“Progress in ensuring that women in poor countries have access to modern methods of contraception has stalled,” according to a new report (.pdf) by the United Nations Population Fund and the Guttmacher Institute, BMJ reports. The study “found that this year 645 million women of reproductive age (15 to 49 years) are using modern methods of contraception in the developing world, 42 million more than in 2008,” but “this rise is less than half the increase of 100 million between 2003 and 2008,” the journal writes.
Access to Health Services
Reuters examines how the fight against malaria in Africa is helping to fuel the continent’s economic growth. “The number of malaria deaths has fallen dramatically in the last decade due to increased aid spending on basic items such as insecticide-treated bed nets and drugs, the World Health Organization (WHO) says,” the news agency writes, noting that an experimental vaccine from GlaxoSmithKline is showing prospect. The news agency discusses the efforts of AngloGold Ashanti, the world’s third largest gold producer, to prevent and treat malaria among its workers, which “‘made economic sense because of the absenteeism and the cost of medication,’ said Steve Knowles, the head of AngloGold’s anti-malaria operations.”
Growing Number Of Countries Adopting Flexible IP Regulations After India Issues Country's First Compulsory License
“A growing number of countries are adopting India’s intellectual property regulations, which give enough flexibility to local companies to produce generic versions of popular drugs to safeguard public health,” India’s Economic Times reports, noting, “In March, India issued the country’s first compulsory license, allowing [Natco Pharma] to legally manufacture and sell a low-cost version of German drugmaker Bayer AG’s patented cancer drug, Nexavar, at 3 percent of the original medicine’s price on the grounds that Bayer’s drug was not meeting public health requirement.” The news service writes, “Although multinational companies have criticized India for being lax in enforcing intellectual property (IP) laws, countries such as China, Argentina, and the Philippines are adopting similar provisions.”
“As the London family planning summit looms closer, the debate begins over how much money is needed, what it should pay for and whether the fundamentally important issues of women’s reproductive rights will be addressed,” Sarah Boseley, health editor of the Guardian, writes in her “Global Health Blog.” Highlighting a new report from the Guttmacher Institute, which “assesses the scale of the unmet need for contraception,” she writes, “This report puts numbers and dollars into the frame ahead of the summit where the [Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation], [Department for International Development (DfID)], and others will be hoping big fat money pledges will be made, in the same way that the vaccines summit in London attracted massive donations — more money was raised than was hoped for.”
Family Planning Summit Offers Opportunity To Integrate Reproductive Services With HIV, Other Health Initiatives
Noting that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.K. government will co-host an international family planning summit in London in July, Gavin Yamey of the Global Health Group at the University of California, San Francisco; Craig Cohen, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive services at the University of California; and Elizabeth Bukusi, chief research officer and deputy director of research and training at the Kenya Medical Research Institute, write in a BMJ commentary, “More than 120 million women worldwide aged 15-49 years have an unmet need for family planning, which is due a renaissance after years of neglect.”
In a feature story, Al Jazeera examines Cuba’s national health care system, which “works — or is supposed to work — by emphasizing primary and preventative health care.” However, after subsidies from the former Soviet Union “ended and Cuba’s economy went into a tailspin, nothing was the same again,” according to the news agency, which notes the system experiences drug shortages, patients have long wait times, and some hospitals are dirty or malfunctioning. “In all fairness, in the past five years, the government has made great efforts to improve hospitals and health centers, but again, lack of resources is making the process painfully slow,” Al Jazeera writes, adding, “The system is free, but it is neither fast nor efficient for two important reasons. One is obviously the lack of financial resources, and the other — which is related to the first — is the ‘export’ of doctors, nurses and dentists in exchange for hard currency.” The feature concludes, “But for all its shortcomings, Cubans do have better access to health care than the majority of those living in many ‘developing nations,’ where public health is shockingly inadequate” (Newman, 6/18).
In this post in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog, Doug Horswill, senior vice president of the Canadian resource company Teck, and Venkatesh Mannar, president of the Micronutrient Initiative, which works to eliminate vitamin and mineral deficiencies in the world’s most vulnerable populations, examine global efforts to end child deaths from diarrhea, a campaign they say “many are calling the next revolution in child survival.” “Diarrhea kills up to one million children every year,” they write, adding, “It is a terrible waste of life and untapped potential, made even more terrible by the fact that it costs less than a dollar to treat” with oral rehydration salts and zinc supplements.
Noting that the “[r]oll-out of antiretroviral treatment for HIV in sub-Saharan Africa has been accompanied by rising rates of drug resistance,” Raph Hamers, a global health research fellow at the Academic Medical Centre of the University of Amsterdam, and colleagues “call for improved patient management and the integration of population-based drug resistance surveillance into national treatment programs” in this BMJ analysis. “In sub-Saharan Africa, the region with the highest HIV/AIDS burden, high-level political commitment and substantial international funding have led to an unparalleled scale-up of access to treatment over the past eight years,” they write, adding, “However, little attention has been paid to the potential emergence and spread of drug-resistant HIV and its public health implications.”
Less Expensive ARV Combination Just As Effective For Women In Developing Countries As Costlier ARVs, Study Shows
A new study by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston shows that the less-expensive antiretroviral nevirapine, when used in combination with other antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), is as effective as a more expensive combination among women in developing countries, VOA News reports. While the nevirapine-containing combination was not as effective as some ARV combinations available in the U.S., “about 83 percent of women were able to suppress their virus and stay alive and well after starting the nevirapine-based regimen,” according to lead author Shahin Lockman, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, who looked at the combinations among 500 African women with late-stage HIV infection, according to the news service.
Ugandan Civil Organizations Ask Supreme Court To Declare Death During Childbirth Violates Women's Rights
In an effort to lower the maternal mortality rate in Uganda, activists from more than 50 civil service organizations on Tuesday asked the country’s Supreme Court “to declare that women’s rights are violated when they die in childbirth,” which could help make the government put more resources toward maternal health care and lower the rate of maternal deaths, currently about 100 per week, the Associated Press/Fox News reports. “All we want is a declaration that when women die during childbirth it is a violation of their rights,” Noor Musisi of the Center for Health, Human Rights and Development in Kampala said, according to the news agency.