Reuters examines how Philippine President Benigno Aquino is supporting “a reproductive health bill that will, if passed by the two houses of Congress, guarantee access to free birth control and promote sex education,” despite the “country’s powerful Catholic church.” According to the news service, “The predominately Catholic country has one of Asia’s fastest-growing populations together with significant levels of chronic poverty,” which has stunted economic growth. “Economists say high population growth is a primary factor for that, but the church … says population growth is not a cause of poverty and that people need jobs, not contraception,” Reuters writes. “But despite the arguments of the church and political opponents who decry using state funds to finance contraception, a poll last year showed about 70 percent of people support the bill,” according to the news service, which notes, “Its backers want it passed during the term of this congress, which ends in June” (Lema, 10/2).
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“Tanzania has made significant advances in cutting maternal deaths thanks to a United Nations-sponsored program that brings public and private sectors together to resolve one of the most stubborn but preventable woes afflicting the developing world,” but more must be done to scale up efforts to save lives, leaders involved in the program said during a news conference on Tuesday at U.N. Headquarters, the U.N. News Centre reports. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Helen Agerup, head of the H&B Agerup Foundation, attended the conference, where they discussed results from the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, according to the news service (10/2).
During last week’s events in New York, including the U.N. General Assembly, the Clinton Global Initiative, and the Social Good Summit, Devex interviewed several newsmakers on the sidelines of the meetings. WHO Assistant Director-General on Family, Women and Children’s Health Flavia Bustreo in an interview with Devex said three challenges to continuing to lower maternal, child, and infant death rates include improving accountability, channeling resources to areas with the least improvement, and keeping a focus on women and children (Lieberman, 10/1). In another interview, Jill Sheffield, founder and president of Women Deliver, “sat down with Devex to discuss the private sector’s role in implementing global health strategies and how reproductive rights is factoring into donors’ perspectives,” according to the news service (Lieberman, 10/1).
In the PLoS “Speaking of Medicine” blog, Leena Menghaney, a lawyer and India manager of the Access Campaign at Medecins Sans Frontieres, writes about “two critical legal battles between multinational pharmaceutical companies and the Indian government [that] are taking center stage in an ongoing struggle over India’s medicines patent law.” Before describing each case in detail, she summarizes, “One case goes to the heart of what merits a patent. The other addresses what countries can do when patented life-saving medicines are priced out of reach for the vast majority of patients.” Menghaney concludes, “The world is watching closely, as these cases could have a profound impact on access to life-saving medicines for millions of people worldwide” (10/1).
“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.”
“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.
“Supplies — the essential medicines and medical equipment frontline health workers need to successfully do their jobs — are a vital part of the solution to saving the lives of mothers and newborns,” Catharine Taylor, a maternal health expert with PATH, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog, adding, “And yet, they are frequently overlooked in the ongoing conversation about how to improve maternal health in the developing world.” She continues, “All the skilled health care workers in the world can’t deliver the care women need if a clinic’s stock is empty and the next round of supplies is weeks away. Reliable availability of maternal health medicines and supplies will ultimately strengthen health care systems and make frontline health workers more effective.”
In the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Gary Darmstadt, Monica Kerrigan, and Wendy Prosser of the foundation discuss a new partnership announced on Wednesday at the U.N. to improve access to contraceptive implants for women in the developing world. The program, part of the FP2020 initiative to increase access to modern contraceptives, “will save the lives of hundreds of thousands of mothers and children and prevent millions of unwanted pregnancies by giving women access to information, supplies and services to delay, space and limit her births,” they write. “This new development puts the power in women’s hands with information, services and contraceptive methods they need and want,” they state, concluding, “Most importantly, though, it allows women in some of the poorest regions of the world the chance to make their own choices about how to plan their families” (9/27).
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reflects on changes in U.S. global health diplomacy since taking office in this Global Health and Diplomacy opinion piece. “America had been leading the global health fight for decades,” but “we recognized that to sustain the impact of our work, we needed to change the way we did business,” she writes. “For example, while our agencies were providing tremendous leadership in isolation, they could still do more to collaborate effectively,” she writes, adding, “[W]e weren’t doing enough to coordinate our efforts with other donors or our partner countries,” and “we weren’t building sustainable systems to eventually allow our partner countries to manage more of their own health needs.” She says, “We were unintentionally putting a ceiling on the number of lives we could save.”
“African leaders meeting on the sidelines of the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly called [Wednesday] for innovative solutions to accelerate the response to AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria and to advance health for people on the continent,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “At their meeting at U.N. Headquarters, the leaders discussed the African Union (A.U.) Roadmap, which outlines long-term sustainable strategies to finance and provide access to HIV treatment and prevention services and other health services in Africa as called for in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” the news service writes, adding, “Leaders echoed the need for strong political leadership and enhanced country ownership and, as a first step, agreed to accelerate the implementation of the Roadmap, according to a news release issued by UNAIDS” (9/26).