Lancet Editorial Highlights Similarities Between Current Health Challenges, Those From 1911

“After a century of progress, the issues that medicine must tackle in the coming year aren’t that different from the ones that faced doctors at the start of 1911, according to the observations” published Jan. 1 in a Lancet editorial, LiveScience reports (Parry, 12/30).

“In this week’s year-end editorial, the Lancet reflects on its lead editorial from 1911, titled ‘The Promise of 1911,'” CBC News reports (12/30). Squire Sprigge, the journal’s editor a century ago, expressed hope that a cure for tuberculosis would be found, Postmedia News/Montreal Gazette reports. “Sprigge wrote that he hoped ‘better understanding would one day result in the mastery of the disease.'” One hundred years later, the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease Project Director I.D. Rusen points out that about nine million new cases of the disease are diagnosed each year and at least 1.5 million people die from TB every year, Postmedia News/Montreal Gazette writes (Lindell, 12/30). 

Sprigge also “lauded advancements against rabies, diphtheria (a bacterial respiratory infection) and the plague, which “returned to Europe in 1911, ‘to be met by science armed with the knowledge of its mode of propagation and of the practical measures to prevent the extension of its ravages,'” LiveScience writes. “One problem that could easily appear unchanged from the 1911 editorial was ‘the elucidation of the problem of cancer.’ Since then, science has shed light on some causes, including tobacco, viruses, exposure to ultraviolet radiation and certain chemicals, and has developed more-complex treatments. However, the disease itself remains an intractable problem,” LiveScience writes (12/30).

“While the eloquent prose and emphasis on syphilis of the Jan 7, 1911 issue seems dated, there is more of relevance to practice in 2011 than one might comfortably admit,” according to the new editorial (1/1). “Reports in 1911 of cocaine addiction in Montreal, and deaths caused by tuberculosis, measles, diarrhea and respiratory infection in South Africa, would similarly feel familiar to readers today, as would discussions about medical tourism and journalism, the senior editors write [in the latest editorial],” LiveScience notes. “Between 1911 and 2011 there is much for medicine to be proud of – and also be humble about. New years bring new promise and new opportunities, but some old demons remain,” the editorial states (12/30).

VOA News Examines 2010’s Major Global Health Stories

“A wide range of health stories dominated the news in the year 2010. From a cholera outbreak in Haiti, to a new, faster tuberculosis test, to a United Nations report showing progress against AIDS – good and bad health news dominated the media,” VOA News writes in a piece highlighting the top global health headlines from 2010 and looking ahead to future big news stories.

Concerns over the spread of waterborne diseases in Haiti and Pakistan and the emergence of the NDM-1 gene are among the stories highlighted (Sinha, 12/31).

The KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report summarized news and information on global health policy from hundreds of sources, from May 2009 through December 2020. All summaries are archived and available via search.

KFF Headquarters: 185 Berry St., Suite 2000, San Francisco, CA 94107 | Phone 650-854-9400
Washington Offices and Barbara Jordan Conference Center: 1330 G Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005 | Phone 202-347-5270 | Email Alerts: | |

The independent source for health policy research, polling, and news, KFF is a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, California.