Bill Gates & Party Tricks: Happy Belated World Immunization Week!

When I first clicked on this YouTube video link, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But once the video started playing, I quickly realized it’s a scripted (but entertaining) demonstration of vaccine cold chains featuring Hans Rosling with a cameo from Bill Gates. The topic of the video is how cold chains function and the challenges in getting vaccines through an uninterrupted cold chain to those who need them. Using juice, containers, and glasses, Rosling answers the question “What percent of 1 year old children receive basic vaccines?” In the spirit of World Immunization Week, which ended yesterday, take a few minutes to watch the video.

After watching, I did a little digging to find out more about Rosling and the Gapminder Foundation, which produced the video. Turns out this video is the first in a series of “Demographic Party Tricks” that are part of the Foundation’s Ignorance Project. The gist of it is they’re on a mission to cure ignorance when it comes to key global development trends and statistics.

I spent a significant amount of time on their website exploring their various data sets, labs, and interactive graphs. Some of my favorites are:

  • Africa is Not a Country (a personal pet peeve of mine)
  • The Wealth and Health of Nations
  • Stop Calling Them Developing Countries
  • The River of Myths (sound familiar?)

Click here to take a look around. You may learn a thing or two! And let us know which sections of the site you like most in the comments below.

2014 Gates Foundation Annual Letter

As most of you probably know, last week the Gates Foundation released their Annual Letter addressing three myths that Bill and Melinda Gates believe are blocking progress for poor people all over the world. Previous letters focused on the Foundation’s annual activities, so it’s quite a change that this year’s letter cites examples and data from around the world to disprove the following:

Myth 1: Poor countries are doomed to stay poor
Myth 2: Foreign aid is a big waste
Myth 3: Saving lives leads to overpopulation

Overall the letter is a very optimistic one, painting a bright picture of the future for the world’s poor and sick. It includes a combination of videos, infographics, and a lot of quotables which I’m sure we’ll see in other places. If you haven’t had a chance to read through it yet, I encourage you to take some time to do so. It’s worth it.

In terms of global health and development, it’s easy for us to lose perspective on how much progress is actually being achieved and for that reason I can appreciate the optimism in the letter. However, I see the letter as more of a cautionary piece or call to action, warning people against believing all the “bad” development news in the media. I don’t think it will truly dispel any of these myths, but it’s done a good job of raising interesting questions, starting conversations, causing controversy, and spurring critical discussions around the three myths and their related topics. In fact, the letter has resulted in a lot of global health professionals and others sharing their opinions online so join the conversation by reading the letter, watching the series of short videos here, and posting your reactions and comments below.

Side note 1: For those who are interested, Bill Gates went on Late Night with Jimmy Kimmel last week to talk about the letter.

Side note 2: Bill Nye the Science Guy is featured in one of the videos that focuses specifically on global health and child mortality and two members of the cast of the MythBusters TV show are featured in another video

Global Health Weekly News Round-up

Politics and Policies:

  • U.S. Court rules controversial stem cell research as legal.
  • U.S. Court ruled that cigarette companies do not need to show graphic warning images.
  • The Food and Drug Administration U.S. (FDA) Department of Health is enforcing stricter inspection of food imported from Japan since March 14 last year in response to the radiation leak incident at Fukushima nuclear power plant.
  • UK government wants hospitals to expand overseas.
  • UK government will spend £2m to tackle cholera epidemic in Sierra Leone.

Programs:

  • Nigeria receives U.S. $225million from Global Fund to prevent and treat malaria.
  • Bill Gates has launched a search of a new toilet suited for developing countries- to avoid deaths and diseases due to poor living conditions.
  • Vietnam puts locally-made medical waste incinerator into operation. It has a capacity of 30-50 kilos of medical waste per hour.
  • Planned Parenthood launches new initiative in U.S. to fight breast cancer. It will use $3 million donations for its breast health initiative- screenings and education.

 Research:

  • Researchers at National Institutes of Health have identified rare immune disease in Asian people like HIV. This disease has been named as adult-onset immunodeficiency syndrome.
  • Scientists have created a drug using eggs of a pig parasite to treat chronic debilitating conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease.
  • Researchers from the Stanford University have collaborated to synthesize and study grid-like array of short pieces of a disease-associated protein on silicon chips to identify patients with a particularly severe form of autoimmune disease lupus.
  • According to a study blood type of a person can determine his/ chances of getting a disease.
  • Scientists say that the children born to older men are at a greater risk of genetic disorders.
  • According to a study thiabendazole a common antifungal drug decreases tumor growth and also a potential medicine in cancer therapy.
  • In a new study scientists said that a three year old can easily find whether you are whining or upset.
  • In a recent research scientists did some laboratory tests which showed that within five hours of application of extracts from a plant known as virgin’s mantle (medicinal tea) growth of cancer cells was arrested and they died within 24 hours.
  • According to some scientists chemicals in lipsticks, toothpastes and face washes might cause heart and muscle problems.
  • Researchers at University of Pennsylvania are using nanofibers to develop biomaterials.
  • Scientists have learned to harness power from bacteria eating virus.
  • According to a research aging heart cells can be rejuvenated by modified stem cell therapy.
  • According to a team of Israeli scientists smoking can prevent progress of degenerative disease (- Parkinson’s).
  • A national study done in Australia is attempting new ways for the treatment of melanoma. It will map all common gene mutations.
  • Researchers in Melbourne find key to rare diseases which cause birth defects like DiGeorge syndrome.
  • According to the scientists ovarian cancer patients should improve their lifestyle to improve their survival rates and quality of life.
  • Researchers have found that stones in gall bladder in teens are due their overweight problem.
  • In a study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC), the villagers of Amazon have antibodies to rabies which suggests that disease may not be 100% fatal.

Diseases & Disasters:

  •  Cholera epidemic spreads through coastal slums of West Africa. Contagious disease has killed hundreds of people.
  • Refinery explosion in Venezuela on Saturday killed 24 people and injured many.
  • Tropical Storm Isaac hits Haiti, killing 3 people. South Florida on alert.
  • Ebola outbreak in Congo related to contact with infected individuals and consumption of bushmeat.
  • Record spike in West Nile virus cases in U.S.
  • Rs. 1 billion uncertified medicine scam unearthed in Sindh. These uncertified medicines were not certified by the central or potential drug laboratories they were potential danger to lives of people.
  • Uncollected garbage on the streets of Metro Manila has concerned agencies as a potential source of outbreak of diseases.
  • Swine flu cases have been confirmed in Lucknow, India.
  • Floods in India and Pakistan have killed dozens of people.
  • Japan nuclear plant leakage caused mutation in butterflies though no such reports for humans.

Webcast: Uniting to Combat NTDs

Please tune in for a special webcast featuring Bill Gates, Margaret Chan, Stephen O’Brien, pharmaceutical industry CEOs and other partners on:

Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases
Ending the Neglect and Reaching 2020 Goals

Webcast will go live Monday, January 30, 6:00 a.m. EST at http://www.unitingtocombatntds.org.
An archived video will be available after the event for on-demand viewing.

Join a group of international partners for an event that demonstrates how innovative partnership can accelerate improvements in health and development for millions of people living in the world’s poorest countries.

Through a series of coordinated commitments, these partners aim to combat neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and drive progress toward the World Health Organization’s goals for control or elimination by 2020.

The event will feature:

· Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General, World Health Organization
· CEOs of Nine Leading Pharmaceutical Companies
· Bill Gates, Co-Chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
· Senior Government Officials from Tanzania, Mozambique, Brazil and Zanzibar
· Stephen O’Brien, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, UK Department for International Development
· Dr. Bernard Pécoul, Executive Director, Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative
· Dr. Ariel Pablos-Méndez, Assistant Administrator for Global Health, US Agency for International Development
· Dr. Caroline Anstey, Managing Director, World Bank
· Moderated by: Riz Khan, Al Jazeera English

All Kinds of Belated News (Week of September 18-24)

SECTION NEWS

The Fall 2011 Newsletter has been posted!  Be sure to check out recent announcements, section updates, links to recent blog entries, and lots of fellowship opportunities!

The Advocacy/Policy Committee would like to invite you to participate in our first Advocacy Day, led in partnership with the Global Health Council. The day, scheduled for Thursday, November 3rd, 2011, immediately following the annual meeting in Washington, D.C., will be an opportunity for us to voice support for a continued focus on international health to our elected officials. With the intense Congressional pressure to cut the budget, our voices can make a real difference. As a participant during this exciting day, you will be provided with training materials on effective advocacy techniques to ensure your message is clearly heard. Even if you do not have advocacy experience, you need not hesitate to sign up because you will be teamed with others. Please consider joining your fellow International Health Section members on Thursday, November 3rd, 2011 on Capitol Hill to advocate for a healthy globe. Interested parties should register here. Please note that registration will close on October 14th. Any questions should be directed to Peter Freeman, Advocacy/Policy Committee Chair, at pffreeman@gmail.com or 773.318.4842.


The G+ Vaccines Challenge has been launched!  G+, a new online community launched by Gerson Lehrman Group, has partnered with IndieGoGo and StartUp Health to solicit early stage ideas for tackling problems and inefficiencies in vaccine delivery  in-the-field, distribution and development. Finalists will have the unique opportunity to present their ideas to a panel of investment, NGO and corporate and life sciences professionals with the influence to advance those ideas towards realization.  You can find more information about the challenge here.

APHA NEWS

Dr. Benjamin is currently on a teaching sabbatical at Hunter College in NYC. Alan Baker (former Chief of Staff at APHA) returned to serve as Acting Executive
Director in the interim.

UN HIGH-LEVEL MEETING ON NCDs

  • The UN held its first-ever meeting on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases.  Global health journalist Tom Paulson provided some great coverage of the event on the Humanosphere blog.
  • World leaders unanimously adopted the NCD Summit Outcome Document at the General Assembly in New York.
  • On the sidelines of the General Assembly meeting in New York, the United States and WHO signed a memorandum of understanding to help developing countries boost capacity to meet the International Health Regulations.
  • The cost for the developing world to address NCDs, based on the WHO’s recommendation to increase budgets by 4%, will be $11.4 billion.

POLITICS AND POLICY

Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates appears poised to endorse the adoption of a controversial financial transactions tax (FTT) to be used as a new source of development aid for poor countries.

PROGRAMS

  • The multibillion dollar Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria must do a better job managing its grants to partner countries, according to an independent review panel.  A seven member panel investigating the Global Fund has recommended that it place greater emphasis on results and improve risk management.  In the Center for Global Development blog, William Savedoff is concerned that the new report suggesting changes for the Global Fund will move it away from innovating.
  • USAID has announced that it will be giving a $200 million grant to the Public Health Institute to support its global health fellows program.
  • Private and public actors have lined up to support Every Woman Every Child and its goal of preventing 33 million unwanted pregnancies.

RESEARCH

Researchers at the 51st Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in Chicago announced that they were able to reduce the level of HIV in infected people through cell-based therapy.

DISEASES AND DISASTERS

  • The privacy curtains that separate care spaces in hospitals and clinics are frequently contaminated with potentially dangerous bacteria, according to a U.S. study.
  • If today’s momentum and progress against malaria can be sustained, deaths from this infectious disease could be reduced to near-zero, and cases of infection cut by 75 per cent in the next decade, says a recent report by the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership.
  • Depression may go hand in hand with a number of other physical health problems, including heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Now the latest evidence suggests that depression may also increase the risk of stroke.
  • Polio has spread to China for the first time since 1999 after being imported from Pakistan, the World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed.

TOTALLY UNRELATED TO ANYTHING: Melinda Gates is now on Twitter!