This is an Asia Undercovered Special Issue, when we go in-depth on an undercovered topic from the continent. This one is focused on public health. The reason: we’re all focused on COVID-19, but across Asia, many are suffering or losing their lives due to other public health issues, many of which get little attention despite impacting huge segments of the population.
This issue was written by Daniela Muenzel, a freelance writer and communications specialist.
Public health beyond COVID-19
As Indonesia grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, infections from another animal-borne disease have gone on the rise largely unnoticed, likely driven by climate change, with more cases recorded so far this year than for the coronavirus. Yitno Suprapto on 17,800 cases of dengue fever nationwide (Mongabay).
The world watched the protests in Hong Kong last year – but less attention was given to a mental health crisis facing the city, which also affects people not involved in protests. Rachel Cheung wrote for South China Morning Post about the collective emotion and an overburdened public mental health system.
For China’s transgender community, discriminatory laws and policies have left many people feeling they have no choice but to risk their lives by performing extremely dangerous surgery on themselves, or seek dangerous hormone drugs on the black market. Bak Yiu for Hong Kong Free Press.
ASEAN has made tremendous progress on Universal Health Coverage , but migrant workers are still largely left behind. Gideon Lasco and Raudah Yunus question whether ASEAN is doing enough for migrant workers who face often insurmountable challenges to access basic social and health services (The Straits Times).
Singapore came second-highest among nine regions studied for expenditure on stress-related illnesses. Timothy Goh covers a report that highlights the impact of demanding work culture, a widespread issue in many Asian countries (The Straits Times).
Philippines approved the so-called “Golden Rice” end of last year, intended to protect up to 200 million people from irreversible blindness due to vitamin A deficiency. Asia Sentinel sums up how it was developed, and the long battle for approval.
In Thailand, when medical marijuana was legalised, people rushed to grow it and the government even encourages hospitals to champion its use. Here’s what’s happening in the first Southeast Asian country to legalise cannabis for medical use(South China Morning Post).
Public Health heroes
In September last year internationally known Chinese AIDS Whistleblower Wang Shuping passed away after a play on the epidemic was performed, despite threats from Chinese state security police (Radio Free Asia)
To coincide with International Women’s day last month, researcher Phaik Yeong Cheah and photojournalist Nicky Almasy teamed up to write a four-part blog featuring remarkable Southeast Asian women who work in health research (BioMed Central Blogs).
Asia Undercovered: Journalist Nithin Coca’s weekly roundup of the news, events, trends and people changing Asia, but not getting enough attention in western media.