“While reports from the United Nations as well as the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) indicate that maternal deaths are declining around the world, far too many women continue to die from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth,” Ana Langer, director of the Women and Health Initiative at the Harvard School of Public Health, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. “In fact, every 90 seconds a young woman dies unnecessarily when she is giving life,” she continues, noting, “More than 90 percent of these deaths could be avoided, if all women had timely access to good quality care.”
Access to Health Services
“The United Nations estimates the civil war raging in Syria has left more than 2.5 million people in dire need of food, water, drugs and medical supplies,” VOA News reports. “After 18 months of fighting, thousands are dead and thousands more wounded,” and, “[i]f past wars are any indication, the health and well-being of Syrians will likely be affected long after the last guns are fired,” the news service writes. WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic “says many hospitals and health centers in [the capital] Homs have been badly damaged by shelling” and “[o]nly six of 12 public hospitals remain open, and eight out of 32 private hospitals are still in operation — at greatly reduced capacity,” VOA adds.
The Associated Press examines the debate over the future of the Affordable Medicines Facility-malaria (AMFm), after the recent release of two papers evaluating the program’s effectiveness. AMFm was established in 2010 as “a pilot project to subsidize artemesinin combination drugs, the most effective malaria treatment,” the AP writes, noting the $460 million program is managed by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. “Last week, a report by Oxfam, an international charity, labeled the program a failure and said there was no proof it had saved lives because officials didn’t track who received the drugs,” the news service writes, adding, “But in another paper published Wednesday in the journal Lancet, experts insisted the program was ‘an effective mechanism’ to lower the price of preferred malaria drugs and make them widely available.” The Global Fund is scheduled to discuss the future of the program at a meeting next month, according to the AP (Cheng, 10/31).
“Scientists have come up with a test for the virus that causes AIDS that is 10 times more sensitive and a fraction of the cost of existing methods, offering the promise of better diagnosis and treatment in the developing world,” Reuters reports. “The test uses nanotechnology to give a result that can be seen with the naked eye by turning a sample red or blue, according to research from scientists at Imperial College in London published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology,” the news agency writes (Wickham, 10/28). “The test can be configured to a unique signature of a disease or virus — such as a protein found on the surface of HIV,” and if the marker is present, a chemical reaction causes a blue result and a red result if the marker is not present, according to BBC News. “Early testing showed the presence of markers of HIV and prostate cancer could be detected,” BBC News notes, adding, “However, trials on a much larger scale will be needed before it could be used clinically” (Gallagher, 10/28).
“Wednesday (October 10th) is World Mental Health Day,” VOA News reports, noting, “The World Health Organization is using the occasion to call for an end to stigma against those who suffer from depression and other mental disorders” (DeCapua, 10/9). Depression affects 350 million people worldwide, with nearly five percent of the world’s population suffering from depression annually, according to Medical Daily (Tucker, 10/9). More than three-quarters of people living with mental health disorders reside in developing countries, BBC News notes, adding, “According to the World Health Organization (WHO), eight in every 10 of those living in developing nations receive no treatment at all” (Roberts, 10/10). The WHO “warns stigma is a huge problem that prevents many people from seeking help,” VOA writes (10/9).
In this post on IntraHealth’s “Global Health Blog,” Pape Gaye, president and CEO of IntraHealth, discusses the organization’s commitment to providing quality training to Kenyan health care workers made at this year’s Clinton Global Initiative meeting. “We and our partners will use information technologies designed or adapted in Kenya to create and distribute training programs to Kenyan health workers. We are especially focusing on health workers who provide much-needed services in the remote Kenyan regions of Kitui and Kisumu,” Gaye writes. Noting that “one billion people in this world who may never come in contact with a health provider in their entire lives,” he continues, “I hope that by making the information and the training available where it’s needed the most, we are giving a chance to these people, a chance to get in contact with and receive services from a health worker” (10/9).
In a BMJ Group Blogs post, Caroline Robinson, global health advocacy manager for Results U.K., discusses the prevalence and treatment of tuberculosis (TB) and drug-resistant TB in Europe and provides the example of Romania. She writes, “[E]vidence brought to light in a new report [.pdf] released recently outlining the effect funding shortages will have on HIV and TB, including drug-resistant TB, in the European region suggests that Romania does not have the institutional capacity to ensure its citizens have the basic right to health. The country relies on grants from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, which look set to end in 2013.” She continues, “[Global Fund] Board members should ensure that middle-income countries with epidemics among key populations can access critical Global Fund contributions and the E.U. and its member states must continue to provide the resources the fund requires to meet demand. Unless such support is given, countries like Romania will continue to fall further down the league tables in terms of treatment for this curable disease” (10/10).
“Today about 12 percent of the health work force [in the U.S.] is foreign-born and trained, including a quarter of all physicians,” Kate Tulenko, senior director of health system innovation at IntraHealth International, writes in a New York Times opinion piece, adding, “That’s bad for American workers, but even worse for the foreign workers’ home countries, including some of the world’s poorest and sickest, which could use these professionals at home.” She says expensive schooling and strict credential requirements, which some foreign-trained workers do not have to meet, are keeping U.S. health workers from entering the workforce.
A new pilot project in Cambodia is allowing more than 3,000 volunteer health workers to use a special mobile phone text messaging service to report new cases of malaria, in addition to providing no-cost testing and treatment “in remote parts of the impoverished nation, where access to health services can be difficult,” Agence France-Presse reports. When a person tests positive for malaria, health workers begin them on treatment immediately and send a text message with the patient’s age, gender, type of malaria, and location “to the district health center, provincial health officials and a national malaria database in the capital Phnom Penh — a process that used to take a month,” AFP notes. “The information is also fed into Google Earth to create a map of reported cases and of potential hotspots of [malaria drug] resistance,” a problem in western Cambodia, according to the news service. “Together, the data helps officials track each case and make sure the right treatment is available or that more medication is supplied when stocks are running low,” AFP writes, adding, “Some 230 volunteers have used the mobile phone service so far and there are plans to eventually include all volunteers in the project,” which is being implemented by the Malaria Consortium (Se, 9/17).
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, in partnership with Women Deliver, on Friday published two posts on youth perspectives to celebrate World Contraception Day, observed annually on September 26. In the first post, Wanzala Martin, a social worker and co-founder of Allied Youth Initiative-Uganda, writes about access to contraceptives and sexual and reproductive health for young people with disabilities, saying, “The health of youth with disabilities is a human rights issue and is a fundamental pillar for progress on Africa’s road to achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015” (9/14). In the second post, Aiste Dackauskaite, an advocacy project coordinator at the Lithuanian Family Planning and Sexual Health Association, writes about barriers to and myths about contraceptives in Lithuania, which has the lowest levels of contraceptive use in Europe (9/14).