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.”

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