News Round Up

World population:  7,919,624,238

Politics & Policies 

December 1st—Member states of the World Health Organization are banding together to make a plan to deal with future pandemics like the COVID-19 outbreak.  The World Health Assembly, the WHO’s decision-making body, voted to draft a “convention, agreement or other international instrument” on preventing, preparing for and responding to future pandemics.  The Special Session was only the second-ever since WHO’s founding in 1948.   https://www.mprnews.org/story/2021/12/01/npr-who-member-states-will-work-on-a-global-agreement-to-deal-with-future-pandemics 

December 9th—The world’s overall performance on the GHS Index score slipped to 38.9 (out of 100) in 2021, from a score of 40.2 in the GHS Index, 2019. This, even as infectious diseases are expected to have the greatest impact on the global economy in the next decade. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/health/world-unprepared-for-future-pandemics-global-health-security-index-2021-80611 

December 9th—South Korea ranked ninth in a 2021 Global Health Security Index report released on Wednesday.  The report, jointly by Johns Hopkins University and the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a nonprofit global security organization, measured the capacities of countries to see how well they are prepared for future health emergencies.  Top on the overall list of 195 countries was the U.S., followed by Australia and Finland.  The report says all countries remain “dangerously unprepared” to meet future epidemic and pandemic threats which could be more devastating than COVID-19. https://www.arirang.com/News/News_View.asp?nseq=289126

December 13th—WHO’s total budget for 2022 to 2023 is over $6 billion, with member states contributing 16% of the total.  A debate among member states around a contentious proposal to increase their dues by over $1 billion by 2029 will take place this week. https://www.devex.com/news/german-diplomat-expects-challenging-debates-on-who-funding-increase-102310

December 17th—The G7 emphasized the importance of getting booster vaccinations out and an emphasis on nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPI). https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/586279-g7-health-leaders-omicron-biggest-current-threat-to-global-health

December 20th—It has been a year of colossal efforts in global health.  Countries battled COVID-19, which claimed more lives in 2021 than in 2020, while struggling to keep other health services running.  Health and care workers have borne the lion’s share of these efforts but often received little recognition or reward.  Life-saving COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments were rolled out, but overwhelmingly in the richest countries, leaving many populations unprotected, especially in lower-income countries.  Across other health areas, from diabetes to dementia, there have been both setbacks and hard-won successes. https://www.who.int/news-room/spotlight/10-key-global-health-moments-from-2021 

December 22nd—Will 2022 be the year Covid starts to settle down, to show signs of being more endemic, less pandemic? Some experts think so — especially if the Omicron variant infects huge swaths of people worldwide. https://www.statnews.com/2021/12/22/3-issues-to-watch-global-health-2022/

Programs, Conferences, Grants & Awards

Devember 13th—After decades of being underestimated and overlooked, Muyembe’s hard work and integrity have finally started to pay off. TIME magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people of 2020.  Nature included him in its list of the ten people who mattered in science in 2019.  And that same year, the Government of Japan awarded him the Hideyo Noguichi Africa Prize. https://globalhealth.washington.edu/news/2021/12/07/Co-Discoverer-Ebola-Long-Road-Recognition 

December 15th—The 10th Global Conference on Health Promotion on 13-15 December 2021 marked the start of a global movement on the concept of well-being in societies. A focus on well-being encourages different sectors to work together to address global challenges and help people take control over their health and lives. https://www.who.int/news/item/15-12-2021-10th-global-conference-on-health-promotion-charters-a-path-for-creating-well-being-societies

Research

December 2nd—More than 50 countries have stepped up border controls to slow the spread of Omicron, a highly mutated SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern that is sweeping through South Africa. But researchers say many of the restrictions — especially those targeting only travelers from a handful of countries — are unlikely to keep Omicron out, and come at significant cost to the countries concerned.      https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-03608-x 

December 13th—In this randomized clinical trial including 941 patients, based on the World Health Organization 11-point Ordinal Scale for Clinical Improvement, convalescent plasma (CCP) did not benefit 468 participants randomized to CCP compared with 473 randomized to placebo from April 2020 to March 2021. However, in exploratory analyses, CCP appeared to benefit those enrolled from April to June 2020, the period when most participants received high-titer CCP and were not receiving remdesivir and corticosteroids at randomization. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2787090

Diseases & Disasters

December 2nd—Researchers in Botswana and South Africa just detected the omicron variant a few weeks ago, but already many scientists are predicting that the efficacy of the vaccines will likely take a hit, probably a big hit, when it comes to stopping infections of omicron. And more breakthrough infections will likely occur if (and that’s a big if) omicron spreads here in the U.S.  At the same time, there’s hope that vaccines will still offer good protection against severe disease and hospitalization, especially with a third dose. https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2021/12/02/1060624669/scientists-race-to-answer-the-question-will-vaccines-protect-us-against-omicron 

January 1st—A South African study from the epicenter of the world’s omicron surge offers a tantalizing hint that the acute phase of the Covid-19 pandemic may be ending. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-01-07/omicron-may-mark-end-of-pandemic-south-african-researchers-say 

Technology 

December 14th—Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine has been less effective in South Africa at keeping people infected with the virus out of hospital since the Omicron variant emerged last month, a real-world study published on Tuesday showed. https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/pfizer-vaccine-protecting-against-hospitalisation-during-omicron-wave-study-2021-12-14/

December 17th—Novavax, Inc., a biotechnology company dedicated to developing and commercializing next-generation vaccines for serious infectious diseases, and Serum Institute of India Pvt. Ltd. (SII), the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer by volume, today announced that the World Health Organization (WHO) has granted Emergency Use Listing (EUL) for NVX-CoV2373, Novavax’ recombinant nanoparticle protein-based COVID-19 vaccine with Matrix-M™ adjuvant, for active immunization of individuals 18 years of age and older for the prevention of coronavirus disease 2019 caused by SARS-CoV-2. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/novavax-and-serum-institute-of-india-announce-world-health-organization-grants-emergency-use-listing-for-nvx-cov2373-covid-19-vaccine-301447505.html

Environmental Health

December 2nd—Environmental worries can motivate but also overwhelm people. Polling from September 2020 showed that more than half of adults in the U.S. were anxious about how climate change affects their mental health. And nearly 40% of surveyed Gen Z Americans, born after 1996, said addressing climate change is their top personal concern.  The loss of Kevin remains a shock for me, and for others who cared about him — especially his mother, who has become increasingly involved in environmental advocacy. https://khn.org/news/article/as-climate-worsens-environmentalists-grapple-with-the-mental-toll-of-activism/ 

December 22nd—Sir Robin May, Chief Scientist at the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has called for urgent progress on a unified eco-labelling system for food in the UK. It comes as more than half (54%) of respondents to an FSA survey say they would like to improve their diet to make it more sustainable. The Healthy and Sustainable Diets consumer survey also revealed that 73% believe it’s important for them to buy food that has a low environmental impact.  Sir Robin explained that the way we grow, process and transport food is a major contributor to climate change, with food production as a whole accounting for more than a quarter (25%+) of all greenhouse gas emissions. https://www.cieh.org/ehn/food-safety-integrity/2021/december/eco-labelling-is-urgent-argues-fsa-chief-scientist/

December 22nd—Bath politicians are arguing that conservationists are putting bird welfare above public health concerns as Natural England’s pilot scheme prevents removal of nests and eggs. Bath MP and Liberal Democrat, Wera Hobhouse said it had been almost impossible this year for Bath and North East Somerset Council to get permission to remove nests – despite their rising population and associated noise, droppings, and nuisance. https://www.cieh.org/ehn/public-health-and-protection/2021/december/non-lethal-gull-deterrent-is-not-enough-say-bath-politicians/

December 30th—The modern world is threatening sperm counts, altering male and female reproductive development, and imperiling the future of the human race. https://www.ehn.org/amp/popular-news-2655886522

Equity & Disparities

December 3rd—The newly-discovered Omicron variant has highlighted the unequal distribution of vaccines and the lack of vaccine accessibility in some of the most vulnerable groups in many lower-income countries across the globe.  Vaccine inequity has amplified the logistical burden, and highlighted the visible cracks in the global healthcare system. https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/vaccine-inequity-and-challenges-in-its-global-distribution-1.5693075 

December 13th—The World Health Organization and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital today announced plans to establish a platform that will dramatically increase access to childhood cancer medicines around the world.  The Global Platform for Access to Childhood Cancer Medicines, the first of its kind, will provide an uninterrupted supply of quality-assured childhood cancer medicines to low- and middle-income countries. https://www.who.int/news/item/13-12-2021-who-and-st.-jude-to-dramatically-increase-global-access-to-childhood-cancer-medicines 

December 20th—In the 1950s, when a journalist asked virologist Jonas Salk who owned the polio vaccine, he replied, “Well, the people I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun? https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/dec/21/covid-will-not-be-our-last-global-health-crisis-we-need-a-long-term-plan 

December 22nd—As 2022 approaches, with nearly nine billion vaccine doses administered worldwide, public health experts say goals of global vaccine equity have fallen woefully short. Not only has ramped-up vaccine production failed to address shortages in low-income countries, but there remains a long way to go in addressing the myriad challenges related to getting vaccines from tarmacs in low-income countries into residents’ arms. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/12/22/will-low-income-countries-be-vaccinated-against-covid-in-2022 

Women, Maternal, Neonatal & Children’s Health

November 11th—A dire shortage of anaesthetics, among other drugs, has caused operating theatres across Malawi to close, sharply increasing complication risk for pregnant women and preventing the possibility of caesareans. https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/nov/22/pregnant-women-at-risk-in-malawi-as-drug-shortage-prevents-caesareans 

December 14th—”U.S. News & World Report, long known for its rankings of hospitals, issued its first ever “Best Hospitals for Maternity” rankings Dec. 7, highlighting facilities that perform well on key quality indicators. It plans to update the report annually.” https://www.webmd.com/women/news/20211214/fixing-maternal-health-problem-us-what-to-know 

December 23rd—While hospital-based initiatives are important, a renewed focus on maternity and infant health prior to and after delivery are essential to long-term positive health outcomes. https://medcitynews.com/2021/12/maternal-and-infant-health-looking-beyond-delivery/ 

December 28th—When the Taliban began targeting female judges, three women planned a daring escape. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-12-29/inside-the-daring-plan-to-spirit-brave-judges-out-of-afghanistan/100714310?utm_source=sfmc%E2%80%8B%E2%80%8B&utm_medium=email%E2%80%8B%E2%80%8B&utm_campaign=abc_news_newsmail_am_sfmc%E2%80%8B%E2%80%8B&utm_term=%E2%80%8B&utm_id=1797833%E2%80%8B%E2%80%8B&sfmc_id=103569834 

Read the latest issue of Section Connection!

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The IH Section Communications Team

Fulbright Scholar program

After many disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic and interruptions to international travel, the Fulbright Scholar Program for Professionals and Academics will be opening up their 2023-2024 cohort. They have a large number of opportunities for people inside and outside of the U.S., and for those with a variety of professional training and career stages. The program application opens up in February 2022. To learn more about the different options and see if any of them are a good fit for your professional interests, https://cies.org.

News Round Up

Politics & Policies

On 8-10 November 2021, Dr. Naveen Rao, Senior Vice President, Health and other senior representatives from The Rockefeller Foundation joined World Health Organization (WHO) representatives to review the strategic directions of collaboration between the two Organizations.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal next week to discuss security issues and other topics, the State Department said Thursday, November 13th.

When it comes to health policy, “as Medicare goes, so goes the nation.” Unfortunately, burdensome federal regulations prevented Medicare from delivering virtual care to millions of seniors around the country — until the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Francis S. Collins has announced he will end his tenure as NIH director by the end of the year. Collins is the longest serving presidentially appointed NIH director, having served in three administrations. During his 12-year leadership, NIH’s budget grew by 38%, from $30 billion in 2009 to $41.3 billion in 2021.

The World Health Organization’s current director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, is the only candidate proposed to lead the organization over the next five years, the agency said in a press release Friday. Tedros has served in the role since 2017, when he became the first person from the African continent to lead the agency.

Programs, Grants & Awards

The WHO Evidence-to-Policy (E2P) Summit provides a forum to capitalize on the lessons learned in evidence-informed policy-making in times of COVID-19. The event offers a platform for researchers, policymakers, health actors, civil society organizations and media representatives to spark new collaborations across the evidence ecosystem.

CEPI, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, announced the first funding awards under its $200m programme to advance the development of vaccines that provide broad protection against SARS-CoV-2 variants and other betacoronaviruses. 

Research
Researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health are leading a new collaborative effort to increase training opportunities in data science research in five African countries.

Diseases & Disasters 

Philippine health authorities reported 1,894 coronavirus cases on Friday, bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases since the pandemic started to 2.8 million. 

A substantial decrease in measles incidence and associated mortality occurred worldwide during 2000–2016, followed by a global resurgence during 2017–2019, then an apparent decline in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this decline, millions more children were susceptible to measles at the end of 2020 than in 2019.

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have passed 250.4 million globally, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of confirmed deaths has now passed 5.05 million. More than 7.28 billion vaccination doses have been administered globally, according to Our World in Data.

The Taliban seizure of power in Afghanistan has intensified an already dire humanitarian crisis. Although media attention has been focused on the evacuation from Kabul’s international airport, the collapse of the Ashraf Ghani government and the Taliban advance have brought about a public health catastrophe.

In 2019, nearly 7 million Angolans contracted malaria and 13.6 thousand died from this preventable and curable disease . In the 16 years since Angola became one of the first U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) focus countries, these numbers have seen steady improvement . Yet, standing water left behind by the rainy season leads to spikes in malaria cases in Lunda-sul Province.

Refugees in Indonesia, many of whom have fled Afghanistan’s mounting crises, have lagged far behind the rest of the population when it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations. The UN is helping to reverse this trend.

The global death toll from COVID-19 topped 5 million on Monday, November 1st, less than two years into a crisis that has not only devastated poor countries but also humbled wealthy ones with first-rate health care system.

Technology 

“In Benin, there are many regions that are quite isolated, particularly in certain periods of the year,” explained Djawad Ramanou, a UNFPA representative and lead on the drone project. “In Firou, for example, there’s a small bridge that connects Firou to other communes, and during the rainy season the water levels rise and completely cut off Firou from other villages. But with a drone we can reach the maternity ward there. Until now, if it rained, the hospital was cut off and patients weren’t able to get the care they needed.”

Unlike the relatively new technologies that the mRNA and viral-vector COVID-19 shots are based on, protein vaccines have been used for decades to protect people from hepatitis, shingles and other viral infections. To elicit a protective immune response, these shots deliver proteins, along with immunity-stimulating adjuvants, directly to a person’s cells, rather than a fragment of genetic code that the cells must read to synthesize the proteins themselves.

In November, drugmaker Pfizer announced its new oral antiviral treatment significantly reduced the risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19.  Results from the company’s phase 2 and 3 clinical trials found the drug, called Paxlovid, was nearly 90 percent effective at preventing severe disease symptoms when given to high-risk study participants.

Environmental Health

Doctors have said the best way to prevent spiraling public health dangers is to meet the 2015 Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The island nation of Tuvalu is seeking to keep ownership of its maritime zones and to gain recognition as a state even if the Pacific island nation is completely submerged due to the climate crisis.

Pishu village was on the brink of abandonment. Located deep in the Himalayas in India’s Zanskar Valley, at 3,600 meters it is one of the highest places on earth inhabited by humans. It is also experiencing some of the most dramatic impacts from climate change.

Climate change has ascertained over and over again the need to have robust and resilient health systems. Now, a group of 47 countries have committed to develop climate-resilient and low-carbon health systems at the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (CoP26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Equity & Disparities

A century after insulin was discovered, it still remains out of reach for many people living with diabetes, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a report published on November 12th to commemorate the milestone anniversary. 

At the Global COVID-19 Summit before the United Nations Assembly in September, world leaders set targets to close the gap by fully vaccinating 40% of the globe by the end of 2021 and 70% by mid-2022. Increased vaccine production and commitments from wealthy countries to share vaccines are expected to improve the flow of doses to low- and middle-income countries.

Women, Maternal, Neonatal & Child

Compared with its peers,’ the United States’ trajectory in maternal health has been shameful. Solving this worsening problem requires looking not just at the quality of care a woman receives but the entire environment around her — from her access to health care to the availability of food in her community.

The National Institutes of Health will support a four-year study on the potential long-term effects of COVID-19 on women infected with SARS-CoV-2 during pregnancy. The study will periodically assess about 4,100 patients with SARS-CoV-2 during pregnancy who gave birth at hospitals in NIH’s Maternal-Fetal Medicine Unit Network; their offspring will be evaluated for neurologic symptoms and cardiovascular conditions.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky, M.D., on November 3rd, accepted the recommendation of her agency’s independent Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to administer Pfizer’s pediatric COVID-19 vaccine to children between the ages of five and 11.

Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death among Black women, claiming thousands of lives each year. Compared with white women, Black women may be more often diagnosed in later stages of the disease, when it’s tougher to fight. As a result, Black women are 40% more likely to die of breast cancer than white women. Among women younger than 50, the racial disparity is even greater.

In response to a congressional request to address NIH efforts related to women’s health research, the Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH), on behalf of the Advisory Committee on Research on Women’s Health (ACRWH), hosted an event on October 20, 2021, titled “Advancing NIH Research on the Health of Women: A 2021 Conference.”

International Council of Nurses Congress 2021

The International Council fo Nurses held their biennial Congress virtually between Nov 2nd-4th, 2021. The title this congress was “Nursing Around the World” and included sessions from world leaders such as Ban Ki Moon, and updates from nurse leaders in all five regions of the world. The eight themes included Nursing Leadership, Global Health Challenges, and the Nursing Workforce. You can learn more https://congress2021.icnevents.online, or look forward to attending the next Congress in Montreal 2023.