Global health news round-up: Norway shares, Japan to reach out to robots?

It’s tough to keep track of fast-moving health news in the UK, let alone all of the exciting and important developments going on around the world too. So here at Leading Healthcare, our global health news round-up gives a weekly international overview of what’s happening beyond our shores.

Here’s a taste of what’s been going on around the globe, reported by reliable reports and sources, across the last seven days, from 15 to 21 January 2021.

First to Japan, where Reuters reports on automated COVID-19 testing machines. Japan’s Health Minister, Norihisa Tamura watched a demonstration of a prototype human-driven robotic arm, which could be used in situations such as mass public gatherings. The ‘arms’ are able to take samples from human noses and deliver test results within 80 minutes. It remains to be seen whether the Japanese government will take up the creation by Kawasaki Heavy Industries Inc, but it’s said the system could enable processing of up to 2,000 samples every 16 hours. (Reuters)

Over in Norway, the Nordic nation has apparently become one of the first in the world to commit to sharing its COVID-19 vaccine doses with lower income countries. As per The Telegraph, once it gets approval, Norway will donate and distribute doses ‘in parallel’ to its own domestic programme, through collaboration with the European Union via a World Health Organisation (WHO) scheme. (The Telegraph)

The same article in the Telegraph also mentions that there has been a ‘move from India’ this week to send vaccines to some of its neighbours. It’s said that Bhutan and the Maldives are among nearby nations to have received shipments, with Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal and the Seychelles also tipped to receive assistance. (The Telegraph)

In non-COVID-19 related news, just for a brief break, New Zealand‘s Ministry of Health, or Manatū Hauora in Māori, has published its latest ‘Healthy Families NZ’ interim evaluation report for 2020. The ‘large-scale prevention initiative’ aims to improve population health by implementing a ‘systems-change approach to preventing chronic disease’. (NZ Ministry of Health)

Next up, we head to Taiwan, where the island nation has once again topped comparison site and database Numbeo’s Health Care Index, formed via online survey results. Leading the table for the third year in a row, it has a ‘score’ of 86.39, which puts it ahead of East Asian neighbours South Korea and Japan, who placed second and fourth respectively. For reference, you can see which news outlets have used Numbeo as a source before. (Numbeo)

This next news snippet might be a little bit of ‘cheat’, as we return to the UK to highlight an interesting development from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). The UKRI is ‘sharing’ and promoting opportunities for international collaboration between the UK and Canada, in the advanced therapy sector. Firms, charities and catapults were invited to a briefing with a panel of industry leaders from both nations, on 21 January. (UKRI)

Across the border in the US, which has had a hectic news week for many reasons, MIT News published a fascinating piece on a new web tool to help tailor COVID-19 testing strategies. The modeling tool, a web-based COVID-19 ‘testing impact calculator’ has been developed by MIT researchers to help organisations answer key questions around coronavirus testing, providing data-informed costing and estimates to help shape decisions and plans. (MIT News)

Staying with the US, President Joe Biden has wasted no time in addressing public health issues, by rescinding the US notice to withdraw from the WHO. While it’s also reported that the nation will join the WHO’s Covax initiative, which aims to deliver and distribute COVID-19 vaccines worldwide with a focus on lower income countries. (Vox)

Meanwhile, many countries are watching Israel’s COVID-19 vaccine roll-out with interest, including the UK. Patrick Vallance, the UK’s Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government tweeted that he had “very helpful” discussions with Israeli health officials about vaccines this week. (Sky News)

And finally, in Australia, Prince Harry has ‘joined forces’ with the Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, by releasing a supportive statement to help with the launch a mental health tool aimed at emergency first responders and their families. The initiative, called ‘Peak Fortem’, is to support those working through stress and trauma, and to help people improve “mental fitness”. (7 News)

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