News Round Up

Politics & Policies

The World Health Organization’s annual oversight convention was held by teleconference recently, as the worst pandemic in modern history continues around the globe.

World Health Organization (WHO) member states have agreed to set up an independent inquiry into the global response to the coronavirus pandemic. The resolution, approved without objection by the WHO’s 194-member annual assembly meeting virtually in Geneva, also allows for the inquiry to look into the health body’s own role.

Domestic travel restrictions and a general lack of coordinated funding — not shortages of personal protective equipment — are the biggest constraints to accessing the world’s most vulnerable communities in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, humanitarian leaders said Monday.

As parts of the United States and Europe consider reopening, most of the world’s population remains susceptible to the coronavirus. We look at new efforts to stop the deadly spread of COVID-19 with contact tracing.

Loyce Pace, current president and executive director of Global Health Council, releases an opinion piece on Devex titled “The end of global health advocacy as we know it”

President Trump has threatened to withdraw funding from the World Health Organization, accusing it of mismanaging the coronavirus pandemic, particularly in its early stages as it emerged in China. This BBC article looks at some of the charges President Trump has levelled against the WHO and the health body’s responses.

Programs, Grants & Awards

At this month’s meeting of the 73rd World Health Assembly —its first-ever to be held virtually—delegates adopted a landmark resolution to bring the world together to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

The DGHI, established in 2006, is working hard to keep current students going, and some classes have shifted to focus on the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, the institute is looking ahead to a possible increase in applications.


International experts have advised the World Health Organization (WHO) to work to identify the animal origins of the virus behind the COVID-19 pandemic and its transmission to humans, the UN agency said.

One prominent research group, Harvard’s Global Health Institute, proposes that the U.S. should be doing more than 900,000 tests per day as a country.

While the COVID-19 pandemic will increase mortality due to the virus, it is also likely to increase mortality indirectly. In this study, we estimate the additional maternal and under-5 child deaths resulting from the potential disruption of health systems and decreased access to food.

Enrollment in several clinical trials of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine — including two by the University of Washington — has been anemic so far. Fewer than 260 volunteers, out of a target of 2,000, have signed up for a $9.5 million UW study being conducted in Seattle and six other sites across the country. Another multi-site project coordinated by the UW has only about 30 patients enrolled.

In most of the world, the Aedes aegypti mosquito is notorious for biting humans and spreading dengue, Zika, and other viruses. But in Africa, where the mosquito is native, most Aedes prefer to suck blood from other animals, such as monkeys and rodents. A new study suggests, though, that their taste for humans may rapidly expand—and with it their ability to spread disease.

Toddlers with congenital Zika syndrome have severe developmental delays, researchers report.  In a study that covered a five-year period, researchers found that children in Brazil with congenital Zika syndrome who had microcephaly at birth suffered severe mental delays.

An herbal tonic developed in Madagascar and touted as a cure for COVID-19 could fuel drug-resistant malaria in Africa, scientists warn. Several African countries have said they are placing orders for the brew, whose efficacy has yet to be shown.

For the first time in the post-war history of epidemics, there is a reversal of which countries are most heavily affected by a disease pandemic. By early May 2020, more than 90% of all reported deaths from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) have been in the world’s richest countries; if China, Brazil, and Iran are included in this group, then that number rises to 96%.

Diseases & Disasters

Italy was the first European country to be hit hard by the pandemic — its intensive care units inundated and its elderly dying in droves before the tsunami reached Spain, France, the United States or Britain. And so Italy is also ahead in coming to grips with the long duration of the illness and the lasting consequences for some survivors.

For the first time in over 100 years, people all over the world are fighting a common public health enemy: COVID-19. Yet, even as we pour resources into fighting this new pandemic, there is an urgent need to keep up the fight against an age-old enemy: malaria, which continues to cause immense suffering and death among some of the world’s most vulnerable populations.


As coronavirus vaccines hurtle through development, scientists are getting their first look at data that hint at how well different vaccines are likely to work. The picture, so far, is murky.  On 18 May, US biotech firm Moderna revealed the first data from a human trial: its COVID-19 vaccine triggered an immune response in people, and protected mice from lung infections with the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. The results — which the company, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, announced in a press release — were widely interpreted as positive and sent stock prices surging. But some scientists say that because the data haven’t been published, they lack the details needed to properly evaluate those claims.

Landmark review of the role of artificial intelligence (AI) in the future of global health published in The Lancet calls on the global health community to establish guidelines for development and deployment of new technologies and to develop a human-centered research agenda to facilitate equitable and ethical use of AI.

Environmental Health

Air pollution exposure has been linked to coronary heart disease.  This prospective cohort study aimed to investigate associations between long-term exposure to air pollution and MI incidence, adjusting for road traffic noise.

Equity & Disparities

On April 29, UNICEF published a discussion paper comparing the probable downstream effects of COVID-19 in developed and developing countries. High-income and upper-middle-income countries have borne the brunt of deaths associated with COVID-19 so far, and they are now seeing diminishing mortality rates. Countries across the world are easing lockdown restrictions. But, as this UNICEF paper outlines, for populations least affected by the disease itself, but for whom food insecurity, hunger, and malnutrition are already prevalent and critical problems, the worst might be yet to come.

The number of older people in lower income countries is growing. These countries’ health systems are not designed to care for people with chronic conditions. They are more focused on single, acute diseases. This may need to change towards more individual-based health care for chronic conditions. This is why it’s important to establish if multi-morbidity is also an issue in lower income countries.

In nearly half a million American homes, washing hands to prevent COVID-19 isn’t as simple as soaping up and singing “Happy Birthday” twice while scrubbing. In many of those homes, people can’t even turn on a faucet. There’s no running water.

Women, Maternal, Neonatal & Children’s Health

The decision to close schools was among the first action that many states took to stave the impending pandemic and was based on a strong theoretical foundation. Children are typically at greatest risk of infectious diseases, and they transmit them to each other and their families with considerable speed.

There are reports that the coronavirus lockdowns around the world are leading to a catastrophic rise in domestic violence.

Doctors have described children with covid-19 coming into emergency rooms in bad shape with a kind of inflammatory shock syndrome affecting multiple organs.  Some were screaming from stomach pain. Others had bubbles, or swelling, in the arteries of their hearts.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that 116 million babies have been born since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and on Thursday called for governments to maintain lifesaving services for pregnant women and newborns that are under increasing threat from strained health services and supply chains.


The Intersection of Climate Change and COVID-19 Resource Guide now available!

The IH section’s Climate Change and Health working group has released a new resource guide on the intersection of climate change and COVID-19. Included are reports, articles, and webinars.

To learn more about the Climate Change and Health working group or to volunteer, please visit their website here:

Global Mental Health Initiatives and COVID-19

This is the third part of a IH Blog series, Global Mental Health: Burden, Initiatives and Special Topics.

Part III – Global Mental Health Initiatives and COVID-19

Mental health issues pose a significant public health burden and in the context of COVID-19 this burden is growing substantially. In low- and middle-income countries, 76%-85% of people with mental disorders do not receive needed treatment. Many countries do not have the infrastructure, resources and/or political support to adequately ensure that all persons have access to high quality mental health services. Therefore, there is a large gap between the need for mental health treatment and available services.

One important indicator of a country’s capacity to address the growing mental health burden is the availability of adequately trained personnel to provide treatment and care. In 2010, the World Health Organization (WHO) released the results of a study that found that low- and middle-income countries in the African Region and the South-East Asian Region reported fewer mental health professionals than the Americas or the European Region. According to the 2017 Mental Health Atlas country profiles, this trend still exists. For example, India reported 1.93 total mental health workers per 100,000 population, Rwanda reported 2.01, and China reported 8.75, whereas Germany reported 144.87, France reported 173.63, Finland reported 250.55 and the United States reported 271.28. In order to meet the increasing demand for mental health care globally adequately trained mental health care providers are critically needed.

One initiative aiming to reduce the burden of mental health issues globally is the Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP) which was launched in 2008. This program uses evidence-based tools, training, and interventions to expand mental health service provision in resource-poor, low-income countries around the world. The original 2010 mhGAP Implementation Guide has been used in over 100 countries and translated into more than 20 languages. The program directs its training towards health-care providers who do not have specialized training in mental health. For instance, in 2017, to address the mental health needs of persons affected by conflict in Borno State, in northeastern Nigeria, the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric hospital and governmental authorities launched the mhGAP program. This program trained primary care workers to identify and provide care for persons with mental disorders. The story of Aisha, a girl directly impacted by this conflict who received mental health treatment through mhGAP can be found here.

In the World Health Organization’s (WHO) most recent global targets and goals (Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)), mental health was explicitly included as a part of SDG Target 3.4. In December 2019 WHO held a meeting to accelerate progress on SDG Target 3.4 on Noncommunicable Disease and Mental Health in Oman. The goal of this meeting was to have countries come together to share success stories and challenges in order to develop innovative ideas on how to scale up national interventions to reach SDG target 3.4 by 2030. There were sessions titled: “Mental health and psychosocial support in emergencies” and “Story-telling and mass media for mental health.” Video of panels held during the meeting can be viewed here

As part of their QualityRights Initiative, WHO has developed training and guidance modules that are meant to empower all stakeholders to promote mental health recovery and human rights in mental health facilities, improve service delivery, and change mindsets around mental health. The modules are designed to be used in low, middle, and high-income countries. Updated modules were introduced in November 2019. QualityRights has been introduced into 31 countries, with Ghana being the first to introduce the program country-wide in early 2019. A total of 22 member states of the European Region formally agreed to carry out mental health related activities during 2018-2019, and a majority stated they would use WHO QualityRights toolkit and guidance materials. 

Another WHO initiative, WHO MiNDbank, is a free online platform that contains a wide variety of international and country-specific resources covering behavioral health. MiNDbank is a part of WHO’s QualityRights campaign and aims to facilitate dialogue, advocacy and research surrounding human rights violations against people experiencing mental health challenges and disabilities. 

Current Initiatives Focused on COVID-19

Global Initiatives

New global initiatives are being implemented to address the mental health burden of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many initiatives are focused on disseminating educational resources out to the public. In direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic, WHO released a list of mental health and psychosocial considerations for different groups, such as people in isolation, carers of children, and healthcare workers. To support research efforts on behavioral insights related to COVID-19, the WHO Regional Office for Europe developed a survey tool for European Member States to use. 

On March 17, 2020, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), a humanitarian coordination forum created by the United Nations, published an interim briefing note titled, “Addressing Mental Health and Psychosocial Aspects of COVID-19 Outbreak.” Like WHO’s list of considerations, this briefing note summarizes important mental health and psychosocial support considerations in relation to the COVID-19 outbreak. The document includes 14 recommended activities and six interventions that can be globally implemented as part of the COVID-19 mental health response. The briefing note is available in over 15 different languages. 

Initiatives in the United States 

The United States is implementing several initiatives that aim to address the mental health burden of the COVID-19 pandemic. Information about some of these initiatives is provided below:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

  • The CDC webpage – Stress and Coping. This page provides general and population specific recommendations.

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

  • A web page dedicated to COVID-19, with SAMHSA resources and information, guidance for opioid treatment programs, and additional federal guidance 
  • A list of SAMHSA COVID-19 funded grants organized by state

Mental Health America

  • Information and resources on mental health and COVID-19. Includes tips for social distancing, quarantine, and isolation, resources for financial support, tools and information on anxiety, links to webinars and workshops, and information for parents, older adults, domestic violence survivors, and more. 

American Psychiatric Association (APA)

Harvard University

National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN)


About the Authors:

Screen Shot 2020-03-31 at 7.52.50 PMElena Schatell MPH (c) MMS (c)

Elena Schatell is a current student at Arcadia University enrolled in the Dual Master of Public Health/Master of Medical Science in Physician Assistant Program. She aims to promote public health in underserved communities as a future physician assistant. Her current public health interests include access to mental health services, stigma surrounding mental illness, and the relationship between faith and mental health. She has interned at the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) national office in Arlington, Virginia, working closely with the Advocacy and Public Policy team on conducting research on service barriers and state mental health policy. During her time at NAMI, she also authored articles for the Advocate magazine and blog.

McClintock.PictureDr. Heather F. McClintock PhD MSPH MSW

Dr. McClintock is an IH Section Member and Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Health, College of Health Sciences at Arcadia University. She earned her Master of Science in Public Health from the Department of Global Health and Population at the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. McClintock received her PhD in Epidemiology from the University of Pennsylvania with a focus on health behavior and promotion. Her research broadly focuses on the prevention, treatment, and management of chronic disease and disability globally. Recent research aims to understand and reduce the burden of intimate partner violence in Sub-Saharan Africa. Prior to completing her doctorate she served as a Program Officer at the United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants and a Senior Project Manager in the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Pennsylvania. At the University of Pennsylvania she led several research initiatives that involved improving patient compliance and access to quality healthcare services including the Spectrum of Depression in Later Life Study and Integrating Management for Depression and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Study.

Call For Nominations – IH Section Awards 2020 (Deadline May 15th, 2020)

Dear APHA International Health Section members,

It is time again to solicit your nominations for awards to be presented at the next annual APHA convention, hopefully this October 24-28 in San Francisco, CA. The deadline for submission of nominations is May 15, 2020.   This is how we can recognize our colleagues who have made significant contributions to international health and our Section.

We encourage you to think about who in APHA and our Section might merit public recognition through an award. It really doesn’t take a long time to nominate someone. We ask for only a page or so that describes how the nominee meets the award criteria (listed below), plus the C.V. of the proposed awardee. If you have an idea of someone who might merit an award and you desire some feedback, or need to verify whether they are APHA or IH Section members, please contact us at

Instructions for submitting nominations are found below. You can also access the award descriptions and criteria, along with the names of past awardees as compiled by IH Historian Ray Martin, on the IH website,

The IH Section Awards Committee consists of Laura Altobelli, Elvira Beracochea, Paul Freeman, Omar Khan, Ray Martin, Mini Murthy, Henry Perry, Gopal Sankaran, Rose Schneider, Curtiss Swezy, and Sarah Shannon, IH Section Chair ex officio.

Many thanks for your timely nominations! Self-nominations are permitted.


APHA IH Section Awards Committee


American Public Health Association
International Health Section

Annual Awards Guidance

The International Health (IH) Section recognizes each year outstanding individuals who have contributed in an important way to the field of international health and/or to the IH Section. Guidance is provided here on the process and criteria for nominating and selecting the individuals to receive the five major awards:

  • Carl Taylor Lifetime Achievement Award,
  • Gordon-Wyon Award for Community-Oriented Public Health, Epidemiology, and Practice,
  • Mid-Career Award in International Health,
  • Distinguished Section Service Award,
  • Young Professional Award.


Process for award nominations and selection

The Awards Committee of the IH Section is entrusted with the awards process, with collaboration and input from IH Section leadership when needed.

The annual request for nominations for IH Section awards is prepared by the IH Section Awards Committee.   This request is sent out to all IH Section members on multiple virtual platforms managed by the IH Section Communications Committee.

A nomination can be made by submitting to two items[1]:  (1) a letter of nomination of about one page that specifies the name of the nominee, the title of the award, and how the nominee meets the specific criteria for the award (listed below); and (2) the nominee’s current curriculum vitae.

Nominations are reviewed by the IH Section Awards Committee and a short list of candidates for each award is developed.  The committee then votes on short-listed candidates. The nominee who gets the highest number of votes in the award category is selected to receive the award.

Awardees are honored at the following Annual Meeting of the American Public Health Association (APHA).

Awards Criteria

Carl TaylorLifetime Achievement Award in International Health

The Carl TaylorLifetime Achievement Award in International Health honors the visionaries and leaders who have shaped or continue to shape the direction of International Health. Carl E. Taylor was the founder of the APHA International Health Section and a pioneer in and global champion of international health in the 20th century. The evaluation criteria for the Lifetime Achievement Award include: (1) Quality, creativity, and innovativeness of the individual’s contributions to the field of international health; (2) Application of the individual’s work to international health practice (as opposed to primarily theoretical value); (3) The individual’s contributions as a leader, visionary, and role model in international health; and (4) Current membership in APHA, and preferably membership in the IH Section.

Gordon-Wyon Award for Community-Oriented Public Health, Epidemiology, and Practice

The Gordon-Wyon Award for Community-Oriented Public Health, Epidemiology, and Practice recognizes outstanding achievement in international community-oriented public health, epidemiology, and/or practice. This award was established in 2006 by the IH Section. John Gordon and John Wyon were pioneer epidemiologists and mentors in this field, so encouraging and recognizing others in this field is one important way of remembering and honoring them. The evaluation criteria include: (1) Outstanding achievement in international community-oriented public health, epidemiology, and/or practice; (2) Demonstrated creativity in expanding the concepts pertinent to the practice of international community-oriented public health; and (3) Current membership in the APHA IH Section.

Mid-Career Award in International Health

The Mid-Career Award in International Health  recognizes an outstanding mid-career professional in the IH Section. Evaluation criteria include: (1) Demonstrated achievement and commitment to international health promotion and development over a suggested period of seven to 20 years; (2) Demonstrated creativity in expanding the concepts pertinent to the practice of public health with an international focus; and (3) Current membership in the APHA IH Section.

Distinguished Section Service Award

The Distinguished Section Service Award honors outstanding service to the IH Section. The evaluation criteria include: (1) Dedication to the IH Section mission and goals as demonstrated by exceptional contribution to its activities; (2) Serving in IH Section elected positions or chairing its committees with outstanding or unusual effort and achievements; (3) Excellence in team work with peers in the IH Section and the APHA; and (4) Current membership in the APHA IH Section.

Young Professional Award

The International Health Section recognizes the important contribution of young professionals for their leadership, innovation, and demonstrated contribution to international health with its annual Young Professional Award instituted in 2018. The evaluation criteria include: (1) Demonstrated contribution to the field of international health through leadership, innovation, and impactful practice ; (2) Age younger than 35 years at the time of application; and (3) Current membership in the APHA IH Section.

– Updated and approved by the IH Section Awards Committee, April 2020

[1] Please submit files in PDF with filenames showing:  (1) which award, (2) first initial and last name of nominee, and (3) which item {nomination letter or curriculum vitae}.  Example nomination of Mary Smith for the Carl Taylor Lifetime Achievement Award:  carltaylor-msmith-letter.pdf  and carltaylor-msmith-cv.pdf

Special call for abstracts on the COVID-19 pandemic for the 2020 APHA Annual Meeting

The International Health Section has put out a special call for abstracts on the COVID-19 pandemic for 2020 APHA Annual Meeting:

We will accept submissions on both research- and program-based work; however, all submissions in response to this call must be directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Abstracts must include the purpose of the work, a description of information and methods used, results, and discussion. As part of the International Health Section program, all submissions should relate to the pandemic, the response, and its effects on health in countries outside the US.

We particularly encourage submissions with the following themes:

–COVID-19 effects on the strength and resiliency of health systems
–COVID-19 among displaced populations** or in conflict settings
–COVID-19 effects on NCDs (mental health, chronic conditions/comorbidities, etc.)
–COVID-19 and human rights (could collaborate with the HR forum on this one)
–COVID-19 and social determinants/marginalized populations
–COVID-19 as a threat to and an opportunity for the integration of medical and public health systems
–COVID-19, globalism, and the goals of global health

The submission deadline for COVID-19 abstracts is 11:59pm (PST) on Friday, May 15. Please submit your abstract under the “COVID-19: Special Call for Abstracts” topic here:

Any abstracts on topics other than COVID-19 will not be accepted.

Please distribute among your networks!