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

IH News Global Health Weekly News Round-Up

Politics and Policies:

  • Egypt will carry out vaccination campaign in parts of Cairo after polio virus was found in sewer.
  • The United Kingdom’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) has rejected calls to ban the herbal stimulant, khat.
  • Minister of Finance of Kyrgystan has announced a Russian grant of $25 million to be directed to health and education in Kyrgyzstan.

Programs:

  • To support veteran’s mental health in Kent and Medway, National Health Service (NHS) invests £150,000.
  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is in a process of stopping its researches involving the chimpanzees.
  • UNESCO has released a booklet that promotes improved links between gender, HIV and education.
  • The First lady opened Sh6 Billion health center– the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) in Lukaya, Uganda.
  • Two projects in the health and education fields have been funded by British Gas Tunisia. It will provide health services to 20 thousand locals.
  • A HIV gender assessment tool has been designed by the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) to assess the cause of women vulnerability to contracting HIV.
  • About N$67,720 donation has been received by the Cancer Association of Nambia (CAN) from Quality Tyres Nambia. This money will be used for the prostate cancer treatment of the people.
  • The United Nations Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF) has called on the international community to contribute nearly $1.4 billion to address to the urgent needs of the children in 45 countries including a need to strengthen the capacity of partners in the field of health and nutrition.
  • The UNICEF, EU and Uzbekistan are together implementing a project to protect health of mother and child.
  • The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Batey Relief Alliance have together launched a food assistance program for people living in extreme poverty in the Dominican Republic.

Research:

  • New researches on bird flu is about to begin.
  • According to a study published in the British Health Journal, women’s views on over diagnosis in breast cancer screening vary. The highest estimates made some women (50%) perceive need for more careful personal decision making about screening. While lower and intermediate estimates had limited impact on attitudes and intentions related to screening.
  • According to a study published in PLoS ONE, scientists in Benin have developed a new technique to detect malaria parasites in mosquito vectors. It could help to estimate malaria transmission intensity in different settings.
  • According to a study published in the Lancet folic acid supplements are unlikely to substantially increase or decrease overall cancer risk.
  • The monitoring data by the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) published by the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) suggest that number of people facing food insecurity will reduce.
  • According to a meta-analysis published in British Medical Journal, there is no link between consumption of eggs and increased risk of heart disease or stroke.
  • A recently published international study states that the children were most hit by 2009 bird flu. About 47% of those aged between five to 19 developed symptoms as compared to only 11% of people aged 65 or older.
  • A study published in New England Journal of Medicine states that female smokers were 25.7 times more likely to die from lung cancer than those who never smoked.
  • According to a study published in the journal Nutrition Research , a natural extract from the roots of Japanese mushrooms can boost the effectiveness of the flu shot.
  • Micro blogging site Twitter has been used by the researchers and computer scientists of the John Hopkins University to track the cases of influenza across the United States. This system was tested by the researchers at the Baltimore University by comparing these results with the data obtained from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • After five years of studying the workings of the mutant form of the p53 gene, scientists from the National Cancer Center Singapore (NCCS) have discovered the workings of this gene that has been hindering treatment response in cancer patients.
  • According to a study published in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases people who take immunosuppressive drugs to treat lupus do not necessary increase their cancer risk.
  • A study published in Nutrition Journal, a mixture of B vitamins, fish oils and plant sterols show a promise in boosting heart health by improving the lipid profile of young people with high cholesterol.

Diseases & Disasters:

  • A wave of spiritual human killings has been reported in Camroon.
  • Chinese mine pumps chrome (poisonous chemical) into Ngezi river in Zimbabwe.
  • The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced a recalled ready-to-eat port product by Houston’s Stallings Head Cheese Co. Inc.
  • Global Virus Network has released a statement on 2012-2013 U.S. Flu epidemic.
  • The World Health Organization said in a joint statement with the Cambodian health ministry that two Cambodians have died from bird flu contracted while preparing infected chicken.
  • According to U.S. health officials a new strain of stomach virus outbreaks has occurred in this flu season.
  • The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control in Brussels has reported an increasing trend of influenza transmission.
  • The Medical Products Agency of Sweden (MPA) opened an inquiry into vaccinations for H1N1 (Pandemrix) made by GlaxoSmithKline, suspected for provoking narcolepsy.
  • The Michigan departments of Community Health and Agriculture and Rural Development are investigating the causes of Salmonella outbreak.
  • Health authorities in the Brazilian city of Campo Grande are fighting a dengue fever epidemic.
  • French authorities fear drug-resistant tuberculosis from Eastern Europe.

IH News Global Health Weekly News Round-Up

Politics and Policies:

  • The government of Australia is preparing to soon offer a 20-minute HIV test in Melbourne. It has yet to decide which clinics will offer the test.
  • The National Population Commission has announced that China has planned to improve county-level family planning services.
  • Regulations have been issued by the government of Indonesia to bear graphic photographic warnings on the cigarette packets.
  • The United Nations has allowed Bolivia to return to the United Nations main anti-narcotics treaty and has given its approval on chewing the coca leaf.
  • Twelve nations have signed a new United Nations treaty which aims to counter the illegal tobacco trade.
  • New York City (U.S.) hospitals will adopt new guidelines that will forbid emergency room doctors to give out more than three days’ worth opioid painkillers to the patients.

Programs:

  • Pfizer Inc. has included its pneumococcal conjugate vaccine to expand its pediatric immunization program in Tanzania.
  • UNICEF calls for cessation of child recruitment in the Central African Republic. More than 300,000 children have been affected by the violence which has led to their limited access to education and health facilities.
  • US$176 million announced by IMF and World Bank for debt relief for the Union of the Comoros. It will help the country to fight poverty and improve health and education facilities.
  • European Union gives EUR 16million support to Ghana. This money will support the implementation of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) Accelerated Framework and Country Action Plan developed to combat maternal mortality.
  • $25 million has been awarded by Abt Associates for a three-year malaria prevention project in Kenya.
  • The FCC has launched $400 million heath care development fund with an aim to create and expand telemedicine networks.

Research:

  • According to a study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry there is a relationship between mental health and spirituality.
  • According to the Journal of Infectious Diseases, nosocomial transmission responsible for XDR-TB outbreak in South Africa.
  • A study identifies the chances of infection (co-infection) with another disease when a person is infected with a disease.
  • A study published in the Journal of Neurosurgery Pediatrics, climate can be the reason for a neurological condition, hydrocephalus in children in Uganda.
  • Number of new annual cases of HIV/AIDS cases in India has dropped by 57 percent in the last decade.
  • A study published in J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry links loneliness with higher chances of dementia or memory loss.
  • Researchers have identified role in obesity and diabetes. They have found that blocking the expression of gene TRIP-B2r  in mice protects them against obesity and insulin resistance.
  • A report published by Natural News states that children who are vaccinated according to the CDC recommended schedule are five times more likely to develop diseases as compared those who are not.
  • According to the findings of a report, among all rich countries, people of U.S.  live unhealthy and shorter lives.

Diseases and Disasters:

  • The Flu has surpassed an ‘epidemic’ threshold in the United States. It is widespread in all except the three states of US.
  • According to The New Times survey, there is a severe drug shortage in Kigali hospitals (in Rwanda).
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) yellow fever has killed about 171 people in Darfur (Sudan).
  • Top U.N. Aid officials warn food crisis in two isolated southern states of Sudan. People of South Kordofan and Blue Nile have been feared dying of malnutrition and disease.
  • According to the officials, about 80 people have died in Bangladesh due to cold-related diseases like respiratory problems, pneumonia and cough.
  • People in Beijing have been warned of extremely hazardous air quality. The density of PM2.5 particulates has reached 700 micrograms per cubic meter in many parts of city.
  • Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Health has warned the public of possible outbreak of Leptospirosis (rat fever) in flood affected areas.
  • According to the health authorities, Barbados has recorded an increase in dengue cases since the last year.
  • Paraguay has confirmed reports of outbreaks of dengue in the north and east of the country. It has declared a national epidemics alert.