Every year medicine and research seem to be doing better things and achieving the “impossible.” 2013 was a year that had both successes and failures and we hope that 2014 will surprise us further. Here are just some of the things that happened in medicine and public health last year:
1. Influenza: In 2013, it killed 169 million children. This was a sickening wake up call to public health officials and healthcare providers.
2. Untreatable Bacteria: Doctors fear that some superbugs including the “nightmare” bug or CRE may soon be unstoppable. MRSA, a methicillin-resistant bacteria, was no longer contained to hospitals and is emerging in public areas.
3. Mental Illness: 36 states and the federal government increased funding for mental illnesses and set rules to implement and regulate the 2008 policy that insurance should equally cover physical and mental ailments.
4. Angelina Jolie’s Op-Ed: When this celebrity found out she had the BRCA1 mutation (which causes a high risk for breast cancer), she wrote a piece about her preventative mastectomy. Many argue that although it may have empowered women facing breast cancer, the rarity of her situation (her mutation only accounts for 2% of breast cancer cases) was not highlighted in her article and could wrongly influence women to have unnecessary surgery.
5. Trans Fats: The FDA set plans to completely ban the use of trans fats which would save up to 7,000 lives and 21,000 heart attacks per year.
6. The Government Shutdown: The shutdown caused clinical trials to be put on hold. This heavily affected cancer patients who may have relied on these trials as a last resort option and either passed away or became too ill for trial treatments during the shutdown. Major public health agencies including the FDA, CDC, and NIH were forced to significantly suspend activity.
7. Batkid Saves San Francisco: When a 7-year-old child was diagnosed with leukemia, the citizens of San Francisco banded together to make this kid’s dream of being Batkid come true. He got to stop a fake bank robbery, received a key to the city from the mayor, and even got a thumbs up from President Obama.
8. Obamacare: This was put fully into motion after much opposition, and people began purchasing health insurance on the online marketplaces. Some people also learned that the Affordable Care Act (which they support) is actually the same thing as Obamacare (which, thanks to propaganda, they somehow don’t support). Now anyone can get health insurance regardless of preexisting conditions.
9. Polio: Because of the raging political conflict in Syria, public health is no longer high priority. This caused an outbreak of polio in the nation which could spread to surrounding countries that are housing Syrian refugees. This horrifying disease had been well-controlled up til this point.
10. Obesity is a Disease: The AMA declared obesity a disease in hopes of getting better coverage and treatment for those afflicted. Dieticians and nutritionists, for example, may covered, and the stigma surrounding obesity may change.