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Widespread Use Of Current Technologies 'Essential' To Improve Global Health

Noting that this week’s issue of the Lancet explores the theme of “[a]ccess to beneficial health technology, including essential medicines and medical devices, for those most in need,” a Lancet editorial states, “Maximizing use of current health technologies (drugs, devices, biological products, medical and surgical procedures, support systems, and organizational systems) is essential to improving global health.” Collaboration between the journal and Imperial College London has resulted in a new Commission on technologies for global health, which examines different ways to broaden the use of new technologies, from bringing down cost to making them more culturally acceptable, the editorial notes.

Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement Could Restrict Access To Affordable, Life-Saving Drugs

In this post in the PLoS “Speaking of Medicine” blog, Judit Rius Sanjuan, a lawyer from Barcelona, Spain, and the U.S. manager of the Access Campaign at Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), says the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a regional trade agreement that currently involves 11 countries but could expand to include other countries in the Asia-Pacific region, “threatens to set a dangerous precedent with damaging implications for developing countries where MSF works, and beyond.” “Negotiations are being conducted in secret, but leaked drafts of the agreement outline U.S. aggressive intellectual property (IP) demands that that could severely restrict access to affordable, life-saving medicines for millions of people,” she writes, concluding, “At this pivotal moment in the fight against AIDS, when the scientific, medical and policy tools needed to reverse the epidemic are finally at hand, … the U.S. government’s demands in the TPP will threaten so much of what has been achieved so far, and will make the vision of an AIDS-free generation impossible, or at least much more expensive” (8/7).

GeneXpert TB Test Maker Cepheid Signs Deals With PEPFAR, USAID, Others To Provide Lower-Cost Kits

Diagnostics company Cepheid on Monday signed deals with PEPFAR, USAID, UNITAID, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to immediately reduce the price of its Xpert MTB/RIF test kit for its GeneXpert tuberculosis (TB) diagnostic system in 145 countries, Reuters reports. “The agreements will see the test sold for $9.98, down from its current price of $16.86 per test,” the news service writes, adding, “Cepheid said the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will make an initial payment of $3.5 million to make the test immediately available at the lower price” (Ail, 8/6).

African Development Bank Report Compares, Analyzes African Countries' Performance In Water, Sanitation Sector

“[A]ccording to a new African Development Bank report that compares and analyzes the performance of sub-Saharan African countries in the water and sanitation sector,” “the two major factors why progress on meeting water and sanitation-related development goals across sub-Saharan Africa is largely uneven” are “[d]ifferences in financial and operational capacities among governments,” the Devex “Development Newswire” reports. Specifically, the “factors the report says affect the sub-Saharan African countries’ progress toward the United Nations-set targets on sanitation and access to water” include “[u]nderstaffing and lack of technical qualification in relevant government agencies,” “[l]ack of adequate operation and maintenance programs in donor-financed projects,” and “[i]nadequate national capacities to implement national strategies,” the news service writes.

Despite Controversy, WHO Not Likely To Change Its Stance On Misoprostol Use

Highlighting a recent report by the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine about the use of the drug misoprostol to prevent postpartum hemorrhage and the WHO’s inclusion of the drug on its Essential Medicine List, Guardian health editor Sarah Boseley writes in this post in her “Global Health Blog,” “Seldom has there been a drug that has excited as much controversy as misoprostol.” She continues, “Misoprostol causes the uterus to contract, which is why it can stop postpartum hemorrhage, the cause of around a quarter of maternal deaths,” but “there has been a huge fight over whether and how well it works, which in some quarters has been ideologically motivated, because misoprostol can also bring about an abortion.”

Dominican Republic Establishes Commission To Examine Implications Of Including ART In Country Health Plan

“The Dominican Republic is one step closer to ensuring that all people living with HIV access treatment,” UNAIDS reports in an article on its webpage, adding, “The country’s National Social Security Council has established a commission to look into the technical, financial and operational implications of including antiretroviral therapy (ART) in the Basic Health Plan.” According to the article, “[t]he establishment of the commission comes after a financial feasibility study about covering people living with HIV under the country’s family health insurance,” and “[t]he newly-established commission — whose membership includes several national health system offices in addition to regional and global partners such as PAHO and UNAIDS — is set to complete its work during the last quarter of 2012” (8/23).

U.N. Urges Philippines To Pass Reproductive Health Bill Amid Protests From Catholic Church

“The United Nations has urged the Philippines to pass a bill that will allow the government to provide free contraceptives,” BBC News reports (8/5). “UNFPA country coordinator Ugochi Florence Daniels said the [reproductive health (RH)] bill is important for the Philippines to achieve its health-related targets in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” including maternal health, HIV/AIDS and infant mortality, the Philippine Star writes (Crisostomo, 8/4). “The House of Representatives plans to decide Tuesday whether to end debate on the bill and put it to a vote,” the Associated Press/Seattle Times notes (Gomez, 8/5).

Health Worker Training Program In Tanzania's Kigoma Region Reducing Maternal Mortality Rate

Inter Press Service reports on the successful efforts of Tanzania’s Kigoma Region “to train assistant medical officers to conduct life-saving c-sections at its rural health centers,” allowing pregnant women with complications to deliver at more local facilities instead of having to travel to regional or district hospitals. Tanzania’s maternal mortality rate is high, at 578 deaths for every 100,000 live births, IPS notes. “[A]t one point the Kigoma Region had the highest rate in the country, at 933 per 100,000 live births in the early 1980s,” but “maternal mortality in this region [now] is considered to be lower than in the rest of the country,” according to the news service.

Nigerian Nursing, Midwifery College Seeks To Train Local Health Care Workers

BBC News reports on a $15 million college in northern Nigeria’s Jigawa state that is working to train nurses and midwives. The first class of the three-year program is expected to graduate in September, and “[t]he hope is these new nurses and midwives will stay in Jigawa’s villages once their training is complete, rather than drifting to towns and cities where the work is usually better paid,” BBC notes, adding, “The college represents a start in addressing what has been a gaping lack of resources.” Four years ago, there were 14 midwives trying to serve “the state’s population of 4.5 million people” and “cover more than 600 small health centers,” BBC continues. However, a British-funded project called Paths 2, which aims “to reduce the state’s high level of preventable deaths among pregnant women,” has helped facilitate the creation of training programs for local health care workers, the news service notes (Dreaper, 8/2).

IRIN Examines Conditional Cash Transfer Program Aimed At improving Maternal Health In The Philippines

“A nationwide conditional cash transfer program in the Philippines is slowly improving maternal health, but more is needed to reverse the climbing maternal mortality ratio, say women’s groups,” IRIN reports. “Known locally as ‘Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program’ (4Ps), five-year conditional cash transfers (CCTs) were first rolled out in 2007 as a pilot program to cut poverty,” the news service writes, adding, “Now, with a budget of $227 million, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) aims to make CCTs available to 5.2 million eligible households by 2015.”