Global News Round-Up

Politics & Policies

After less than a week of formal, bipartisan negotiations on Zika funding, congressional lawmakers have reached a deal.

In the nearly four months since the Obama administration issued its 1.9 billion Zika funding request, congressional lawmakers have publicly bickered over each chamber’s response to the virus.

In light of the Orlando mass shooting, the American Medical Association has declared gun violence a “Public Health Crisis” and said that it will lobby Congress to overturn a 20-year old legislation that put an end to research on gun violence.

In a rare reversal, the WHO has removed coffee from the list of possible carcinogens after an expert panel of 23 scientists reviewed hundreds of studies and found insufficient evidence for a link between coffee and cancer.

Global health action has been remarkably successful at saving lives and preventing illness in many of the world’s poorest countries. This is a key reason that funding for global health initiatives has increased in the last twenty years. Nevertheless, financial support is periodically jeopardized when scandals erupt over allegations of corruption, sometimes halting health programs altogether.


The Society for Disaster Medicine in Public Health (SDMPH) will have the 2nd Annual Meeting from July 27-29 at the Hilton Hotel in Rockville, MD.

Royal Philips and The Texas A&M University System Chancellor announced a collaboration aimed at developing population health solutions as part of the Healthy South Texas pilot project, creating integrated Emergency Medical Services (EMS) technologies for more efficient and effective coordination of response efforts, and developing point-of-care diagnostics and biosurveillance to help avoid epidemics and pandemics.

The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) will host the Summer Institute on Health Disparities Science from August 15, 2016 to August 19, 2016.  The program will support the development of individual research projects by promising scientists early in their careers and will stimulate research in the disciplines supported by science on minority health and health disparities.


A preliminary surveillance report of pregnant Colombian mothers suggests that Zika virus infection during the third trimester of pregnancy is not linked to structural abnormalities in the fetus.

Diseases & Disasters

Two years after India was declared free of polio, a strain of polio virus has been identified in a sewer during routine checks in the Indian state of Telangana. In response to this, the Indian government will launch an emergency vaccination drive.

According to the CDC, Zika is spreading rapidly in Puerto Rico.   Blood donations suggest “the Zika virus has gained a startling foothold in Puerto Rico based on the number of blood donations that have tested positive for the disease.”

The U.N.’s refugee agency reports that the number of displaced people is at its highest ever,  surpassing even post-World War II numbers, when the world was struggling to come to terms with the most devastating event in history.  According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 65.3 million were displaced at the end of 2015.


The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will be creating the Child Health and Mortality Prevention Surveillance Network, or CHAMPS in Asia and Africa.  CHAMPS will be a network of disease surveillance centers in developing nations that will “gather better data, faster, about how, where and why children are getting sick and dying.”

The WHO has approved two innovative new technologies to detect HIV among infants who pre-qualify. The products (both of which use disposable cartridges preloaded with chemicals needed for HIV detection), Alere™ q HIV-1/2 Detect (made by Alere Technologies GmbH) and Xpert® HIV-1 Qual Assay (made by Cepheid AB), will be able to diagnose HIV in infants in a matter of hours (as little as an hour), as opposed to sending the sample to a laboratory where it could take weeks or months.

Environmental Health

The Middle East has been the worst hit by significant rise in sand and dust storms, with major impacts on human health, United Nations scientists say.  Iran and Kuwait are the most affected countries, largely because of sand and dust blowing in from Syria and Iraq.

Equity & Disparities

A study conducted among Ethiopian women revealed that “majority of slum residents did not have adequate antenatal care services with only 50.3, 20.2 and 11.0% of the slum resident women initiated antenatal care early, received adequate antenatal care service contents and had overall adequate antenatal care services respectively“. They also report that educational status and place of ANC visits were important determinant factors.

The global news round-up was prepared by the communications team

Coming up: 8th annual Conference on Health and Humanitarian Logistics (August 29-31, Atlanta, GA)

Registration for the 8th annual Conference on Health and Humanitarian Logistics is now live online here. If you have questions about registration, rates, or other information, you may also e-mail us at humlogconf [at] gatech [dot] edu.

The conference is hosted by the Georgia Tech Center for Health & Humanitarian Systems (CHHS) and co-organized by the INSEAD Humanitarian Research Group, the MIT Humanitarian Response Lab, and Northeastern University. The agenda features plenary panels and interactive workshops on a variety of topics related to supply chain management and logistics in global health and humanitarian response and development, as well as poster sessions on innovative research and ample opportunities for networking. Information on speakers, panel topics, health and humanitarian site visits will be available soon.

The conference will feature keynote addressesk from Principal Deputy Director of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), Dr. Anne Schuchat, and from President and CEO of CARE USA, Michelle Nunn, on humanitarian emergencies, as well as plenary panels on the below topics:

  • Strengthening Public Health Systems
  • Supply Chain Complexities in Refugee Crisis Response
  • Designing Supply Chains for Health Emergencies
  • Sudden Onset Disasters: Matching Supply with Demand

If you would like to lead a break-out workshop at the conference, please submit an abstract online (up to 1-page, including the names and bios of all presenters) on the Conference website here before June 24, 2016. Private sector companies must include a co-presenter from a non-governmental organization (NGO), governmental partner, or other organization as a demonstration of collaboration.

There are no conference scholarships or financial aid. However, limited funds are available to support students presenting accepted posters at the conference. Support includes free conference registration and up to $250 in travel expenses for students traveling in the US and up to $500 for students traveling outside of the US. To be considered for financial support, attach a single PDF file containing the items listed on the website as part of your poster submission. Poster presenter pays registration fee up front and will be reimbursed after the conference.

Global News Round-Up

Politics & Policies

On May 27, after months of advocacy and days of intense meetings, the G7 committed to promote Universal Health Coverage (UHC), calling it a “comprehensive framework that underpins all of the targets” in the Sustainable Development Goals.

This past week, Canada participated in international health meetings in Geneva focused on strengthening health systems and improving countries’ capacities to prevent, detect and respond to public health threats.


A new unified system to facilitate sharing of genomic and clinical data among cancer researchers called Genomic Data Commons was launched on June 6, the US National Cancer Institute (NCI) said.

On May 31, the Harvard Global Health Institute hosted a symposium entitled “Preparing Health Systems for An Aging Global Population.”

World Health Organization member states agreed on Wednesday to more than double the group’s emergency fund to $494 million for the next year, as it works to address major gaps in its ability to respond to global health emergencies.

May 31 is World No Tobacco Day.  The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Secretariat of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control are calling on countries to get ready for plain (standardized) packaging of tobacco products.

University of Wisconsin-Madison investigators will address flood forecasting and health implications, protecting natural fisheries, tracing the safety of wild-caught fish and improving diabetes care with four new Seed Grants from the UW-Madison Global Health Institute.


The National Institutes of Health hopes to have an early safety study of a Zika virus vaccine by September 2016.

A large fraction of Plasmodium infections do not cause clinical signs and symptoms of disease and persist at densities in blood that are not detectable by microscopy or rapid diagnostics tests.

The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) conducted a research in the southern Osh province in Kyrgyzstan to understand the barriers girls face at school with regards to menstrual hygiene and puberty-related attitudes and practices among young people, parents, and teachers. Because they are having their period for the first time, many young girls in Kyrgyzstan are not aware of menstruation, nobody talks to them about this and they are left alone with their fear, with some even committing suicide.

Diseases & Disasters

On June 8-10, the United Nations General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS will bring people together around a common objective: ending AIDS by 2030 within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The pandemic of non-communicable diseases (NCD) is expected to claim 28 million lives annually in low- and middle-income countries until 2030.

The World Health Organization says there is “no public health justification” for postponing or canceling the Rio de Janeiro Olympics because of the Zika outbreak.

Doctors and scientists are bracing for the possibility of a wave of rare disorders triggered by Zika in Haiti, an impoverished country that has faced one public health crisis after another and is fertile ground for mosquito-borne scourges.

In Mozambique, almost 7 million people are at risk of losing their sight from trachoma, an eye infection that is the world’s leading cause of blindness.

So far, there have been 51 cases, including 10 deaths from an unknown disease in the northern part of South Sudan. The main symptoms of the disease are similar to those seen with Ebola: unexplained bleeding, fever, fatigue, headache and vomiting.


The Washington State University student startup company Engage earned $10,000 and a top prize at the University of Washington Business Plan Competition last week.  They are developing a simple needle decontamination solution that could save millions of lives in developing countries.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the Government of Canada announced a new online marketplace today that is projected to save at least $250 million in the coming four years by offering health implementers competitive prices for medicines and health commodities.

Environmental Health

A comprehensive global study from the National Academy of Sciences has revealed that genetically modified (GMO) crops do not pose an adverse effect on the environment or human health.

Industrial agriculture is a key contributor to the rampant biodiversity losses now threatening the 35 percent of global crops dependent on pollination, the degradation of some 20 percent of global land, the 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions arising from food and farming, and many other negative outcomes in food systems.

Equity & Disparities

It is now over a year into a conflict in Yemen for which there is no imminent end in sight. Aid agencies are rightly focusing on immediate relief for the time being, but there is an urgent need to start thinking now about reconstruction once the conflict comes to an end. And nowhere is this need greater than in health.

Myanmar has some of the worst health indicators in Asia, as a result of its tumultuous recent history and the second lowest spending on healthcare in the world. Life expectancy is just over 64 years for men and approximately 68 years for women,  compared with the average life expectancy of 82 years for women and 77 for men in the OECD countries.

A new study in The Lancet “estimates that the recent economic crisis was associated with over 260,000 additional cancer deaths in countries within the Organisation for Economic Development (OECD) by 2010, of which 160,000 were in the European Union.”

The clearest link between poverty and the rise of antimicrobial resistance is that poor people may not see a qualified health care provider or complete a course of quality antibiotics. Instead, they might turn to unregulated markets for substandard drugs.

(The global news round-up is prepared by the Communications Team)

2016 IH Section Awards Announced!

The following message is from Gopal Sankaran, chair of the Awards Committee. The other members of the Awards Committee are: Rose Schneider, Ray Martin, Omar Khan, Padmini Murthy, Curtiss Swezy, Malcolm Bryant, Elvira Beracochea, and Paul Freeman. The Committee encourages all to nominate a colleague or be willing to be nominated next year.

This year, we had a good pool of candidates for the various awards offered by our Section. The Awards Committee has selected the following colleagues active in international health to receive the awards for which they were nominated.

  • Carl Taylor Lifetime Achievement Award in International Health: Dr. Peter A. Berman
  • Mid-Career Achievement Award in International Health: Dr. Laura C. Parajon
  • Gordon-Wyon Award for Community-Oriented Public Health, Epidemiology and Practice: Dr. Mizan Siddiqi
  • Distinguished Section Service Award: Dr. Padmini Murthy

Please join me in congratulating our colleagues whose outstanding accomplishments in international health are being recognized by our Section this year. On behalf of the Awards Committee, I thank the nominators for nominating such excellent candidates and to the nominees for graciously accepting their nomination. The awards will be presented to the recipients at the International Health Section Awards Reception and Social on Tuesday, November 1, 2016, 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM at the 144th APHA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado. You are cordially invited to participate in this event.

Students and young professionals: Please take our survey!

The following is a message from Theresa Majeski, Chair of the Global Health Connections Committee.

Hello IH Section members! If you call yourself a student or a young professional please take a moment to take our survey. The Global Health Connections Committee is trying to create new initiatives to help students and young professionals become more involved in the IH Section. But to do that effectively, we need some help from you all to get some ideas about your current involvement and ideas for increasing the involvement of students and young professionals. You can access the survey here, or paste the following link into your browser:

A tale of resistance

Antibiotic resistance poses a serious threat to the gains we have made in curbing infectious diseases caused due to bacteria.Simply put, it is the bacteria’s way of putting up a fight to survive and persist.

To understand what antibiotic resistance is, let’s delve a little into the biology of these famed, overused drugs and into the history of how we got here.

Antibiotics are drugs that are effective in treating and preventing bacterial infections. Barring a few antibiotics with anti-protozoan activity, antibiotics are largely anti-bacterial and are ineffective against viruses.

The word antibiotics might elicit an image of Sir Alexander Fleming, and the famous story of the serendipitous discovery of penicillin in 1928, for which he shared a Nobel Prize with Howard Florey and Ernst Boris Chain. Some studies have even revealed traces of tetracycline in human skeletal remains from ancient Sudanese Nubia (350–550 CE) and femoral midshafts of the late Roman period skeletons from the Dakhleh Oasis, Egypt.  Source:Fleming’s Nobel Lecture

There are about 12 classes of antibiotics and the last class of antibiotics, lipopeptides, was discovered in 1987. No new classes of antibiotics have been discovered since then!

Unfortunately, the success of antibiotics as a chemotherapy agent, has also led to the misuse and overuse of these agents. We have moved away from using them judiciously and today, antibiotics are being used rampantly not just to treat infections in humans but to fatten animals that we intend to eat.

RestoReview-1Source: Antibiotic resistance, PEW Charitable Trusts

In an interview shortly after winning the Nobel Prize in 1945, Alexander Fleming said:

“The thoughtless person playing with penicillin treatment is morally responsible for the death of the man who succumbs to infection with the penicillin-resistant organism.”

While the molecular mechanisms of antibiotic resistance have been studied extensively, we know that misuse and overuse of antibiotics have played a key role in the creation of “superbugs”.  Antimicrobial resistance is prevalent world wide and new mechanisms of resistance emerge and spread.


Percentage change in antibiotic consumption per capita 2000–2010*, by country

Source: Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy. State of the World’s Antibiotics, 2015.

The State of World’s Antibiotics released in 2015 identified the different kinds of antibiotic resistant bacterial strains including Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae. According to the WHO, in 2013, there were about 480 000 new cases of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) and extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) has been identified in about 100 countries. The treatment courses for MDR-TB is long and usually less effective, posing a greater threat to the progress that has been to curb TB.

The SWA report describes six strategies (listed below from the report) that nations can take to:

  1. Reduce the need for antibiotics through improved water, sanitation, and immunization.
  2. Improve hospital infection control and antibiotic stewardship.
  3. Change incentives that encourage antibiotic overuse and misuse to incentives that encourage antibiotic stewardship.
  4. Reduce and eventually phase out antibiotic use in agriculture.
  5. Educate and inform health professionals, policymakers, and the public on sustainable antibiotic use.
  6. Ensure political commitment to meet the threat of antibiotic resistance.

Resistance Map: A useful resource from CDDEP that you could use to explore antibiotic resistance trends, rates and antibiotic use by country, pathogens and much more.

We have to take smart, swift action to reduce unnecessary use or misuse of antibiotics and use them with caution.

This post is cross-posted to my blog.

Global News Round Up

Politics & Policies

The White House request for $1.9 billion to fight the Zika virus has been met with a $1.1 billion plan by the Senate and a $622 million bill by the House.

A French diplomat who wants to be the world’s top health official says an international tax could help fill the World Health Organization’s coffers, a proposal aimed at bringing order to the UN agency’s fragmented budget.

A recent report released by the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition reviewed the attacks on healthcare services and service providers between January 2015 and March 2016. The report suggests that urgent actions are needed to prevent such attacks. The recommendations include “prosecuting those who bomb healthcare facilities, creating a system for reporting acts of violence, and implementing an international body to investigate attacks”.


The Women Deliver Conference will be held in Copenhagen, Denmark on May 16-19.  As a leading, global advocate for girls’ and women’s health, rights, and wellbeing, Women Deliver brings together diverse voices and interests to drive investments and progress, particularly in maternal, sexual, and reproductive health and rights. The focus of the 2016 Conference will be on how to make development matter most for girls and women, with a specific focus on health, rights, gender equality, education, and economic empowerment.

The 69th World Health Assembly opened in Geneva, Switzerland on May 23rd. The Health Assembly elected Dr. Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Saidi, Minister of Health of Oman as its new President. While celebrating the recent progresses in global public health, Dr. Margaret Chan also noted that the global community is not prepared to cope with the emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases. She also raised concern over “slow-motion” disasters of climate change, antibiotic resistance and chronic diseases such as diabetes.


Researchers have identified a protein in the Zika virus called NS5 that could potentially be a target for future vaccines. The scientists think it may be possible to develop a vaccine against the Zika virus by changing the protein structure.

New research from the University of Birmingham has shown that flu vaccinations are more effective when administered in the morning.  In some patients, morning administration of the flu vaccine induced a greater antibody response.

A Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine report finds more than 250,000 deaths per year can be attributed to medical errors in the US, making it the third leading cause of death, surpassing respiratory disease.

Diseases & Disasters

According to the CDC, the number of pregnant women in the US reported to have the Zika virus has more than tripled, increasing from 48 to 157.

The head of WHO warns that the world is not prepared to deal with the rapid spread of infectious diseases based on the responses to Zika, Ebola, MERS coronavirus and yellow fever outbreaks.

CDC, WHO, and Vietnamese health authorities work together to detect and respond to locally transmitted Zika cases.  On April 4, 2016 there were locally confirmed cases of Zika virus transmission that was not likely linked to the recent outbreaks in South and Central America.

In order to combat the Zika virus, the Australian Olympic Committee announced today that special anti-viral condoms will be given to athletes in order to curb the spread of the Zika virus in anticipation of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games being held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

According to the World Health Organization, the Zika virus could spread to Europe this summer, although the likelihood of an outbreak is low to moderate.

The World Health Organization will hold an emergency meeting on May 19 because of the the yellow fever outbreak that has hit hardest in Angola but risks spreading further if vaccinations are not ramped up.

The yellow fever epidemic that started in Angola in January could become the next health emergency.  Because of the complexity and frequency of emergency disease threats, a “standing emergency committee” has been recommended that could meet on a regular basis to give recommendations to the UN Director-General.


A mobile app created by a team at Cornell Tech is aimed at helping Lesotho’s Riders for Health organization digitally track the clinical specimens that the motorcycle-riding health workers collect from many of the hard to reach places in Lesotho.

Environmental Health

The Peruvian government has declared a state of emergency in 11 towns in the Madre de Dios region bordering Brazil after officials found alarmingly high levels of mercury, a harmful heavy metal used in gold mining. Mercury contamination causes chronic renal and neurological disorders, among other things, and is especially harmful for children and pregnant women.

The WHO estimates 12.6 million people died worldwide as a result of unhealthy living and working environments. This number amounts to nearly one in four of total global deaths.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF) Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) update for 2015, over 6 million Kenyans still defecate in the open resulting in the prevalence of diseases such as diarrhea, amoeba, typhoid, and cholera.  Hence, the government has begun to develop environmental and sanitation policies to ensure universal access to improved sanitation and a clean and healthy environment, dignity, social well-being and quality of life for all Kenyans.

Studies suggest even low levels of lead exposure can hurt a fetus’ development in the womb.  For months now, the Michigan state health department has been looking into whether the Flint water crisis caused problems with pregnancies.

Indonesia has one of the worst mercury problems in the world.  Millions of people in 70 countries across Asia, Africa, and South America have been exposed to high levels of mercury as small-scale mining has proliferated over the past decade. The United Nations Environment Programme estimates that at least 10 million miners, including at least four million women and children, are working in small “artisanal” gold mines, which produce as much as 15 percent of the world’s gold.  High doses of mercury, which is a neurological poison, are a well-documented cause of birth defects, including crippling deformities and nervous system disorders.

A new rule called the “Beijing Six” standard will be implemented by January 2017, according to the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau.  It will be China’s strictest fuel standard as it tries to reduce pollution in the city caused by vehicle emission.

Equity & Disparities

A new country engagement plan for Cambodia will help communities across Cambodia with better access to healthcare.  A $30 million World Bank funding will build upon two innovative Cambodian health financing mechanisms. First, the Health Equity Funds help cover the costs of health services for the nation’s three million poor people, reducing their out-of-pocket costs and providing reliable financing for health facilities. Second, redesigned Service Delivery Grants will improve quality of health services, including health-facility management, staff attendance and the coverage of health services.

Life expectancy globally increased by 5 years between 2000 and 2015, the fastest increase since the 1960s, according to a new World Health Statistics report by WHO.  The greatest gain was in the African region where life expectancy increased by 9.4 years to 60 years, driven in part by expanded access to antiretrovirals for treatment of HIV.However, the gains have been uneven. Supporting countries to move towards universal health coverage based on strong primary care is the best thing we can do to make sure no one is left behind.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued a final rule to advance health equity and reduce healthcare disparities. Under the rule, individuals are protected from discrimination in healthcare on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability and sex, including discrimination based on pregnancy, gender identity and sex stereotyping.

Prepared by the Communications team (Steve & Abbhi)