Global Health News Last Week

September 5 was Labor Day.

POLITICS AND POLICY

  • The State Department has announced the official US Delegation to the UN High Level Meeting on NCDs, which will take place September 19-20.
  • Access to affordable lifesaving medicines will be threatened where they are needed most—in parts of the developing world—if the U.S.insists on implementing restrictive intellectual property policies in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, says Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders).
  • Sarah Boseley shares the great news that Kenya has officially made female genital mutilation illegal.
  • A federal appeals court in Virginia has dismissed two lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.
  • United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon singled out sustainable development as the top issue facing the planet with the world’s seven billionth person expected to be born next month. Key to this was climate change, and he said time was running out with the population set to explode this century.
  • Thousands of proposed cuts in the US Congress could lead to significant cuts to USAID.
  • The Philippines reproductive health bill is still making its way through the senate.  Meanwhile, 7 villages in Bataan, the Philippines have banned “artificial contraception” amid national debate over the bill.
  • A report co-authored by an Australian academic highlights the need for healthy ecosystems as the basis for sustainable water resources and stable food security for people around the world.

PROGRAMS

  • Sometime this fall, the world’s population will reach 7 billion people. Experts now forecast that by 2050, the population could be 10 billion. Some say those numbers should force policy makers to focus more intently on making family planning much more widely available in the developing world.
  • The Institution of Mechanical Engineers has put together a one day conference bringing together innovators and health workers to share ideas about ways to more easily deliver interventions.
  • It has been commonly held that insecticide treated bed nets reduce the rate of malaria for people who use them. Now there is hard evidence to back up that assumption.

RESEARCH AND INNOVATIONS

  • A new study shows that less than three doses of the vaccine against cervical cancer can effectively protect women in the developing world where 80% of global deaths due to cervical cancer take place.
  • Only three African countries are on track to achieve MGD 5, according to an African Institute for Development Policy study.
  • Most efforts in the Western world seeking to find solutions for developing world problems tend to think of inventing new technologies or, at least, using the tools we typically use to fix things — modern drugs for diseases, improved seeds for crops, a better mousetrap. Sometimes, all you need is a newly geared donkey
  • Scientists may have developed a new TB vaccine after tests showed the elimination of TB from infected tissue in mice.
  • A socially active lifestyle can dramatically speed up weight loss through the burning of fat in mice, a study shows. Researchers at Ohio State University in the US identified a link between the amount of social interaction in a mouse’s environment and its weight.
  • An easy-to-use diagnostic chip for HIV could “give results in minutes” and be a game changer in the field of cheap diagnostics for remote regions, claim the researchers who developed it.

DISEASES AND DISASTERS

  • Having to contend with U.S.army drones and the crossfire between the Taliban and the Pakistani army, the residents of Pakistan’s tribal areas find access to treatment for HIV/AIDS harder than in most other parts of the world.
  • Three-quarters of a million people are facing death by starvation in Somalia according the United Nations, who declared Monday that famine had spread to a sixth southern region of the beleaguered Horn of Africa state.  Meanwhile, an investigation has revealed that masses of food meant for famine victims in Somalia are being stolen. There have also been reports of rioting and killings during food distribution at camps for famine victims.
  • A magnitude 6.6 earthquake struck 100km southwest of the city of Medan, Sumatra and 110km beneath the earth’s crust.
  • A New York Times editorial castigates the international community’s response to the cholera outbreak in Haiti.
  • The CEO of insulin manufacturer Novo Nordisk says the WHO should buy low cost diabetes drugs in bulk for the developing world.
  • Messages of good health and positive self-esteem for girls aren’t hard to come by in kid lit, so what’s the deal with all the attention for a not-yet-published rhyming picture book about an obese, unhappy 14-year-old named Maggie?

INFOGRAPHICS AND OTHER MEDIA

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.

Global Health News Last Week

The Supercourse team at the University of Pittsburgh has taken the initiative to spread the WHO’s definition of health, “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”  They have translated the definition into over 60 different languages using Google translate and have asked health professionals to review them to make sure they are correct.  This global health knowledge campaign is being developed by the Supercourse team, WHO Collaborating Centre, University of Pittsburgh.  Please contact Dr. Ronald LaPorte, Director, Professor of Epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh, for more information.

July 28 was the first-ever World Hepatitis Day.

POLITICS AND POLICY

  • As the UN gears up for its Summit on Non-Communicable Diseases this September, blogger Michael Hodin argues that by focusing on this issue, the world body has a “new shot at relevance” in an era where its importance is decreasing (and countries contemplate cutting its funding).
  • Former U.S. Ambassador on HIV/AIDS Jack Chow says the CIA’s fake vaccination scheme in Pakistan, aimed at locating Osama Bin Laden, threatens to undermine a broad set of American global health initiatives.
  • The U.S. government and the Gates Foundation were responsible for 85% of the steep increase in malaria funding between 2007 and 2009. Richard Tren argues that we need to diversify funding sources and focus on control efforts.

PROGRAMS

  • The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has teamed up with FC Barcelona to promote the polio eradication campaign.
  • To raise awareness about violence against women in Europe, the UN has opened up a contest to design a newspaper advertisement in support of the UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign. View submissions and the winning entries here.
  • Seattle-based development blogger Tom Paulson continues to raise some interesting issues regarding the Gates Foundation’s funding of media coverage for global health issues.  Their latest venture is a weekly program on the BBC.

RESEARCH

  • Researchers have cracked the DNA code of the strain of E. coli that originated in German sprouts and killed over 50 people this summer.
  • A cell phone that doubles as a blood-oxygen tester is one of the 77 mHealth innovation finalists for the Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development competition.
  • A study conducted by the WHO found that France, the U.S., the Netherlands, and India have the highest rates of depression in the world, while China has the lowest.  Detailed interviews were conducted with over 89,000 individuals in 18 countries.
  • It is becoming more apparent that one of the most effective ways to deal with HIV/AIDS is to address neglected tropical diseases, argues the Public Library of Science in Eureka Alert.
  • A study of the lifespan of HIV patients receiving combination ARV therapy by researchers at University of Ottawa has found that patients can expect to live a near normal lifespan.
  • Researchers at Oklahoma University believe that a protein-based vaccine could prevent many cases of childhood pneumonia.
  • Dutch researchers have found that children who were not breastfed were more likely to develop respiratory problems such as asthma.
  • The first stage of trials for a new malaria vaccine by Swiss researchers in Tanzania have shown promising results.
  • Has announced in a study in Pediatrics that the varicella vaccine for chickenpox has reduced the annual death toll in the United States from 105 to 14. Tests are in progress that could lead to major family planning advances. The New York Times reports on some innovations in male contraceptives that could offer safe and effective contraception.

DISEASES AND DISASTERS

  • The Agbogbloshie slum outside of Accra, Ghana, is a major electronics waste dump.  This site is an example of what happens to “donated” discarded electronics: residents burn them to extract precious metals and simultaneously exposed to a host of hazardous chemicals, as the goods release lead, mercury,
    thallium, hydrogen cyanide, and PVC.
  • A recent article by a global panel uses startling images to call attention to the woeful state of neglect and inadequate treatment of mental illness in developing nations.

Which Top Family Planning Research Findings should be put into Practice? Vote!

Which are the most important family planning research findings that should be put into practice? Authors for an upcoming Population Reports issue on the topic invite you to vote for the top three findings from a list of seven. For example, WHO recommends that family planning clients receive up to a year’s supply of pills, or as many pill packs as feasible, at the first visit. Research finds that women who get a full year’s supply of pills are more likely to use the method effectively, without interruption. This practice is rare in many countries, however. Have a more urgent finding that should become a practice? Vote and then write a comment on INFO’s Blog.

Are Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Unfair to Africa?

eckhard-kleinau.jpg“At the midway point between their adoption in 2000 and the 2015 target date for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, sub-Saharan Africa is not on track to achieve any of the Goals”. http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/docs/MDGafrica07.pdf

Yes, according to William Easterly, author of “The White Man’s Burden”, at a February 6 event, Africa was set up to fail by the way MDG targets were set and indicators defined (http://www.brookings.edu/events/2008/0206_africa.aspx). With wit and by taking occasional cheap shots at those who developed the MDG goals and targets, Easterly held the attention of a large audience. Using data and trends, he made a compelling case why MDGs did not give sub-Saharan Africa credit for its considerable progress, thus contributing to the stereotype of “Africa’s failure”. In his response, Danny Leipziger of the World Bank took issue with many of Easterly’s claims pointing out, for example, that Tanzania was treated no different from Nepal for most MDG goals. Here is the question: Do you believe that MDGs are fair or unfair to Africa? Continue reading “Are Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Unfair to Africa?”