Weekly Highlight: 06.02.2008

Denmark: too poor to buy medicine?

Study: one in four Copenhagen residents too poor to buy medicine
01.02.2008

Poverty statistics showing that one in six city residents fall below the poverty line are a sign that public assistance programmes have been cut too far, say councillor.
One in six city residents falls below the poverty line, and one in four have gone without basic necessities such as food, medicine and rent payments as a result of their financial situation, a new City Hall study finds.
The conclusion, based on statistical data, questionnaires and interviews with city residents, estimates that 66,058 people – including 6000 children – live under the poverty line, which is set at DKK 2763 (~USD542.3/RM1752) per month per person.
More than every fourth person living under the poverty line – 27 percent – questioned in the study said they had been forced to skip a rent payment or a utility bill, compared with 16 percent for all city residents.
Some 26 percent said they had at some point been unable to afford prescription medication.
Others, such as one single mother, answering participating in the survey, said they often were unable to buy food, or were forced not to eat in order to pay for food for their children.
According to the study, 16 percent of those living under the poverty line are public benefits recipients and 30 percent are immigrants.
The study also documents that while average income levels in the city have increased, the gap between the richest and the poorest has also increased.
Mikkel Warming, who heads the city council’s social affiars committee, said he would use the report to urge the Liberal-Consverative government to reverse cuts it has made to public assistance programmes.

Finland:

Finns Not Prepared for Financial Difficulties
Published 05.02.2008, 16.42

Nearly 70 percent of Finns are financially unprepared for economic difficulties. A new study conducted in January for local cooperative banks by the research company Protone Ltd interviewed more than 500 people over the age of 15 to arrive at the findings.
More than 35 percent of respondents could not identify any circumstances that might destabilise them financially. The most oblivious to financial setbacks were the youngest respondents.
More than 20 percent of those interviewed thought that the worst threat to personal finances was becoming unemployed.
By contrast, possibilities such as the death of loved ones or divorce were not considered to bring financial challenges.
“In the study these were mentioned by under one percent of respondents, that tells us that these matters are consciously swept aside,” said Heikki Suutala, CEO of The Finnish Local Cooperative Bank Group.
The research also revealed that Finnish confidence in domestic economic matters remains high, in spite of ripples in global financial markets. About 65 percent of Finns felt that they would continue to enjoy their current level of financial stability, while 23 percent believed their situation will improve, and just 12 percent feared it would deteriorate.
Significantly, nearly 20 percent of interviewees in the capital city differed from the rest of the country in believing that their financial security would deteriorate. Among them 0ver 60-year olds were the most concerned.

Netherlands:

Obese people use less healthcare: report
Tuesday 05 February 2008

Preventing obesity might save lives but it also may end up costing the health service more money, according to a new Dutch study.
‘It was a small surprise, but it also makes sense,’ Pieter van Baal, an economist with the Dutch pubic health institute told news agency ANP. ‘If you live longer, you cost the health system more.’
The research, published in the Public Library of Science Medicine on Monday, found that healthy adults who are not overweight cost more in terms of medical care than obese people and smokers.
The figures were based on three hypothetical population groups – thin non-smokers, obese non-smokers and thin smokers – and used existing Dutch healthcare cost statistics.
The researchers found that obese people cost the health service the most between the ages of 20 and 56. But because they died younger, they cost less to treat in the long run.
On average healthy people live to the age of 84, smokers to 77 years old and obese people to 80. Smokers and obese people are more likely to have heart disease than non-smokers of normal weight. The incidence of cancer, apart from lung cancer, was the same in all three groups.
‘Obesity prevention may be an important and cost-effective way of improving public health, but it is not a cure for increasing health expenditures,’ the researchers concluded.
However, they point out that the research does not take into effect other factors, such as the economic benefits of a healthy workforce and the social cost of obesity and smoking.
The BBC reported on Tuesday morning that the Dutch findings go against accepted views on the cost of obesity.

Norway: well, in Malaysia we have the Bumiputra’s rights, in Norway they have…

Quota law doomed the ‘good old boys’ clubs’
First published: 05 Feb 2008, 16:30

Six years after it was first proposed, Norway’s stocklisted corporations have mostly conformed to a new law requiring that 40 percent of their boards be comprised of women. The so-called “quota law,” once controversial, now seems widely accepted.
Ansgar Gabrielsen, the former government minister from the Conservative Party, can look back with satisfaction that his proposal ultimately became law. It was in 2002 that he launched the idea of ordering publicly traded companies to recruit more female directors.
Gabrielsen, an otherwise soft-spoken and genial man from southern Norway, made headlines when he said he was “sick and tired” of the “good old boys’ clubs” that were running corporate Norway. At the time, there were about 200 women sitting on the boards of corporations, called “ASAs” in Norway.
Now there are nearly 1,000 female members of Norwegian boards of directors. The companies were given until January 1 of this year to recruit women and replace male directors with females, so that at least 40 percent would be women.
The new law, passed in 2003, provoked predictable protests. Male-dominated boards cried that quotas don’t work, and that only the best-qualified people should be elected as directors, regardless of whether they were men or women. Even a lot of women within Gabrielsen’s own Conservative party criticized him, and claimed most ambitious women wouldn’t want board appointments just because they were women.
In short, Gabrielsen had to fend off attacks from right and left, quite literally. As a Conservative, he seemed an unlikely champion of affirmative action for women in the boardroom, and he jokes now that Catholic priests prayed for him and investment experts warned that multinationals would desert the Oslo Stock Exchange. Even that Norway in general would be shunned by the international investment community
That clearly hasn’t happened, and Gabrielsen muses that his harshest critics “would rather not be reminded today of the things they said then.” He simply doesn’t think it’s “radical” to place quotas on female board representation.
“Half of those who take higher education today are women, and many have the relevant experience,” he said. “I’m convinced that diversity on the boards will increase company valuation.”
As of last week more than 90 percent of all Norwegian ASAs had met quota demands. Firms that don’t face dissolution, and received written warnings in January.

Sweden: as the people grew relaxed…

Sharp rise in HIV infections
Published: 5 Feb 08 08:20 CET

The number of new HIV infections jumped 20 percent in Sweden last year, health officials said Tuesday, quoting preliminary figures that could signal altered attitudes towards the disease that causes AIDS.
In 2007, around 500 new HIV infections were reported in Sweden, up from some 390 new cases reported a year earlier, according to preliminary numbers published by the Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control (SMI).
“We have especially seen an increase in the number of new infections among men who have sex with men and needle-users,” SMI statistician Malin Arneborn told AFP, adding that Sweden was thus following a trend already seen in other European countries.
While a majority of new HIV patients registered in Sweden each year are infected abroad, SMI said the number of people infected inside the Scandinavian country had soared 70 percent last year.
“All sexually transmittable diseases are increasing. People are having more unprotected sex,” Arneborn said.
The number of men infected through sex with other men grew from 50 in 2006 to around 80 last year, while the number of infected needle users doubled from 35 to around 70 during the same period, according to the preliminary figures.
“We have an ongoing epidemic among needle users in Stockholm. They have been infected by a virus strain that originated in Finland. It probably began spreading in 2006 but the increase only became evident in 2007,” SMI said in a statement.
The increase in infections indicates that people are less worried about contracting the disease than they were a decade ago, according to medical researcher Claes Herlitz who has been tracking Swedish attitudes towards HIV since the late 1980s.
“Interest in HIV/AIDS has gradually declined as people have become more accustomed to the threat … They’ve seen that HIV hasn’t spread as quickly as we thought it would in the late 80s, and there are new medicines making it more difficult to get AIDS. Fewer people are dying,” he told AFP.
On a positive note, Herlitz said people with HIV were less stigmatized today and most people are no longer afraid of having contact with them.
“But perhaps the fear has declined too much. Risky sexual behaviour has increased and a greater number of people are having casual sex without using a condom,” he said.

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