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Greece Faces Return Of Malaria, Other Public Health Issues Since 2009 Economic Crash

The Wall Street Journal examines how “Greece has seen decades of advances in public health rolled back, as a flood of illegal immigrants, a dysfunctional government and budget cuts ravage a once proud health-care system.” Noting “[o]ver the past two years, more than 50 endemic cases of [malaria] and more than 100 imported cases have been identified in Greece,” the newspaper writes, “The return of malaria, a scourge in developing countries, to Greece is a disturbing indicator of the nation’s decline since it crashed in 2009 under the weight of a debt binge.” The Wall Street Journal examines the history of malaria’s return to the country and how the government is responding. “In addition to malaria, public health officials say they are worried about rises in everything from infectious respiratory-tract diseases and skin conditions to tuberculosis and HIV,” the newspaper notes (Granitsas, 11/14).

Commitment, Teamwork Needed To Control, Eliminate NTDs By 2020

The focus of the Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases: Translating the London Declaration into Action conference, which took place November 16-18 in Washington, D.C., was “how we can work together to put the right systems in place and implement the change needed” to control or eliminate neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) by 2020, Simon Bush, director of NTDs at Sightsavers, writes in the Huffington Post U.K.’s “Impact” blog. Sponsored by the World Bank and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the conference brought together pharmaceutical company executives, non-governmental organization (NGO) representatives, academics, government officials, and representatives of the World Bank, WHO and other groups, Bush says.

MSF Clinic Helping To Reduce Maternal Mortality In Sierra Leone

Some pregnant women in Sierra Leone, which has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, must travel more than 50 miles for health care services, but a Medecins Sans Frontieres clinic and ambulance service established in a remote region has helped reduce maternal mortality in the area by 61 percent, Al Jazeera reports. The aid group estimates the project only costs about two dollars per person annually, the news service states. As it recovers from years of conflict, Sierra Leone is relying on partnerships with non-governmental organizations to help provide health care services while it rebuilds its economy, according to the news service (Boateng, 11/18).

Blog Posts Discuss World Prematurity Day

November 17 marked the second annual World Prematurity Day, sponsored by the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH). The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog published two posts discussing premature birth.

Wall Street Journal Examines Program In Pakistan Looking To Provide Health Insurance For Poor Urban Residents

The Wall Street Journal examines how “some local social entrepreneurs are coming up with new ideas to provide the poor with access to better medical services” in Pakistan, where the health care system is “split between low-cost government-funded hospitals offering basic services and expensive private-sector medical institutions … [b]ut the majority of the country’s 190 million people have little access to health care.” The newspaper describes how one program, called Naya Jeevan — “a non-profit micro-insurance program for the urban poor” that “offers an insurance program at subsidized rates under a national group health-insurance model” — operates to help ensure affordable medical care for the poor and how it has come “under scrutiny from the country’s insurance regulator” (Bahree, 11/6).

IPS Examines Generic Drug Program In India’s Rajasthan State

“As the northern Indian state of Rajasthan rolls out an ambitious universal health care plan, the discontent of the state’s doctors stands in stark contrast to the joys of the 68 million people who will benefit from the scheme,” Inter Press Service reports. “Just a little over a year ago, the state government began supplying free generic drugs to its massive population, effectively stripping doctors of the ability to prescribe more expensive branded medicine,” IPS writes. The news service notes, “Some 350 essential generic drugs are now being distributed free of cost,” and, “[a]ccording to news reports, over 200,000 people are currently taking advantage of the program.”

Medical Aid Group Reports Syrian Troops Seizing Foreign Aid; WFP Warns Of Increasing Food Needs Among Refugees

“A medical aid group said on Wednesday Syrian troops are seizing foreign aid and reselling it or channeling it towards government loyalists, putting millions of lives at risk,” Reuters reports (11/7). “Almost all international aid sent to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent is being confiscated by the regime and never reaches civilians in need, [Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organisations (UOSSM),] an umbrella relief group for the war-ravaged country, said,” Lebanon’s Daily Star reports. “However, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP), which both work closely with the Syrian Red Crescent, denied their aid was being seized,” the newspaper adds (Larson, 11/7).

Emergency Obstetric Care Reduced Maternal Mortality Rates Up To 74% In Two African Projects, MSF Reports

According to a new briefing paper (.pdf) from Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), access to emergency obstetric care, including ambulance service, could help save the lives of up to three quarters of women who might otherwise die in childbirth, AlertNet reports (Batha, 11/19). In two projects, one in Kabezi, Burundi, and the other in Bo, Sierra Leone, MSF showed “that the introduction of an ambulance referral system together with the provision of emergency obstetric services can significantly reduce the risk of women dying from pregnancy related complications,” according to an MSF press release. The services, which cost between $2 and $4 per person annually, are offered 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and are free of charge, the press release notes (11/19). The projects “cut maternal mortality rates by an estimated 74 percent in Kabezi and 61 percent in Bo,” Reuters writes, adding, “The charity hopes its model could serve as an example for donors, governments and other aid agencies considering investing in emergency obstetric care in countries with high maternal mortality rates” (11/19).

Lack Of Access To Sanitation Impacts Every Aspect Of Life For Women, Girls Worldwide

“Across the world, one in three women risk shame, disease, harassment and even attack because they have nowhere safe to go to the toilet,” Ann Jenkin, Baroness Jenkin of Kennington, Member of Parliament Annette Brooke, and Glenys Kinnock, Baronness Kinnock of Holyhead, write in the Huffington Post U.K.’s “Lifestyle” blog. “Facing each day without access to this basic necessity is not just an inconvenience; it impacts on all aspects of life, and it is women and girls who suffer the most,” they continue.

Dropping Of Cold Chain Requirement For Meningitis Vaccine Will Improve Access, IRIN Reports

IRIN examines how the WHO’s recent declaration that the MenAfriVac meningitis A vaccine can be transported or stored for up to four days without refrigeration will affect immunization campaigns in Africa’s meningitis belt, which runs from Senegal to Ethiopia. “As a result, very remote populations will access the vaccine more easily, the logistics of vaccine campaigns will be simpler, and vaccine campaign costs will drop both for partners and for national governments, said Michel Zaffran, coordinator of WHO’s Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI), and Marie-Pierre Preziosi, director of the Meningitis Vaccine Project, a partnership between international NGO PATH and WHO,” IRIN writes. Zaffran said, “I am quite confident that within the next year or two, we’ll have one or two more [vaccines] re-licensed in this way,” according to the news service. “Analysis on the heat stability of hepatitis B and HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccines is under way; next on the list are yellow fever, rotavirus and pneumococcal disease,” IRIN notes (11/20).