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Narcotic Drug Use Should Be Treated As Illness, U.N. Drug Office Director Says

“Prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, reintegration and health have to be recognized as key elements in our strategy” to fight drug demand, supply and trafficking, U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime Executive Director Yuri Fedotov said Monday at the opening session of the U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, United Press International reports. Fedotov added, “Overall, our work on the treatment side must be considered as part of the normal clinical work undertaken when responding to any other disease in the health system,” according to UPI (3/12). “He called on countries to recognize that drug dependence, which claims some 250,000 lives annually, is an illness,” the U.N. News Centre writes (3/12).

Peace Corps, PEPFAR, Global Health Service Corps Launch Public-Private Partnership To Place Medical Professionals Overseas

The Peace Corps, PEPFAR and the Global Health Service Corps on Tuesday will announce a public-private partnership program to place U.S. health workers overseas to help address medical professional shortages, CQ HealthBeat reports (Bristol, 3/12). “The Global Health Service Partnership (GHSP) will address health professional shortages by investing in capacity and building support for existing medical and nursing education programs in less-developed countries,” a joint press release (.pdf) states, adding, “The new program is expected to begin in Tanzania, Malawi and Uganda in July 2013.”

Enhanced Linkage-To-Care Strategy Helps HIV Patients Receive, Remain In Care, Study Shows

At the 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) on Wednesday, Gabriel Chamie of the University of California, San Francisco “discussed outcomes in a routine linkage-to-care strategy versus and an enhanced strategy for accelerated antiretroviral therapy (ART) start in rural Uganda,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. In the study, a higher percentage of people who were offered the enhanced strategy received follow-up care, began ART, and remained in care, and “Chamie highlighted the need for enhanced linkage to care efforts for patients at all CD4 cell counts,” according to the blog (Mazzotta, 3/7).

India Plans To Increase Annual Health Care Spending With Aim Of Providing Free Care To Citizens

“With its health-care system increasingly eclipsed by rivals, India has a plan to nearly double public spending on health over the next five years,” a goal that would “lift annual spending on health to 2.5 percent of the country’s economic output, from 1.4 percent,” the Washington Post reports. The scheme is “aimed at giving free medicine to all Indians at government facilities, setting up free ambulances in rural areas, doubling the number of trained health workers, and lifting millions of young children and women out of chronic malnutrition and preventable deaths,” the newspaper writes.

New York Times Magazine Examines ‘Medical Brain Drain’

“[T]he United States, with its high salaries and technological innovation, is … the world’s most powerful magnet for doctors, attracting more every year than Britain, Canada and Australia — the next most popular destinations for migrating doctors — combined,” the New York Times Magazine reports in a story on how the promise of a better salary and working conditions is drawing newly trained doctors away from their countries to the U.S.

Insecurity Threatening Success Of West, Central African Mass Polio Vaccination Campaign

Instability and insecurity in some West and Central African nations are threatening the success of a 20-country polio vaccination campaign, which aims to immunize 111.1 million children against the disease, IRIN reports. Ongoing insurgent attacks threaten the campaign in Nigeria, the region’s only polio-endemic country and home to 57.7 million of the children targeted, the news service notes. Parts of Mali, Niger, and Chad also pose security problems for health care workers trying to access children in remote or disputed areas, according to IRIN. “Human error and weak health systems also play an important role in sub-optimal immunization reach,” the news service writes, noting so far, “only Ghana, Cape Verde, Burkina Faso, Gambia, and Togo have achieved the required 90 percent coverage, according to UNICEF” (3/23).

Inadequate Government TB Program, Lax Drug Sale Regulations Contributing To MDR-TB Cases In India, Health Groups Say

“India’s inadequate government-run tuberculosis [TB] treatment programs and a lack of regulation of the sale of drugs that fight the disease are responsible for the [increasing] number of drug-resistant cases that are difficult to treat,” health advocacy organizations said in India last week, the Associated Press/Huffington Post reports. “India adds an estimated 99,000 cases of drug-resistant TB every year, but only a tiny fraction of those infected receive the proper” six- to nine-month antibiotic regimen, according to the AP. In India, government-run TB treatment programs only provide drugs to patients on alternate days, increasing the likelihood of missed doses, and patients increasingly are turning to private physicians who are unaware of how to treat the disease, Medecins Sans Frontieres in India and other health groups said, the news agency reports. “The Indian government had no response Friday to requests for comment on the activists’ allegations,” the AP writes (Naqvi, 3/23).

Pakistan’s Draft Bill That Would Punish Parents For Not Vaccinating Children ‘Misses The Mark’

“Eradicating polio and improving the health of millions of children in Pakistan depend quite heavily on assuring that all children have access to life-saving vaccines,” but “[t]he most recent policy prescription from the Pakistani parliament to improve immunization coverage, however, misses the mark, and badly,” Orin Levine, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center, writes in this Huffington Post “World” blog post. “A draft bill being finalized in the Pakistani parliament would require compulsory vaccination of all children, and would introduce tough penalties — including fines and imprisonment — for parents of unvaccinated children,” Levine says. However, supply issues may prevent some parents from being able to vaccinate children, and the threat of punishment may force some to falsify immunization records, he notes.

IPS Explores Challenges To Providing Family Planning Services In Cote d’Ivoire

Inter Press Service explores how patriarchal tradition, cultural values, low government health spending, and a lack of access to supplies and education pose challenges to women who wish to obtain family planning services in Cote d’Ivoire. In the West African country, “family planning is widely regarded as a ‘women’s issue’ that husbands do not have to concern themselves with,” therefore, “very few men use the small number of public services on offer, while women continue to struggle to realize their sexual and reproductive rights,” the news service writes. The article discusses a clinic “run by the non-governmental health organization Ivorian Association for Family Well-Being (AIBEF),” which is the “one clinic that offers family planning services free of charge” in Abidjan, the country’s commercial capital (Palitza, 3/15).

Funding Gaps Could Hinder Future Of Health Care In Africa, Report Says

The “improvement and extension of health care in Africa is … being constrained by gaps in financing,” according to a new report (.pdf) by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) based on research commissioned by Janssen Pharmaceutica, a Belgian subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, the Financial Times’ “beyondbrics” blog reports (Wheatley, 3/1). The report, titled “The Future of Healthcare in Africa,” “discusses the continent’s traditional health care issues, such as communicable diseases or financing health care in economically difficult circumstances” and “also addresses less well-known topics, such as the threat of obesity and heart disease, the use of mobile technology, development of more preventive care, and more,” according to the Janssen website (3/1). The report “identif[ies] the key trends shaping African health care systems” and uses them “to develop [five] scenarios that depict the possible health landscape on the continent in 2022,” a Janssen press release (.pdf) states (3/1).