In the National Geographic News blog “Mobile Message,” “a series of posts from FrontlineSMS about how mobile phones and appropriate technologies are being used throughout the world to improve, enrich, and empower billions of lives,” Laura Stachel, an obstetrician-gynecologist and the co-founder and executive director of WE CARE Solar, writes about the “‘Solar Suitcase,’ a portable, rugged, complete solar electric kit packed with solar panels, a charge controller, batteries, medical LED lights, phone chargers, headlamps, and a fetal monitor.” She says the suitcases improve lighting so surgeries can be performed 24 hours a day; allow nurses to contact on-call physicians in the case of emergency through a mobile phone; and, with alterations, power blood bank refrigerators (Banks, 1/12).
Access to Health Services
“The work of the essential medicines department of the World Health Organization (WHO) is under threat because of a serious shortage of funds, says a worrying and important letter published in the Lancet [on Thursday],” Guardian Health Editor Sarah Boseley reports in her “Global Health Blog.” “According to the letter from Mohga Kamal-Yanni of Oxfam, the work of updating … the essential medicines list, which tells every health ministry in every corner of the world, however tiny their budget, which drugs they should be getting for their people … [and] for children, is now being paid for by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,” the blog writes.
Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof continue to answer readers’ questions in this second installment on Kristof’s “On the Ground” blog. Gates and Kristof answer questions about corruption and contraception in Bangladesh, where Gates recently visited, and why more efforts are not being concentrated on children in the U.S. (1/11).
In this post in the Public Health Institute’s (PHI) “Dialogue4Health” blog, Jeff Meer, director of PHI’s Washington-based advocacy on global health, reports on the Frontline Health Workers Coalition, launched Wednesday, which is “developing support for new investments in the global health workforce, particularly those working at the community level who are the first and often the only link to health care for millions of people.” He outlines the Coalition’s targets and quotes a number of officials indicating “that the Obama Administration and the U.S. Congress are coming to adopt the same view” (1/11).
Frontline Health Workers Coalition Launches Initiative To Add 1M Health Care Workers In Developing Countries
The Frontline Health Workers Coalition — which consists of 16 major non-governmental organizations (NGOs) including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Family Care International, the International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care, and RESULTS — has launched “a new initiative to add one million health care workers in developing countries,” VOA News reports, adding that the “Coalition says training more community-level workers is the most cost effective way to save lives, speed progress on global health threats and promote U.S. economic and strategic interests” (DeCapua, 1/11). “The Coalition, which launched today with the release of a new report (.pdf) focusing on the need for frontline health workers, is calling on the U.S. administration to train and support an additional 250,000 new frontline health workers — and to better support the capacity and impact of existing workers where the need is greatest,” a Coalition press release (.pdf) states (1/11).
Researchers in this PLoS Medicine article examine the efforts necessary to reach the WHO goal of reducing mother-to-child HIV transmission (MTCT) risk to less than five percent in Zimbabwe. They conclude, “Implementation of the WHO [prevention of MTCT (PMTCT)] guidelines must be accompanied by efforts to improve access to PMTCT services, retain women in care, and support medication adherence throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding, to approach the ‘virtual elimination’ of pediatric HIV in Zimbabwe,” according to the study (Ciaranello et al., 1/10). A Massachusetts General Hospital press release states the research “should help with the planning of expanded programs to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission in sub-Saharan Africa and other areas with limited health resources” (1/10).
“For the first time in India, 12 people have been detected with totally drug-resistant lung tuberculosis (TDR-TB), a condition in which patients do not respond to any TB medication” and for which the mortality rate is 100 percent, the Hindustan Times reports. “Doctors treating these patients say the absolute resistance is a result of the patients being prescribed wrong antibiotics,” the newspaper reports (1/7). “While Iran first reported TDR-TB cases three years ago, India seems to be only the second country to report this deadly form of the disease,” the Times of India notes (Iyer, 1/7).
“The World Health Organization says Somalia has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world,” VOA News reports, adding, “In southern Somalia, the situation is grave, and the recent famine has made the health crisis for mothers and infants even worse.” The news service says challenges facing the health care system include a lack of medical supplies and neonatal facilities, poor retention of health care workers in local hospitals, and “the Somali custom rooted in Islam that requires a man’s consent to treat female patients.”
“New HIV cases and AIDS deaths are both going steadily down in British Columbia, according to data released last week,” the New York Times reports. Julio Montaner, director of the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, said, “We’re particularly pleased to see that our treatment-as-prevention strategy has taken off big-time,” the newspaper notes, adding that the strategy, which aggressively identifies and treats people with HIV, “lowers by 96 percent the chances that they will infect others.” The New York Times writes, “Montaner said he is frustrated that rich countries will not donate enough money to roll out the strategy in poor countries with huge HIV epidemics” (McNeil, 1/2).
In Nepal, “a child malnutrition epidemic described by humanitarian organizations as a ‘silent emergency’ is claiming the lives of thousands of infants each year,” Agence France-Presse reports. “According to government statistics 1.7 million children — nearly half of all under-fives — suffer from chronic malnutrition, a long-term condition also known as stunting,” the news service writes, adding, “Acute malnutrition, a condition known as ‘wasting’ blamed for half of Nepal’s infant deaths, is thought to affect 18 percent.”