The Red-Light District

Exploring the carnal and taboo

Health and Medicine Around the World

A tip on how to attain a global appreciation for the practice of medicine.

The medical journal The Lancet has a great little department titled “This Week in Medicine.” I like it because it talks about health and medicine in global terms. In medicine—and many other fields for that matter—we risk myopia if we don’t make an effort to learn what other nations are up to.

This week here are 3 things that I learned about health and medicine in other countries:

• Germany has become the first country in Europe to offer parents the option to register newborns as “indeterminate” sex. Apparently, parents feel pressure to greenlight sex assignment surgery and a third option might relieve this pressure. I dug a little deeper and found that Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Australia and New Zealand have, in various capacities, all offered “third-gender” options.

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• Brazil will be producing a measles and rubella vaccine that only costs $0.54 (U.S.). The vaccine will be shipped to developing countries worldwide. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation helped fund the initiative.

• This past year, there was an 11 percent drop in the number of English people who set smoking quit dates with the National Health Service. (NHS is England’s publicly funded healthcare system.) For those who are unaware of the importance of quit dates, the American Cancer Society suggests that making a decision to quit, picking a “Quit Day,” managing withdrawal and staying tobacco free are requirements for the smoker who wants to quit successfully.

Once upon a time, it was difficult for readers to regularly procure news from sources other than newspapers and network news. Times have changed and the Internet allows us to learn about anything we want at any time we please. We can learn about what’s going on in our community, state, country, neighboring country or country half-way across the world. We can acquire a cosmopolitan perspective without leaving the coziness of our couch. The big problem with options is that the media landscape has become fragmented--it’s becoming increasingly difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. And that’s why I’m always on the lookout for good, quick reads (like Lancet’s “This Week in Medicine”) that help me learn more about other places.

Do you have any resources that you’d like to recommend?

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Naveed Saleh, M.D., M.S., attained a medical degree from Wayne State University School of Medicine and a master's degree in science journalism from Texas A&M.

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