As more people move into the urban slum areas surrounding Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, basic services such as water, sanitation and health care are being stretched to capacity by “[n]ew residents [who] are increasingly pushed out to the city’s fringes,” the Guardian reports. “According to health care workers, hospitals are already unable to meet the growing demand for treatment and services,” the newspaper writes, adding, “Dhaka’s largest hospital is operating at 50 percent staff capacity and trying to accommodate 3,000 patients in a facility with just 800 beds.” In addition, “no health care facilities are provided in the slums, [so] Dhaka’s newest — and poorest — residents are facing a health care black hole,” according to the Guardian. The news service says women and girls “most often fall through the cracks,” and describes one project “that aims to bridge this gap and prevent urbanization creating a free fall in maternal and infant mortality levels” (Kelly, 9/18).
Access to Health Services
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).
“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).
“More than half a million people in northern Mali, occupied by Islamist fighters, need aid to cope with rising food prices, collapsed public services and a lack of health care, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Thursday,” Reuters reports. “Public services practically no longer function, basic health services are not provided and supplying clean drinking water is difficult. Needs are huge,” Yasmine Praz Dessimoz, head of ICRC operations for North and West Africa, said at a news conference in Geneva, according to the news agency. “The ICRC, which deploys 111 aid workers in Mali, is one of few humanitarian organizations to have access to all of northern Mali, where no United Nations aid agencies deploy any staff,” Reuters notes (Nebehay, 9/13).
“The non-communicable disease [NCD] community always talks about the importance of prevention; many consider it the Holy Grail in the fight against NCDs. Why was it so hard to also accept treatment as part of the solution?” Princess Dina Mired, director general of the King Hussein Cancer Foundation in Amman, Jordan, asks in the Huffington Post “Impact” blog, noting only one target of the 2011 U.N. High-Level Meeting on NCDs “deals with treatment, the target on ‘essential medicines and basic technologies for treatment.'” She continues, “Treatment and prevention are heavily interrelated. The success of one is directly related to the other.” She adds, “A person in the developing world will not buy in to the importance of prevention if there is no treatment option available should that person get the disease.”
In this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, published in partnership with Women Deliver as part of a series on youth perspectives to recognize World Contraception Day, observed annually on September 26, youth activist Cecilia Garcia Ruiz writes, “For six years we’ve worked to shine a spotlight on these key issues, but some people still disregard the importance of providing universal access to quality contraceptive services and information to prevent unplanned pregnancies, especially among young people.” She discusses barriers to accessing contraceptive methods and information, and continues, “These problems not only undermine our well-being, but also hinder our possibilities to develop our full potential. Therefore, young people’s access to contraceptive information and services becomes a human rights issue” (9/13).
“International relief officials reported an increasingly grim aid crisis stemming from the Syria conflict on Tuesday, with two million people there not getting desperately needed help, and a sudden acceleration of refugees overwhelming the ability of neighboring countries to absorb them,” the New York Times reports. “In the province of Homs, so many doctors have fled that only three surgeons remained to serve a population of two million, the officials said,” according to the newspaper. “The World Health Organization said that a United Nations mission to Homs last week had found that more than half a million people needed aid, including health care, food and water,” it writes, adding, “The mission found that the biggest hospital in Homs had been destroyed, and that only six of the 12 public hospitals and eight of the 32 private hospitals were still functional.” The newspaper notes, “At the United Nations, the head of UNICEF and the European Union’s top relief official said that only about one-third of the three million people in Syria who needed help were getting any, and that combatants on both sides would be held responsible for respecting international law protecting civilians during war” (Cumming-Bruce/MacFarquhar, 9/11).
Amanda Glassman, director of global health policy and a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD), and Kate McQueston, a program coordinator at CGD, write in the center’s “Global Health Policy” blog that a reduction in AIDS funding to Ethiopia from PEPFAR and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria “might be warranted due to epidemiological trends and improved efficiency, or might cripple progress as health programs dependent on external donors are cut back,” but “with the current poor status of basic information on beneficiaries and costs, it’s difficult to judge whether these cuts are good or bad.” They outline the history of AIDS funding in Ethiopia, posit what future funding might encompass, and say additional information is needed from PEPFAR, the Global Fund, and the Ethiopian government in order to know the true impacts of reduced funding (9/11).
Pending Cases Against India's Patent Laws Threaten Public Health, Misinterpret International IP Agreements, Report Says
“Pending cases against India’s patent laws threaten public health and misinterpret international intellectual property (IP) agreements,” researchers from Queen Mary, University of London argue in a special report published online in the Lancet on Monday, PharmaTimes reports (Taylor, 9/11). “The report highlights legal challenges by two pharmaceutical companies, Bayer and Novartis, to key provisions of India’s Patents Act,” a university press release notes, adding, “Bayer’s appeal was heard last week, and the Indian Supreme Court is due to hear Novartis’ appeal on 11 September.”