Image for What went right this week: closing the health gap, plus more positive news

What went right this week: closing the health gap, plus more positive news

The UK moved to boost women’s health, climate groups won a landmark court case, and a lost species returned, plus more positive news

The UK moved to boost women’s health, climate groups won a landmark court case, and a lost species returned, plus more positive news

This week’s Positive News roundup 

Positive news
The UK tackled the gender health gap

Women in England live longer than men, but spend more of their lives in poor health, research has shown. This week the UK government launched a plan to address that. 

The Women’s Health Strategy will, among other things, train medical students and new doctors to better treat female medical conditions. There will also be £10m additional funding to expand mobile breast cancer screening, the government said. 

Having a plan is one thing, delivering it is another (see story below). Nonetheless, the strategy was welcomed by the charity Wellbeing of Women. “A focus on prioritising women’s health is long overdue,” said CEO Janet Lindsay. “The strategy must herald a step change in how we approach women’s health.” 

There will also be changes around fertility treatment to ensure equal access. Hitherto, some single women, same-sex couples and women whose partners have children from previous relationships have had to pay for artificial insemination before being eligible for IVF.

Image: Kelly Sikkema

Climate groups won a landmark court case

The UK government has been ordered to detail how it will cut emissions after a court ruled that its current plans were too vague. The ruling is a major victory for climate campaigners, writes Isabella Kaminski. 

In a week that saw record temperatures across the UK, the high court ruled that the current Net Zero Strategy failed to show how emissions cuts would be achieved. The judge noted that key details were not shared with parliament or made available for public scrutiny, while business, energy and industrial strategy minister Greg Hands approved the strategy without having full information about how carbon budgets would be met.

The judgment followed a series of legal challenges brought by NGOs ClientEarth, Friends of the Earth and the Good Law Project. They argued that the strategy, introduced last October, breaches national climate law.

Friends of the Earth lawyer Katie de Kauwe described it as a “landmark ruling”, since it was one of the first successful climate litigation cases in the UK. A government spokesperson noted that the court had not criticised the substance of the plans themselves. It now has eight months to quantify how its policies will achieve climate targets.

Image: Veeterzy

Positive news
Sticking with the climate…

It was a week of extreme weather, with heatwaves causing alarm in Europe, Asia and America. Nothing positive about that, but it was encouraging to see people trying to take agency over the climate crisis. 

Our ‘What can I do about climate change?’ article received a surge in traffic as the question trended in search. And the answer? More than you might think. Here are 14 ways to take positive action. 

Image: Dawid Zawila

Gene therapy was found to ‘cure’ haemophilia B

People with the rare bleeding disorder haemophilia B can now be cured by a single injection, doctors said this week. 

The inherited disorder leaves people’s blood struggling to clot, placing them at risk of bleeding. It is caused by low levels of FIX protein, which is produced by a gene in the X chromosome, hence the disorder affecting more men. 

People with haemophilia B typically need to inject themselves weekly. But in a clinical trial run by the Royal Free Hospital in London, a one-time gene therapy treatment reportedly led to sustained production of FIX protein in nine out of 10 participants. 

Each participant was injected with an engineered virus programmed to produce the missing FIX protein. The results of the trial were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Further trials will be conducted. 

Image: Sangharsh Lohakare

There was good news from Galapagos

Galapagos. It is a crucible of life, a byword for biodiversity. And this week, scientists on the archipelago had some positive news: a tortoise reintroduction programme is helping save a type of cactus. 

Tortoises went extinct on Santa Fe island some 150 years ago, having been hunted by sailors. In 2015, 742 of the animals were relocated there from another island to see if they helped disperse the seeds of a struggling cactus. 

The verdict? “The return of the turtles to Santa Fé has given hope to the opuntia cactus,” said Jorge Carrión, director of conservation at Galápagos Conservancy, which reported its findings this week. “Since the turtles have been here, we have found a large number of juvenile cacti in different parts of the island, associated precisely with the places where there are the turtles.”

Image: Cedric Fox

Bison
Speaking of species reintroductions…

Bison are roaming England again for the first time in thousands of years, a milestone described as a “new dawn for conservation and the fight against climate change”. 

Three female European bison were released in West Blean and Thornden Woods, Kent, on Monday morning while most of the country was still in bed. A male is set to join them. 

The breed is the closest living relative to the ancient steppe bison, which was hunted to extinction in the UK thousands of years ago. Like beavers, bison are one of nature’s great engineers and will help boost biodiversity and lock away carbon. Find out how here. 

Image: Kent Wildlife Trust

Positive news
London is in the midst of a cycling boom – report

Legions of Londoners have embraced cycling during the pandemic, according to a report by Transport for London (TfL). 

It found that bike journeys are up by a quarter compared to pre-pandemic levels, with an 82 per cent rise observed at the weekends. Almost 800,000 journeys a day are now made by bike; TfL wants that figure to be 1.3m by 2024.  

The news follows the publication of another TfL report last week, which found the number of cycling fatalities in London hit a record low in 2021. 

Image: Swaminathan Jayaraman

Bristol
Plans for England’s largest wind turbine progressed

In a week that saw Rishi Sunak – one of the hopefuls to become the next UK prime minister – pledge not to relax strict planning laws for onshore wind, Positive News reported on the Bristol community that found a way around them.

Onshore wind is considered the cheapest form of energy in England, but in 2015 the Conservative government introduced strict laws to prevent them from being developed in response to nimby (‘not in my back yard’) complaints. 

However, a community in a deprived part of Bristol has won approval to build what will be England’s largest wind turbine. It will bring affordable, renewable energy to 3,000 homes and raise £100k annually for community projects. 

Get the full story here. 

Image: Sander Weeteling

An algorithm helped identify working-class talent

A radical recruitment firm in London has developed an algorithm that weeds out privileged-but-mediocre candidates and identifies talent from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

The algorithm – known as the Contextual Recruitment System – is billed as the new rocket fuel for social mobility. It helps contextualise achievements, highlighting people who have overcome adversity versus those who have coasted off the back of privilege. 

This week Positive News caught up with the man behind it, Raphael Mokades. “We are helping disadvantaged kids get into the top echelons of British society,” he said. “I’m really proud of that.”

Read the full story here.

Image: Michael Leckie/The Times
Main image: Bewakoof 

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