One Humanity

The World Humanitarian Day is today August 19th, 2016 and the theme for this year is “One Humanity”. The day was designated in 2003 to honor the lives of 22 humanitarian workers who were killed in  a terrorist attack in Baghdad, Iraq.

Currently, there are 130 million people who are living in crisis and face impossible choices. All wars, conflicts and internal displacements disrupt the strong social, economic and cultural support systems that people have built and cultivated over the years. This decimation of all forms of support has a direct impact on people’s mental and physical health. The consequences also extend to our colleagues who put their lives in danger to serve people in many conflict zones. You will recall the loss of lives from the many acts of violence against hospitals and clinics.

As global/public health professionals, it is our duty to take a stand and commit today to move the needle on the 7 core commitments that were identified at the World Humanitarian Summit that happened in May 2016.

Source: LEARN, World Humanitarian Summit

At a minimum, we can do these few things listed below, learn more about these here (scroll down to the bottom of the page):

  • Support the Agenda for Humanity
  • Take the Humanitarian Quiz and see the impossible choices people face
  • Tweet your country’s leader and ask them to commit to action
  • Donate to the UN’s Emergency Response Fund
  • Sign Up to Messengers of Humanity so you can stay involved
  • Start Impossible Choices to walk in the shoes of a refugee

If you are in the mood to learn about some of the horrendous choices people in conflict zones have to make, take the “Would You Rather” quiz here.

This post has been cross posted to my own blog as well.

Global News Round Up

Politics & Policies

The Obama administration on Friday declared a public health emergency in the US territory of Puerto Rico, saying the rapid and widespread transmission of the Zika virus threatens the health of infected pregnant women and their babies.

Programs

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday appointed the philanthropist and former mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg as a global health ambassador to help governments tackle chronic diseases such as diabetes, stroke, cancer and heart disease.

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation announced today that a distinguished panel of independent international jurors has selected The Task Force for Global Health, an Atlanta-based international organization dedicated to addressing large scale health problems primarily affecting people living in extreme poverty, as this year’s recipient of the Hilton Humanitarian Prize—the world’s largest humanitarian prize.

Research

In this paper, the authors present a mathematical model for studying RBC dynamics in circulating blood during a malarial infection. This blood-stage model has been developed to analyze data from rhesus Macaques infected with P. coatneyi.

In this study, the authors found that about 140 million were affected by climate-related natural disasters and that about 7 million surgical procedures were needed to care for this population. The authors also predict that the “countries with the least surgical capacity will have the greatest need for surgical care for persons affected by climate-related natural disasters.”

The Chilean Ministry of Health developed labels for food packages that would help make consumers quick healthy decisions at the supermarket. The labels were a part of a three pronged approach to combat obesity.

A new study reveals a large disparity between the number of reported and projected Zika cases. The researchers, responding to a ‘call to arms’ to model the spread of the virus, say that while a major US outbreak is not projected, a certain set of countries in the Americas have the right conditions for “major outbreaks.”

United States could soon become the first country to approve the commercial use of a common bacterium to fight the spread of mosquitoes that can transmit viruses such as Zika, dengue and Chikungunya.

Diseases & Disasters

The scale of the Syrian crisis is nearly beyond comprehension: 4.9 million refugees, 6.6 million people displaced inside Syria’s borders. But the numbers don’t tell the whole story. CDC’s Emergency Response and Recovery Branch (ERRB) has been on the scene since 2012, working to protect the health of those affected by the crisis. We have conducted more than 85 humanitarian public health missions related to the crisis, making this our second largest humanitarian response to date, surpassed only by ERRB’s work following the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

Three more people in Florida have tested positive for Zika caused by local mosquitoes, including another person who does not live in the one-square-mile (2.6-square-km) area believed to be the hub of local transmission, state officials said on Friday.

The Zika virus has been found in the sperm of an Italian man six months after his first symptoms, twice as long as in previously reported cases.

A baby born in a Harris County hospital has become the first infant to die from Zika in the US and the first Zika-related death in Texas.

Zika virus seems to affect babies late into pregnancy and its symptoms do not become apparent until months after birth.

About 120 million people worldwide are at risk for river blindness (onchocerciasis), 99 percent of them in Africa, where 31 countries are affected. “The biggest challenge is the sheer scale of what we’re looking at in Africa,” says Darin Evans, senior medical and technical adviser of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), at USAID.

In Peru’s third major oil spill this year, an estimated 600 barrels of crude oil gushed out near the Marañon River, in Datem del Marañón on June 24. The spills proved devastating to local Indigenous communities, but the health response fell far short—with little international attention to the long-term health and social consequences.

On June 7, the World Health Organization congratulated Thailand on eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis, guaranteeing an HIV-free generation. Thailand is the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to successfully transform an HIV-ravaged society into a model for how to address the global HIV/AIDS epidemic.

After being polio-free for the over 2 years, the Nigerian Government has reported that two children in the state of Borna have been paralyzed by polio virus.The Government is collaborating with partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, including the WHO to respond urgently by conducting large scale immunizations and strengthening surveillance systems.

In the early ’80s, there were 3.2 million cases of Guinea worm — a 2-foot-long worm that emerges slowly — and excruciatingly — from a blister on the skin.  Now, the worm has been linked to dogs and Dr. Donald Hopkins at the Carter Center is leading the effort to eradicate Guinea worm. “I’m confident we’re going to do it. We’ve have already seen 17 of 21 countries get rid of Guinea worm, and it’s stayed away there.”  That confidence comes with some serious credentials: Hopkins was key in helping to eradicate smallpox — the only human disease to be wiped out, so far.

Despite having higher rates of diabetes and other conditions, Hispanics live longer than other ethnic groups. Now, a new study may help explain why: their blood has a slower aging rate. While Hispanic Americans have a longer lifespan than individuals of other ethnicities, they have higher rates of disease; for example, the rate of diagnosed diabetes among Hispanics is 12.8 percent, compared with 7.6 percent among non-Hispanic whites.  This has long baffled researchers, who often refer to the longer lifespan of Hispanics as the “Hispanic paradox.”

Technology

Pham Sy Long, 28, has volunteered to become the first person in Vietnam to undergo a full head transplant.

A new type of mosquito trap running on solar electricity and using human odor as bait has cut mosquito populations by 70 percent in a test on a malaria-ridden island in Kenya, according to a new study.

Tuberculosis (TB) remains a major global public health challenge, causing substantial morbidity and mortality. One of the most important risk factors for the increasing TB burden is HIV/AIDS, which contributes to the difficulty in diagnosing TB in co-infected patient.  The introduction of the Xpert MTB/RIF represents the first “game-changer” in the field of TB diagnostics in decades due to improved sensitivity, ease of use, and rapid turn-around-time of results made possible by the molecular platform, and in 2010, the World Health Organization endorsed the use of the Xpert device.

Environmental Health

Humans are acclimating to higher temperatures on Earth, according to a study co-led by Kristie Ebi, a University of Washington professor in the School of Public Health.The findings suggest that people can adapt to gradual increases in average temperatures, though whether that adaptability can be sustained with the advance of climate change is yet unanswered.

Recent climate talks have prompted many countries to reevaluate their energy policies and initiatives.  As a result, the landscape of India could soon be changing (and getting a bit brighter) with a new focus on solar power.

We have to recycle water on a massive scale.  The world is running out of drinkable water, and putting a price on the stuff won’t work. But we are well on the way to building a circular water economy.  Between rising population, megacities, pollution and climate change, the next few decades will see water stresses on a vast scale. The grave difficulties already apparent in the western US and Australia will afflict many more areas of the world. Ethiopia is gripped by the worst drought in decades; with it comes the spectre of famine.

Japan and New Zealand will formally approve the Paris climate agreement this year, officials in Tokyo and Wellington confirmed on Wednesday.

Equity & Disparities

New research published in the American Journal of Public Health shows increase in mental health problems among racial minorities who experienced multiple incidents of racial discrimination. Interestingly, the study also found that “it was the fear of avoiding spaces and feeling unsafe due to racial discrimination that had the biggest cumulative effect on the mental health of ethnic minorities.

An Indonesian central government minister’s comment about banning LGBT people from college campuses led to an immediate backlash and hostility toward the LGBT community. In response to the Human Rights Watch groups criticization, Indonesia has said that there is no room for the LGBT movement in their country. These events unfolded in a country where homosexulaity is not illegal and has had a largely tolerant attitude towards the LGBT group.

Analysis of data from the Global Disease Burden Study shows that Indian women have some of the highest suicide rates in the world.

Former assistant director general of the World Health Organisation told Australian policy makers that poverty is a critical health issue.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has decried the high cost humanitarian organizations pay for vaccines – up to 20 times the normal prices – for vulnerable children in refugee settings. MSF and Save the Children are calling on drug companies to lower vaccine prices.

The global news round up was prepared by the communications team.

Global News Round Up

Politics & Policies

As the global public health community gathered in the South African city of Durban this week to talk about the end of AIDS, they were greeted with news that annual international support for combating the epidemic had fallen by more than US $1 billion.

Last September, urged on by Pope Francis, the United Nations and its 193 member states embraced the most sweeping quest yet to, basically, save the world and everyone in it — dubbed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).  It’s a global agenda to fix climate change, stop hunger, end poverty, extend health and access to jobs and vastly more — all by 2030.  Sweden is already 84.5 percent of the way to meeting the best possible outcome across the 17 SDG, ranking number one in the world, according to a report.

Some $60 million will soon flow to states, cities and territories to fight the Zika virus, White House officials announced Thursday.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will begin awarding nearly $60 million to “support efforts to protect Americans from the Zika virus,” including protecting against the birth defect microcephaly, the agency said in a press release Thursday. CDC said new funding will be available to jurisdictions Aug. 1.

The recent Ebola epidemic in Liberia exposed gaps in legal authority during the response.  This is one reason why Liberia’s government recently reached out to the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) Public Health Law Project.  The project team is helping to document issues that could be improved by updating Liberia’s public health law, which was last fully revised in 1976.

Programs

CDC’s vision is to eliminate viral hepatitis in the United States and worldwide.  World Hepatitis Day on July 28 is an opportunity to highlight the global burden of disease and our efforts to combat viral hepatitis around the world.  Viral hepatitis is the seventh leading cause of death worldwide, and causes more deaths than AIDS, tuberculosis, and even road injuries.

Health ministers and high-level representatives of the 53 Member States of the WHO European Region, partner organizations and civil society will take part in the 66th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe to be held in Copenhagen, Denmark, on September 12-15.

The University of Washington is one of 56 DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe women) Innovation Challenge winners announced on Monday by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR); Janssen Pharmaceutica NV (Janssen), one of the Janssen pharmaceutical companies of Johnson & Johnson; and ViiV Healthcare. Their combined $85 million investment will accelerate progress toward the DREAMS target of achieving a 40 percent reduction in new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women in the highest-burden areas of 10 sub-Saharan African countries by the end of 2017.

Research

Offering Truvada pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to the HIV-negative partner in a serodiscordant couple during the first six months after the HIV-positive partner starts antiretroviral therapy (ART) can serve as a ‘bridge’ to provide further protection against HIV infection, researchers reported yesterday at the 21st International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa.

Brazilian researchers on Thursday said they found signs of the Zika virus in a common mosquito that is a separate species from the insect known to be the primary means of transmission.  They warned, however, that further tests are needed to determine whether the species, known as Culex quinquefasciatus, is in fact responsible for transmitting the virus to humans and, if so, to what extent.

Diseases & Disasters

With 4.4 million food insecure individuals in northeastern Nigeria, the region is on the brink of famine. Boko Haram, the militant group who had overrun the area, is clearly a major cause of this crisis, which has taken international aid agencies by surprise.

Anthony Fauci and other researchers announced a big new HIV vaccine trial in South Africa on July 19.  Now, scientists have hopes for a functional cure – a cure that doesn’t wipe out every possible trace of HIV but keeps it at bay – and a potential vaccine.

Scientists have found fossilized intestinal parasites in a 2000-year-old human excrement in western China: the first evidence of infectious diseases spreading along the Silk Road.

Controlling human nerve cells with electricity could treat a range of diseases including arthritis, asthma and diabetes.  Galvani Bioelectronics hopes to bring a new treatment based on the technique before regulators within seven years.

Two studies published today help shed light on the virus that the World Health Organization has called a “global health emergency.” Yale researchers modeled the risk for people attending the Olympics and found only a small chance that those visiting Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics would contract the virus.

The 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil are almost here. Starting this week, athletes from around the world will perform amazing feats including older Olympians who are generally not reported in traditional media. Older athletes have always participated in the games. For example, Brazil’s 2016 Olympic qualifying tournaments had many athletes in their 30’s and a few well into their 40’s. This article will focus on older athletes with the hope that it inspires readers and challenges aging stereotypes.

Technology

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, has begun an early-stage clinical trial of an investigational vaccine designed to protect against yellow fever virus. The Phase 1 study is evaluating whether an experimental vaccine developed by the Danish biopharmaceutical company Bavarian Nordic is safe, tolerable and has the potential to prevent yellow fever virus infection.

A new study in the journal Vaccine showed that mice immunized against Chlamydia are more likely to ward off the infection. Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STD). It is currently treated with antibiotics but the infection has to be detected early on for the treatment to work best.

Support from The Grand Challenges Canada will allow for six innovations showing promising evidence to improve global health to “transition-to-scale.”  These innovations range from low cost hardware drill for bone surgeries to smartphone based HIV self-test application.

The first dengue approved by the WHO and now licensed for use in 5 countries appears to cause a phenomenon called antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE). In simple terms, this is a phenomenon whereby dengue vaccine sets up dengue-naive (those who had never had dengue) recipients for severe disease. Sanofi Pasteur has denied that the dengue vaccine causes ADE.

Phase I trials of a novel influenza vaccine, RedeeFlu developed by a Madison company, Flugen, began at the end of July in Kansas. 96 healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 49 are in the trial and the vaccine is administered as a spray through the nose. It is expected to protect against main strains of influenza and the variations in the flu season.

Environmental Health

New research suggests that reduced rainfall due to climate change is likely to result in conditions that make it harder for mosquitoes to thrive and ultimately lead to lower malaria rates in parts of West Africa.

An anthrax outbreak in remote western Siberia has led to the hospitalization of at least 90 people in the Arctic town of Salekhard, with at least 20 confirmed cases of the illness. One person, a 12-year-old boy, has died from anthrax according to the TASS News Agency and other media reports.

We know the world is warming, and we know humans are the main reason. But so what? The thing we’d really like to know is, what will the impacts be on our planet, it’s biodiversity, our society, our economies? It is only through understanding the impacts of climate change that action for reducing greenhouse gases can be motivated.

Raging floods that started on July 25 submerged up to 80 percent of India’s Kaziranga National Park, in the northeastern state of Assam. The flooding subsided on July 31, but hundreds of animals have drowned, including more than a dozen rare Indian rhinoceroses. Across the country, the flooding has displaced millions of people and killed 152.

Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s 2015 State of the Climate report unleashed a flood of statistics that should overwhelm whatever doubts remain of global warming’s already startling impacts, scientists said Tuesday.

Earth’s fever got worse last year, breaking dozens of climate records, scientists said in a massive report nicknamed the annual physical for the planet.

Equity & Disparities

The World Health Organization’s first global report on diabetes  highlights the disease’s “alarming surge” with rates that have quadrupled in fewer than three decades.  The report reminds us that essential diabetes medicines and health technologies, including lifesaving insulin, are available in only one in three of the world’s poorest countries.

The motorcycle-ambulance in India is “saving lives in remote regions where people had been dying because they could not make it to the hospital on time.”

PolicyLink and FSG are launching a new Ambassadors for Health Equity Fellowship that aims to “connect innovative and inspiring leaders to mentorship, education, and opportunities for collaboration around advancing systemic solutions in health equity.”

A study published in PlosOne has revealed that nearly 1 in 3 pre-school age (under 5 years of age) children living in low and middle income countries do not meet the basic milestones of cognitive or social-emotional development. The poor basic skills development is worsened by inadequate physical growth.

The global news round up was prepared by the communications team.

Global conference sets health action agenda for the implementation of the Paris Agreement

Guest blogger: Rose Schneider

More than 300 government ministers, health experts and practitioners, non-governmental organizations, and experts in climate change and sustainable development attended the WHO Second Global Conference on Health and Climate, hosted by the Government of France, COP21 presidency. The participants proposed the Action Agenda with key actions to implement the Paris agreement to reduce health risks linked to climate change. http://www.who.int/globalchange/conferences/second-global/conclusions/en/

The World Health Organization estimates that climate change is already causing tens of thousands of deaths every year. These deaths arise from more frequent epidemics of diseases like cholera, vastly expanded geographical distribution of diseases like dengue, and from extreme weather events, like heat waves and floods. At the same time, nearly 7 million people each year die from diseases caused by air pollution, such as lung cancer and stroke. Experts predict that, by 2030, climate change will cause an additional 250 000 deaths each year from malaria, diarrheal disease, heat stress and undernutrition alone, with the heaviest burden falling children, women, older people and the poor.

Participants urged actions by the health sector to promote low carbon healthcare facilities and technologies, by calculating avoided healthcare costs when countries invest in mitigation of emissions. They promoted scaling up stakeholder groups to address climate change and improve health through a broad health and environment climate coalition.

Participants highlighted the importance of the health sector providing strong leadership in communicating to policymakers and the public about the urgent nature of climate change, its severe and growing health risks, and the gains that can be obtained by addressing climate risks and links to related issues, for example, climate change and air pollution. The Action Agenda and conference recommendations proposed at this, the second Global Conference on Health and Climate (July 2016) will contribute to COP22, to be held in Marrakech, Morocco in November 2016.

Global News Round Up

Politics & Policies

New waves of nationalism in the UK, US, and Europe could threaten the financing of programs that have saved millions of lives around the world.  While it is certainly true that financial empires and multinational corporations have benefited from globalization to the tune of trillions of dollars over the last 25 years, great humanitarian dreams have also been constructed in this new world, with lowered borders, more open trade, cyber-connectedness, and a sense of responsibility by wealthy nations toward middle- and lower-income states.  Retreat behind traditional national borders, both physically and metaphorically, directly challenges the furtherance of all of the great 21st-century dreams.

Uruguay has won the dispute against the tobacco giant Philip Morris; the tobacco giant must continue to cover packs with graphic warning labels and will be restricted in its branding practices.

Members of Congress are leaving Washington for seven weeks without passing a bill to pay for the fight against Zika. Their failure to do so will delay the public health response to the mosquito-borne virus that causes birth defects, unnecessarily putting thousands of people at risk.

Emergency funds to fight Ebola may run out in October because they were poached to fight Zika.  Unless new funding comes through as part of the Zika package, CDC’s funding for emergency work on Ebola will run out, because more than $500 million was transferred to fight Zika while the administrator waited for Congress to fund work on the mosquito-borne disease, which has spread through Latin America and the Caribbean.

It’s time to think creatively about incentives to push countries to strengthen their public health systems before disasters strike, says Georgetown University Professor Rebecca Katz. Only 1/3 of countries are ready to adequately respond to a disease outbreak or other public health emergency.

The Senate approved a bill to tackle the nation’s opioid crisis, sending to the president’s desk the most sweeping drug legislation in years in a rare instance of consensus in Congress.  The measure, which passed, 92 to 2, would strengthen prevention, treatment and recovery efforts, largely by empowering medical professionals and law enforcement officials with more tools to help drug addicts.

Programs

The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will be hosting the Public Health Informatics Conference from August 21–24.  This year’s theme is “Access, Analysis, Action” and will explore how to procure technology and best obtain data for the end-user; connect attendees with tools and support available to understand the meaning of data; and drive attendees to apply lessons learned about the application of data in their own profession and community.

The maternal and child health program within the Colorado School of Public Health’s Center for Global Health announced that it has been re-designated by the World Health Organization as a WHO Collaborating Center for Promoting Family and Child Health.  The program, which is a partnership between Children’s Hospital Colorado (Children’s Colorado) and the Colorado School of Public Health, is the only maternal and child health collaborating center in North America.

The AIDS 2016 conference will be held at the Durban International Convention Centre (ICC), South Africa from July 18 to 22.
The International AIDS Conference is the premier gathering for those working in the field of HIV, as well as policy makers, persons living with HIV and other individuals committed to ending the pandemic.

This summer, our team of four students in partnership with the Duke School of Nursing and Ghana Health Services, is conducting research and performing documentary work on perceptions and barriers to maternal healthcare among community members, mothers, healthcare providers, and healthcare leadership.

Research

Determining the spatial patterns of infection among young children living in a malaria-endemic area may provide a means of locating high-risk populations who could benefit from additional resources for treatment and improved access to healthcare.

No data are available on the presence of Zika virus in the female genital tract. Thus, the detection of Zika virus in the female genital tract, its clearance kinetics, and its possible persistence would be of utmost importance in the assessment of woman-to-man sexual transmission of the Zika virus, and it could also help clarify the process of mother-to-child vertical transmission.

Studies done in mice show that getting infected with two species of Plasmodium parasites can lead to a more dangerous and more persistent malarial infection. These results challenge the long held notion that one species will outcompete the other.

A new study in Lancet reports a disproportionately high burden globally of HIV among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM).

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will receive nearly $23 million over the next five years to continue research on their innovative “kick and kill” strategy for eradicating HIV.  Worldwide, 37 million people are living with the virus.

A wider swath of Africa is at risk for Ebola outbreaks than previously thought, according to a new study published in the journal eLife by researchers from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation and the Oxford Big Data Institute.

Zika should soon run its course in Latin America.  Within the next couple of years, the epidemic that had battered the region since 2015 will largely be over, researchers estimate in a paper online July 14 in Science.

Diseases & Disasters

A daily pill to prevent HIV infection can reduce new cases among men who have sex with men (MSM) by a third in the US over the next 10 years, according to a new modeling study.

New York City’s health department on Friday reported the first documented case of sexual transmission of Zika from a woman to her male partner, raising new concerns about the spread of the virus, which is typically contracted through mosquito bites.

Things are dire in South Sudan, but aid workers see signs of hope.  As conflict erupted in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, an estimated 30,000 people fled their home, seeking safer ground.  Another 30,000 had previously sought shelter in what’s called a “Protection of Civilian” site in the city that’s run by the UN.  There were reportedly more than 150 deaths.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has received reports from international healthcare facilities that Candida auris, an emerging multidrug-resistant (MDR) yeast, is causing invasive healthcare-associated infections with high mortality. Given the occurrence of C. auris in nine countries (US, South Korea, India, South Africa, Kuwait, Colombia, Venezuela, Pakistan, United Kingdom) on four continents since 2009, CDC is alerting US healthcare facilities to be on the lookout for C. auris in patients.

Viral hepatitis is one of the leading killers across the globe, with a death toll that matches AIDS or tuberculosis (TB), research in the Lancet suggests.

The world can be a dark place for many children: the “lost boys” from Sudan, refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria, child sex workers in Brazil, baby girls abandoned in China, kids pulled into gang drug wars in the United States.  Such suffering by children is more common than most people might think and represents what some believe to be one of our biggest public health crises of all time.  A study published in January in the journal Pediatrics puts that violence into stark perspective by estimating that as many as half of the world’s 2 billion children experienced physical, sexual or emotional violence in the previous year.

With the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil less than a month away, concerns are mounting that the international event may spread the Zika virus to more countries around the world.  Indeed, global travel has been contributing to the spread of virus in the Western Hemisphere since at least 2015, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  However, the CDC predicted that the Olympics will put only four countries (Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Yemen) at risk for importing Zika.  

Technology

In the US, young gay black and Hispanic men are the groups most likely to be infected with HIV and the least likely to be tested for it, because they often lack health insurance and fear being rejected by their families.  Researchers at Indiana University and the University of California, Los Angeles used Grindr, a gay dating app, to get gay black and Hispanic men to try home HIV self-testing kits.  The study used banner ads on Grindr to offer free test kits.

In the summer of 2011, an epidemic of dengue fever hit the Pakistani province of Punjab, home to 100 million people. With no way of accurately detecting cases, health workers struggled to contain the disease. It spread quickly, especially through the populous city of Lahore. More than 21,000 people were eventually infected, and 350 of them died.  That is when a team of Pakistani scientists decided to create a phone service (free hotline) and use the volume of calls to forecast dengue outbreaks a few weeks in advance. Their predictions helped public health workers to focus their efforts in areas that were at greatest risk.

Billionaire and medical technology magnate Ronda E. Stryker and her husband William D. Johnston donated $20 million to Harvard Medical School to support global health research.  The gift will endow a professorship in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine and provide funding, specifically for junior faculty and fellows in fields including HIV and Ebola research.

The Prime Minister of Tanzania was presented with a Mobile and Compact Portable Clinical Laboratory by an Indian firm.  It does not use electricity and was to be used to serve people living far from health centers in the rural areas.  According to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office, the mobile and compact portable clinical laboratory uses solar power and can also run on battery which is charged in a car.

Engineers at MIT have designed programmable RNA vaccines that could be rapidly manufactured in one week and rapidly deployed in response to disease outbreaks.  The vaccines have been shown effective against Ebola, H1N1 influenza, and Toxoplasma gondii, in tests in mice. They could also be useful against other infectious diseases and cancer.

Environmental Health

Kenya’s polluted capital Nairobi faces a health crisis from uncontrolled pollution, with a rise in respiratory diseases driven by old vehicles, burning rubbish and indoor cook stoves.

Ethiopia’s worst drought in over 30 years wreaks havoc.  The failure of both of the main rainy seasons last year had a devastating effect on an area where virtually every family lives off the land.  It has left almost every household dependent on food parcels from the Ethiopian government and, by prompting many young men to conclude they must leave, it has caused a surge in the number attempting long and dangerous journeys, primarily to Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Europe, in search of work.

Underground water is being pumped so aggressively around the globe that land is sinking, civil wars are being waged, and agriculture is being transformed.

The new mayor of London announces plan to ban vehicles from major shopping street as part of his commitment to tackle air pollution.  Oxford Street will be pedestrianised by 2020 and the mayor has already pledged to introduce a charge for the most polluting vehicles.

Equity & Disparities

Any initiative to address health and health care goals must wrestle with and address the enormous disparities that exist in health coverage, access, and outcomes across racial and income groups in the United States. Of course there are huge disparities across the developed and developing worlds — the developing world experiences some 85 percent of the global disease burden, yet 85 percent of all health care spending takes place in the rich democracies of North America, Europe, and Asia.

Over the past decades, both health inequalities and income inequalities have been increasing in many European countries, but it is unknown whether and how these trends are related. We test the hypothesis that trends in health inequalities and trends in income inequalities are related.

The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) will host the Summer Institute on Health Disparities Science from August 15-19. The program will support the development of individual research projects by promising scientists early in their careers and will stimulate research in the disciplines supported by science on minority health and health disparities.

The Healthcare Quality and Equity Action Forum will be held from September 28-30 at the Seaport Hotel & Seaport World Trade Center in Boston, Massachusetts.  The forum  will provide the essential strategies to improve quality, achieve equity and deliver high-value healthcare to diverse populations.

On May 18, 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published a final rule to implement Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which prohibits discrimination in health coverage and care based on race, color, national origin, age, disability, and sex. These provisions incorporate existing federal non-discrimination law and policy and also contain some new protections.

The global news round up was prepared by the communications team.

Global Nutrition-A report Card

The 2016 Global Nutrition Report, a report that assess progress towards global nutrition targets as set by the World Health Assembly,  was released in June. This annual report is the result of a comprehensive review of state of nutrition by an independent, collaborative initiative that involves a diverse set of partners.

According to the latest report a staggering one in three of us suffers from malnutrition. Malnutrition is defined as “lack of proper nutrition, caused by not having enough to eat, not eating enough of the right things, or being unable to use the food that one does eat.” The one in three number reflects a spectrum of malnutrition ranging from childhood stunting and wasting to adult overweight and obesity. Malnutrition is the number one driver of global disease burden and its occurrence tends to have a cascading effect.

Malnutrition 1Image Source: Global Nutrition Report 2016, p 21.

In the last five years or so, there has been traction and investment into ending malnutrition. The global nutrition targets for 2025 set by the World Health Assembly include:

  • Achieve a 40 percent reduction in the number of children under 5 who are stunted
  • Reduce and maintain wasting in children under 5 at less than 5 percent
  • Experience no increase in overweight in children under 5 years
  • Experience no increase in obesity and diabetes (in adults and adolescents)
  • Achieve a 50 percent reduction of anemia in women of reproductive age
  • Achieve a 30 percent reduction in low birth weight
  • Increase the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months up to at least 50 percent
  • Achieve a 30 percent reduction in average population salt intake

According to the report there is significant variations between countries in the status of meeting the global targets. Many countries have made great progress and are on track to reducing under-5 stunting wasting, and overweight, and exclusive breastfeeding of infants younger than 6 months old. Of particular importance are data that show that under-5 stunting is decreasing in most regions except in Africa and the number of children under-5 who are overweight is increasing in Asia. Despite this success, the report points out that nearly all countries are off course with respect to global targets related to reducing anemia in women and adult overweight and obesity.

The calls to action issued by the authors of this report include:

  1. Governments making a commitment to end all forms of malnutrition; dramatic reductions in malnutrition in Brazil, Ghana, Peru and Maharashtra (Indian state) were due to political choices that were made.

Malnutrition 2
Image Source: Global Nutrition Report 2016, p 33.

  1. Invest more, allocate better”: Current spending is not enough to tackle malnutrition. According to the report  government spending and funding from donors are low and remain stagnated.
  1. Collect right data: Countries must strive to fill national and subnational data gaps to understand their unique nutrition contexts that would help them act on it by maximizing investment.
  1. Support evidence-based solutions and identify new solutions: Countries could learn from successes and use proven policies and interventions to tackle malnutrition.
  1. Address all forms of malnutrition: Curbing the rise of dual burden of undernutrition and obesity (and other nutrition-related NCDs) in many low and middle income countries would require policies, strategies and interventions that can take on the double-duty of tackling all forms of malnutrition.

Given the large numbers of refugees and internally displaced people, the report does discuss the vulnerability of this group to food insecurity and malnutrition. The authors also call for better assessment of nutritional status in emergency settings, incorporating nutrition-sensitive interventions and improved accountability of nutrition actions in emergency contexts.

The report does not discuss malnutrition among the elderly or the complete lack of data that would be helpful in understanding the magnitude of this problem. What the report is also missing or perhaps not within its scope, is the importance of maintenance of agro-biodiversity in combating malnutrition. The loss of biodiversity and its impact on providing better nutrition for today and tomorrow is something that cannot be ignored.

You can read the report in its entirety here and let us know what you think!

Global News Round Up

Politics & Policies

Officials from the March of Dimes and nearly 40 other advocacy and health organizations sent a letter to lawmakers earlier this week urging Congress to pass a measure that would not place restrictions on Zika funding and that would allow the budget to be expanded in subsequent years.

Republicans and Democrats play chicken With Zika Funding.  Never mind dire health warnings as the disease spreads, Congress has politics to play. The Senate has just three working days next week following the July 4 break to pass Zika funding, or it will punt until September, when Congress is next in session.

The United Kingdom (UK) has made the unprecedented move of leaving the European Union (EU), an economic and political union of 28 member countries. The implication of the decision is that it will affect the health of both of its citizens and those around the world.

After recent outbreaks of Ebola, Zika and yellow fever, senior health officials from the United Nations, Governments and other institutions are prioritizing global health security preparedness given ongoing concerns about national health systems that are weak, fragmented and underfunded.

Programs

The third annual Global Digital Health Forum (formerly the Global mHealth Forum), focusing on digital and connected health in low and middle income countries (LMICs), will convene on December 13-14, co-located with the 2016 Connected Health Conference at the Gaylord Conference Center in National Harbor, Maryland.  The forum brings together public and private sector organizations to share the latest evidence, experiences, and lessons learned on new applications and approaches in digital health

Global Health Corporate Champions (GHCC), a month-long service learning adventure, is an activity of the Global Health Fellows Program II (GHFP-II), a USAID program implemented by the Public Health Institute with support from PYXERA Global to make health services accessible in rural Ghana.

Research

According to a new study, nearly 845 million people (10% of total population) will be prone to micronutrient deficiencies if global fish catches continue to decline. The authors warned of a perfect storm in countries like Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Maldives, Angola, Ghana, Nigeria and others that rely heavily on wild-caught fish for sustenance, and are under serious threat from “illegal fishing, weak governance, poor knowledge of stock status, population pressures and climate change.

The Guidelines for Accurate and Transparent Health Estimates Reporting, or GATHER, a checklist of 18 best practices that set the standard for disclosing how health estimates are developed, was released in June. The GATHER checklist was developed by WHO in partnership with researchers from around the world.

Phase 3 evaluation of a promising malaria vaccine candidate, RTS,S/AS01 shows that the efficacy of this vaccine wanes over time. The study was conducted across several sites in Africa and the researchers recruited 447 healthy children for the trial which began in 2007. The small study population is a limitation of this study.

Diseases & Disasters

A virus is killing hundreds of babies in the US each year, and leaving thousands with debilitating birth defects, including abnormally small heads and brains. This is not the Zika virus. It is a common and much less exotic one: cytomegalovirus (CMV).

The 2009 swine H1N1 flu pandemic, responsible for more than 17,000 deaths worldwide, originated in pigs from a very small region in central Mexico, a research team headed by investigators at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai is reporting.  The scientists say their findings represent the first time that the origin of an influenza pandemic virus has been determined in such detail.

Afghanistan is one of 22 countries with a high burden of tuberculosis (TB) according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The estimated number of new cases each year is a staggering 53,000 and as many as 12,000 afflicted by this curable infection lose their lives each year. For a large number of those infected, a timely diagnosis and effective treatment is out of reach due to high levels of poverty, lack of access to effective health care, and ongoing conflict in large parts of the country.

When the first cases were reported in Syria 275 years ago, it was called “the Aleppo boil” or “the Aleppo evil.” And for good reason: The parasitic illness spread by sand flies causes nasty skin lesions that leave victims scarred for life physically and can leave emotional scars as well.

The current yellow fever outbreak in Angola began in December 2015. Since then it has grown and spread further. Today, more than five months on, 3,137 suspected cases have been reported in all 18 provinces, with 345 deaths. The disease has already spread, including to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, China and Kenya, and suspected cases are being investigated in other countries.

Flooding in the Yangtze River basin has left at least 112 people dead or missing in recent days, and the situation could worsen when a typhoon makes landfall this week.  About 16 million people have been affected by the rains that submerged vast tracts along the Yangtze, China’s longest river, ­according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.  Nationwide, the death toll stands at 170, and direct economic losses exceeded 20 billion yuan (HK$23.3 billion), the ministry said.  Floods have created havoc in South Asia this week, with 33 killed in Pakistan and 25 dead in India after unusually heavy rains.

Technology

Rabies kills about 60,000 people a year, many of them children in Africa and Asia. Rapid tests for the infection are badly needed in poor countries.  But diagnostic test strips made by six companies for this purpose are “unsatisfactory” and “cannot be recommended,” according to recent evaluations by scientists at the Friedrich-Loeffler Institute in Germany.

Public health and development experts have set themselves ambitious goals to rid the world of disease and end preventable maternal and child deaths. The aims of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include ending the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases; ending preventable deaths of newborns and under-5 children; and reducing maternal mortality to less than 70 per 100,000 live births. All this is to be achieved by 2030, only 15 years from now.  Yet these same public health and development experts acknowledge that they don’t have the tools they need to achieve these goals.

“Land of a thousand hills” is an apt nickname for Rwanda. The tiny, landlocked country ripples with steep, terraced hillsides. Under its single-minded president, Paul Kagame, it is also determined to become a technology hub for Africa.  Zipline, a Silicon Valley startup, will start testing delivery drones (otherwise known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) at a site 40 minutes drive south-west of the capital, Kigali, in August.

We live in an age of unprecedented unforced migration, as people move across borders to seek better lives and opportunities: in 2015, 244 million people (3.3 per cent of the world’s population) lived outside their country of origin.  And this extraordinary age of mobility involves not just people, but also goods, money and ideas. Communication advances create unprecedented development opportunities, connecting people and organizations as never before.

A sleepy community of Key Haven has been identified by one company as the perfect spot to experiment with a controversial method of combating Zika before it reaches US shores — a method that has divided neighbors and could have broad implications across the country: genetically modified (GMO) mosquitoes.

Environmental Health

The global threat of highly persistent plastic waste accumulating and fragmenting in the world’s oceans, inland waters and terrestrial environments is becoming increasingly evident.  Humans are being exposed to both plastic particles and chemical additives being released from the plastic debris of consumer society.

Brush fires in Siberia are bringing a haze of ultrafine dust to Korea, according to a study.  Jung Jin-sang at the Korea Research Institute of Standards and Science says ultrafine dust particles from forest fires in Siberia are traveling 3,000 km (1,864 miles) south to the Korean Peninsula, causing lung and heart diseases.

Brazil’s government will hand out 9 million condoms for free around Rio de Janeiro during the Olympics in August, a push to encourage safe sex and also defend the Amazon rainforest.

Paris has launched a fresh attack on dirty air with new rules to prevent older, more polluting vehicles from driving on its roads.The restrictions, which came into force on July 1, will prevent any car registered before January 1997 from driving within the city’s streets between Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm. The same rule will apply to utility vehicles put in circulation before October 1, 1997 and motorcycles before June 1999.

Equity & Disparities

In Tanzania, leafy green sprouts once crowded together – the sign of a good season of sweet potato crops. Today, a dry, barren dirt field remains. This could be any farm in Zambia, Ethiopia, Rwanda or elsewhere in the developing world. And this vacant landscape means one thing: there is no food. Without the basic staple of nutritious and healthy food, progress stops, people die, and whole communities are held hostage to hunger.

The World Health Organization recommended substandard care to people with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis living in developing countries, according to a new paper published in the Health and Human Rights Journal. Between 1993 and 2002, the WHO made treatment recommendations in low-income countries based on cost – treatment that was deemed substandard in wealthy countries.

In low-resource settings, clinicians are often asked to practice at the “top of their license.” General internists and primary care physicians are asked to diagnose and treat disease that would fall under the purview of subspecialists in the US. This, of course, is due to extreme lack of medical specialists across many low and middle income (LMIC) countries.  A study published in BMJ Global Health evaluated a program to provide free access to UptoDate to these clinicians and the results were fascinating.

The global news round up was prepared by the communications team.