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ICYMI: global push to regulate digital platforms, climate disruption, Long COVID and what every health minister should know

***This column was updated on 23 February to include comments from the World Health Organization on the earthquakes in Türkiye and the Syrian Arab Republic ***

At last, news of actual health reform. In Western Australia, 20 nurse practitioners will be funded over two years, to work both autonomously and in collaboration with other health practitioners to diagnose and treat a wide range of health conditions – and their services will be free to patients.

Meanwhile, Dr Richard Smith, a former editor of the BMJ and chair of the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, delivers some hard-hitting analysis of the differences between health and healthcare.

As climate disruption hits widely, the Australian Government’s climate policies come under critical scrutiny.

And governments have been urged to invest in vaccines for all strains of influenza virus that exist in the animal kingdom as an insurance policy in case of an outbreak in humans. Read on …


One to watch

UNESCO is hosting the “Internet for Trust” conference in Paris to discuss a set of draft global guidelines for regulating digital platforms, to improve the reliability of information and protect freedom of expression and human rights.

The discussions, from 21-23 February, will be of great interest to those concerned about the wide-ranging health issues involved. Follow #InternetForTrust and watch the broadcast here.

See the Twitter thread by Dr Julie Posetti.


Climate disruption

Climate disruption is being blamed for rationing of fresh produce in the United Kingdom, the closure of health services in the United States, and the spread of malaria in Africa. In Australia, heatwaves are affecting those already most at risk of health problems.

Meanwhile, Australia continues to expand fossil fuels operations. A must-read article on the greenwashing of policies.
On the role of local governments in climate action


What every health minister should know?

Dr Richard Smith, in ‘A four minute guide to the rudiments of health and healthcare for those responsible for maintaining health systems’, delivers some pithy lines rarely, if ever, heard from health ministers. They are summarised thus:

  • Health and healthcare are different things
  • Healthcare accounts for only 10 percent of health
  • Increasing funding of healthcare paradoxically worsens health
  • The costs of healthcare rise primarily because of the possibilities of doing more to respond to sickness
  • Increased supply is an important driver of demand
  • Longer lives are accompanied by longer spells of poor health
  • Prevention is not cheaper than treatment, particularly in the long term
  • Few patients are cured
  • The division between health and social care makes no sense
  • There is huge variation in all aspects of healthcare
  • Cost and quality in healthcare are not correlated
  • How well people do with long term conditions is determined by them and their carers not by the health system
  • Most caring is done not by health professionals but by family and friends
  • Healthcare, particularly hospital care, is dangerous
  • Healthcare cannot reduce inequalities in health
  • A higher ratio of primary to hospital care means more patient satisfaction, better outcomes, and lower costs.

First Nations