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.”

News Round up

Politics & Policies

The leadership shown by President Biden is commendable and provides a much-needed boost to the global efforts to rapidly expand access to vaccines, scale up diagnostic testing and expand supplies of oxygen and other life-saving tools in all countries – especially the most vulnerable.

Mr. Biden assured leaders attending the UN General Assembly that the US intends to partner with allies to “help lead the world toward a more peaceful, prosperous future for all people.”                                               

An expert group consulted by the World Health Organization on how Europe and the world can better prepare for the next health emergency has proposed the creation of several new entities while resisting calls to merge existing ones.  

France’s former health minister Agnes Buzyn has been charged over her handling of the COVID-19 crisis after investigators at a special court in Paris concluded there were grounds to prosecute her.

Vice President Harris recently called for a new global health security fund at the World Bank to focus on pandemic preparedness, with the Biden administration planning to contribute $250 million in seed funding, a White House official said.

Programs, Grants & Awards

Northwestern University Trustees and alumni Patrick G. Ryan and Shirley W. Ryan have made a $25 million gift to name and endow the Robert J. Havey, MD, Institute for Global Health at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. The Ryans’ gift will ensure that the institute has resources in perpetuity to improve the health of billions of people in low- and middle-income countries worldwide.

A gift of $2.5 million is helping Hope College establish a new academic program. The multidisciplinary global health program started this fall and involves 12 academic departments.

On September 22, 2021, President Biden convened a virtual Global COVID-19 Summit focused on ending the pandemic and building better health security to prevent and prepare for future biological threats.

The Keck School of Medicine of USC global health student analyzed ways to use community health volunteers to expand residents’ access to health care in rural areas. His goal: to influence policy changes that could improve the Kenyan health system.

Research

As public health leaders worldwide scramble to contain COVID-19’s delta variant, researchers at Michigan State University know what can provide early signs of the virus and help with critical decisions — sewage.

More than 700 people have applied for spots on a new committee charged with breathing life into the World Health Organization’s stalled inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. The committee, expected to be announced this week, represents an attempt by the embattled global health body to reset its approach to determining how the pandemic began.

The following is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. They include research that warrants further study to corroborate the findings and that have yet to be certified by peer review.

Diseases & Disasters

War and armed conflict causes a significant loss to human life and is a major cause of disability worldwide. In addition to those hurt and killed as a direct result of violent conflict, a vast amount of people are also negatively impacted by the wider effect of war on global health.

The Covid-19 pandemic has severely set back the fight against other global scourges like H.I.V., tuberculosis and malaria, according to a sobering new report released on Tuesday.                  

Nearly 18 months after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, the coronavirus continues its march around the globe, leaving medical, social, and economic trauma in its wake. With the delta variant driving new and deadly waves of the disease across the world, the pandemic appears far from over.

More than 130 years after the naming of the Plasmodium parasites behind malaria, the world now has its first approved vaccine against them. Many malaria researchers have celebrated the development, but others have expressed concerns over the deployment of a vaccine that has only moderate efficacy.

Technology 

Universal concern over the potential use and misuse of genome editing reached a peak in 2018 following the surprise announcement of the first edited babies. 

Intended to create the foundation necessary to support the integrated digital health infrastructure of the country, the NDHM, now known as the Pradhan Mantri Digital Health Mission (PM-DHM), was first piloted last year in August across six union territories. It seeks to bridge the existing gap among different stakeholders in India’s healthcare ecosystem through digital highways.

A World Health Organization “pandemic intelligence hub” launched by the UN agency’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and Germany’s Angela Merkel in Berlin on Wednesday will try to help governments identify future pandemics at an earlier stage and improve monitoring of new variant strains of Covid-19.

Environmental Health 

New WHO Global Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs) provide clear evidence of the damage air pollution inflicts on human health, at even lower concentrations than previously understood. The guidelines recommend new air quality levels to protect the health of populations, by reducing levels of key air pollutants, some of which also contribute to climate change.

The scientific community has known for decades that a group of widely-used chemicals is causing health harms across the globe, but effective policies aimed at curbing those impacts lag far behind the research, according to a new study.

At the end of this month, the annual United Nations climate conference will have begun, this year in the Scottish city of Glasgow. Campaign groups are already limbering up for the talks, COP-26, publishing the action they think is vital.

The WHO COP26 Special Report on Climate Change and Health, launched today, in the lead-up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, spells out the global health community’s prescription for climate action based on a growing body of research that establishes the many and inseparable links between climate and health.

Equity & Disparities

President Joe Biden has announced that the United States will double its purchases of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines for low and middle-income countries, bringing its pledged donations to a total of 1.1 billion doses.

In May 2020, there was a significant spike of COVID-19 cases among the Hispanic/Latino population in the Richmond, Virginia metro area of Chesterfield and Henrico counties. The Richmond City Health District contacted CDC and asked for help investigating this outbreak, which was quickly becoming a hot spot. Given my experience working with populations who are underrepresented, I was asked to organize and lead an emergency response team. We assembled the first ever CDC COVID-19 emergency response team made up of CDC H/L scientists and public health experts.

Humanitarian crises have a significant impact on global health. Situations such as armed conflict and war, natural disasters, and epidemics/pandemics, are all examples of humanitarian emergencies that are affecting more people today than they ever have. The impact of these crises on healthcare systems is great.

Not all food is created equal. So-called blue foods—a diverse range of aquatic animals, plants and microorganisms—offer significantly more nutrients than land-based crops and livestock, according to a first-of-its-kind database compiled by an international team that included researchers at Stanford.

Victor Dzau, President of US Academy of Medicine, calls on governments to establish a global health threats council, and says pharmaceutical companies should temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents.

Women, Maternal, Neonatal & Children’s Health

The El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a principal component of global climate variability known to influence a host of social and economic outcomes, but its systematic effects on human health remain poorly understood. A recent study shows that warmer El Niño conditions predict worse child undernutrition in most of the developing world, but better outcomes in the small number of areas where precipitation is positively affected by warmer ENSO

Texas’ controversial six-week abortion ban has been in effect just a few weeks, and physicians and researchers are already warning that the impact could be dire: if the law remains in effect, Texas could see a significant increase in maternal mortality.

Afghanistan has one of the worst maternal and infant mortality rates in the world, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), with 638 women dying per 100,000 live births.

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

News Round Up

Politics & Policies

The outbreak of COVID-19, with staggeringly high numbers of cases and deaths both domestically and globally, is already causing policymakers to initiate a post-mortem on how the global and domestic response went wrong.

Controlling the spread of infectious diseases requires multilateral cooperation. The objective of the first International Sanitary Conference in Paris in 1851 was to reduce to a safe minimum the conflicting and costly maritime quarantine requirements of different nations. Possibly the first binding international convention of the modern era addressed cholera. It came into force in Venice in 1892.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread globally, the urgent need for greater surveillance, equipment, personnel, testing, and laboratory capacity to save lives and contain the spread of the virus continues to grow.

Global health is about big saves and lofty goals like universal health coverage and ending epidemics. This is why global health attracts lots of professionals from diverse fields (including me). But in the race to save lives, the field of global health tends to ignore a big risk: burnout. It was a concern long before the Covid-19 pandemic, and might get worse because of the ongoing crisis.

Programs, Grants & Awards

Four new IntraHealth International and the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill summer fellows completed their projects in gender-based violence, data, and reproductive health this month.

On 30 June, the Exemplars in Global Health (EGH) was launched to broadly share lessons from positive outliers in global health. EGH is incubated at Gates Ventures, the private office of Bill Gates, in collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. EGH brings together experts, funders, and collaborators around the world with the mission of identifying positive global health outliers, analyzing and understanding what makes these countries successful, and disseminating the core learnings so they can be replicated in comparable settings.

Research

A study by scientists from the University of Southampton has examined the chances of catching COVID-19 in a train carriage carrying an infectious person.

Data for front-line health-care workers and risk of COVID-19 are limited. We sought to assess risk of COVID-19 among front-line health-care workers compared with the general community and the effect of personal protective equipment (PPE) on risk.

The development of a safe and effective vaccine will likely be required to end the COVID-19 pandemic. A group of scientists, led by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) immunologist Dan H. Barouch, MD, PhD, now report that a leading candidate COVID-19 vaccine developed at BIDMC in collaboration with Johnson & Johnson raised neutralizing antibodies and robustly protected non-human primates (NHPs) against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This study builds on the team’s previous results and is published in the journal Nature.

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) reportedly infected otolaryngologists disproportionately in the early parts of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. Recommendations from national and international health organizations suggest minimizing the use of flexible laryngoscopy as a result.

Diseases & Disasters

Tuberculosis kills 1.5 million people each year. Lockdowns and supply-chain disruptions threaten progress against the disease as well as H.I.V. and malaria. It begins with a mild fever and malaise, followed by a painful cough and shortness of breath. The infection prospers in crowds, spreading to people in close reach. Containing an outbreak requires contact tracing, as well as isolation and treatment of the sick for weeks or months.

There may be new trouble ahead for states that had gotten COVID-19 under control after the March and April surges but are now seeing case numbers drift up.

Bans on international travel cannot stay in place indefinitely, and countries are going to have to do more to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus within their borders, the World Health Organization said.

COVID-19 is a precedent-shattering monster of a pandemic. There’s never been anything quite like it.  Historians of public health have struggled mightily to find apt comparisons to our current pandemic. They’ve landed most often on the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918. On the surface, their reasoning makes sense: A lethal virus quickly spreads globally and infects millions.

Technology 

In March and April 2020, an ecosystem of tracing apps suddenly emerged, presenting digital solutions as indispensable for winning the battle against Covid-19.

GHTC is tracking research and development (R&D) efforts to combat SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). SARS-CoV-2 emerged in late 2019 in the Hubei province of China. Since then, it has caused a global pandemic. Here is a list of R&D efforts in which GHTC member organizations are involved.

Leading infectious  disease expert Anthony Fauci said  that the progression from sequencing the coronavirus to getting Moderna’s potential vaccine into its phase three trial “is the best we, in the United States, have ever done.”

As the world races to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, researchers at the Australian National University (ANU) have discovered a vital clue as to why malaria vaccines keep failing, which could potentially change how vaccines for the deadly disease and others are made.

Environmental Health

Christiana Figueres, a former diplomat and longtime climate change leader, sees optimism as a key solution for climate change. In fact, her whole brand is optimism.

The United States will increasingly face complex, challenging scenarios, given the confluence of our two most pressing global health threats — the rapid emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic and the insidiously evolving climate crisis. Both these crises disproportionately harm the health of vulnerable and economically disadvantaged people, including those affected by structural racism.

There is no doubt that natural disasters are increasing in frequency and intensity as a result of climate change. Such hazards, scientists warn, are likely to intersect with the COVID-19 outbreak and the public-health response, including by compounding stress on health-care systems, depleting emergency-response resources, and undermining people’s ability to adhere to social distancing. They will exacerbate and be exacerbated by both the unfolding economic crisis and long-standing socioeconomic disparities, both within countries and across regions.

Equity & Disparities

As soon as the first COVID-19 vaccines get approved, a staggering global need will confront limited supplies.

Ten years on since the United Nations General Assembly officially recognized the human right to water and sanitation, 1 in 10 people — 785 million in all — still lack access to clean water close to home.

From Louisville to London, the call for social justice has reached fever pitch worldwide as multicultural voices decry police brutality and the disparities that imperil Black lives. Amid the mainly peaceful protests, colonial monuments are falling and global consciousness is rising — even in Idlib, Syria, where a mural on a bombed building memorializes George Floyd.

Women, Maternal, Neonatal & Children’s Health

An estimated 1 in 3 children — roughly 800 million — around the world are poisoned with lead at levels associated with decreased intelligence and developmental challenges.

The study by Timothy Roberton and colleagues (July, 2020),1 which modelled the indirect effects of COVID-19 on maternal and child mortality in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs), highlights potential consequences of disruptions to routine health care and decreased access to food.

Transmission of COVID-19 from mother to baby during pregnancy is uncommon, and the rate of infection is no greater when the baby is born vaginally, breastfed or allowed contact with the mother, according to a new study. The research also found that babies that did test positive for COVID-19, were mostly asymptomatic. The findings are published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

 

News Round Up

Politics & Policies

The World Health Organization’s annual oversight convention was held by teleconference recently, as the worst pandemic in modern history continues around the globe.

https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2020/05/17/857206256/unprecedented-world-health-assembly-convenes-online-as-pandemic-rages

World Health Organization (WHO) member states have agreed to set up an independent inquiry into the global response to the coronavirus pandemic. The resolution, approved without objection by the WHO’s 194-member annual assembly meeting virtually in Geneva, also allows for the inquiry to look into the health body’s own role.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-52726017

Domestic travel restrictions and a general lack of coordinated funding — not shortages of personal protective equipment — are the biggest constraints to accessing the world’s most vulnerable communities in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, humanitarian leaders said Monday.

https://www.devex.com/news/travel-restrictions-funding-gaps-a-bigger-problem-than-ppe-humanitarian-leaders-say-97217

As parts of the United States and Europe consider reopening, most of the world’s population remains susceptible to the coronavirus. We look at new efforts to stop the deadly spread of COVID-19 with contact tracing.

https://www.democracynow.org/2020/4/23/dr_joia_mukherjee

Loyce Pace, current president and executive director of Global Health Council, releases an opinion piece on Devex titled “The end of global health advocacy as we know it”

https://www.devex.com/news/opinion-the-end-of-global-health-advocacy-as-we-know-it-97302

President Trump has threatened to withdraw funding from the World Health Organization, accusing it of mismanaging the coronavirus pandemic, particularly in its early stages as it emerged in China. This BBC article looks at some of the charges President Trump has levelled against the WHO and the health body’s responses.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52294623

Programs, Grants & Awards

At this month’s meeting of the 73rd World Health Assembly —its first-ever to be held virtually—delegates adopted a landmark resolution to bring the world together to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/19-05-2020-historic-health-assembly-ends-with-global-commitment-to-covid-19-response

The DGHI, established in 2006, is working hard to keep current students going, and some classes have shifted to focus on the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, the institute is looking ahead to a possible increase in applications.

https://www.dukechronicle.com/article/2020/05/duke-university-how-global-health-institute-adapted-pandemic-coronavirus

Research

International experts have advised the World Health Organization (WHO) to work to identify the animal origins of the virus behind the COVID-19 pandemic and its transmission to humans, the UN agency said.

https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/05/1063072

One prominent research group, Harvard’s Global Health Institute, proposes that the U.S. should be doing more than 900,000 tests per day as a country.

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/05/07/851610771/u-s-coronavirus-testing-still-falls-short-hows-your-state-doing

While the COVID-19 pandemic will increase mortality due to the virus, it is also likely to increase mortality indirectly. In this study, we estimate the additional maternal and under-5 child deaths resulting from the potential disruption of health systems and decreased access to food.

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(20)30229-1/fulltext

Enrollment in several clinical trials of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine — including two by the University of Washington — has been anemic so far. Fewer than 260 volunteers, out of a target of 2,000, have signed up for a $9.5 million UW study being conducted in Seattle and six other sites across the country. Another multi-site project coordinated by the UW has only about 30 patients enrolled.

https://globalhealth.washington.edu/news/2020/05/11/clinical-trial-enrollment-plummets-volunteers-are-scared-coronavirus-drugs-promoted

In most of the world, the Aedes aegypti mosquito is notorious for biting humans and spreading dengue, Zika, and other viruses. But in Africa, where the mosquito is native, most Aedes prefer to suck blood from other animals, such as monkeys and rodents. A new study suggests, though, that their taste for humans may rapidly expand—and with it their ability to spread disease.

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/05/mosquitoes-taste-human-blood-may-grow-african-cities-expand

Toddlers with congenital Zika syndrome have severe developmental delays, researchers report.  In a study that covered a five-year period, researchers found that children in Brazil with congenital Zika syndrome who had microcephaly at birth suffered severe mental delays.

https://consumer.healthday.com/diseases-and-conditions-information-37/zika-1007/zika-virus-tied-to-profound-developmental-delays-757407.html

An herbal tonic developed in Madagascar and touted as a cure for COVID-19 could fuel drug-resistant malaria in Africa, scientists warn. Several African countries have said they are placing orders for the brew, whose efficacy has yet to be shown.

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/05/unproven-herbal-remedy-against-covid-19-could-fuel-drug-resistant-malaria-scientists

For the first time in the post-war history of epidemics, there is a reversal of which countries are most heavily affected by a disease pandemic. By early May 2020, more than 90% of all reported deaths from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) have been in the world’s richest countries; if China, Brazil, and Iran are included in this group, then that number rises to 96%.

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)31089-8/fulltext

Diseases & Disasters

Italy was the first European country to be hit hard by the pandemic — its intensive care units inundated and its elderly dying in droves before the tsunami reached Spain, France, the United States or Britain. And so Italy is also ahead in coming to grips with the long duration of the illness and the lasting consequences for some survivors.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/10/world/europe/coronavirus-italy-recovery.html

For the first time in over 100 years, people all over the world are fighting a common public health enemy: COVID-19. Yet, even as we pour resources into fighting this new pandemic, there is an urgent need to keep up the fight against an age-old enemy: malaria, which continues to cause immense suffering and death among some of the world’s most vulnerable populations.

https://www.globalhealthnow.org/2020-04/malaria-services-must-be-maintained-amid-covid-19-pandemic

Technology 

As coronavirus vaccines hurtle through development, scientists are getting their first look at data that hint at how well different vaccines are likely to work. The picture, so far, is murky.  On 18 May, US biotech firm Moderna revealed the first data from a human trial: its COVID-19 vaccine triggered an immune response in people, and protected mice from lung infections with the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. The results — which the company, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, announced in a press release — were widely interpreted as positive and sent stock prices surging. But some scientists say that because the data haven’t been published, they lack the details needed to properly evaluate those claims.

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-01092-3

Landmark review of the role of artificial intelligence (AI) in the future of global health published in The Lancet calls on the global health community to establish guidelines for development and deployment of new technologies and to develop a human-centered research agenda to facilitate equitable and ethical use of AI.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/05/200519165844.htm

Environmental Health

Air pollution exposure has been linked to coronary heart disease.  This prospective cohort study aimed to investigate associations between long-term exposure to air pollution and MI incidence, adjusting for road traffic noise.

https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/full/10.1289/EHP5818

Equity & Disparities

On April 29, UNICEF published a discussion paper comparing the probable downstream effects of COVID-19 in developed and developing countries. High-income and upper-middle-income countries have borne the brunt of deaths associated with COVID-19 so far, and they are now seeing diminishing mortality rates. Countries across the world are easing lockdown restrictions. But, as this UNICEF paper outlines, for populations least affected by the disease itself, but for whom food insecurity, hunger, and malnutrition are already prevalent and critical problems, the worst might be yet to come.

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/artcle/PIIS2214-109X(20)30228-X/fulltext

The number of older people in lower income countries is growing. These countries’ health systems are not designed to care for people with chronic conditions. They are more focused on single, acute diseases. This may need to change towards more individual-based health care for chronic conditions. This is why it’s important to establish if multi-morbidity is also an issue in lower income countries.

https://qz.com/africa/1860255/people-in-poor-countries-are-living-longer-but-with-more-diseases/

In nearly half a million American homes, washing hands to prevent COVID-19 isn’t as simple as soaping up and singing “Happy Birthday” twice while scrubbing. In many of those homes, people can’t even turn on a faucet. There’s no running water.

https://khn.org/news/millions-stuck-at-home-with-no-plumbing-kitchen-or-space-to-stay-safe/

Women, Maternal, Neonatal & Children’s Health

The decision to close schools was among the first action that many states took to stave the impending pandemic and was based on a strong theoretical foundation. Children are typically at greatest risk of infectious diseases, and they transmit them to each other and their families with considerable speed.

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/2766113

There are reports that the coronavirus lockdowns around the world are leading to a catastrophic rise in domestic violence.

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/may/12/we-wrap-services-around-women-brazils-innovative-domestic-violence-centre

Doctors have described children with covid-19 coming into emergency rooms in bad shape with a kind of inflammatory shock syndrome affecting multiple organs.  Some were screaming from stomach pain. Others had bubbles, or swelling, in the arteries of their hearts.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/05/06/kawasaki-disease-coronavirus/

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that 116 million babies have been born since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and on Thursday called for governments to maintain lifesaving services for pregnant women and newborns that are under increasing threat from strained health services and supply chains.

https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/05/1063422