“Ratings agency Standard & Poor’s warned it may downgrade ‘a number of highly rated’ Group of 20 [G20] countries from 2015 if their governments fail to enact reforms to curb rising health care spending and other costs related to aging populations,” Reuters reports. “Developed nations in Europe, as well as Japan and the United States, are likely to suffer the largest deterioration in their public finances in the next four decades as more elderly strain social safety nets, S&P said in a report,” the news agency writes (Hopfner et al., 1/31).
Conference Examining Family Planning Integration With National Health Strategies In Asia-Pacific Countries Begins
Representatives from 24 countries in Asia and the Pacific came together in Bangkok, Thailand, on Wednesday for the start of a three-day conference about population and family planning, Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C reports (12/8).
Most Of World’s Poorest Still Live In Rural Areas, Despite Progress Over Last Decade, U.N. Report Says
A report from the U.N.’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) found that approximately 350 million people living in rural areas have escaped extreme poverty over the past decade, but most of the world’s poorest citizens continue to live in rural regions, the BBC reports (Melik, 12/6).
Lancet Study Examines Childbirth Practices, Outcomes In Asian Countries A Lancet study examines childbirth practices and the relationship between these practices and maternal and perinatal outcomes in nine Asian countries, as assessed byÂ a WHO global survey. Based on the analysis of over 107,000 deliveries, the authors conclude, “To improve maternal…
PRI’s “The World” this week features a series examining the challenges of addressing cancer in the developing world. The series, produced in collaboration with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, includes radio stories, multimedia features, an interactive map, and infographics, according to the main page. The radio stories examine cancer prevention, control, and research efforts in Uganda, Haiti, India, and the U.S. (12/3). In an interview with the series’ principal reporter, Joanne Silberner, Lancet editor Richard Horton said, “Cancer is certainly being under-recognized and neglected in low- and middle-income countries. … I think cancer is slowly becoming more recognized but there is a long way to go before it gets the attention it so urgently needs (12/3). On December 5, PRI will host a Facebook chat from 10am-4pm EST that will feature Silberner and cancer researchers and advocates (12/4).
“More than 200 health experts have gathered in Sydney for a three-day conference to bolster political commitment to tackle the spread of malaria,” IRIN reports (10/31). “‘Malaria 2012: Saving Lives in the Pacific’ is being co-hosted by [Australian] Foreign Minister Bob Carr and United Nations Special Envoy for Malaria Ray Chambers,” according to an AusAID press release, which adds, “The conference, which is being convened by AusAID, begins on Wednesday with two days of technical and policy discussion, culminating on Friday 2 November with a ministerial action meeting” (10/30). “‘There were 30 million [malaria] cases and 42,000 deaths reported in Asia [in 2010] so we aim to achieve greater regional collaboration and coordinated efforts from this conference,’ Fatoumata Nafo-Traore, executive director of Roll Back Malaria Partnership, told IRIN,” the news service notes (10/31).
“Growing resistance to a key anti-malarial drug derived from a shrub used in traditional Chinese medicine is threatening to roll back gains made in combating the disease,” according to experts attending a U.N.-sponsored malaria conference that concluded on Friday in Sydney, Australia, the U.N. News Centre reports. Malaria “therapies based on artemisinin — an extract from the sweet wormwood bush used for centuries in Chinese medicine as a fever cure — were” formulated in combination with other antimalarials to form artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) that the WHO thought would be effective for years, but resistance to the ACTs has begun to appear in some areas, the news service notes. “Specifically, [the Roll Back Malaria Partnership] noted, artemisinin resistance has been detected in Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam,” the news service writes (11/2). Agence France-Presse examines efforts to fight drug-resistant malaria on the Thai-Myanmar border (Rook, 11/4).
“Poverty is the leading cause of many vitamin deficiencies, especially vitamin A,” and the problem is acute in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where food staples such as cassava and rice are high in calories but low in nutrients, Inter Press Service reports. Some experts say parents’ lack of knowledge about the nutritional requirements for children can lead to undernourishment, particularly in children under age five, the news service notes. “Still, there are signs that the trend is changing, largely due to a renewed push by development practitioners around the world to tackle the problem,” IPS writes and describes several efforts to improve access to vitamins. The news service concludes, “Nutrition plays a role in achieving almost every [Millennium Development Goal] — its impact on child health, for instance, could also boost the number of children attending school, promote gender equality by empowering women to take a more active role in their children’s health, and also improve maternal health, thereby reducing the maternal mortality ratio” (11/26).
Despite Progress In Reducing Measles Deaths, International Community Falls Short Of 90% Reduction Target, Study Says
The number of deaths from measles fell about 74 percent between 2000 and 2010, from slightly more than 535,000 in 2000 to an estimated 139,200 people worldwide in 2010, “missing an internationally agreed target for a 90 percent fall mainly because of low vaccine coverage in India and Africa where the virus kills tens of thousands a year,” Reuters reports. A study led by the WHO and involving researchers from Penn State University and the CDC, published on Tuesday in the Lancet, “found that despite rapid progress, regular measles outbreaks in Africa and slow implementation of disease control in India were major concerns and led to the target being missed,” the news agency writes (Kelland, 4/24). According to the Associated Press/Seattle Times, “the figures come with a big grain of salt [because] scientists only had solid data for 65 countries,” and “[f]or the 128 others, they used modeling to come up with their estimates” (Cheng, 4/23). “[E]xperts say increasing vaccination rates to above 95 percent worldwide and keeping them up is the only way to eradicate measles,” according to Reuters (4/24).
As part of its continuing coverage of malaria, NPR’s “Shots” blog features a story on counterfeit anti-malarial drugs, which “are among the most popular drugs to fake.” According to the blog, “[T]hese faux pharmaceuticals are particularly dangerous because malaria can kill a person in a matter of days,” and, if the drugs contain only a small amount of the real drug, they can contribute to the development of drug-resistant malaria parasites. “And that appears to be happening now in Southeast Asia with one of the most powerful anti-malarials, artemisinin,” the blog writes (Beaubien, 12/19).