A healthcare worker, recently returned from Sierra Leone to Glasgow, is loaded onto a plane for London for treatment for the UK's first case of Ebola. These resources are not available in the developing world. Photo: Getty Images
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Does Western medical research still have #firstworldproblems?

When more money in Britain is spent on researching cures for baldness than for malaria, then there's a problem.

In a society obsessed with appearance, a healthy head of hair is to die for. We spend more money worldwide on curing baldness than malaria, which killed half a million people in 2013 (that’s roughly the population of Edinburgh).

It feels like every year we’re edging closer and closer to winning the battle against baldness. Just last week it was announced that scientists may have found a cure for male pattern baldness using stem cells. That’s great news for old balding men, though not so great for the 1.4 billion people suffering from fatal diseases ignored by the Western world.

When it comes to medical research and funding, some diseases are favoured more than others. David Cameron named dementia as “one of the greatest enemies of humanity”. He said this last year during the launch of a government-funded research campaign, which put forward £100 million to help find a cure for dementia by 2025.

Forty million people suffer with dementia worldwide. Yet there are other equally devastating diseases that fail to attract the same sense of urgency, attention, and money. For example, elephantiasis, which globally afflict 120 million people, and soil-transmitted helminthiasis, which afflicts over 1 billion people. These are just a few of the "neglected tropical diseases" — a term describing a group of infectious illnesses that cause suffering to people in the poorest countries due to lack of basic health care services. They are known for affecting the economically and politically marginalised, and pose little threat to high-income countries.

Over the past ten years the West has become somewhat more concerned with neglected tropical diseases, and has taken steps to address the problem. Last month, a new initiative was launched in Parliament called the University Global Health Research League Table (GHRLT), which aims to create awareness of how university research policies can positively impact the health needs of developing countries. This is the first of its kind in the UK - a disappointing fact when you consider how influential they are, with more than 30 per cent of new drugs developed at universities. However, research and medicine is difficult to access and often unaffordable for those in developing countries. Perhaps the increased attention to neglected tropical diseases is owed to the realisation that one day they might become not-so-tropical - and hair loss may not be as much of a priority as diseases that cause death.

Ebola, for example, also a neglected tropical disease, very recently saw the largest, deadliest, and most complex outbreak since its discovery in humans almost 40 years ago. Prior to this epidemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has records of 26 outbreaks, and nearly 2000 cases of the virus between 1976 and 2013, most of which were in sub-Saharan Africa. But when the WHO declared Ebola as an international health emergency in August of last year, it highlighted the fact that there were no proven cures, treatments, or vaccines to prevent infection. It caused a global panic, which even lead CNN to ask whether Ebola was the "Isis of biological agents".

Diseases shouldn’t become a concern only when it threatens the adults, children, family and friends of the wealthy western populations. Even though Ebola was unlikely to cause a major outbreak in the UK, the symptoms - bleeding from the eyes, ears, anus and other orifices, before finally dying - were difficult to ignore. It forced many to look at global health issues from a different perspective.

However, sudden surges of western interest in tropical diseases are not new. They've historically been linked with politics, war and colonialism - for example, research into tropical diseases, such as Yellow Fever, only became an area of concern when it caused settlers and soldiers to become ill, therefore interfering with Europeans attempt to control Africa. People in developing countries make up 80 per cent of the global population, yet only account for approximately 20 per cent of global medicine sales. Without economic incentives it's unlikely that drug manufacturers would dedicate money, time and research into creating new drugs for populations unable to afford them.

The GHRLT showed that, of the 25 top-funded universities, most were not investing a substantial proportion of their research budget into global health. This includes the University of Cambridge, which ranks 15th in the league table. Eight universities were awarded a grade D or worse (on a scale from A+ to D-) for their commitment to global health. And only seven showed commitment to making their findings easily accessible to those in developing countries. “Most universities are not doing enough to tackle the needs of the poorest”, said co-lead of the initiative, Dzintars Gotham. “Universities should take seriously their ability to do work in areas that are neglected by profit-seeking companies.”

Medical research is expensive even for wealthy countries like the UK, let alone for developing countries. Universities should invest more of their research budgets into global health and medicine, as well as sharing their knowledge and discoveries in ways that are easily accessible to the world’s poorest countries. The unrestricted availability of scientific research papers is important for everyone, but particularly for global health as it helps scientists from developing countries progress in their own research.

While Cameron may consider dementia “one of the greatest enemies of humanity”, I disagree. The greatest enemy of humanity is not just one disease, or many - it is the West spending more money on curing baldness than malaria, and ignoring the medical needs of the marginalised, unless or until it becomes a threat. 

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Pupils need internet classes? Here are 41 lessons they should learn

Forget privacy and security, here's what to do when a black and blue dress looks white and gold. 

It is imperative that children are taught how to survive and thrive on the internet, claims a new House of Lords report. According to the Lords Communication Committee, pupils need to learn how to stay safe, avoid addictive games, and become “digitally literate”.

It’s hard to argue with the report, which is a great step forward in acknowledging that the internet now basically = life. Yet although it is crucial that children learn how to stay private and secure online, there are also some equally crucial and not-at-all-flippant pieces of information that the youth urgently need to know. Here are the first 41 lessons in that curriculum.

  1. To figure out how much to donate towards your mate’s charity half-marathon, half X OR double Y, where X is the amount paid by their mum and Y is the amount donated by your closest rival, Becky
  2. Don’t mention that it’s snowing
  3. If – for some reason – you talk about bombs in a Facebook message, follow this up with “Hi Theresa May” in case Theresa May is looking, and then Theresa May will think you are just joking
  4. If you are on a train and you are annoyed about the train, do not tweet @ the social media manager who runs the account for the train, because they are not, in fact, the train
  5. If a Facebook meme starts “Only 10 per cent of people can get this puzzle right” – know that lies are its captain
  6. It’s not pronounced me-me
  7. Never say me-me nor meem, for they should not be discussed out loud
  8. People can tell if you’ve watched their Instagram stories
  9. People can’t tell if you’ve waded back through their Zante 2008 album and viewed all 108 photos
  10. People can tell if you’ve waded back through their Zante 2008 album and viewed all 108 photos if you accidentally Like one – in this circumstance, burn yourself alive
  11. Jet fuel can melt steel beams
  12. If a dog-walking photo is taken in the woods and no one uploads it; did it even happen?
  13. Google it before you share it
  14. Know that Khloe Kardashian does not look that way because of a FitTea wrap
  15. Do not seek solace in #MondayMotivation – it is a desolate place
  16. Respect JK Rowling
  17. Please read an article before you comment about a point that the article specifically rebutted in great detail in order to prepare for such comments that alas, inevitably came
  18. Don’t be racist, ok?
  19. Never, under any circumstances, wade into the Facebook comment section under an article about Jeremy Corbyn
  20.  If a dress looks white and gold to some people and black and blue to some others, please just go outside
  21. Open 200 tabs until you are crippled with anxiety. Close none of the tabs
  22. Despite the fact it should make you cringe, “smol puppers” is the purest evolution of language. Respect that
  23. Take selfies, no matter what anyone says
  24. Watch Zoella ironically until the lines of irony blur and you realise that the 20 minutes you immerse yourself into her rose-gold life are the only minutes of peace in your agonising day but also, what’s wrong with her pug? I hope her pug is ok
  25. Nazi Furries are a thing. Avoid
  26. Use Facebook’s birthday reminder to remember that people exist and delete them from your Friends list
  27. When a person you deleted from your Friends list inexplicably comes up to you IRL and says “Why?” pretend that your little cousin Jeff got into your account
  28. Don’t let your little cousin Jeff into your account
  29. “Like” the fact your friend got engaged even if you don’t actually like the fact she is reminding you of the gradual ebbing away of your youth
  30. No one cares about your political opinion and if they act like they do then I regret to inform you, they want to have sex with you
  31. Please don’t leave a banterous comment on your local Nando’s Facebook page, for it is not 2009
  32. Accept that the viral Gods choose you, you do not choose them
  33. Joke about your mental health via a relatable meme that is actually an agonising scream into the void
  34. Share texts from your mum and mock them with internet strangers because even though she pushed you out of her vagina and gave up her entire life to help you thrive as a person, she can’t correctly use emojis
  35. Follow DJ Khaled
  36. Decide that “Best wishes” is too blah and “Sincerely” is too formal and instead sign off your important email with “Happy bonfire night”” even though that is not a thing people say
  37. If someone from primary school adds you as Friend in 15 years, accept them but never speak again
  38. The mute button is God’s greatest gift
  39. Do not tell me a clown will kill me after midnight if I don’t like your comment because that is not a promise you can keep
  40. Don’t steal photos of other people’s pets
  41. Accept that incorrect "your"s and "you’re"s are not going anywhere and save yourself the time 

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.