News Round Up

Politics & Policies

Across much of the world—including one remote Nigerian village—the availability of family planning will largely depend on the outcome of the U.S. presidential election.

https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/10/14/isolated-in-rural-nigeria-and-waiting-for-america-to-vote/

POLITICO Launches ‘Global Pulse’ Newsletter To Highlight Global Health, Discusses U.S. Drawdown From Global Health Leadership

https://www.politico.com/newsletters/global-pulse/2020/10/22/a-world-without-america-490668

What strategies should governments adopt to improve the health of their citizens? Amid the COVID-19 syndemic it would be easy to focus attention on global health security—at a minimum, strong public health and health-care systems. WHO has based its global health strategy on three pillars: universal health coverage, health emergencies, and better health and wellbeing. 

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)32131-0/fulltext

USAID Sends Letters To Prime Recipients Of Global Health Assistance, U.N. SG Emphasizing Expectation To Comply With Statutory, Policy Abortion Restrictions, Discussing Concerns Regarding Sexual, Reproductive Health Terminology

https://www.kff.org/news-summary/usaid-sends-letters-to-prime-recipients-of-global-health-assistance-u-n-sg-emphasizing-expectation-to-comply-with-statutory-policy-abortion-restrictions-discussing-concerns-regarding-sexual-repr/

Health officials across the country are calling it quits in the midst of a global pandemic as otherwise below-the-radar public servants become the targets of anger and frustration in a hyperpartisan age.

https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/public-global-health/512350-dozens-public-health-officials-quitting-pandemic

Programs, Grants & Awards

In order to ensure that those exposed to COVID-19 receive the help they need to quarantine and cooperate with public health guidance, UCSF’s Pandemic Initiative for Equity and Action (UPIEA) is adding a soft-skills component to the training California contact tracers receive: cultural humility.

https://globalhealthsciences.ucsf.edu/news/california-covid-19-contact-tracing-expand-cultural-competency-funding-skoll-foundation

Dr. Anthony Fauci Launches YIGH Global Health Conversation Series Webinar

https://medicine.yale.edu/news-article/28298/

In new strategy, Wellcome Trust takes on global health concerns

https://science.sciencemag.org/content/370/6515/392

Research

By adulthood, gender inequalities in health and wellbeing are apparent. Yet, the timing and nature of gender inequalities during childhood and adolescence are less clear. Researchers describe the emergence of gender inequalities in health and wellbeing across the first two decades of life.

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(20)30354-5/fulltext

The burden of malaria infection in sub-Saharan Africa among school-aged children aged 5–15 years is underappreciated and represents an important source of human-to-mosquito transmission of Plasmodium falciparum. Additional interventions are needed to control and eliminate malaria. Researchers aimed to assess whether preventive treatment of malaria might be an effective means of reducing P falciparum infection and anaemia in school-aged children and lowering parasite transmission.

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(20)30325-9/fulltext

Unless the spread of the disease is contained, COVID-19 will likely lead to reduced life expectancy in severely affected areas, according to a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE. The study examined the impact of COVID-19-related deaths on life expectancy for four broad world regions across multiple rates of infection and age groups.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/09/200917181301.htm

Is there a quantifiable association between the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and the volume, type, and content of primary care encounters in the US?

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2771191

Infectious diseases prevalent in humans and animals are caused by pathogens that once emerged from other animal hosts. In addition to these established infections, new infectious diseases periodically emerge. In extreme cases they may cause pandemics such as COVID-19; in other cases, dead-end infections or smaller epidemics result.

https://www.cell.com/cell/fulltext/S0092-8674%2820%2931012-6

Diseases & Disasters

Representatives from the global south used this year’s World Health Summit to send a message to their counterparts in richer countries: They have a vision for how to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, and while they welcome advice and technical expertise, they are not interested in being told what to do.

https://www.devex.com/news/at-the-world-health-summit-global-south-representatives-had-a-message-for-donors-98425

The coronavirus pandemic has caused major disruption in global health, and exposed gaps in global health governance and coordination. But as the sector rethinks the current global health architecture, global health expert Steve Davis cautioned against trying to fix it by just setting up a new institution.

https://www.devex.com/news/watch-steve-davis-on-rethinking-global-health-98398

Nearly eight months after the pandemic was declared, researchers are gaining a more complete understanding of how the new coronavirus affects people.

https://globalhealth.washington.edu/news/2020/10/02/how-covid-19-affects-some-people-long-after-they-become-infected-coronavirus

India’s COVID-19 cases soared even higher today, as the world’s second most populous nation came closer to edging out Brazil as the second worst-hit country.

https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2020/08/india-surge-pushes-global-covid-19-total-higher

Technology 

The US government has invested billions of dollars to create new health technologies — including tests, drugs, and vaccines — to combat COVID-19. These innovations could change the trajectory of the pandemic in the United States and other high-income countries, but unfortunately many of these tools may not work for people living in the world’s poorest places, where different challenges demand different solutions.

https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/covid-19-health-technologies-us-invest/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=share&_branch_match_id=801454931345192725

The HIMSS Global Health Equity Network and Accelerate Health are working together to host the Global Maternal Health Tech Challenge, a worldwide call to action to create technology solutions focused on improving maternal health outcomes.

https://www.mobihealthnews.com/news/himss-announces-global-tech-challenge-improve-maternal-health-outcomes-worldwide

New commitments from governments, international organizations and the private sector support unified approach to end pandemic, backing a response of unprecedented scale, scope and speed­—through the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator­—as pandemic claims more than 1 million lives.

https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/30-09-2020-un-welcomes-nearly-1-billion-in-recent-pledges-to-bolster-access-to-lifesaving-tests-treatments-and-vaccines-to-end-covid-19

Environmental Health

The world has already observed many devastating effects of human-induced climate change. A vivid manifestation is the several large wildfires that have occurred recently — in some cases, fires of unprecedented scale and duration — including wildfires in Australia in 2019 to 2020, the Amazon rainforest in Brazil in 2019 and 2020, the western United States in 2018 and 2020, and British Columbia, Canada, in 2017 and 2018. Since August of this year, record-breaking wildfires have burned 2.7 million hectares (as of September 18, 2020) along the West Coast of the United States, killing more than 30 people and leaving tens of thousands homeless. Robust projections indicate that the risk of wildfires will continue to increase in most areas of the world as climate change worsens and that the fires will increase excess mortality and morbidity from burns, wildfire smoke, and mental health effects.

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMsr2028985

Yale School of Public Health offers new climate change and health concentration

https://yaledailynews.com/blog/2020/10/26/yale-school-of-public-health-offers-new-climate-change-and-health-concentration/

Improving health care in rural Indonesia reduced incentives for illegal logging in a nearby national park, averting millions of dollars’ worth of atmospheric carbon emissions, a study finds. The finding indicates that accessible and affordable health care could be a key tool for addressing the climate crisis. Although the link may not be obvious, health care and climate change—two issues that pose major challenges around the world—are more connected than people may realize.

https://www.futurity.org/affordable-health-care-logging-climate-2461882-2/

With storms to the east and wildfires to the west, the climate crisis is currently at the forefront of public consciousness. But aside from dramatic disasters there is another, pernicious threat that comes with a warming climate: diminishing global crop yields.

https://www.ehn.org/climate-change-and-food-security-2647870834.html?rebelltitem=2#rebelltitem2

Equity & Disparities

If wealthy countries such as Canada crowd out vaccine access for poor countries, they should help support social protections, food security and health care.

https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/2020-09-28/commentary-canadas-covid-19-vaccine-strategy-may-come-at-cost-of-global-health

The world will not return to normal until a vaccine against the coronavirus is distributed widely and not just to developed nations, one of the leading vaccine experts said in a wide-ranging interview Wednesday.

https://thehill.com/homenews/coronavirus-report/509620-covid-19-vaccines-must-go-to-rich-and-poor-countries-warns

The coronavirus pandemic has hit disproportionately hard in Black and Hispanic communities, where infection rates and death rates have reached staggering levels. 

But as scientists race to develop vaccines against the SARS-CoV-2 virus and treatments for the COVID-19 disease it causes, many trials are struggling to enroll people from those very communities.

https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/519249-diversity-emerges-as-key-challenge-for-covid-trials

Women, Maternal, Neonatal & Children’s Health

The year 2020—five years since 189 countries signed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—has been consumed by the global response to COVID-19. One collateral effect of COVID-19 has been the setting aside of many SDGs and efforts to track progress towards them. Attention to children during the pandemic has concentrated on school closures, food insecurity, and access to care within health systems taxed by COVID-19 mitigation and response efforts. The situation of child and adolescent health before COVID-19, and consequences of the pandemic on specific health targets for SDG 3, therefore deserve attention.

https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1003449

One stillbirth occurs every 16 seconds, according to first ever joint UN estimates

https://www.who.int/news/item/08-10-2020-one-stillbirth-occurs-every-16-seconds-according-to-first-ever-joint-un-estimates

Children, women, migrants all at increased risk of exploitation and trafficking during second COVID wave, U.N. expert warns

https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=26443&LangID=E

Congratulations to the 2020 APHA International Health Section Award Winners!

This year, we had a good pool of candidates for the various awards offered by our Section. Congratulations to our colleagues whose outstanding accomplishments in international health are being recognized by our Section this year.

Carl Taylor Lifetime Achievement Award in International Health
Dr. Gopal Sankaran

Mid-Career Award in International Health
Mr. William Rosa

Gordon-Wyon Award for Community-Oriented Public Health, Epidemiology and Practice
Dr. Paul Freeman

Young Professional Award
Ms. Jessica Keralis

Distinguished Section Service Award
Ms. Laura Arntson

The Awards Committee encourages all to nominate a colleague and/or be willing to be nominated next year. To find out more information about nominating a colleague or to view a list of past award winners, please visit the IH Section’s Awards webpage.

We would also like to congratulate this year’s top-scoring Early Career Professional abstracts:

Mara Howard-Williams: Policy precedes law: A legal epidemiology study of mental health and international human rights law

Hannah Stewart: Impact of natural disasters on mental health outcomes of first responders in central Myanmar

Qing Xu: Content analysis of Chinese-language social media user-generated expression of uncertainty during the covid-19 outbreak on weibo

Every year the IH section awards $500 scholarships to top scoring abstracts submitted by IH Early Career Professionals. Don’t forget to submit your abstract to next year’s meeting in Denver!

Missed the awards ceremony? Re-watch the ceremony here.

Register for this year’s CBPHC virtual event: Health for All – Addressing Power &Privilege in Collaborative Practice, 10/24

Register for this year’s Community-Based Primary Health Care (CBPHC) Working Group pre-conference event!

Health for All: Addressing Power & Privilege in Collaborative Practice
When: October 24, 2020, 10 am – 3 pm EST

Where: Virtual event

The purpose of the workshop is to:

1. Learn how to effectively bring together different stakeholders in community based primary healthcare initiatives, hearing from community health workers and practitioners about their own experiences of marginalization and inclusion.

2. Understand through case studies and practice how communities, non-profits, and governments have collaborated together to form effective three-way partnerships, change policy, and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Register online at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/health-for-all-addressing-power-privilege-in-collaborative-practice-tickets-117331721337

Attention #GlobalHealth advocates and enthusiasts: The IH Section’s communications committee is looking for volunteers!

The International Health Section’s communications team is currently looking for volunteers who want to get involved in our section’s communications activities.

This is a great opportunity for self starters interested in engaging with the global health community through our communications channels by drawing attention to relevant global health topics; encouraging public support and action on pressing global health issues; providing timely, credible and accurate public health information; and providing transparency into the work of the American Public Health Association and the International Health section. Applicants must maintain current membership in APHA’s International Health section for as long as they serve in the position.

To learn more about the Communications Committee, visit https://aphaih.org/ihcommunications/

Social Media Manager

  • Participates in the development and implementation of the section’s communications and social media strategy
  • Develops original written and visual content for social media. Specific tasks include assisting Social Media Subcommittee Chair/Communications Co-chair with putting together the monthly calendar of topic-specific posts. All social media subcommittee members contribute/sign-up for topics to share on the IH Section’s social media feeds – the social media manager is responsible for coordinating and sending calendar invite reminders using the communications Gmail account.
  • Drafts and schedules original or forwarded content to go out through the Hootsuite account (i.e. to the Twitter account) or post directly to social media channels.
  • Actively participates in communications committee and social media subcommittee meetings and contributes ideas to further the committee’s strategy
  • Builds and maintains a solid online presence by monitoring activity on the IH Section’s social media, engaging followers, and responding to comments on each of the social media accounts while ensuring respectful and appropriate communication
  • Contributes an original blog article once every three months to the IH Section blog 
  • Assists with special projects as needed and available
  • Represents the Social Media Subcommittee on leadership calls and at the APHA annual meeting as needed

Approximately 1-2 hours per week, 1 year minimum commitment. 

Please contact: ihsection.communications@gmail.com for more information.

Social Media Associates 

  • Develops original written and visual content for social media
  • Drafts and schedules original or forwarded content to go out through the Hootsuite account (i.e. to the Twitter account) or post directly to social media channels.
  • Contributes an original blog article once every three months to the IH Section blog 
  • Participates in Social Media Subcommittee meetings
  • Assists with special projects as needed and available
  • Represents the Social Media Subcommittee on leadership calls and at the APHA annual meeting  as needed

Approximately 1 hour per week, 6 month minimum commitment. 

Please contact: ihsection.communications@gmail.com for more information.

Guest Contributors for IH Connect

Guest contributors write up original analysis, commentary, or education on global health topics for our blog. Guest contributors are welcome to write up a one time article or a series of articles. We do not accept applications from contributors wanting to promote a specific product, brand, or organization. 

Please contact: ihsection.communications@gmail.com for more information.

Regular Contributors for IH Connect

Regular contributors write up original analysis, commentary, or education on global health topics for our blog once a month. Regular contributors will also help to regularly maintain the IH website by posting relevant section news, events, webinars, workshops, etc. We do not accept applications from contributors wanting to promote a specific product, brand, or organization. 

4+ hours per month, 6 month minimum commitment.

Please contact: ihsection.communications@gmail.com for more information.

Creative Writing and Mental Health

By Sarah Edmonds and Dr. Heather F. McClintock PhD MSPH MSW 

This is the sixth part of a IH Blog series, Global Mental Health: Burden, Initiatives and Special Topics.

Part VI – Special Topic: Creative Writing and Mental Health 

Standard treatments approaches (counseling and/or medication) for addressing mental health issues are important, yet alternative approaches and strategies are growing in popularity. One alternative approach is Creative Art Therapy (CAT) which encompasses the use of many creative mediums (e.g. visual art, music, dance, and writing). The literature base indicates that CAT may be low-risk and high benefit for persons with severe mental illness. However, further methodologically rigorous studies are needed to substantiate the effectiveness of these approaches. 

Writing is one medium that has been widely used and studied in application as a tool for enhancing mental health through different forms aimed at self-improvement such as journaling, diaries, and dream logs. In contrast, the usage of writing as a craft through the creative process is an approach that has received relatively little attention. This approach involves persons writing for an outside audience at the point of creation rather than solely for the writer’s own benefit or reflection. Writing as a craft gives the writer the ability to form life and order out of thoughts and chaotic experiences. Some work has shown that a creative approach can help patients build their sense of “self” potentially helping them cope with difficult experiences. Improved confidence is a key mechanism through which creative writing may influence mental health. Research has shown that creative writing can help in building a sense of confidence, community, and connection among marginalized groups.

As a creative writer (SE), the statement “We create as a means of understanding the world around us and our place in it” is often used to describe why our creative process works in helping us deal with social issues or the emotional turmoil we feel in our own lives. As a woman with a minor physical disability, my fiction writing deals frequently with characters thriving despite sexism and ableism. The creative process whether applied through writing or other art forms aids us in coping and understanding our experiences enhancing our mental health. My friend, an eco-artist by profession, uses biodegradable materials and often inoculates her work with mushroom mycelia so that it grows and decays as is the process of all living things.

Other writers and artists that I know also say that “it’s always been easier for me to express emotions or come to terms with different things that have happened in my life through the written word,” “it’s something like meditation. I’m able to block out everything else and focus solely on what I’m creating. It’s like nothing else matters or exists,” and that “I feel like I would probably be in a worse spot mentally if I wasn’t creating.”

Based on my (SE) experiences as well as recent research, creative writing as a craft may have the potential to be a powerful tool for individuals to improve and maintain their mental health and wellness. As seen in a study conducted across the UK, creative writing workshops open to both residents and refugees allowed deeper connections between refugees and those whose community they were trying to become a part of. Also, it has been suggested that, in cases such as cultivating the mental health of people in protracted conflict areas such as the West Bank, creative expression and communication is a better stress-management tool than the current foreign aid systems that may not consider cultural biases in their methodology. The benefits of creative arts, in general, can also be seen through the work of organizations such as Colors of Connection’s project Courage in Congo that uses community-based art programs to provide therapeutically—as well as economically—beneficial skills to adolescents who are at risk or are victims of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). By making the program community-based, it also works towards fighting the social biases the community has against women and young girls.

Whether someone had a rough day at school, is struggling with a severe mental illness, or lives in a community that is unsafe or unwelcoming, the ability to craft narrative and shape events through words that are solely their own gives people a much-needed sense of strength and autonomy. Creative writing gives us the power to find a sense of self, the power to create a safe space in an unforgiving world, and the power to take control over who we are and how we connect to everything and everyone around us.

About the Authors:

Sarah Edmonds

Sarah Edmonds is a Dual Master of Arts in English and Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing student at Arcadia University. She has won awards for her work in film at festivals such as the BareBones International Film and Music Festival. Her creative work focuses on giving voice to underrepresented groups; she is currently working on a short documentary about biracial women’s identity struggles in the United States. While working with the Carroll County Media Center, she produced local news and interview segments about substance abuse and mental health awareness. Her main goal in her professional and creative work is to open dialogues about topics that normally carry social stigma so that no one ever has to be afraid to get help or to be who they truly are.

Dr. Heather F. McClintock PhD MSPH MSW

Dr. McClintock is an IH Section Member and Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Health, College of Health Sciences at Arcadia University. She earned her Master of Science in Public Health from the Department of Global Health and Population at the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. McClintock received her PhD in Epidemiology from the University of Pennsylvania with a focus on health behavior and promotion. Her research broadly focuses on the prevention, treatment, and management of chronic disease and disability globally. Recent research aims to examine health literacy and intimate partner violence in Sub-Saharan Africa. Prior to completing her doctorate she served as a Program Officer at the United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants and a Senior Project Manager in the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Pennsylvania. At the University of Pennsylvania she led several research initiatives that involved improving patient compliance and access to quality healthcare services including the Spectrum of Depression in Later Life Study and Integrating Management for Depression and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Study.