Global News Round Up

Politics & Policies

The House Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved the fiscal year 2020 Department of State and Foreign Operations (SFOPs) appropriations bill, which includes funding for international development, global health, gender equality, and humanitarian assistance programs.

Alabama passed a near-total ban on abortion this week, strict enough to rival abortion rules in countries like Brunei, Guatemala and Syria.

The Trump administration pushed the G-7 nations to water down a declaration on gender equality last week as part of its broad effort to stamp out references to sexual and reproductive health in international institutions, according to people involved in the process and drafts reviewed by Foreign Policy.

Health Ministers from G7 countries wrapped up a two-day meeting today in Paris that focused on strengthening primary health care, health inequalities for developing countries and the elimination of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

The increase in the number of infectious-diseases outbreaks (e.g., Ebola, Zika, and yellow fever) around the world and the risk posed by an accidental or deliberate release of dangerous pathogens highlight the need for a sustained, multi-sectoral, and coordinated United States response. U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is proud to be working with more than ten other Federal Departments and agencies in this critically important effort.

Today, May 18, 2019, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar participated in a meeting with the Pasteur Institute.  He and other U.S. health officials met with Stewart Cole, President of the Pasteur Institute, and other members of the Pasteur Institute, and other members of the Institute’s senior leadership team.

Programs, Grants & Awards

Since childhood, Cynthia Luo knew she wanted to be a physician. In high school, she discovered a passion for cancer immunology research while working in the lab of a biotech company.  After spending part of a gap year volunteering at a rural health clinic in Uganda, she aspired to have an impact on global health.

Research

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports there are more than 112,000 confirmed cases of measles worldwide, as of this month – a 300% increase from the 28,124 cases this time last year.

New research suggests that coxsackievirus decreases the number of insulin-producing beta cells, raising the risk for type 1 diabetes in lab mice, according to findings published Wednesday in Cell Reports.

The legalization of recreational marijuana is associated with an increase in its abuse, injury due to overdoses, and car accidents, but does not significantly change healthcare use overall, according to a new study.

Avian malaria parasites (genus Plasmodium) are cosmopolitan and some species cause severe pathologies or even mortality in birds, yet their virulence remains fragmentally investigated. Understanding mechanisms and patterns of virulence during avian Plasmodium infections is crucial as these pathogens can severely affect bird populations in the wild and cause mortality in captive individuals.  The goal of this study was to investigate the pathologies caused by the recently discovered malaria parasite Plasmodium homocircumflexum (lineage pCOLL4) in four species of European passeriform birds.

Diseases & Disasters

There have now been 880 measles cases reported in this year’s outbreak, already the largest since 1994, federal health officials said on Monday.  An additional 41 cases were reported last week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those, 30 were in New York State, which is having the country’s most intense outbreak, largely in Orthodox Jewish communities.

Tuberculosis (TB) may be an ancient disease, but it is still the leading cause of infectious death worldwide, affecting more than 10 million people and killing 1.6 million in 2017 alone. Last year, the UN held the first High-Level Meeting on TB. As part of that meeting’s final political declaration, member states committed to fill the $1.3 billion annual funding gap in TB research & development, and to increase overall global investments to 2 billion dollars with the aim of enabling the development and introduction of life-saving scientific innovations for those impacted by TB around the world.

The government is to send new funding and expert personnel to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) amid fears the rapidly escalating Ebola crisis there is spiralling out of control and could spread into neighbouring countries.

Chad’s worst measles outbreak in years will soon spread to all parts of the country as vaccination rates are too low to stop an epidemic that has already hit thousands, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.

Technology

Last year’s high-level political declaration on the fight against tuberculosis committed to mobilizing sufficient and sustainable financing for universal access to quality prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care of tuberculosis (TB). To achieve this, we need new ideas and innovation to end TB.

In theory, a terrorist could mass disseminate the hemorrhagic virus by small particle aerosol. It is a possible but unlikely scenario because executing such an attack would take an incredible amount of technology and financing.  However, someone g executing such an attack would take an incredible amount of technology and financing. However, someone with basic skills in virology could infect only a few people with Ebola, and the event would cause worldwide havoc.

Confronting an Ebola outbreak spiraling out of control in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the World Health Organization announced ola s on Tuesday to change its vaccination strategy, offering smaller doses and eventually introducing a second vaccine.

Environmental Health

Concentrations of antibiotics found in some of the world’s rivers exceed ‘safe’ levels by up to 300 times, the first ever global study has discovered.

Māori culture is at risk due to predicted changes in the ranges of two culturally important native plants, kuta and kūmarahou.

Equity & Disparities

In San Francisco, a hub of homelessness in the US, researchers have observed firsthand how living on the streets can accelerate aging. With an average age of 57, homeless study participants suffered strokes, falls, and incontinence at rates more typical of people in their 70s and 80s.

More people on the planet have access to electricity than ever before, however, the world is on pace to fall short on the goal of affordable and sustainable energy for all by 2030, according to an international report on the state of international energy.

Women, Maternal, Neonatal & Children’s Health

Over 20 million babies around the world – about 1 out of every 7 – were born underweight in 2015, a slight improvement over rates in 2000 but not enough to meet goals and prevent global health consequences, according to a new study.

In the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, ongoing armed conflict increases the incidence of gender-based violence (GBV) and presents a distinct and major barrier to care delivery for all survivors of GBV. To address the multiple barriers to providing time-sensitive medical care, the Prevention Pack Program was implemented. The Prevention Pack Program was able to provide timely and consistent access to emergency contraception, HIV prophylaxis and treatment for sexually transmitted infections for rape survivors in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Global News Round Up

Politics & Policies

At the urging of the White House, Germany nixed language referring to “sexual and reproductive health” in a signature UN resolution taking aim at rape in conflict situations, Foreign Policy reports.

Programs, Grants & Awards

The DMU Department of Global Health’s Distinguished Global Health Internships are highly selective research opportunities that enable students to explore global health research topics at various organizations. Students have the opportunity to work with researchers on projects such as conducting systematic reviews to create evidence-based educational materials for worldwide distribution.

Research

A swarm of micro-robots, directed by magnets, can break apart and remove dental biofilm, or plaque, from a tooth. The innovation arose from a cross-disciplinary partnership among dentists, biologists, and engineers.

Diseases & Disasters

Imagine your house is gone. And yet the TV set is still standing.  That’s one of the scenes that photojournalist Tommy Trenchard documented as he visited parts of Mozambique hit by Cyclone Kenneth on Thursday.

Measles continues to spread in the United States, federal health officials said on Monday, surpassing 700 cases this year as health officials around the country sought aggressive action to stem the worst outbreak in decades.

Nearly three weeks since fighting began near the Libyan capital Tripoli, the UN health agency warned on Tuesday that “large numbers” of people are sheltering in medical clinics, while civilians continue to be killed or injured, and refugees and migrants remain exposed to clashes.

Students are currently being quarantined in Los Angeles. Mandatory-vaccination policies have been implemented in Brooklyn. Even President Donald Trump, contrary to prior assertions, today urged people to get children vaccinated.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) today reported another double-digit rise in Ebola cases, as local leaders such as traditional chiefs and provincial representatives stepped up their efforts to convince community members to support the response efforts to end the outbreak.

In South Sudan mind-bending horrors abound of war, ethnic violence, rape, hunger and displacement.  But for civilians living in the shadow of conflict, the greatest danger is often being cut off from health services, whether due to violence or lack of development in the vast, remote areas that make up much of the country.

Technology

The CDC is issuing new guidance to clinicians for the treatment of severe cases of malaria.  The action follows discontinuation of quinidine, the only FDA-approved intravenous (IV) antimalarial drug in the United States.

Devout parents who are worried about vaccines often object to ingredients from pigs or fetuses. But the leaders of major faiths have examined these fears and still vigorously endorse vaccination.

Ghana’s long unsung health tech sector is getting global validation with two of its most promising startups being named among five winners for one of the most prestigious social enterprise awards in the world.

Environmental Health

Dozens of cities across the world have declared a climate emergency. Now, students behind the school climate strikes are bringing the movement to Switzerland and Germany. But what does that mean exactly?

Equity & Disparities

Sometimes it is important to go back to basics. For human interaction, one of the basics is language, the system of communication that, when applied at its best, allows us to understand each other, share, cooperate, and pull each other towards a better place. When on a collective journey towards a common objective such as the Sustainable Development Goals, with a rallying cry of “leaving no one behind” and a central aim of “reaching the furthest behind first”, this system of communication is fundamental to move beyond just the rhetorical: to be truly reached, the furthest one behind will need to understand what she is being told, and most likely, that exchange will have to be done in her own language. That principle should apply to all aspects of development, including global health.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations (UN) would “remain beyond reach” without adequate financing, an International Monetary Fund (IMF) official said.

Women, Maternal, Neonatal & Children’s Health

Anyone following international development is probably familiar with “stunting” — which in nontechnical terms means children being too short for their age. Over the past decade, as the world has focused unprecedented attention on undernutrition, stunting has taken center stage.

Help is needed urgently from the international community to help some 2,500 apparently stateless “foreign children” at a camp for the displaced, in north-east Syria, a top UN official said on Thursday.

Malnutrition is detrimental to the health of children. As a result of malnutrition, a child’s growth can be stunted. Additionally, both brain damage and physical impairments can arise from malnutrition.

Rates of sexual violence in El Salvador rose by a third last year, with the majority of cases involving teenage girls.

Over 19 million children in Bangladesh are vulnerable to the forces of climate change, says a new study released this month (April) by the UNICEF.

Children in some disaster-prone regions are twice as likely to be living in chronic poverty, according to new research.

Global News Round Up

Politics & Policies

As the United States offers crucial humanitarian aid to Venezuelan migrants, it is doubling down on its opposition to Venezuela’s president.

The Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC) applauds yesterday’s Senate passage of the Global Health Innovation Act, a bipartisan bill to support efforts by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to develop affordable, appropriate technologies to advance the health of people in the world’s poorest places.

According to the UN health agency, “countries are spending more on health, but people are still paying too much out of their own pockets.”  The agency’s new report on global health expenditure launched on Wednesday reveals that “spending on health is outpacing the rest of the global economy, accounting for 10 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP).

The 2019 spending bill passed by the House and Senate Thursday that the President has announced he will sign, reflects a meaningful commitment to moving our country forward and to continued U.S. leadership of the fight against the world’s most devastating infectious disease killers.

The United Nations says North Korea’s government has asked for help from international humanitarian groups to combat food shortages.

Programs, Grants & Awards

Speakers at a conference organized by students at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health questioned the ways that global health is taught and practiced from the scholars studied in classes to the agendas set by mega-funders like Bill Gates. They urged the packed audience of students and researchers to consider the ways that unequal power relationships between the global north and south affect the health of formerly colonized people, and to work toward a “decolonized” global health field.

With only 10 years left to reach Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7), which calls for ensuring “access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”, including universal access to clean cooking, an estimated 2 billion people are in danger of being left behind.

The first International Global Health Security Conference will he held in Sydney, Australia on June 18-20, 2019.

UCSF will host one segment of the first ever “Pan Global” live streamed World TB Day Symposium, with London, San Francisco, and Hanoi participating in a 24-hour baton passing effort to raise awareness about and share research on TB.  The UCSF World TB Day will be held on Friday, March 22 in the Oberndorf Auditorium at Mission Bay.

In Liberia, GHSA supports a multi-sector coordination mechanism for smoking and testing animals; builds capacity of animal health professionals for risk-based epidemiology and response; and implements behavior change communications to influence risky behaviors.

Research

In the 21st century, increases in immunization coverage and decreases in under-5 mortality have substantially reduced the global burden of measles mortality. However, the assessment of measles mortality burden is highly dependent on estimates of case-fatality ratios for measles, which can vary according to geography, health systems infrastructure, prevalence of underlying risk factors, and measles endemicity.

The 2019 edition of the Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index ranks 169 economies according to factors that contribute to overall health.  The index grades nations based on variables including life expectancy while imposing penalties on risk such as tobacco use and obesity. It also takes into consideration environmental factors including access to clean water and sanitation.

Diseases & Disasters

In September, public health officials in South Africa finally declared victory over the world’s worst-ever outbreak of listeriosis, a foodborne illness that had sickened more than 1,000 people and killed more than 200 there since January 2017.

Experts have warned of an epidemic of diseases such as malaria and dengue on an unprecedented scale in Latin America following the collapse of the healthcare system in Venezuela.

The World Health Organization says that an epidemic of measles in Madagascar has caused more than 900 deaths.

Technology

The GHIT Fund is pleased to endorse the Khartoum Call for Action, announced in Khartoum at the Sixth International Conference on Mycetoma. The Call for Action urges the global community to work together with multilateral agencies, partners, research institutions and pharmaceutical companies to address the devastating consequences of this disease.

Environmental Health

Plastic pollution is a “threat to human life and human rights” and, in order to stem this problem, we have to overhaul how we produce, use and dispose of it, according to an international report released today.

The filling and draining of meltwater lakes has been found to cause a floating Antarctic ice shelf to flex, potentially threatening its stability.

The idyllic Micronesian island of Kiribati, next door to French Polynesia (Tahiti) and boasting one of the largest marine sanctuaries in the world, is a tropical paradise. It’s hard to believe that it’s people are expected to become some of the world’s first climate change refugees.

Equity & Disparities

Between the 24-hour news cycle, the internet, and the smartphone the world has never been so saturated with information. Yet a new report by CARE International finds that humanitarian crises affecting millions of people around the world snagged relatively few headlines last year.

Women, Maternal, Neonatal & Children’s Health

Cohn and colleagues showed recently that pre-puberty exposures to DDT may have increased the breast cancer risk for women through their early postmenopausal years.

Death rates for asthma in 10 to 24-year-olds was highest in the UK among all 14 European nations included in an analysis of 19 high-income countries.  The UK also had the highest obesity rates for 15 to 19-year-olds among the European nations.

An obstetrician experience and knowledge on how women are treated in labor and delivery in the United States and internationally leads to a pursuit of a global health PhD.

Global News Round Up

Politics & Policies

Every year, the World Health Organization puts out a list of the most pressing issues that face global health.  They change a bit each time as the WHO tries to emphasize where we need the most progress to be made, and the lists are always enlightening.

Funding to tackle 33 significant diseases has reached its highest level since figures were taken, says a survey which has tracked this for 11 years.

Programs, Grants & Awards

The health of the U.S. population can be affected by public health threats or events across the globe. Recent examples of this include the Ebola Virus outbreak that began in 2014, the 2003 SARS epidemic, and the 2009 SARS epidemic, and the 2009 spread of novel H1N1 influenza. Improving global health can improve health in the United States and support national and global security interests by fostering political stability, diplomacy, and economic growth worldwide.

Research

Results from trials of tafenoquine, a novel anti-relapse medicine for patients infected with Plasmodium vivax malaria, have shown the drug to be effective and safe, according to a pair of studies published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Diseases & Disasters

There were just 28 reported human cases of Guinea worm disease (GWD) last year, the U.S.-based Carter Center said Thursday.  The nongovernmental organization (NGO) founded by former President Jimmy Carter said the disease is gradually moving toward eradication.

A Pakistani health official says the country has kicked off its first nationwide polio vaccination campaign for the year in efforts to eradicate the crippling disease by the end of 2019.

According to the World Health Organization, the first HIV case appeared in Yemen in 1987, and the number of people living with it was estimated to be around 9,900.  While the prevalence was only 0.2 percent of the population, most Yemenis living with either of the viruses faced stigma and discrimination, even from their families.

At least 11 people have died in Argentina after becoming infected with hantavirus, a disease carried by rats and other rodents, according to a news alert from the World Health Organization (WHO).

The number of Ebola cases recorded each day in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is expected to more than double, with concern mounting that uncertainty over how the virus is being transmitted could result in it spreading to neighbouring countries.

An estimated 1 in 10,000 people are born with hemophilia, a blood disorder caused by lack of proteins needed to stop bleeding. While those in developed countries have access to treatment that allows them to lead normal lives, that is not the case for the more than half a million people in low- and middle-income countries. For them, hemophilia can be a “curse,” a cause for stigma and financial disaster—and, sometimes, a death sentence.

Technology

Solar power is helping make universal healthcare a reality in places where unreliable power supplies regularly affect access to vital services, and can out people’s lives at risk, thanks to support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Environmental Health

Leading climate scientists and meteorologists are banking on a new strategy for talking about climate change: Take the politics out of it.  That means avoiding the phrase “climate change,” so loaded with partisan connotations as it is.

Dried fish producers in Cox’s Bazar’s Nazirar Tek village, the largest dried fish producing village in the country, are still using toxins even though an NGO has been putting in efforts to make them switch to organic fish-processing methods.

This weekend, a crucial but barely heralded scientific mission will come to an end in a remote part of Antarctica.  A team of seven Australian and American researchers will conduct the last extraction of ancient air from ice cores drilled as deep as 240 metres.

Equity & Disparities

For her next act, Leland started a venture — called Co-Impact — designed for just such funders. It pools donors’ money and brings them into the decision-making to support proven solutions in Africa, South Asia and South America.

Women, Maternal, Neonatal & Children’s Health

For Indian airline executive ElsaMarie D’Silva, the gang rape that killed a Delhi college student in 2012 was a turning point.  Although the attack stood out for its savagery, D’Silva knew that the rape of Jyoti Singh Pandey was not an isolated event: it fit a pattern of everyday harassment and violence that Indian women endure in public places.

The mosquito-borne virus that causes Rift Valley fever may severely injure human fetuses if contracted by mothers during pregnancy, according to new research.

Looking Ahead: Global Health Threats in 2019

The past year felt turbulent across many facets of life- global health included. Between threats to health from climate change, infectious disease outbreaks, the opioid crisis, threats to healthcare in war zones, and the ever-present health risks of noncommunicable diseases, global health resources are stretched thin. The coming year promises to be just as challenging.

Many global health organizations, such as the World Health Organization and IntraHealth, release reports on health risks to look out for at the start of each year. Between these lists, there is significant overlap, suggesting that the problems in global health are not a matter of lack of data or direction, but poor prioritization and lack of resources. Pollution and climate change rank high on almost all such lists; the WHO reports that 90% of people breathe polluted air on a daily basis. As a result, the WHO considers air pollution the greatest environmental threat to health for 2019- a significant step considering the threats of water pollution and other environmental contaminants. As with most global health issues, the world’s poorest people are hit the hardest. Nearly nine in ten of global deaths due to inhaled pollutants are in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC), due to entirely preventable causes like poor regulation of transport emissions and using gas-powered cookstoves in homes.

Another problem heavily featured in the forecasting reports for 2019 include health risks due to conflict. More than 1 in 5 people across the globe (22%) live in a conflict-affected environment. These are the populations least likely to meet health and development targets, like the Sustainable Development Goals. Specific conflicts are high on the radar of global health officials, especially Yemen and Syria. Both countries have experienced heavy destruction of their existing health infrastructure, brain drain of medical personnel, and tangential struggles that bode poorly for health, such as food insecurity and poor sanitation. Dogged efforts by both local and international humanitarian workers have been able to stave off many public health disasters in such environments, but as wars proliferate and donor attention drifts, only the most pressing issues can be addressed. For example, in Yemen, an unprecedented multi-wave cholera outbreakled to more than 1 million cases of cholera. Of these cases, 30% were children. An effort by many international and local NGOs to distribute vaccines to these cases likely decreased the death toll, but the existing malnutrition of the population coupled with factors like destroyed water supplies exacerbated the outbreak and accelerated the need for resources and personnel.

Risks from infectious disease are typically present throughout global health forecasts, and this coming year was no different. In fact, for the first time, the WHO considers vaccine hesitancy, which they define as the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines, to be a public health risk that threatens to undo decades of work eradicating diseases that, until quite recently, affected people around the world. Vaccine hesitancy is thought to be one of the factors that has led to a 30% increase in global measles cases. Outbreaks of Ebola have shown how dangerous and fast-moving an infectious disease can be, even with the health workers tasked with treating ill patients. Resurgence of polio in war-torn Syria was only dissipated through a massive vaccination effort. The growing threats from influenza, Dengue, Zika, MERS, SARS, and many other diseases have raised the alarm as to how well global public health processes are able to deal with a potentially catastrophic pandemic. Unfortunately, another global health risk identified by the WHO is antimicrobial resistance for the types of antibiotics that, for decades, have saved the lives of millions. This could cause currently treatable infections like pneumonia, gonorrhea, and salmonellosis to be as dangerous as in times before antibiotics were available. One such infection, tuberculosis, affects 10 million people per year and kills almost 20% of those afflicted. In 2017, almost 500,000 cases of tuberculosis were classified as “multi-drug resistant.”

It’s not all bad news. Overall, global health trends are moving in a generally positive direction. Global life expectancy has increased by 5 years since 2000. Every day, more people will be able to access clean water, electricity, and the internet. Global child mortality has fallen by almost 15% since 1960, while global extreme poverty has fallen to less than 10%, an almost 30% decrease from just three decades ago. Almost 90% of children receive the DTP vaccine before their first birthday. However, progress is uneven, and for many is too slow. Many experts believe that some of the long-simmering global health concerns of the past few decades may be coming to a head as 2019 begins.

For anyone concerned with global health, these risk forecasts can seem dire. Even under the best of conditions, most initiatives set to tackle these risks can at best hope to minimize, and not completely eradicate, the threats from these challenges. The MDGs and SDGs are an important first step in setting a global agenda that puts the social welfare of populations at the front and center, and such efforts must continue. Yet, policymakers cannot ignore the many countries around the world that continuously fail to meet minimum standards of health and well-being. We cannot decouple the political and economic circumstances that lead to failures in global health progress. Short-term aid packages are a necessary salve, but not a sustainable solution. Many global health advocates contend that putting health and well-being at the center of state strategic planning would cascade into positive indicators in all aspects of life, such as food security, education outcomes, economic development, and inter-state diplomacy and coordination. To ensure that we are poised to meet the known and still unknown risks that may come in the coming years, global health must be a primary consideration.