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It’s better to build a fence at the top of a cliff than spend a fortune on ambulances and treatment facilities to care for all those who fall. ChameleonsEye/Shutterstock

The rule of rescue

* This is the first in an occasional series of articles on must-read, indispensible papers in public health. Forty-one years ago when I started working in public health, there was a parable someone would…
Vital but routine public health measures are often compromised in the weeks following natural disasters. UNICEF

Cyclone Pam aid efforts should keep future disasters in mind

Any public health assessment of Vanuatu should include the identification of immediate needs and associated risks, as well as put in plans for mitigating future natural disasters.
The tobacco industry warned smokers would use special covers to conceal the large-scale graphic warnings on packs. This hasn’t happened. Lucas Cock/AAP

Cluster bomb of new research explodes tobacco industry lies about plain packs

There is near-universal agreement that Australia’s implementation of tobacco plain packaging in December 2012 has seen the most virulent opposition ever experienced from the global tobacco industry.
Studies suggest friends, family members and even colleagues of smokers or obese people are more likely to smoke or be obese themselves. Barry/Flickr

Beware, a ‘non-communicable’ disease may be socially infectious

The leading cause of death in the world are a group of illnesses known as non-commmunicable diseases. But a growing body of evidence shows they're actually social contagions.
Australian supermarket chains don’t go beyond compliance with industry and regulatory standards, and a patchy collection of additional animal welfare requirements. Cyril Caton/Flickr

German supermarket chain ups the ante on animal welfare

Animal welfare and environmental sustainability are important ethical issues but Australian supermarkets don't do much about them. Germany's Aldi Süd chain could teach them a thing or two.
Baby it’s warm inside … we have 200 microbes for every human cell. Agricultural Research Service

Are you overweight? The clue’s in your poo

Our personal collection of microbes is vital for gut health - but new research shows that large-scale analysis of our 'microbiomes' can show if a population is fat or lean. The answer is in sewage.
Safe injection facilities (SIFs) offer clean syringes, bandages and antiseptics to drug users. SIFs reduce overdose deaths and limit the spread of disease. Andy Clark/Reuters

Safe injection facilities: more than just a place to shoot drugs

Not only can they improve public health and decrease treatment costs, but they can also address one of the root causes of addiction: loneliness.
Only recently has conversation about access to new drugs been moving to acknowledging the need for a community debate about affordability as well. pixxiestails/Flickr

Why the public should have a say in high-cost drug subsidies

Decisions about public subsidies for high-cost drugs are naturally quite complex. And while patients have increasingly been given a voice in the process, the views of the wider community have generally…
To understand public heath, you have to understand how the public lives. Commuters via STH/Shutterstock

To tackle inequalities, build health into all public policies

Many of today’s public health issues – diabetes, cancer, obesity, cardiovascular disease – are strongly associated with social inequalities. Literature from across the world shows that gaps in income…
If governments choose to prioritise commercial interests, they place health scientists in the invidious position of helping inflict damage on public health. AAP Image/Glenn Hunt

Should scientists work with industry on alcohol policy?

It’s undeniable that there’s an irreconcilable conflict of interest in the alcohol industry being involved in developing health policy. And by participating in meetings involving industry representatives…
OK you can trust this food label. But calories? Forget it. Bryan Kennedy

Why most food labels are wrong about calories

Food labels seem to provide all the information a thoughtful consumer needs, so counting calories should be simple. But things get tricky because food labels tell only half the story. A calorie is a measure…
Making waves but will it cross the pond? Maurizio Gambarini

Why a pill to prevent HIV is causing great controversy

The latest report from Public Health England revealed that there were more than 100,000 people living with HIV in the UK, with 6,000 new infections last year. Around a quarter of people are unaware they…
Good teeth often correlates with good health. But one in five over-65s have lost all their teeth. m01229/Flickr

How to fill the gaps in Australia’s dental health system

An Aussie smile is an instant indicator of socioeconomic status, employability and self-esteem. It’s also a predictor of physical health. So it’s shocking that Australians’ dental health has not improved…
A woman stands outside a makeshift toilet built by a resident of a slum colony based on the bank of the Yamuna River, India. Flickr/Gates Foundation

Providing the toilets people want will help Clean India’s campaign

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has wowed audiences in Australia during his recent visit and used the occasion to remind people of his plan to provide a toilet at home for all Indians by 2019. The…
Lack of proper sanitation, as in these homes in Dhaka, Bangladesh, creates all sorts of risks to social and economic wellbeing.

Imagine life without a proper toilet: that’s the reality for 1 in 3 people

It’s 2014. So why do we still need World Toilet Day? Because 2.5 billion people still need one. World Toilet Day remains a critical means to raise awareness globally about one of the many important things…
Short-term panic draws attention away from long-term solutions. Paul Hanna/Reuters

Panic and precaution: Ebola and the outbreak narrative

It does not make the news when a two year old boy dies of Ebola in Guinea. Nor when his sister, his mother and his grandmother succumb. It takes time for local officials to recognize an outbreak. By the…
Who’s responsible? EPA/Ahmed Jallanzo

Decades of corrupt government have left states prey to Ebola

The word Ebola is conjuring up fear around the world; breakdowns in Western infection control procedures have led to cases in Spain and the US, and have given the non-African world a taste – or a foretaste…

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