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The BMJ Today: The World Cup—a win for the alcohol industry?

12 Jun, 14 | by BMJ

Today the world’s attention will be focused on the vibrant city of Sao Paulo in Brazil, where the host nation will kick off one of the biggest sporting events in the world in a showdown against Croatia. You may not know that BMJ has had its eye on Brazil for quite some time, and has an ongoing partnership with the Brazilian Ministry of Health, which allows doctors working in its public Unified Health System to have access to BMJ Best Practice and BMJ Learning in Brazilian Portuguese.

However, in the UK, football and alcohol seem to be “inextricably linked.” In fact, World Cup football in the UK may be worth an extra 21 million pints for the pub trade. Furthermore, emergency department attendances in England, which were the result of assaults and often associated with alcohol use, went up by about 37.5% during the 2010 World Cup.

The potential impact of the World Cup on public health in Brazil is particularly worrying given that FIFA, football’s international governing body and the holder of immense clout, has managed to persuade the Brazilian government to abandon a longstanding ban on alcohol in sports stadiums. Public health experts in Brazil fear a “return to the dark days of alcohol fuelled violence in stadiums.” You can read more about this ongoing controversy in the latest Feature by Jonathan Gornall.

The World Cup is a universal phenomenon, which for one month captivates the attention of people all around the world, including those that don’t usually follow football. Unfortunately, health coverage is not yet a universal phenomenon, as millions of people in both developing and developed countries continue to lack access to healthcare.

The United States still has a long way to go in terms of guaranteeing universal health coverage for its population, but the state of Massachusetts is closing in on this goal. According to a recent News story, between December 2013 and March 2014, about 3.2% of the state’s population became insured, very close to the 3.8% of residents who were estimated to be uninsured in 2012. This means that Massachusetts may indeed become the first American state to have an uninsurance rate below 1%.

After the World Cup’s group matches, the best teams will move on to the knockout stages, and the team that wishes to lift the cup will have to overcome four of those stages. You may be aware that drugs coming to the market also go through four stages, or phases, of clinical research trials (with phase IV trials being carried out after the drug has been licensed). You can read all about this in a recent Endgames statistical question.

We’re aware that the World Cup’s matches may steal some of your time over the coming weeks. Nevertheless, we hope that you will still find time to read some Research papers, like a recently published, prospective cohort study from the United States, which found that higher red meat intake in early adulthood may be a risk factor for breast cancer. But hey, we will forgive you if you prefer to watch the games.

Tiago Villanueva is the editorial registrar, The BMJ.

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