Why 2016 was a good year for humanity: 38 gains in health and well-being

"'If it bleeds, it leads' isn't a phrase coined by some cut-throat tabloid editor. It's a potent truth that lies at the heart of the modern day media machine. It's time for some balance."

This quote from Angus Hervey, PhD, political economist, science communicator and editor of Future Crunch, couldn't be truer. News headlines and the general media are saturated with heartbreaking stories of death, disease, war and crime. When reflecting on the past year in news, it's easy to think 2016 was a disaster. But this mindset overlooks the many beautiful and inspiring things that have happened in the past year.

Future Crunch, based in Melbourne, Australia, is comprised of scientists, technologists, economists, artists, musicians and other experts to provide perspective on what the future could look like through the lens of science, technology and social theory.

Dr. Hervey and his team at Future Crunch compiled a list of 99 stories that stand as reasons why 2016 was a good year. Here are 38 positive stories and events from 2016 related to healthcare, charitable giving and overall well-being.

  1. The World Health Organization released a report showing global malaria deaths have declined by 60 percent since 2000.
  1. In 2016, some of the most prominent diseases around the world, such as colon cancer, dementia and heart disease, started declining in wealthy countries, according to TheNew York Times.
  1. A study published Lancet shows the number of women dying due to pregnancy and childbirth has decreased by nearly half since 1990, according to The Guardian.
  1. Public smoking bans have improved health in 21 nations. 
  1. Uruguaywon a major case against tobacco company Philip Morris in a World Bank ruling, establishing precedent for other small nations that want to deter tobacco use. 
  1. Sixty-seven percent fewer children in Malawi acquired HIV, the most gains in reducing HIV rates seen of any sub-Saharan nation. Since 2006, Malawi has saved 260,000 lives from HIV.
  1. Child mortality rates in Russiadropped 12 percent. 
  1. Life expectancy in Africa has increased by 9.4 years since 2000 due to several factors, including improvements in child survival, progress in malaria control and expanded access to antiretroviral treatment.
  1. Mobile phones proved to be a significant ally in the fight against rabies, which kills more people annually than all terrorists combined.
  1. Thailand became the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis. 
  1. Harvard scientists created a new platform for antibiotic discovery that could help remedy the growing crisis of antibiotic resistance.
  1. Liberia was officially cleared of Ebola, meaning there are no longer any known cases of the deadly tropical virus left in West Africa. 
  1. The measles was eradicated in both North and South America, marking the first time the disease has been eliminated from an entire world region. 
  1. The proportion of older U.S. adults with dementia, including Alzheimer's, dropped from 11.6 percent in 2000 to 8.8 percent in 2012, meaning about one million fewer people were affected by the disease. 
  1. The number of cigarette smokers in the U.S. declined by 8.6 million since 2005. That decrease will be accelerated by a tobacco tax recently passed in California, according to NPR
  1. Homelessness in the U.S.declined by 35 percent since 2007. More gains will be seen in California, as Los Angeles committed to $1.2 billion to help get more people into housing.
  1. In June, the years-long drive to end female genital mutilation in Africa passed a major hurdle, when the Pan African Parliament endorsed a continent-wide ban. 
  1. More than 30 million children in the U.S. now have access to healthy lunches. The country is about to ban trans fats and launched one of the biggest overhauls of nutrition labels in decades. 
  1. Denmark became the first country to stop defining transgenderism as a mental illness, and Canada enacted a ban on transgender discrimination, according to Telegraph.
  1. Teenage pregnancy rates declined in the United Kingdom and the U.S. for the 24th consecutive year.
  1. 2016 marks the third consecutive year global carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels did not increase, according to the Scientific American.
  1. Following the end of conflict in Colombia in 2016, virtually all of the war in the world is now confined to an arc spanning from Nigeria to Pakistan, which contains less than a sixth of the global population. 
  1. ISIS has started preparing its followers for the likely collapse of the caliphate it proclaimed two years ago, according to The New Yorker.
  1. In April, a new report showed the death penalty became illegal in more than half of the world's countries. 
  1. Juarez, Mexico, used to be the world's most dangerous city. In 2016, the crime rate dropped and residents reported lower levels of fear. 
  1. One-third of Holland's prison cells are now empty, as crime rates dropped by 25 percent in the last eight years.
  1. Three years ago Honduras was considered the most dangerous place on earth. Since then, thanks to community crime programs, the country has seen a significant reduction in violence. 
  1. Tired of hearing their cities described as toxic hellholes, U.S. mayors are celebrating a year of positive gains.
  1. By August, every major grocery and fast-food chain in the U.S. had pledged to only use cage-free eggs by 2025, according to The Washington Post.
  1. The average number of large oil spills around the world dropped substantially, from an average of 24.5 per year in the 1970s, to just 1.8 a year in 2015. 
  1. At the beginning of the year, global spending on aid and development increased by 7 percent and spending on support for refugees doubled. 
  2. In April, Pony Ma Huateng, CEO of the Chinese internet giant Tencent, donated $2 billion to charity. 
  1. 2015 marked America's most generous year ever, with charitable donations from individuals, estates, foundations and corporations reaching record highs. 2016 is expected to be even bigger. 
  1. Charitable giving in China rose to $15 billion in 2016, a 10 fold increase from just a decade ago, according to Bloomberg.
  1. Warren Buffett gave $2.9 billion to charity again. Mr. Buffett's son, a farmer and environmentalist, continued to spend his billion-dollar inheritance on sustainable agriculture and hunger eradication, according to The Atlantic.
  1. The Gates Foundation announced another $5 billion in charity for Africa.
  1. Germany took in an additional 300,000 refugees in 2016, despite increasing concerns about integration and criticism from populists, according to The Guardian.
  1. In Canada, hockey moms, poker buddies and neighbors opened their doors to Syrian refugees, one family at a time. 

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