year”.
One of the most sickening aspects of the year just gone has been the revelation that charitable contributions were used to top up the already massive salaries of CRC executives. That and the fallout from the Savita Halappanavar case might leave many feeling that the long-term outlook for the health service is pretty grim.
But it’s not all doom and gloom on the health services front. In the HSE’s National Service Plan for 2014, the Minister has promised that despite reduced funding, the HSE will provide funding for such “vital service developments” as bicochlear implants, organ donation and transplant services, medical oncology and haemato-oncology, diabetic retinopathy, screening for bowel disease, and homecare packages to allow special needs babies to be discharged from hospital.
“My principal focus is to continue to deliver the same level of frontline services with a reduced budget while ensuring that quality and safety is not compromised in any way,” the Minister said.
The new year may also bring further progress in the fight against disease – and maybe even a few medical breakthroughs. We can’t look into our crystal ball and predict whether a cure for cancer or diabetes is in store, but we can look over the shoulders of scientists and medical researchers to see if any innovations or new treatments are coming down the track. Here are just a few dreams that may become reality in 2014.
In 2014, your recommended daily intake of sugar could be cut in half, if the World Health Organisation has its way. Currently, the WHO recommends that a maximum of 10 per cent of your total energy should come from sugar. However, following studies into tooth decay, and a growing belief that sugar is a major factor in obesity and heart disease, the WHO wants to change that recommended figure down to 5 per cent or less. So I’ll just have half a spoonful on my cereal, then, please.
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as Clostridium difficile have proven notoriously difficult to tackle, but scientists at the University of Leicester may have found a way to zap these superbugs – by feeding them to a supervirus. The team has isolated a number of bacteriophages – viruses that eat superbugs for breakfast – which could replace increasingly ineffective antibiotics in the battle against bad bacteria.
Following on from the research, a US biopharmaceutical company, AmpliPhi, has developed phages that target a bacteria which causes lung infections in cystic fibrosis patients, and are hoping to have a phage that deals with C difficile ready for clinical trials very soon.