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

Global Health News Last Week

October 10 was World Mental Health Day.
October 15 was Global Handwashing Day.

POLITICS AND POLICY

  • The U.S. Army has proposed major cuts to its work on HIV, especially in the vaccine field. Leaders of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and other biomedical research organizations oppose the cuts.
  • The WHO plans to recommend tighter nutritional standards in food aid for young children, a move activists say is necessary to improve donations from countries such as the United States.
  • The US Department of Defense is funding platforms that will completely rethink how malaria drugs are developed.
  • Former Bush Administration official Andrew Natsios argues the case for foreign aid: “Singling out foreign aid for disproportionate cuts—which is exactly what has happened—is a serious mistake the United States as a world leader will pay for in the future.”
  • A survey of 507 Americans at the end of September sought to capture what, exactly, Americans know about the foreign aid budget. Particpiants were asked four questions about their impressions of foreign aid and opinions on why it is important to American interests.  Go here to read the full fact sheet that also includes more details about the study’s methods and see below to review the results in more detail.
  • The World Health Organization’s chief on Monday urged governments to unite against “big tobacco”, as she accused the industry of dirty tricks, bullying and immorality in its quest to keep people smoking.

PROGRAMS

  • Berk Ozler examines some recent reports about the challenges surrounding male circumcision. In the World Bank Development Impact blog, he offers two suggestions for how to improve the programs.
  • A partnership between Pampers and UNICEF to deliver neonatal tetanus vaccines is on track to eliminate the disease by 2015.
  • A $258 million initiative sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation aimed at preventing AIDS in India appears to have paid off overall, researchers say, resulting in more than 100,000 fewer new HIV infections over five years. Many aren’t quite ready to judge this project, Avahan, a success, however. The project failed in three of the six Indian states where it was tested.
  • Are the Millennium Villages an intervention that can reach scale? Supporters say yes and detractors are skeptical. Madeline Bunting covers the debate in the Guardian Development.
  • A report on the MGDS by United Nations Development Program, the UN Economic Commission for Africa, the African Development Bank and the African Union Commission says that social protection programs can have a wide positive impact.

RESEARCH

DISEASES AND DISASTERS

Global Health News Last Week

May 12 was International Nurses Day.
USAID’s Frontlines magazine is running an exclusive interview with Dr.

Margaret Chan, the WHO Director-General, in which she discusses current global health priorities and systems strengthening.

Peoples-uni, an open-access education initiative, offers open-access resource and online learning materials for capacity-building in low- and middle-income countries.

POLICY

  • Excessive bleeding following childbirth is the leading cause of maternal deaths in the developing world, but the World Health Organization (WHO) has now approved the use of misoprostol, a drug that considerably reduces this risk.
  • Shanghai’s health authority and local hospitals are seeking to reduce the rate of births by cesarean section this year after a recent report showed that far more Shanghai women are undergoing the procedure than is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • For the fifth time, at next week’s WHO General Assembly, countries will debate whether or not to destroy the last two known stockpiles of smallpox.
  • The Director General of Nigeria’s drug and food regulator, Dr. Paul Orhii, was in London last week where he lodged a strong case before members states of the World Health Assembly to institute a legal platform to combat the spread of counterfeit drugs.

PROGRAMS

  • Humanosphere’s Tom Paulson writes that funding for childhood vaccinations is not keeping up with the need and is struggling to compete with more high-profile priorities.
  • The phenomenon of “poverty tourism” – in which charities and aid organizations take donors on trips to “experience poverty” and meet their beneficiary – is coming under increased scrutiny and generating controversy.
  • John Donnelly, writing in GlobalPost, characterizes the Obama Administration’s Global Health Initiative as off to “a slow, stumbling start” in a short series called “Healing the World.”
  • Last Wednesday, the WHO launched a campaign to reduce the huge but largely unrecognized burden of traffic deaths and injuries over the next decade.

RESEARCH

  • An HIV-positive person who takes anti-retroviral drugs after diagnosis, rather than when their health declines, can cut the risk of spreading the virus to uninfected partners by 96%, according to a study.
  • New research has revealed that a bacteria present in the gut of mosquitos may be another tool to fight the spread of malaria.
  • An experimental drug helped monkeys with a form of the Aids virus control the infection for more than a year, suggesting it may lead to a vaccine for people, or even a cure.
  • A study by US scientists, published in the American Journal of Public Health, found that 400,000 females aged 15-49 were raped over a 12-month period in the DRC 2006 and 2007. That comes out to an average of 48 women and girls being raped every hour.
  • A new report by MSF argues that switching from using quinine to artesunate to treat malaria could save up to 200,000 lives a year.
  • A US study has suggested that homosexual men are more likely to have had cancer than heterosexual men.
  • According to the findings of the last Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey, getting pregnant soon after childbearing, miscarriage or abortion places mothers and newborns at a higher risk of health complications or even death.
  • Results announced today by the United States National Institutes of Health show that if an HIV-positive person adheres to an effective antiretroviral therapy regimen, the risk of transmitting the virus to their uninfected sexual partner can be reduced by 96%.

DISEASES AND DISASTERS

  • According to statistics released by the National Coordinator of the Nigeria’s National Malaria Control Program (NMCP), Dr. Babajide Coker, Nigeria contributes a quarter of the malaria burden in Africa, and a staggering 90 per cent of its citizens are at risk for contracting the disease.
  • Johnson & Johnson’s recalled at least 11,700 bottles of HIV/AIDS drug Prezista in several countries, after discovering trace amounts of a chemical emitting offensive odors in five batches of products sold in the U.K., Ireland, Germany, Austria and Canada.
  • In China, around 1.5 million people require organ transplants, but just 10,000 receive them each year, as few Chinese agree to donate their organs upon death. Illegal organ traffickers have stepped in to fill that gap.

TOTALLY UNRELATED TO ANYTHING ELSE: Princess Beatrice’s atrocious weird attention-grabbing hat, worn to the royal wedding, is now being auctioned on eBay for UNICEF and Children in Crisis. Um, yay?

Global Health News Last Week

POLICY

RESEARCH

  • A paper published in Science by a research group at the University of Maryland demonstrates that a fungus, Metarhizium anisopliae, can be used to combat the malarial parasite inside the mosquito. Another promising study suggests that a compound produced by a seaweed in Fiji could be used to combat malaria.
  • A new study has shown that that Internet kiosks providing information on prenatal and postnatal care have helped reduce infant, child, and maternal mortality rates in rural India.
  • A study published by the Harvard School of Public Health last year found that the poorest third of the world’s population account for only 4% of surgeries worldwide, and that over two million people in low-income countries have no access to life-saving surgery.
  • The first phase trials of the HIV vaccine developed in India were completed with no side effects reported. Meanwhile, a three-year research trial on a vaginal anti-HIV gel has been launched in Rwanda.
  • The Trachoma Atlas, an open-access resource on the geographical distribution of trachoma, was launched by a team of collaborators from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, the International Trachoma Initiative at The Task Force for Global Health, and the Carter Center. It is funded by a generous donation from (you guessed it!) the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • The European Solutions Enterprise for Neglected Diseases (euSEND), a new initiative, based in the Netherlands, was launched to aid in the fight against neglected tropical diseases. The organization’s goal is to “take the role of matchmaker” to facilitate partnerships in research for NTD treatments and vaccines.

PROGRAMS

  • Swaziland has a large-scale circumcision drive in an attempt to lower HIV rates.
  • Cash-transfer programs as a means of assisting the poor are beginning to gain attention and popularity from development and economic professionals. Mexico’s and Brazil’s have captured particular attention and are credited with poverty reduction and GDP growth.
  • The first methadone maintenance program in sub-Saharan Africa recently opened in a hospital in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Heroin use is a growing problem in port cities, where the drug passes through en route from Afghanistan to Europe.

DISEASES

Pushing for Polio Eradication: Does a Vertical Approach Make Sense in a Horizontal World?

The global polio eradication effort suffered an unexpected setback this year.  An outbreak began in February in Tajikistan, which had not seen a case of polio in 19 years, and 452 cases have been confirmed as of August 5.1  From there, it has migrated to Russia, where it has infected seven individuals.1,2  Russia’s last confirmed case of polio was in 1996.  This outbreak is a discouraging reality check for a two-decade eradication effort that hovers on the edge of success but cannot quite seem to reach it.

Bill Gates administers an oral polio vaccine to a baby.
Image taken from the 2009 Annual Letter from Bill Gates. Available at: http://www.gatesfoundation.org/annual-letter/Pages/2009-polio-eradication.aspx

After the successful eradication of smallpox in 1979, global health organizations have pushed a similar “vertical” approach to eradicate other disease.3  The polio eradication campaign, which began in 1988, has been aggressively carried out with a similar mindset and has been largely successful.  Incidence has been reduced by over 99%, with less than 1,000 cases reported in the year 2000 compared to 350,000 in 1988.  In Africa, ten of the 15 previously polio countries re-infected in 2009 successfully halted their outbreaks.4  It is currently only endemic in Nigeria, India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.2,4  For the last ten years, however, the initiative has “hovered on the verge of victory” without being able to reach it.5  There were 1,604 cases in 2009, and 576 cases have been confirmed globally so far this year.2  The effort has cost approximated $8.2 to date.3 

The long-standing fight against polio has raised an interesting discussion about this and similar approaches to public health: are singularly-focused health efforts such as disease eradication the best way to work toward health improvement?  Large scale donors, such as the Gates Foundation and Rotary, typically prefer these “vertical” strategies because the benefits seem clearer and more immediate; “horizontal” strategies, on the other hand, such as strengthening health systems, training workers, and increasing supplies, have less well-defined goals, and long-term change is much more difficult to measure.3  The ongoing struggle for polio eradication has re-energized this debate.  Global health stakeholders responded in June with a new Strategic Plan, which builds on findings from a recent independent evaluation of the eradication effort and proposes a combined approach of  area-specific strategies to target remaining reservoirs of polio and targeting health system weaknesses.4  This plan will hopefully inspire organizations working in the effort to make the final push toward wiping out polio for good.  When the plan was unveiled in Geneva, however, Dr. Margaret Chan of WHO called on the international funding community “stand tall for polio eradication,” reminding us that the effort can still falter in the face of economic crisis if funding lapses.  It will be interesting to see how much longer smallpox will stand alone on the list of eradicated diseases.