What is the Commission on Global Health Risk Framework
In response to recent outbreaks of infectious diseases such as Ebola, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and H1N1, the National Academy of Medicine is coordinating a new Commission on Global Health Risk Framework. The framework will address the need for better local and global health infrastructure to stem the spread of diseases on a global scale.

The Commission is a multinational, independent board made up of 18 members from 11 countries. The National Academy of Medicine serves as the secretariat. Those serving on the board are members of their countries’ health ministries and funds while others work in universities and the insurance industry.

To create the framework, the Commission will convene four workshops, each lasting up to three days. Topics include governance for global health, financial responses to pandemic threats, resilient health systems, and research and development of medical products.

A wide range of experts will address the layout of related global initiatives, challenges and lessons learned from past health threats, and the reactions of governments, communities, and the private sector during threats.

The first public meeting was held in Washington D.C. on July 29, 2015. At the conclusion of the four workshops, the commission will publish a consensus report on how to address the issues raised and will provide detailed recommendations for fixing  problem areas. The report is scheduled for release by the end of 2015.

Katherine Hewitt

Sources: NAM 1, NAM 2, News Medical
Photo: Flickr


It’s a substance that would raise an eyebrow or two for its potentially deathly effects, but for some natives in Turkey, poisonous honey is a treat worth “dying for.”

Dating back to 401 B.C., Greek philosopher Socrates’ pupil Xenophon detailed his fascination with and discovery of a honeycomb that had inflicted the jittering in soldiers’ legs and a “fit of madness” among those who had consumed a large amount of the substance.

The pain-causing honey would be known as “mad honey,” and upon further discoveries, in 67 B.C., it proved useful as a lethal weapon for the Persians’ fight against Roman treachery, when opposing forces mistakenly “gobbled it up” and fell into an extreme state of hysteria.

Centuries later, the Black Sea would serve as an abundant harvesting zone for the honey, initiating trade with European regions in the 1700s for infusing the toxin with alcoholic beverages for high risk-taking drinkers. Since the exportation, mad honey has found its way into outside countries like Japan, Germany and Switzerland.

It wouldn’t be brought into the public eye until two centuries later: the toxic-coated honey made its rounds at public health clinics throughout the mid- to late 1980s, when 11 patients were admitted for poisoning pertaining to the intake of mad honey.

Determined by health analysts, the poisonous substance is typically found in the eastern Black Sea region of Turkey, where nearby northern Turkey-bred bees roam rhododendron flower beds retaining grayanotoxin, the offsetting poison trigger thriving within the nectar of mad honey. Although in earlier studies it was always noted for its hazardous aftereffects, the alleged benefits of consuming mad honey include treating diabetes and improving sexual performance.

The benefits have since then ignited forms of debate by fellow travelers and “honey experts,” who proclaim that such allegations are only marketed as “belief” tools to contribute to further purchases of the substance.

Every now and then, the product will be requested by a large number of consumers, especially adventurous travelers visiting Turkey.

In 2011, British publication The Guardian warned readers that no more than one teaspoon of mad honey should be consumed at a time, as it will immediately trigger an irregular heartbeat (yet “rarely” cause fatal damage).

Although the news source reported that one would have to track down rare, hard-to-find carriers if one wished to try the toxic delight, mad honey has been serviced via online purchase at prices over USD$160.

Though it is remotely legal upon purchase in Turkey, and may be viewed to some degree as a “responsible” intake substance, some are wary of the potential consequences it could have on the misinformed.

In a 2012 public health study conducted by lead researcher Suze A. Jansen, if cattle are to ingest the mad honey, they will be prone to an assortment of neurological side effects; their response is more hazardous than that of humans.

Unearthed, Jansen found that cattle were more susceptible to lethal aftereffects if they consumed large quantities of mad honey. Among humans, it is rare for there to be a case where more than a drop is ingested.

As research continues to develop, analysts are currently placing the proposed claims of increased sexual performance into clear perspective. They are also determining whether or not mad honey should be pulled off the shelves of selected Turkish stores, and if doing so will lead to the end of underground purchases from online vendors.

Jeff Varner

Sources: NCBI, The Guardian, NCBI, Modern Farmer, SFGate
Photo: Deep Roots At Home

According to a new study by GE Healthcare, incidences of fatal breast cancer have risen in developing countries.

Bengt Jönsson, Professor in Health Economics at the Stockholm School of Economics, and co-author of the report has said, “Breast cancer is on the rise across developing nations, mainly due to the increase in life expectancy and lifestyle changes such as women having fewer children, as well as hormonal intervention such as post-menopausal hormonal therapy. In these regions mortality rates are compounded by the later stage at which the disease is diagnosed, as well as limited access to treatment, presenting a ‘ticking time bomb’ which health systems and policymakers in these countries need to work hard to defuse.”

While significant headway is being made in the prevention of communicable diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS, many developing countries do not have the resources to provide treatment for cancer.

Ignorance and the stigma of breast cancer is also a contributing factor. “There is little information for the people who need to be helped,” said Dr. Fred Okuku, of the Uganda Cancer Institute in Kampala, “Only a few know how to read and write. Many don’t have TV or radio. There is no word for cancer in most Ugandan languages. A woman finds a lump in her breast, and cancer doesn’t cross her mind. It’s not in her vocabulary.”

In the United States, about 20 percent of breast cancer patients die from it, compared with 40 to 60 percent in developing countries. While prevention and self screening measures are well known in the United States, misinformation in the developing world has led to an increased risk. A recent survey in Mexico City highlights this, indicating that many women feel uncomfortable or worried about having a mammogram.

Claire Goodliffe, Global Oncology Director for GE Healthcare, has said, “It is of great concern that women in newly industrialized countries are reluctant to get checked out until it is too late. This report finds a direct link between survival rates in countries and the stage at which breast cancer is diagnosed. It provides further evidence of the need for early detection and treatment, which we welcome given current controversies about the relative harms, benefits, and cost effectiveness of breast cancer screening.”

David Smith

Sources: New York Times