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WHO Convenes Lawmakers From Southeast Asia To Discuss Bolstering Of Health Systems In Region

This week the WHO brought together lawmakers from across Southeast Asia in Bangkok “to discuss how to bolster their health systems back home,” IRIN reports. Meeting participants were “called on to advocate the boosting of health spending, workforces and access to health care in their home countries in addition to drafting ‘healthy public policies,’ such as conducting health assessments before large infrastructural projects are undertaken,” the news service writes.

Political Instability, Humanitarian Crises Reversing Maternal Health Gains In Africa, Health Experts Warn

“Political instability, civil strife and humanitarian crises in Africa have over the past decades reversed countless maternal health development gains on the continent, health experts warn,” Inter Press Service reports. “‘African countries with good maternal health statistics are generally those that have long-term political stability. This shows that stability is a fundamental basis for development. If it doesn’t exist, other priorities overtake,’ Lucien Kouakou, regional director of the International Planned Parenthood Foundation (IPPF) in Africa, told IPS,” the news service writes.

Zimbabwe’s Plan To Conduct Household HIV Testing Raises Concerns Among Some Advocates

PlusNews examines the challenges and concerns surrounding Zimbabwe’s plan to conduct a door-to-door HIV testing campaign, which has not yet begun but “is already being met with skepticism by activists who feel this is not a priority for the country, especially with global HIV/AIDS funding on the decline.” National AIDS officials say the country’s “AIDS levy — a three percent tax on income — has become a promising source of funding”; in 2010, $20.5 million was collected, with most of that going to purchase antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), PlusNews notes. Of the estimated 1.2 million people living with HIV in Zimbabwe, 347,000 access ARVs through a national program, and another 600,000 people “urgently” need them, according to the news service.

U.S. Ambassador For Global Women’s Issues Speaks About GHI’s Support For Family Planning In CNN Interview

“[F]amily planning is one of the best public health interventions that can be made,” U.S. Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer said in an interview with Amar Bakshi, editor of CNN World’s “Global Public Square” (GPS) blog, adding, “It makes such a difference in a woman’s life for her to be able to have the wherewithal — the family planning contraceptives available so that she can decide the size and the spacing of her children.”

Nature Examines How Funding Shortfalls Are Hindering Efforts To Use Drugs To Curb HIV Spread

Nature examines how funding shortfalls are hampering global efforts to use drugs to curb the spread of HIV, writing, “[A]t this week’s annual Conference on Retro­viruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle, Washington, there was growing concern that financial austerity in the United States and elsewhere is eating away at the funding needed for a worldwide prevention effort.” The journal cites proposed reductions “to direct international aid for HIV programs under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)” in President Barack Obama’s FY 2013 budget request and an announcement by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria last November that it had cancelled Round 11 grants “until 2014 because of tightening budgets in donor countries.”

India's Maternal Health Care Benefit Excludes Many Women Because Of Parity Requirement, Women's eNews Reports

Women’s eNews examines India’s Indira Gandhi Maternity Support Scheme, a health care benefit offering $80 cash assistance to pregnant women older than 18 years and who do not have more than two living children. “The benefit requires a pregnant woman to register her pregnancy at a health center, accept immunization of the mother and child and agree to exclusive breastfeeding and growth monitoring of children,” the news service writes. “One 2011 study, however, based on the latest national family health survey, indicated as many as 63 percent of poor women between ages 15 to 49 would be disqualified from the program because they had more than two children,” according to Women’s eNews. “With the scheme being piloted in four [high fertility] states, … health activists contend the government is promoting a coercive two-child policy in the name of population stabilization by offering incentives for only those women who have two children,” the news service writes, adding the program would benefit poor women who do not have access to adequate family planning or health services, income, or nutrition (Majumdar, 10/23).

International Community Must Ensure Political Will, Financial Support Necessary To Eradicate Polio

“Last month, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon convened a group of global leaders, including [Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Co-Chair] Bill Gates and heads of state of polio-affected countries, to renew the commitment to eliminate polio,” William Keenan, executive director of the International Pediatric Association, and Robert Block, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, note in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. “This show of solidarity reminds us that the fight is not finished,” they write, and continue, “Armed with effective vaccines, pediatricians, partner organizations and front-line workers around the globe have eliminated 99 percent of all new polio cases.” They state, “We can’t afford to lose sight of this remaining one percent of polio cases.”

Blueprint For AIDS-Free Generation Must Allow HIV Funds To Be Used For Family Planning

In the Huffington Post’s “Politics” blog, Serra Sippel, president of the Center for Health and Gender Equity, notes that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said at the XIX International AIDS Conference in July that all women should be able to decide “when and whether to have children” and that PEPFAR, in a guidance [.pdf] released last week, said, “Voluntary family planning should be part of comprehensive quality care for persons living with HIV,” and referred to family planning as a human right. “Then, in bold type, they punctuated it with, ‘PEPFAR funds may not be used to purchase family planning commodities,'” she writes. “They take it a step further with a caveat that before anyone decides they’d like their program to have anything to do with family planning, they had best consult relevant U.S. legal counsel first,” she adds. “To be fair, they do say that PEPFAR programs can just refer women to a different program that offers family planning,” but those programs are not always available, Sippel writes, adding, “So the suggestion is flawed from the start.”

Zimbabwe To Allow Trained Nurses To Prescribe, Administer ARVs

PlusNews examines challenges and concerns over an announcement by the Zimbabwean government that it plans to train nurses to prescribe and administer antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) to people living with HIV in the country. “Previously, nurses were allowed only to administer the drugs after a doctor had prescribed them,” the news service writes, adding, “Now, changes made in the job descriptions of nurses by the Nurses’ Council of Zimbabwe will see them prescribing the medication.” Owen Mugurungi, director of the HIV/AIDS and TB unit in the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, said, “I need to point out that it’s not enough that a professional council allow nurses to administer drugs; this should be followed up with measures to capacitate nurses to do this work correctly,” according to PlusNews. The news agency looks at how the possibility of work overload for nurses, a government hiring freeze on nurses, and ARV availability could affect the country’s plan to reach 85 percent of the population in need of HIV treatment by the end of this year (10/16).

Next U.S. President Will Impact Women's Reproductive Rights Globally

“During the first presidential debate, neither President [Barack] Obama nor [Republican presidential nominee Gov. Mitt] Romney addressed the issue that affects half the world’s population: women’s reproductive rights,” Musimbi Kanyoro, president and CEO of the Global Fund for Women, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Politics” blog. “As the two square off on foreign policy, women’s reproductive rights must be addressed because whomever becomes president will not only determine U.S. women’s personal, economic and educational choices, but also those of women worldwide,” she writes, adding, “The candidates’ positions on women’s reproductive rights couldn’t be starker.”