“If family planning services, including information about reproductive health, access to birth control, and health care, were available to all women, the deaths of 100,000 women during childbirth could be prevented every year,” Maeve Shearlaw, policy and advocacy coordinator for the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood, writes in this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. “In other words, access to family planning saves lives,” she writes, adding, “Clearly, more must be done to reach women in rural areas and to increase demand in places where women don’t even know about family planning methods. It is also important to focus on girls and young women, who are more at risk of losing their lives in childbirth — yet simultaneously much less able to reach family planning services” (4/2).
Access to Health Services
“Health systems, particularly in poorer countries, need to adapt to meet the chronic care needs of older people as the shift to aging populations gathers pace in low- and middle-income countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) said” Wednesday in a briefing paper to mark World Health Day, observed on Saturday, the Guardian reports. The agency “points out that developing countries will have less time than wealthy nations to adapt to the challenges of an aging population — generally defined as people over 60,” the news service writes, adding, “By 2050, 80 percent of older people will live in low- and middle-income countries.”
The Jakarta Globe examines maternal mortality in Indonesia, writing, “Indonesia may be progressing slowly and steadily toward fulfilling its targets under the Millennium Development Goals, but the issue of maternal health continues to present many challenges.” According to the newspaper, “Government statistics show that the maternal mortality rate [has] declined,” but “a report last week by health officials in Bali has highlighted a worrying reversal, with the provincial maternal mortality rate increasing from 58 per 100,000 in 2010 to 84 last year.”
According to a study published in the Lancet on Saturday, researchers from the University of Pelotas in Brazil tracking progress toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4 and 5 — which promote maternal and child health — “discovered that the most equitable intervention was early initiation of breast feeding, and that the attendance of a skilled person at birth proved to be the least equitable intervention,” Medical News Today reports. “The findings furthermore revealed that community-based interventions were more equally distributed in comparison with those delivered in health facilities,” MNT writes, noting that the “most inequitable countries of the evaluated interventions were Chad, Ethiopia, Laos, Nigeria, Niger and Somalia, followed by India, Madagascar and Pakistan, with the most equitable countries being Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan” (Rattue, 4/2).
Melinda Gates of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation writes in an opinion piece in Nigeria’s Vanguard, “My top priority as a co-chair of the foundation I run with my husband is making sure that all families have access to safe and effective contraception tools that empower them to make a decision about what’s best for them and their family. And that means encouraging aid donors and governments here in Nigeria and across Africa to make family planning a priority.” Improved access to modern methods of contraception and child spacing would save millions of lives, “[b]ut family planning doesn’t just save lives; it also makes life better for families and communities, becoming a key driver of economic development,” Gates continues.
“The need to ensure that people in Africa have access to essential, high quality, safe and affordable medicines has just received a major boost with the launch of the East African Community (EAC) Medicines Registration Harmonization Project in Arusha, Tanzania, on 30 March 2011,” UNAIDS reports in a feature story on its website. An alliance “bringing together the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank, the U.K. Department for International Development (DfID), and the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI),” “hope[s] to strengthen regulatory capacity and systems for medicines in Africa, including antiretroviral drugs, so that fewer lives are lost due to drugs which are unsafe and of poor quality or which are largely unavailable or delivered inefficiently,” according to the article (4/2).
Funding Shortfalls Could Hinder Implementation Of Treatment As Prevention Strategies, Al Jazeera Reports
Al Jazeera examines the administration of combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) worldwide, focusing on treatment as prevention (TasP), but says current funding levels are insufficient to implement the strategy. The HPTN 052 study showed that HIV-positive people who take ART could reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to their HIV-negative partners by 96 percent, according to the news agency. “This research is considered a game changer,” Al Jazeera writes, noting, “2012 may not be the year the international community eliminates HIV, but health experts say it could still be the year where the tide is turned.” The article includes comments from several HIV/AIDS experts (Dalal, 3/31).
According to a study recently published in a special supplement of the Journal of Infectious Diseases, half of countries receiving grants from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria provide tuberculosis (TB) services in prisons; “even when TB services were provided to prisoners, they were limited in scope; and “[f]ew of the programs receiving a grant from the Global Fund offered services dedicated to the treatment and prevention of multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB),” an aidsmap news story reports. TB is a leading cause of death among incarcerated individuals worldwide, aidsmap notes. The study authors concluded, “There is an urgent need to better understand the financing needs and cost-effective service delivery models for tuberculosis care in prisons,” according to the story (Carter, 3/30).
“The United States Government has played a major role in ensuring that patients with certain [neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)] receive urgently needed treatments through the [USAID] NTD Program, while simultaneously being the largest funder of basic research for NTDs through the National Institutes of Health,” Rachel Cohen, regional executive director of the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) of North America, writes in this post in the Global Health Technologies Coalition’s “Breakthroughs” blog. “However, today U.S. Government funding for NTDs is under threat,” as the “recently announced U.S. fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget request from the Obama Administration has slashed the USAID NTD Program budget, which was already miniscule at $89 million, by nearly 25 percent to $67 million. … This isn’t trimming the fat — it’s cutting into muscle,” she adds (Lufkin, 3/28).
Health workers with Medical Teams International, a medical non-governmental organization, “say they are overwhelmed” by high demand at five health clinics in two southwestern Ugandan refugee centers, PlusNews reports. The refugees, “many of whom came from conflict-prone areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC),” and local residents are in need of HIV and tuberculosis (TB) prevention information, and care and treatment services, according to the news service. “Uganda suffers from a chronic shortage of health workers — less than half of the vacant health positions are filled — but the recent influx of refugees fleeing violence in neighboring DRC has put even more pressure on [the region’s] health services,” PlusNews writes. Physicians, who see 30 to 50 patients daily and often work double shifts, say gaps in the supplies of antiretroviral (ARV) and TB drugs poses concern, as does trying to follow-up with patients who may not return for visits, the news service notes (3/29).