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Despite Gains, HIV/AIDS Remains Public-Health Priority, UNAIDS, WHO Say

News outlets continued to examine the 2009 AIDS epidemic update released Tuesday by the WHO and UNAIDS: “The U.N. report said ‘AIDS continues to be a major public-health priority’ and called for more funds to support efforts to curb the epidemic and to distribute lifesaving drugs,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “The U.N. report also suggested that health authorities need to focus resources on those most at risk” (Fairclough, 11/25).

Updated WHO Data Finds Deaths Caused By Tainted Food Are Underestimated

New WHO data finds that unsafe food kills an estimated 1.2 million people over the age of five in Southeast Asia and Africa each year, including three times more adults than previously thought, Reuters reports. “It is a picture that we have never had before,” WHO Food Safety Director Jorgen Schlundt said. “We now have documentation of a significant burden outside the less than five group, that is major new information.”

Blog Examines Impact Of Adolescent Pregnancy In South Asia

As part of its monthly series Stories Behind the Statistics, “guest edited by FHI 360 on behalf of USAID’S IYWG, which provides technical leadership to improve the reproductive and sexual health of young people,” the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog features a story by Gaj Bahadur Gurung, program coordinator for the National Federation of Women Living with HIV and AIDS in Nepal, who discusses the impact of adolescent pregnancy on girls and young women in South Asia. He writes, “Policies and programs must both help prevent early and unintended pregnancy (for married and unmarried women) and mitigate the negative consequences for girls who do become pregnant. Programs should provide young women access to, control over, and informed choice of their sexual and maternal health services” (8/3).

First International Podoconiosis Initiative Launched

The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases’ “End the Neglect” blog highlights “the first-ever international podoconiosis initiative, Footwork,” launched on March 15. “Footwork is aimed at raising public awareness about the causes and impact of podoconiosis” — a form of elephantiasis — “in affected communities, and advocates for it to be included in global health and [neglected tropical disease] agendas,” the blog writes, adding, “An estimated four million people in highland tropical Africa are affected with podoconiosis, and it has been confirmed in at least 15 countries in Africa, Central America and Asia” (Patel, 3/16).

FAO Officials, Country Representatives Meet In Vietnam To Discuss Food Security, Nutrition In Asia-Pacific Region

Representatives of 40 member countries of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), as well as senior officials from the agency, on Monday opened the 31st FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific in Hanoi, Vietnam, to “discuss in depth the issues of food security and rural poverty reduction,” Xinhua/China Daily reports (3/12). Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO assistant director general, “sa[id] rising food prices and frequent natural disasters are making it harder to ease hunger and malnutrition in the Asia-Pacific region,” VOA’s “Breaking News” blog writes, adding he “said the challenge of eradicating hunger has also been complicated by the effects of climate change, trade policies, soaring crude oil prices and the growing use of food crops for biofuels.” According to the blog, “ministers [at the meeting] will review a report on measures to speed up progress toward the goal of cutting hunger levels in half in Asia-Pacific by 2015,” a “target was set at a World Food Summit in 1996” (3/12).

WHO Convenes Lawmakers From Southeast Asia To Discuss Bolstering Of Health Systems In Region

This week the WHO brought together lawmakers from across Southeast Asia in Bangkok “to discuss how to bolster their health systems back home,” IRIN reports. Meeting participants were “called on to advocate the boosting of health spending, workforces and access to health care in their home countries in addition to drafting ‘healthy public policies,’ such as conducting health assessments before large infrastructural projects are undertaken,” the news service writes.

Study Demonstrates Cancer Control Essential For Development Progress, Researcher Says

Using data from cancer registries worldwide, researchers from the International Agency for Cancer Research (IACR) found that 169.3 million years of healthy life were lost to cancer in 2008, according to a study published on Tuesday in the Lancet, HealthDay News reports. Using “a measure called disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) to assess not only the impact of fatal cancer, but also the effects of disabilities among cancer survivors,” the researchers also found men in Eastern Europe and women in sub-Saharan Africa had the largest cancer burden worldwide; increased access to treatment has not improved survival outcomes for several common cancers; and lower-income countries have higher average levels of premature death due to cancer, while higher-income countries have higher average levels of cancer-related disability and impairment, according to the news service. Study co-author Freddie Bray, deputy head of the IARC Cancer Information Section, said in a Lancet press release, “Our findings illustrate quite starkly how cancer is already a barrier to sustainable development in many of the poorest countries across the world and this will only be exacerbated in the coming years if cancer control is neglected,” the news service notes (10/15).

Also In Global Health News: Ebola In Congo; Asia Pacific Food Security Meeting; Niger Food Emergency; Kenya’s Infrastructure Scale-Up; Zambian Bicycle Ambulances

Congo Launched Epidemiological Investigation After Authorities Identify 5 Suspected Cases Of Ebola Congo authorities have launched epidemiological investigations and infection control measures after five men were suspected of having Ebola but tested negative, Agence-France Press reports. “We have taken response measures as if it were Ebola fever because it is not…