Skip to Content

Brainstorm Health: Pollution Kills, Robert Mugabe WHO Appointment, Celgene Stock Tumbles

WHO Pollution report HIV Ebola responsible deathsWHO Pollution report HIV Ebola responsible deaths

Greetings and happy Friday, readers. This is Sy.

A formidable portion of the world’s public health woes is tied to pollution, according to new research published in the journal Lancet. In fact, there were nine million premature pollution-related deaths in 2015 alone, with air pollution being the biggest single driver of early deaths.

“[Air pollution contributed to] 6.5 million deaths in 2015, while water pollution (1.8 million deaths) and workplace-related pollution (0.8 million deaths) pose the next largest risks,” wrote the study authors in a press release. The research was conducted by dozens of international health and environmental experts and incorporates data from the ambitious Global Burden of Disease project, which highlighted how smoking, blood pressure, poor diet, and environmental factors affect human health earlier this year.

Pollution is particularly rampant—and deadly—in lower- to middle-income nations. But it also takes a toll in higher-income countries like the United States and may be holding back American life expectancy. Dirty air, water, and working conditions are associated with some of the most prominent causes of death in the world, including heart disease, cancer, and lung disease.

“As the report shows, no country is unaffected by pollution. Human activities, including industrialization, urbanization, and globalization, are all drivers of pollution… We hope that the findings and recommendations from this Lancet Commission will also marshal action in the health and development sectors, and persuade leaders at the national, state, provincial, and city levels to make pollution a priority,” said Lancet senior executive editor Dr. Pamela Das and editor in chief Dr. Richard Horton in a statement accompanying the study.

Read on for the day’s news, and enjoy your weekend.

Sy Mukherjee


Insurance giant Anthem to launch “Engage” digital health platform. Anthem Blue Cross announced that it’s launching a new platform to unite multiple kinds of digital health data—including electronic medical records, insurance claims info, and even health and wellness app stats—into an overarching product called Engage. “Rather than contending with a myriad of one-off digital offerings that address only small portions of their health benefits and healthcare or fitness data, Engage brings together an individual’s health and benefits into one location, empowering employees with information and support for better health and better health care decisions,” said Brian Ternan, president of commercial business at Anthem Blue Cross, in a statement.


Celgene stock tumbles after late stage drug failure. Biotech giant Celgene faced an unexpected—at least to Wall Street—setback as the company announced it was ditching an important experimental treatment for Crohn’s disease. It’s not clear exactly why Celgene won’t be going forward with the drug; but it presents a challenge given the therapy’s prominence in the firm’s pipeline as Celgene attempts to bring more blockbuster-potential drugs to market. Celgene stock tumbled 10% in Friday trading. (Barron’s)


In controversial move, Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe appointed as WHO “goodwill” ambassador. New World Health Organization director-general Tedros Ghebreyesus announced in a recent speech that Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe—who has faced allegations of human rights violations and “crimes against humanity”—would be a “goodwill ambassador” to the global health agency. The decision drew immediate backlash from prominent medical and advocacy groups; Mugabe’s appointment in the largely symbolic position was reportedly meant to raise awareness of non-communicable diseases like heart disease in Africa. (Washington Post)


How Intuit Reinvents Itselfby Geoff Colvin

Chipotle’s Queso Could Have Spillover Effect on Stock Priceby Kirsten Korosec

Bill Gates Is Investing More Than a Billion Dollars in Public Schoolsby Lucinda Shen

Mastercard Will Now Let You Pay With Blockchain–But Not Bitcoinby Jen Wieczner

Produced by Sy Mukherjee

Find past coverage. Sign up for other Fortune newsletters.