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.

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