Note: This was cross-posted to my own blog.
Another year and another December mark the passage of another World AIDS Day. This has been an exciting year for HIV research and policy, with the WHO updating guidelines to recommend that anyone diagnosed with HIV get on ARVs, PrEP gaining traction in the US (even in my own Lone Star State!) and approval in France, new optimism in the effort to development a vaccine, and talk of ending AIDS by 2030. Aw, yeah.
Alas, we are not there yet – and World AIDS Day is an important day to remember that. While many countries have turned the tide of their HIV epidemics, it is getting worse in several others and, in South Korea’s case, presents the potential for a fast-approaching crisis. MSF is always a good resource for bringing optimists back to reality. In this video, they remind us that in order to keep up the progress we have made against AIDS by treating HIV, we need to make sure that those who are infected stay in care – which will take sustained efforts in treatment, policy, and funding.
In the global health field, we generally understand that investing in health is critical for a nation to prosper. But would you consider a lack of investment in health to be a social injustice?
The United Nations’ Under Secretary-General Michel Sidibe thinks so. In this short interview with CCTV News, he talks about how the Ebola outbreaks in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone have exposed global health failures and explains why health is an investment, not an expenditure.
Prior to watching his interview I’d never really labeled a weak health system as a social injustice in my mind. But health is a right and a shortage of health workers, the inability to provide basic health services, and lack of infrastructure – all of which have become very apparent in the Ebola outbreak – are in fact social injustices. So I think this is a very apt way to label the current situation as it puts a broader lens on the issues and ties everything into the bigger picture of the role of health in society.
His interview made me think of universal health coverage (UHC) because the definition of UHC requires social justice. It addresses the issues of access, equity, and capacity. I wonder if there will be an increased focus on moving towards UHC for the three Ebola-affected countries as part of their rebuilding efforts.
What do you think will be the biggest social justice issues coming out of the Ebola outbreaks? And how do you think we can best address them?
The World Cup ended on Sunday and with all the controversy surrounding host country Brazil, I found myself wondering about their health care system. I knew access to basic health services was one of the main points of protest against the Brazilian government’s spending for the World Cup, but I didn’t know all the details.
A few quick searches online provided me with the information I wanted and led me to this video from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) documenting the impact of the arrival of doctors in two Brazilian towns that previously had no doctors. According to the World Health Organization, there is a serious shortage of doctors in Brazil with 1.8 physicians for every 1,000 people. Although the Constitution calls for free health care for all citizens, the reality is that there are major inequalities in access to health services with 700 neglected municipalities and a lack of local primary health care.
The PAHO video focuses on Mais Medicos (More Doctors) – a program between the Brazilian and Cuban governments that allows Cuban doctors to work in under-served Brazilian communities for three years. I did some more searching online and learned that the program is part of an initiative by President Dilma Rousseff to import 13,000 foreign doctors in order to address the shortage of medical professionals. The program has been criticized and although I agree with some of the points of opposition (How are their foreign credentials vetted for local standards? How does this translate to a long-term plan to address the larger issues with health care in Brazil?) I think the reception of Cuban doctors by local Brazilian doctors was too harsh.
Despite the controversy surrounding the program, the PAHO video illustrates its positive outcomes through patient testimonials about improved access to health care, fewer journeys to far away hospitals, and increased treatment and service quality. Residents in the two remote communities featured in the video are quite happy with the program and appreciative to have basic health care.
What do you think? Does the program provide enough value to balance costs and outweigh the risks? Watch the video and share your thoughts in the comments below.
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.
The two videos below, one from the WHO and the other from USAID, use cartoon animations to convey their messages. While I think the use of animation in global health videos is an interesting tactic, I wonder if it’s a more or less effective form of communication when compared to videos featuring real people. I understand the need to find alternative, non-traditional ways to communicate and share messages, but, personally, I don’t find it as compelling to watch the story of a cartoon character, even when it’s based on a true story. Since global health work is about the people impacted and lives saved, I think it’s nice to see both the challenges and results as they appear in reality.
The first video highlights some of the different ways the WHO improves our health on a daily basis. The second video celebrates World AIDS Day (today, December 1) and 10 years of PEPFAR with the story of Gift, a 10-year old girl whose family was impacted by HIV. Watch these two short videos and leave a comment to let us know how you feel about the use of animation.
WHO: Bringing Health to Life
World AIDS Day 2013: Gift’s Last 10 Years