What went right in 2023: the top 25 good news stories of the year

Words by Gavin Haines

December 19,2023

Economics Environment Lifestyle Science Society

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The ‘golden age of medicine’ arrived, animals came back from the brink, the renewables juggernaut gathered pace, climate reparations became reality and scientists showed how to slow ageing, plus more good news

The 2023 good news roundup

good news

1. The world entered a ‘golden age’ of medicine

The burgeoning medical revolution was a major theme of 2023. “We are seeing a pace of progress that has not been witnessed for 100 years,” Bertalan Meskó, director of the Medical Futurist Institute in Budapest, told Positive News in October.   

Meskó is among a chorus of voices hailing a new ‘golden age’ of medicine – thanks, in part, to Covid-19. “Breakthroughs in mRNA technology first applied in Covid vaccines could soon help eradicate certain types of cancer,” he said. “Then there’s the huge potential of AI and 3D printing and, most excitingly, advances in genomics, which will unlock the genetic bases of many diseases, leading to new and more targeted treatments.”

Chris Stokel-Walker, who writes about the medical applications of AI for the British Medical Journal, predicted AI would “supercharge the pace of novel drug discoveries” and analyse and identify tumours in scans “more effectively than humans can”.

Added Meskó: “It’s an amazing time. I feel lucky to be living through it.”

Image: Sam PeetGood news

2. The end is nigh for the ‘world’s deadliest pandemic’

There’s a clear pathway to ending Aids transmission by 2030, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/Aids (UNAIDS) announced in July. It said that improved access to HIV treatment has averted almost 21m Aids-related deaths in the past 30 years, with 2022 marking the lowest number of new HIV infections (1.3m) in decades. 

The response has brought add-on benefits, it added, including stronger health and community systems, which helped shield millions from poverty and food insecurity.

Winnie Byanyima, executive director of UNAIDS, cautioned against “relaxed optimism”, and said that success would be dependent on sustained action. “The end of Aids is an opportunity for a uniquely powerful legacy for today’s leaders,” she said. “They could be remembered by future generations as those who put a stop to the world’s deadliest pandemic.”

Image: Mauro MoraGood news

3. Countries eliminated deadly diseases

Nations defeated various debilitating and deadly diseases in 2023. In what was hailed as a “monumental achievement”, Bangladesh became the first country to eliminate visceral leishmaniasis– a life-threatening illness caused by a parasite – as a public health problem. 

Also chalking up a public health win was Iraq, which become the 17th country to eliminate trachoma, the world’s leading cause of infectious blindness. 

In further good news, Belize was finally declared malaria-free in July by the World Health Organization. It came as nations approved a new malaria vaccine tgat is believed to offer up to 80% protection from the disease. Experts claim it could save thousands of lives annually, many of them children’s. 

Image: Bennett Tobiasreduce dementia risk

4. The end of Alzheimer’s edged nearer

Did 2023 mark the beginning of the end for Alzheimer’s? There was reason for optimism, after two drugs were found to slow the disease.

Donanemab and Lecanemab work by clearing the amyloid protein that builds up in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. Trials suggest they can slow cognitive decline, but not halt the disease. The drugs – set for UK approval in 2024 – mark a turning point in treating a disease that is expected to affect 1.7m Britons by 2040. 

“We’re now on the cusp of a first generation of treatments for Alzheimer’s, something that many thought impossible only a decade ago,” said Dr Susan Kohlhaas, executive director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK. “People should be really encouraged by this news.”

Image: RDNE Stock projectgood news breast cancer

5. There were major cancer breakthroughs

There were some notable breakthroughs in the treatment of cancer in 2023. A new cervical cancer treatment using cheap, existing drugs was described as “the biggest improvement in outcome in this disease in over 20 years”. Scientists also made a “tremendously exciting” breakthrough in treating prostate cancer. England, meanwhile, approved a drug shown to prevent breast cancer

All this came as researchers at University College London developed a “cancer-busting guided missile” using ‘clink chemistry’, which is likely to emerge as a potent force for tackling cancer in the future. 

There was also progress in diagnosing the disease. A 10-minute MRI scan for prostate cancer was shown to be more reliable at detecting the disease than existing blood tests. Meanwhile, England’s roaming ‘lung trucks’ improved early diagnosis for lung cancer among deprived groups. 

And in the US, data offered a welcome reminder of the progress that has been made already, revealing that cancer death rates have plummeted by a third since 1991

Image: National Cancer Institutegood news

6. Scientists offered tips for slowing ageing

How can we live longer? It’s a question that’s occupied humanity through the ages, and this year scientists offered up more clues. 

Contributing to a growing body of research, they nailed down eight healthy lifestyle habits that could add up to 24 years to your life. They include being physically active, having a good diet, sleeping well and having positive social relationships.

Image: RDNE Stock project

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