Good News for Today Feature – 2019 November Updates

By: The Millennial Source
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As Hong Kong experiences its fifth month of violent protests, over 100 Iranians are killed during a nationwide demonstration and impeachment hearings take place in an already deeply divided White House, it is easy to grow overwhelmed and for our minds to conclude that there is no good news in the world. But the truth is, although negative media is overwhelmingly loud, good news does exist. To prove this point – in alignment with our mission of neutrality at Millennial Source – here is our attempt at shedding light on some of the positive developments happening in our world today. 

Fourteen hospitals and institutions in the U.S. set out to address income inequality

Fourteen hospitals and institutions set out in an attempt to address the income inequality in the United States. The disparity is now at a record high since the US Census Bureau started recording it. The Gini coefficient – one of the most widely accepted statistics of income inequality, where zero is maximum equality and one is maximum inequality – now places the United States at .49 in 2019. 

A World Inequality Report published in 2018 revealed that income inequality has increased more rapidly in North America, China, India and Russia than anywhere else. However, among the list, only North America is an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member state. 

Income disparities have become so pronounced that Americans in the top 1% “…average over 39 times more income than the bottom 90 percent…” Whereas Americans in the “nation’s 0.1 percent take over 188 times the income of the bottom 90 percent.” While the top 1% have nearly doubled their income since the Census Bureau started keeping track five decades ago, the poverty line has hovered around the same mark. 

In recognition of this income disparity, 14 of the largest hospitals and health systems in the United States are investing $700 million in communities. These 14 systems form the Healthcare Alliance Network (HAN), an alliance formed to implement economic inclusion plans. According to the organization’s official press release, the factors beyond hospital walls, whether they may be social, economic, environmental or behaviour related can account for up to 80% of the health outcomes a community experiences. 

While the majority of the pledge will be dedicated to funding affordable housing, HAN will also be channeling its investments into “building a new grocery store in a food desert, childcare centers, federally qualified health centers, and Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (MWBEs) and local businesses.”


Microsoft Japan grants employees a four-day workweek

This Asian summer, Microsoft Japan embarked on a 2019 Work-Life Choice Challenge. The challenge involved the subsidiary examining work–life balance and its effect on productivity and creativity. After the experiment, surveys were also conducted with more than 90% of the staff.

From the experiment, it was announced that by closing office doors on Friday without salaries being affected, the Microsoft subsidiary experienced a near 40% boost in productivity. The company also revealed that the business saved other operational expenses with a 23% decrease in electricity use and 59% decrease in paper consumption. 

The company also implemented a 30-minute limit for meetings and encouraged remote/online chats over face-to-face ones. “Work a short time, rest well, and learn a lot,” said Microsoft Japan president and CEO Takuya Hirano. “I want employees to think about and experience how they can achieve the same results with 20% less working time.”

To put this development into perspective, Japan is notorious for having some of the longest working hours in the world. “Karoshi”, a term in Japanese which can be literally translated into “overwork death,” has been popularized by the nation’s overworking culture. From January 2010 to March 2015, 368 suicides were classified as karoshi.

Indian village plants 111 trees for every daughter born 

A small Indian village has recently resparked media attention after being found to celebrate the birth of daughters by undertaking a community ritual of planting 111 fruit trees – the number, culturally believed to bring success. 

The village’s former leader, Shyam Sundar Palawal, first began this ritual in the village of Piplantri to honor the tragic death of his daughter, as well as to combat the gender prejudice against women and girls in India. 

The residents collect 21,000 rupees from the village and 10,000 rupees from a girl’s parents. The total of 31,000 rupees is then a dedicated 20-year fund for the girl. Planting 111 fruit trees provides food for the parents and child and reduces financial strain on the family. Along with this, the parents have to pledge their daughter will not be married until they receive an education and reach 18 years of age as a minimum.

First Ebola vaccine approved for global use

This month, the European Commission approved a vaccine able to protect individuals 18 or older at risk of contracting Ebola. Within 48 hours after the commission’s approval, the World Health Organization (WHO) also approved it, stating it has achieved the necessary standards for global use and distribution.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, an alliance based in Geneva and founded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, funds vaccine distribution across low-income countries. Gavi announced in 2015 that it would only fund distribution of the Ervebo Ebola vaccine if it was approved by a major health group organization. As of November 12, Gavi announced that it welcomes European Commission conditional marketing authorization (CMA) of Ervebo. The vaccine developed by pharmaceutical company Merck from trials and compassionate use has been shown to protect individuals against Ebola following one single-dose administration. To date, more than 250,000 people have been vaccinated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as well as South Sudan, Rwanda and Uganda. 

In the same announcement, Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, stated, “This is a vaccine with huge potential. It has already been used to protect more than 250,000 people in the DRC and could well make major Ebola outbreaks a thing of the past. That’s why this is such an important milestone, paving the way for a Gavi-supported global Ebola vaccine stockpile. It’s also important to credit the unprecedented global effort from African countries that helped generate the evidence as well as Merck, WHO, donor governments, partners and regulatory agencies in making this authorisation happen.”

In December of this year, the Gavi board is scheduled to make a decision regarding the long-term plans of the Gavi Ebola vaccine program, including the possible creation of a global Ebola vaccine stockpile which will allow countries to swiftly access and deploy the vaccine in response to outbreaks.