“As a young woman, I felt confident in my future because I knew I had the power to plan my family,” Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, writes in this post in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. “What if every girl and woman in the world, even the poorest, had the opportunity to determine her future?” she asks and provides video footage of her addressing this question on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” on Wednesday. “Surely, there’s no controversy in all of us coming together to help women and girls lead healthy and productive lives,” she writes and asks readers to “pledge [their] support around the uncontroversial idea that every girl and woman deserves the opportunity to determine her future” (6/28).
Access to Health Services
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.”
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.
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.
The governments of the United States, India, and Ethiopia, in collaboration with UNICEF, today are scheduled to launch the Child Survival Call to Action in Washington, D.C., a two-day event that brings together world leaders, public health experts, child health advocates and others in an effort to reduce child mortality to 20 per 1,000 by 2035 worldwide, with the ultimate goal of ending preventable child deaths. The following summarizes several opinion pieces and blog posts addressing the effort.
South African TB Conference Hears Demands From Advocacy Organizations To Improve, Decentralize Treatment
The 2012 South African TB Conference opened Tuesday night in Durban, with the Treatment Action Campaign, Section27, and Oxfam delivering “a memorandum containing five demands to conference organizers shortly before the opening,” health-e News Service reports. The organizations “called for patients with drug-resistant TB who were failing to respond to treatment to be given ‘access to the best available medicines,'” even if they are not yet approved by the Medicines Control Council; “the diagnosis of all people living with TB”; and “the decentralization of care for people with drug-resistant TB, enabling them to be treated at home instead of hospitalized for long periods,” the news service writes (Cullinan, 6/13).
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.
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.”
New UNICEF Publications Show Universal Health Coverage Achievable Through Social Protection Measures
“Two newly released UNICEF publications demonstrate that while reaching universal health coverage (UHC) is possible in most countries, this requires a comprehensive social protection system of which health insurance is a crucial component,” according to this post on the UHC Forward blog. A recent UNICEF study “finds that even in middle and low-income countries that have adopted a formal policy of universal health coverage … many socio-economic barriers to access persist,” the blog reports, adding, “It is for this reason that the study has been framed in the broader approach recommended by UNICEF’s first global Social Protection Strategic Framework, which stresses the importance of developing and strengthening integrated social protection systems” (O’Connell, 6/4).