Guinea-Worm Disease & Eradication: WHO Video Review

Guinea-worm disease, or dracunculiasis, is a neglected tropical disease (NTD) with no vaccine or medication for treatment. The disease is caused by a parasitic worm known as the Guinea-worm and is transmitted through contaminated drinking water. Guinea-worm disease is the first parasitic disease set for eradication and this short World Health Organization (WHO) video shows the progress of eradication efforts to date.

When someone drinks water from a source contaminated with water fleas that carry the Guinea-worm larvae, the larvae are released in the stomach and pass into the body cavity. Over the course of 10-14 months, the larvae mature and turn into worms. At this point, a painful blister forms on the outside of the body (usually on the lower legs and feet) as the female worms try to exit the body. The blister causes an intense burning sensation which often leads people to submerge their legs/feet in water for relief. While the blister is submerged, the female worm comes out and releases thousands of larvae into the water, thus contaminating the water and completing the cycle of infection. 

I find it amazing that Guinea-worm disease is on the verge of eradication because in this case, eradication has nearly been achieved through preventive measures alone. From health education and increased detection to water filtration and water treatment, the prevention efforts put forth have decreased the number of reported cases from 1,797 in 2010 to just 90 between January and June 2013.

This is a great accomplishment for the global health community. Congratulations to the WHO, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Carter Center, UNICEF and all others supporting the eradication of Guinea-worm disease!

The Many Paths Towards Universal Health Coverage: WHO Video Review

This post was written by Niniola Soleye.

Universal health care (UHC) is a hot topic in global health right now. The United Nations, World Health Organization (WHO), and World Bank have all endorsed UHC. Further, UHC has played a prominent role in discussions on the Sustainable Development Goals, which will build on the Millennium Development Goals and support the post-2015 development agenda. The WHO put together a video to explain UHC and show how some countries are providing universal access to basic health care services.

As Dr. Margaret Chan, Director General of the WHO said in the video, “Universal health coverage is the most powerful concept that public health has to offer.” The key to UHC is that it allows for equity within a health system. It guarantees health care to all members of a population and overcomes the challenges of unavailable or unaffordable services, which is often the case in modern health care settings.

The video highlights UHC in six countries – China, Oman, Mexico, Rwanda, Thailand, and Turkey. It shows how each country is addressing their health care system and making progress towards UHC.

I found it very interesting to see the differences between each country. It really drove home the point that there is no single UHC approach or model that will work for every country. The journey towards UHC is unique and varied. For example, in China the emphasis is on how to cover as many people as possible. In Oman, the focus is on access because their population, while small, is widely dispersed throughout the country. Mexico, Thailand, and Turkey are working on expanding the type and quality of services provided, while Rwanda has increased coverage from 7% to 97% in the last decade.

The main takeaways from the ten-minute video are the importance and benefits of UHC, the challenges in implementing it, and the various models that allow countries to work towards providing basic primary care to everyone.

WHO Video: Ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (World No Tobacco Day 2013)

Here is another short anti-tobacco video (PSA?) from the WHO marking World No Tobacco Day this year. Like last year’s video, it portrays Big Tobacco as the sinister bad guy who controls us all without us knowing it. I know these videos are meant to appeal to a wide audience, and send a strong and simple message, but I wish that the anti-tobacco videos would feature more actual information and statistics, rather than just showing us that Big Tobacco is some big, bad puppeteer.



Every year, on 31 May, WHO and partners mark World No Tobacco Day, highlighting the health risks associated with tobacco use and advocating for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption. Tobacco kills nearly six million people each year, of which more than 600 000 are non-smokers dying from breathing second-hand smoke.

IH News Global Health Weekly News Round-Up

  • The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (Gambia) in collaboration with WHO UNICEF, Rotary International and other partners  observe  the week of May 2013 (from 24- 27) as National Immunization (NIDs) days against poliomyelitis.
  • May is skin Cancer Awareness Month.
  • May 19 was observed as National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

Politics and Policies:

  • Kenya is the first country to protect girls against cervical cancer with GAVI- supported human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines.
  • The government of Canada has announced its support in the fight against tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS.
  • India’s health ministry is tying itself in knots over the ban of drugs that are banned in some countries and some cases for some population segments.
  • The Illinois Senate has voted to approve the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

Programs:

  • Zambia- Zimbabwe Cross Border Malaria Initiative, a joint co-ordination launched by Zambia and Zimbabwe to control malaria and accelerate reduction of its transmission among the border communities.
  • Merck and Glaxo cut price of Human Papilloma Virus drug in the poorest countries. This cut is more than 95%.
  • Nigeria seeks support on guinea worm eradication.
  • Ghana Health Service has launched the country’s first online based health service which allows patients to engage with doctors online over minor ailments.
  • The Gambia and the World Health Organization (WHO) has launched a Comprehensive Tobacco Control formulation in Bakau.
  • India develops cheap vaccine (against Rotavirus) against major cause of diarrhea deaths in children.
  • The Child Division at the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) is working to introduce pneumococcal vaccine against pneumonia– major cause of death among children less than five years of age in the country.

 Research:

  • According to Cervical Cancer Crisis card that used data from official reports by the World Health Organization, Africa has the highest cervical cancer deaths.
  • According to the 2011 National HIV Indicator Survey, prevalence rates among the Ugandans between ages of 15 to 19 are rising.
  • The Annual State of the World’s Mothers report states that every year three million babies die within the first month of life.
  • A study published shows that HIV prevalence and late diagnosis of HIV infection is high among young women with sexual risk behavior in Beira, Mozambique.
  • According to a Global Mother’s Wellbeings ranking report, Ghana ranks 146th out of 176 countries.
  • According to the Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus Elimination Initiative partners, landmark has reached in fight against tetanus. It has been eliminated in over half of 59 priority countries.
  • According to a study, number of Australian parents with mental illness has increased by 3% every year from 1990 to 2005.
  • The findings of a study published in the World Allergy Organization Journal, children dwelling in commercial areas of New Delhi, India are most susceptible as compared to those living in other parts of the capital, to the respiratory ailments followed by industrial and residential areas.
  • A study shows that the paradoxical TB-IRIS frequently complicates HIV-TB therapy in India.
  • A paper published in The Lancet Oncology, say that if current trends in cancer among the people of Latin America and Caribbean continue, the region will see cancer cases soaring by third each year to reach 16.8 million in total by 2020.
  • According to a study health of the immigrants suffer as they live longer in the U.S.
  • According to a study, newer whooping cough vaccine is as protective as was thought to be.

Diseases & Disasters:

  • According to the reports Zambia is facing shortage of HIV medicines.
  • Heavy rains have caused flooding of both Nyamamba and Nyamugasani rivers in Uganda. It has caused heavy flooding which has displaced thousands of people.
  • Two cases of wild polio virus have been recorded in Tafa Local government area of Niger and Fagge in Kano respectively in Nigeria.
  • Reports have indicated that African mineworkers are at significant risk of becoming resistant to tuberculosis treatment.
  • Body of a man who died in an unnamed hospital as having suffered from Creutzfeld –Jakob disease has been identified by the L. Greenberg Forensic Institute at Abu Kabir.  According to the Health Ministry danger of being infected under normal conditions are negligible.
  • A travel alert has been issued for dengue fever in Thailand. About 33 deaths have been reported since April of this year, particularly in northeastern part of the country.
  • According to the reports more than 1200 new cases of measles have been reported this year. Health officials are scrambling to catch up and stop a growing this growing epidemic.