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Vatican Official Calls On International Community To Provide 'Free, Efficient' HIV Treatment In Africa

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state and number two official, “called Friday on the international community to provide ‘free and efficient treatment’ for AIDS in Africa, starting with pregnant women, mothers and their babies,” Agence France-Presse reports (6/22). During a conference sponsored by the Sant’Egidio Community, which operates the DREAM program (Drug Resource Enhancement against AIDS and Malnutrition) in 10 African countries, “Bertone said the results of DREAM and research by the World Health Organization ‘confirm that universal access to care is achievable, scientifically proven and economically feasible,'” the Catholic News Service writes.

GlobalPost Examines Women's Health In Myanmar Amid Country's Recent Political Reform

“Since Myanmar gained independence from the British in 1948, it has been wracked by armed conflicts and fragile ceasefires with civilians and ethnic rebels,” and “[t]he health of Myanmar’s women has been one of the biggest casualties,” GlobalPost reports. Though recent news coverage has focused on political reform in the nation, “little attention has been paid to a more immediate need: affordable, decent health care,” the news service states. The “military junta that ruled the country for a half century spent very little on health care,” little international aid has come into the country, and “the government restricts where and how aid organizations can operate, blocking the delivery of medical services,” the news service writes, adding, “The result has been a health care system that in conflict areas, does not exist, and in large cities, is too expensive for ordinary people, according to experts inside Myanmar and on the Thai border.”

Cooperation 'Essential' To Fight Diseases That Easily Cross Borders

“[C]ooperation is essential to combat diseases that cross national borders,” Ramanan Laxminarayan, director of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy and a research scholar and lecturer at Princeton University, and Bryan Grenfell and Petra Klepac of Princeton University write in a SciDev.Net opinion piece. “This is not restricted to regional control — long-term, coordinated efforts that give neighboring countries an incentive to immunize or put in place other intervention measures can also lead to global elimination of a disease,” they write, discussing optimal vaccination strategies and disease control challenges.

Al Jazeera Examines Cuba's National Health Care System; IPS Looks At HIV/AIDS In The Country

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).

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).

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.”

VOA News Examines South African Policy Promoting Exclusive Breastfeeding For Mothers With HIV

VOA News examines the South African government’s decision in September 2011 to stop providing a free six-month supply of infant formula to mothers with HIV and have “its health facilities … encourage the women to exclusively breastfeed for at least the first six months of their babies’ lives.” Though some criticized Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi for implementing the policy, “doctors at a hospital in an isolated part of South Africa’s Eastern Cape province praised the minister’s action as brave and visionary and said it would ultimately result in many lives being saved,” the news agency writes. The article profiles the experience of doctors at Zithulele Hospital in Oliver Tambo District, which has followed the exclusive breastfeeding policy since 2006 and where one of every four mothers is infected with HIV; outlines why exclusive breastfeeding is preferable to mixed feeding; and discusses the challenges to implementing the policy nationwide (Taylor, 6/19).

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).

Policy Review Article Examines Need For 'Structural And Philosophical' Shift In Global Health Framework

In this article in “Policy Review,” a publication of Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, Mark Dybul, co-director of the Global Health Law Program and the inaugural global health fellow at the George W. Bush Institute; Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; and Julio Frenk, dean of the Harvard School of Public Health, discuss the need for “a structural and philosophical shift” in the global health field, writing, “As we approach the post-[Millennium Development Goal] era, now is the time for a new framework to establish an accelerated trajectory to achieve a healthy world.” The authors recount the history of global health work in recent years and outline several “conceptual foundations of a new era in global health and development.” They conclude, “That is an audacious vision, but the recent history of global health and a long history of great human achievements teach us that what seems impossible can be done” (6/1).

Al Jazeera Examines Afghanistan's Health Care System Since Fall Of Taliban

Al Jazeera examines Afghanistan’s health care system since the fall of the Taliban, writing, “Standards of health care in Afghanistan have improved significantly since the fall of the Taliban, but security continues to play a large role in determining access to and quality of care provided.” According to the video report, Afghanistan’s constitution mandates that health services be provided free of charge, which “leaves many small clinics reliant on foreign aid.” The news service notes, “There’s a big difference in the type of care you can get [in] rural areas and in urban areas,” adding, “Many procedures still require patients to travel to city hospitals, putting them at risk from violence and grueling journeys on poorly maintained roads” (Smith, 6/3).