Global Health News, Week of August 28-September 3

Global Fund round 11 is now open for proposals.

GREAT LEARNING OPPORTUNITY

A seven-part webinar series, called the “Outstanding Presentations Workshop,” began this Wednesday and is available for free to all who register. Each one-hour seminar will be streamed live over the next few weeks on Wednesday and will be recorded for later viewing.  Take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to improve your presentations and spare your audiences death by PowerPoint. More information is available here, and the schedule can be accessed here.

POLITICS AND POLICY

  • In Uganda, the landmark legal case of Jennifer Anguko, a mother who died while she was in labor for 12 hours in a government hospital, will begin in early September.
  • Critics of the World Health Organization say it needs to redefine and reposition itself within the increasingly complex and convoluted field of global health. These experts suggest that the world will not suffer if the WHO cuts certain programs while narrowing its focus.
  • In the United States, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists are promoting the use of IUDs as the “most effective form of reversible contraception available and safe for most women.”
  • The Global Fund may cut its contributions to China by half.
  • USAID Admin Dr. Raj Shah announced that $23 million in new aid will be directed towards the Horn of Africa crisis.
  • Anonymity is no longer a right of people seeking HIV/AIDS tests in China, and the change has lead to a significant drop in the number of tests being performed.
  • The Asian Development Bank has called for Asia-Pacific countries to collaborate on combating HIV/AIDS at the International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific.
  • Tension between the United States and Pakistan will not prevent USAID from continuing to support health, energy and education systems says the USAID Pakistan Chief.
  • The epidemics of diabetes, heart disease and cancers that have stricken the populaces of wealthy countries are spreading to the developing world, yet the United Nations lacks an agreement, let alone an overall goal, on how to limit the preventable illnesses and deaths arising from these so-called non-communicable diseases. The British Medical Journal reports many developed countries, including the U.S. and Canada, are resisting specific targets for reduction in fats, sugars and salt in processed foods.

PROGRAMS

  • Overall, more newborn children are surviving, but slower progress in cutting death rates among babies in the first weeks of life is putting the global goal of reducing child deaths by two-thirds in jeopardy.
  • One expert says as the question of aid effectiveness has moved to the centre of development debates. If donors want to make their aid more effective, then they need to engage strategically with the private sector.
  • In the Washington Post, Michael Gerson makes the “pro-life” case for increased support for contraception and family planning worldwide.
  • UNICEF and international NGOs are working to raise awareness and encourage West African communities to invest in the construction of more pit latrines. Pit latrines, say advocates, can drastically reduce the spread of diarrhea, cholera and worms.

RESEARCH

  • A study published in Lancet finds that the workers who took part in the efforts to rescue people from the World Trade Center on 9/11 are at a high risk of suffering physical and mental illness.
  • A study by the Elizabeth Glaser Paediatric AIDS Foundation in Uganda and Zambia found high rates of syphilis and HIV co-infection among pregnant women, but showed that “integrating rapid syphilis screening and HIV testing for pregnant women was feasible, cost-effective, and helped to prevent transmission of syphilis and HIV from mother-to-child.”
  • A genetically engineered virus may be the key to combating cancer, says a group of scientists.
  • Believed to only help children under four, researchers have determined that the rotavirus vaccine also reduces deaths in children between the age of five and fourteen.
  • Researchers who have tracked Haitian cell phone SIM cards relative to the cholera outbreak are optimistic that their findings will lead to future use of the same technology for other outbreaks.
  • Scientists may have found a critical weakness in Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite that causes malaria. Researchers say the discovery provides a promising target for new malaria therapies.
  • Engineers at Michigan State University are developing a low-cost mobile phone application that can detect certain types of cancer.
  • Danish scientists say mosquito populations are dropping in many parts of Africa, even in parts where there are no human efforts such as insecticide spraying or bed net distributions underway.
  • A study published in the British Medical Journal reports a 24% reduction in deaths in children who received vitamin A.
  • A new approach to malaria vaccines grows the parasite inside mosquitoes and extracts vaccine components from the salivary gland.

DISEASES AND DISASTERS

  • A study published in Nature says that the last three waves of cholera can all be traced back to the Bay of Bengal.
  • Despite a massive humanitarian effort after the 2010 earthquake, females in Haiti remain neglected, rights activists say, lacking access to care as they give birth to babies in squalid conditions, often as a result of sex in trade for food or other necessities.
  • UN FAO warns that the bird flu is on the rise in Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia and Vietnam.
  • Reports from the Libyan capital Tripoli say a humanitarian crisis appears to be emerging following the ouster of long-time ruler Muammar Qaddafi. There is a shortage of medicine, fuel, food, water, and power supplies, and growing piles of uncollected garbage.
  • Polio has been reported in China and Kenya.

Thanks to Tom Murphy and Mark Leon Goldberg, Tom Paulson, Isobel Hoskins, and UN Wire.

Addendum: The Circle of Death (by PowerPoint)

As I mentioned in my first day post, I was delighted when I received a flash drive along with my registration materials that contained speaker bios, PowerPoint slides for each panelist’s talk, and background materials for some presentations. One advantage was that I was able to follow each panelist’s presentation on my laptop instead of furiously taking notes and annoying the attendee sitting next to me with my rapid 80 wpm typing. I can also now look over the slides from the sessions I could not attend.

The second advantage was the ability to blog during the sessions – because I was able to tune out the moderator as (s)he read the text from panelist bios, or the speakers themselves as they read from their slides. Alas, this meant that I still annoyed the attendees unfortunate enough to sit next to me…while they were surfing Facebook on their smart phones and iPads because they had zoned out, too.

I wonder if it ever occurs to speakers that no one will listen to them talk if they can just read the slides on the screen. Granted, many speakers did a great job by elaborating on the content of their slides by discussing programs or activities that related to the text; however, we were most likely not listening to that, either – because we were reading their slides. Most PowerPoint presentations are designed as stand-alone pieces and are written to be read rather than as presentation tools, which is what they are supposed to be. This leads to a high concentration of bulky jargon and large words, which in turn causes the speaker to stumble over some words and mumble others as they wade through their slides. If you have had training in public speaking, you understand that people read differently than they listen. Anyone listening to these presentations would be absolutely lost, as they would be unable to process the barrage of bureaucracy-speak that is clumsily read aloud by each speaker as quickly as possible to leave time for other panelists to read their slides just as quickly so that we can get to questions.

Luckily, we all know what is going on because we are reading their slides rather than listening to anything.

Flickr, HikingArtist.com

This is the circle of death – by PowerPoint. We all go to sessions and panel presentations, read slides, yawn, get bored, and then give the same types of presentations to pay it forward and bore the audience listening to us. It is a disservice to everyone: it numbs the minds of audiences everywhere and allows presenters to escape a true public speaking experience.

The only way to break the circle of death is to build your presentations differently. Use as few words on your slides as possible. Use pictures and data so that your audience is forced to listen to you explain them – you know it better than they do, so you should not have to read it off your slides. Additionally, if we are actually listening to you, we will get your jokes when you actually crack them, thus bypassing the awkward silence as we emerge from our stupor with the realization that you strayed from your “script.” Better still if you do not need any slides at all! It is a truly intimidating and earth-shattering prospect, but I promise that it is possible – orators did it for thousands of years before computers and teleprompters were invented.

Break the circle of death. Save us from having to read your slides while we ignore you reading from your slides. I may not be able to blog as much, but hey – I am much happier to be listening to you instead.