Prioritize Health

Insights from McKinsey. With a video.

During these trying times, it is especially important that we prioritize health issues in our collective and individual planning.

To begin, as we previously reported:


    McKinsey Insights: Prioritize Health

    Today, we turn to McKinsey & Company for expert insights:

    The COVID-19 pandemic is an unwelcome reminder of just how much health matters for individuals, society, and the global economy. For the past century or more, health improvements from vaccines, antibiotics, sanitation, and nutrition, among others, have saved millions of lives and been a powerful catalyst for economic growth. Better health promotes economic growth by expanding the labor force and by boosting productivity while also delivering immense social benefits. However, in recent years, a focus on rising healthcare costs, especially in mature economies, has dominated the policy debate, whereas health as an investment for economic return has largely been absent from the discussion.

    In Prioritizing Health: A Prescription for Prosperity, we measure the potential to reduce the burden of disease globally through the application of proven interventions across the human lifespan over two decades. By intervention, we mean actions aimed at improving the health of an individual. These range from public sanitation programs to surgical procedures and adherence to medication and encompass interventions recommended by leading institutions like the World Health Organization or national medical associations. We also examine the potential to reduce the disease burden from innovations over the same period.

    Click the image to access the report. And then watch a video summary.

    Prioritize Health


Our Eyes as a Window to Our Age

New eye scanner provides helpful insights.

As Norbert Juma observes for Everyday Power,  “Eyes are the windows to the soul. They don’t lie. They show the truth, no matter what face you put on. Just like body language, our eyes say more than we ever could with words.” Today, we look at (pun intended 🙂 ) our eyes as a window to our age.

New Technology Shows Our Eyes as a Window to Our Age

Recently, researchers from Boston University College of Engineering and School of Public Health, Boston Children’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and the University of Washington, Seattle published an important article on this topic.

Click the image to access that article. Then read the highlights below. And watch the video clip.

Our Eyes as a Window to Our Age

According to the Boston College School of Medicine:

People often say that eyes are windows to the soul. It appears they may also be windows to human aging.

 All people age, but individuals age at different rates, some faster and others slower. Yet, we know of no universally accepted measure of biological aging. Numerous aging-related metrics have been proposed and tested. But no marker to date identifies  aging. And no noninvasive method accurately measures and tracks biological aging in individuals. In what we believe to be the first study of its kind, our researchers discovered that a specialized eye scanner accurately measures signals from proteins in lens of the eye. To detect and track biological aging in living humans.

The lens contains proteins that accumulate aging-related changes throughout life. These lens proteins provide a permanent record of each person’s life history of aging. Our eye scanner decodes this record of how a person is aging at the molecular level.


Who Will Get the COVID Vaccine First

The ethical implications of this issue.

For most of the readers of our blog, this is a key issue. Who will get the COVID vaccine first. If you haven’t already, check out our Tuesday post. Reopening and the Disabled.

Looking for Answers: Who Will Get the COVID Vaccine First

The Ethics of a COVID Vaccine Distribution

To address this issue, we look to insights from Johns Hopkins University (JHU):

With something in the order of 150 COVID-19 vaccine candidates now in different stages of testing and development, a global public health strategy needs to be thinking several steps ahead, beyond the science. Once a vaccine is proven safe and effective, how will it reach everyone in the world who needs it, and on what kind of timeline?

Ruth Faden, a bioethicist at JHU, is working to address these high-stakes questions as a member of the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Vaccines Working Group, a team from different countries making recommendations on fair and equitable global access to a coronavirus vaccine.

She notes the following:

We look at the global level. The private sector is really driving the vaccine development process. Rather than government or academic labs. Major efforts are underway to see how private industrial developers can make vaccines available at an affordable price to all countries . Particularly low and middle-income ones. Initially there will be scarce supply of the vaccine. And governments will scramble to procure it. Unless these efforts work, the winners will be fairly predictable. Countries with the resources.

On the next level, some wealthy countries will likely have substantial amounts of vaccine. Over time, if all goes well, these countries must decide how much product to keep and how much, if any, they will share with countries where the vaccine may be in very short supply.

With “vaccine nationalism,” countries see their obligations as primarily, if not exclusively, to their own residents. Although we  expect that those countries will meet their own health needs first, should they ignore the needs of people living in other countries with severe economic constraints? From an ethics perspective, a balance must be struck.

Ethical Recommendations

Faden also says:

Essential workers usually top the list. But not only because they often face elevated risks. The reason they are considered essential is that, unless they do their jobs, society can’t function. From an ethical sense, we owe them something for taking increased risks for the sake of others. Yet, you should imagine the complications here. What jobs should we include as “essential worker”? How many people will that include? Should health care workers come before food workers?

In addition, Also high on the priority list, we include those most at risk medically. The people most likely to suffer serious illness and death if infected. We know age is a big risk factor for COVID-19. Therefore, many vaccine developers want to determine the effectiveness of their vaccines for this population. Some other risk factors may vary country by country; for example, in the US, we see obesity having a major impact.

For sure, we know about pandemics that the poorest and least powerful in society get hurt the most. In the U.S., we see that happening with people of color experiencing disproportionately high rates of infections and deaths. There is an important conversation to be had about whether, as a part of the much overdue racial reckoning, we should consider putting people of color high on the list for vaccine priority in the early days.

To read more, click the image.

 Who Will Get the COVID Vaccine First
(Credit: Jeff Fillmore/Flickr)