Global News Round Up

Politics & Policies

The White House request for $1.9 billion to fight the Zika virus has been met with a $1.1 billion plan by the Senate and a $622 million bill by the House.

A French diplomat who wants to be the world’s top health official says an international tax could help fill the World Health Organization’s coffers, a proposal aimed at bringing order to the UN agency’s fragmented budget.

A recent report released by the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition reviewed the attacks on healthcare services and service providers between January 2015 and March 2016. The report suggests that urgent actions are needed to prevent such attacks. The recommendations include “prosecuting those who bomb healthcare facilities, creating a system for reporting acts of violence, and implementing an international body to investigate attacks”.


The Women Deliver Conference will be held in Copenhagen, Denmark on May 16-19.  As a leading, global advocate for girls’ and women’s health, rights, and wellbeing, Women Deliver brings together diverse voices and interests to drive investments and progress, particularly in maternal, sexual, and reproductive health and rights. The focus of the 2016 Conference will be on how to make development matter most for girls and women, with a specific focus on health, rights, gender equality, education, and economic empowerment.

The 69th World Health Assembly opened in Geneva, Switzerland on May 23rd. The Health Assembly elected Dr. Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Saidi, Minister of Health of Oman as its new President. While celebrating the recent progresses in global public health, Dr. Margaret Chan also noted that the global community is not prepared to cope with the emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases. She also raised concern over “slow-motion” disasters of climate change, antibiotic resistance and chronic diseases such as diabetes.


Researchers have identified a protein in the Zika virus called NS5 that could potentially be a target for future vaccines. The scientists think it may be possible to develop a vaccine against the Zika virus by changing the protein structure.

New research from the University of Birmingham has shown that flu vaccinations are more effective when administered in the morning.  In some patients, morning administration of the flu vaccine induced a greater antibody response.

A Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine report finds more than 250,000 deaths per year can be attributed to medical errors in the US, making it the third leading cause of death, surpassing respiratory disease.

Diseases & Disasters

According to the CDC, the number of pregnant women in the US reported to have the Zika virus has more than tripled, increasing from 48 to 157.

The head of WHO warns that the world is not prepared to deal with the rapid spread of infectious diseases based on the responses to Zika, Ebola, MERS coronavirus and yellow fever outbreaks.

CDC, WHO, and Vietnamese health authorities work together to detect and respond to locally transmitted Zika cases.  On April 4, 2016 there were locally confirmed cases of Zika virus transmission that was not likely linked to the recent outbreaks in South and Central America.

In order to combat the Zika virus, the Australian Olympic Committee announced today that special anti-viral condoms will be given to athletes in order to curb the spread of the Zika virus in anticipation of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games being held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

According to the World Health Organization, the Zika virus could spread to Europe this summer, although the likelihood of an outbreak is low to moderate.

The World Health Organization will hold an emergency meeting on May 19 because of the the yellow fever outbreak that has hit hardest in Angola but risks spreading further if vaccinations are not ramped up.

The yellow fever epidemic that started in Angola in January could become the next health emergency.  Because of the complexity and frequency of emergency disease threats, a “standing emergency committee” has been recommended that could meet on a regular basis to give recommendations to the UN Director-General.


A mobile app created by a team at Cornell Tech is aimed at helping Lesotho’s Riders for Health organization digitally track the clinical specimens that the motorcycle-riding health workers collect from many of the hard to reach places in Lesotho.

Environmental Health

The Peruvian government has declared a state of emergency in 11 towns in the Madre de Dios region bordering Brazil after officials found alarmingly high levels of mercury, a harmful heavy metal used in gold mining. Mercury contamination causes chronic renal and neurological disorders, among other things, and is especially harmful for children and pregnant women.

The WHO estimates 12.6 million people died worldwide as a result of unhealthy living and working environments. This number amounts to nearly one in four of total global deaths.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF) Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) update for 2015, over 6 million Kenyans still defecate in the open resulting in the prevalence of diseases such as diarrhea, amoeba, typhoid, and cholera.  Hence, the government has begun to develop environmental and sanitation policies to ensure universal access to improved sanitation and a clean and healthy environment, dignity, social well-being and quality of life for all Kenyans.

Studies suggest even low levels of lead exposure can hurt a fetus’ development in the womb.  For months now, the Michigan state health department has been looking into whether the Flint water crisis caused problems with pregnancies.

Indonesia has one of the worst mercury problems in the world.  Millions of people in 70 countries across Asia, Africa, and South America have been exposed to high levels of mercury as small-scale mining has proliferated over the past decade. The United Nations Environment Programme estimates that at least 10 million miners, including at least four million women and children, are working in small “artisanal” gold mines, which produce as much as 15 percent of the world’s gold.  High doses of mercury, which is a neurological poison, are a well-documented cause of birth defects, including crippling deformities and nervous system disorders.

A new rule called the “Beijing Six” standard will be implemented by January 2017, according to the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau.  It will be China’s strictest fuel standard as it tries to reduce pollution in the city caused by vehicle emission.

Equity & Disparities

A new country engagement plan for Cambodia will help communities across Cambodia with better access to healthcare.  A $30 million World Bank funding will build upon two innovative Cambodian health financing mechanisms. First, the Health Equity Funds help cover the costs of health services for the nation’s three million poor people, reducing their out-of-pocket costs and providing reliable financing for health facilities. Second, redesigned Service Delivery Grants will improve quality of health services, including health-facility management, staff attendance and the coverage of health services.

Life expectancy globally increased by 5 years between 2000 and 2015, the fastest increase since the 1960s, according to a new World Health Statistics report by WHO.  The greatest gain was in the African region where life expectancy increased by 9.4 years to 60 years, driven in part by expanded access to antiretrovirals for treatment of HIV.However, the gains have been uneven. Supporting countries to move towards universal health coverage based on strong primary care is the best thing we can do to make sure no one is left behind.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued a final rule to advance health equity and reduce healthcare disparities. Under the rule, individuals are protected from discrimination in healthcare on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability and sex, including discrimination based on pregnancy, gender identity and sex stereotyping.

Prepared by the Communications team (Steve & Abbhi)

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