The Washington Post reports on Haiti’s efforts to fight lymphatic filariasis, a parasitic mosquito-borne disease that can cause elephantiasis and is present in 80 percent of the country. Haiti’s health ministry is working to reach the country’s 10 million people with “mass drug administration” to prevent the disease, according to the newspaper, which notes IMA World Health, RTI International, and the University of Notre Dame are providing advice and a foundation associated with Abbott Laboratories is supplying salaries. “After years of mass drug administrations, nine countries — Burundi, Cape Verde, Costa Rica, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, the Solomon Islands, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago — were declared free of lymphatic filariasis in 2011 by the World Health Organization. Haiti hopes to join them,” the Washington Post writes. In a separate article, the newspaper examines how beliefs in voodoo sometimes hamper care for people with elephantiasis, and it provides a fact sheet on the infection and other neglected tropical diseases, as well as a photographic slideshow (Brown, 9/30).
The Humanitarian Centre’s latest Cambridge International Development report (.pdf), titled “Partnerships for global health: pathways to progress,” “provides insights from global health leaders on why partnerships provide a good structure for reciprocal ‘teaching and learning'” and “highlights examples of innovative partnerships — particularly those where the traditional ‘recipient’ of development aid has taken the leading role in providing ideas and ingenuity for global health,” the PLoS “Speaking of Medicine” blog reports. The report comprises several essays, case studies, and other collections of writing from experts in the field, researchers, and politicians, the blog notes (Radl, 10/26).
“Today about 12 percent of the health work force [in the U.S.] is foreign-born and trained, including a quarter of all physicians,” Kate Tulenko, senior director of health system innovation at IntraHealth International, writes in a New York Times opinion piece, adding, “That’s bad for American workers, but even worse for the foreign workers’ home countries, including some of the world’s poorest and sickest, which could use these professionals at home.” She says expensive schooling and strict credential requirements, which some foreign-trained workers do not have to meet, are keeping U.S. health workers from entering the workforce.
Ariel Pablos-Mendez, USAID assistant administrator for global health, writes in USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” “Recently, we reorganized the [Global Health] Bureau to establish an Office of Health Systems, which will be the hub for the Agency’s worldwide leadership network of technical experts in health systems strengthening.” He continues, “This is a key to focusing our work on country ownership, sustainability, and broadening access to critical health services to the most vulnerable populations, as envisioned by the Global Health Initiative.” Pablos-Mendez notes, “The new office is important for two main reasons: first, it responds to the changing landscape of health and development and second, it will help meet all of other health goals in global health.” He concludes, “[W]e know that strengthening health systems makes it possible to successfully graduate countries that no longer need financial assistance; so work ourselves out of jobs. That is our ultimate measure of success” (9/26).
As more people move into the urban slum areas surrounding Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, basic services such as water, sanitation and health care are being stretched to capacity by “[n]ew residents [who] are increasingly pushed out to the city’s fringes,” the Guardian reports. “According to health care workers, hospitals are already unable to meet the growing demand for treatment and services,” the newspaper writes, adding, “Dhaka’s largest hospital is operating at 50 percent staff capacity and trying to accommodate 3,000 patients in a facility with just 800 beds.” In addition, “no health care facilities are provided in the slums, [so] Dhaka’s newest — and poorest — residents are facing a health care black hole,” according to the Guardian. The news service says women and girls “most often fall through the cracks,” and describes one project “that aims to bridge this gap and prevent urbanization creating a free fall in maternal and infant mortality levels” (Kelly, 9/18).
“After 14 years in limbo,” legislation being considered by the Philippines Congress would “requir[e] the government to provide contraceptives, information on modern family planning methods at public health centers, and comprehensive reproductive health curriculum in schools,” CNN reports. “National surveys show 65-70 percent of Filipinos support the bill, but it faces fierce opposition by the country’s Roman Catholic Church leaders,” according to the news service (Lichauco de Leon, 9/4). “When Philippines President Benigno Aquino III delivered his annual state of the union address in July, he appealed to the country’s lawmakers to break a deadlock” on the reproductive health bill, Inter Press Service writes (Macan-Markar, 9/4).
“Despite pledges from governments across Eastern Europe and Central Asia to fight HIV/AIDS — one of the eight Millennium Development Goals — the region has the world’s fastest-growing HIV epidemic,” Inter Press Service reports in an article examining challenges to stemming the spread of the disease, particularly among injection drug users. “Punitive drug policies, discrimination and problems with access to medicines and important therapy are all driving an epidemic which is unlikely to be contained, world experts say, until governments in countries with the worst problems change key policies and approaches to the disease,” the news service writes. According to experts and activists, a lack of opiate-substitution therapy (OST) and needle-exchange programs, as well as discrimination against and “active persecution” of drug users who try to access therapy programs, contributes to the spread of HIV, IPS notes (Stracansky, 9/3).
“The non-communicable disease [NCD] community always talks about the importance of prevention; many consider it the Holy Grail in the fight against NCDs. Why was it so hard to also accept treatment as part of the solution?” Princess Dina Mired, director general of the King Hussein Cancer Foundation in Amman, Jordan, asks in the Huffington Post “Impact” blog, noting only one target of the 2011 U.N. High-Level Meeting on NCDs “deals with treatment, the target on ‘essential medicines and basic technologies for treatment.'” She continues, “Treatment and prevention are heavily interrelated. The success of one is directly related to the other.” She adds, “A person in the developing world will not buy in to the importance of prevention if there is no treatment option available should that person get the disease.”
World Bank, Bangladeshi Government Sign Multi-Donor Trust Fund Agreement For Country's Health Sector
“On Wednesday, the World Bank and the Bangladeshi government signed a Multi-Donor Trust Fund Grant Agreement” under which “$280 million coming from the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Sweden will go to the Bangladesh Health Sector Development Program, which aims to improve the health status of people in Bangladesh, particularly women, children and the marginalized,” the Devex “Development Newswire” reports. “The government will finance 75 percent of the program,” and “[t]he World Bank will also provide a $359 million credit through its anti-poverty arm, the International Development Association,” the news service writes (Ravelo, 9/13). “The program will focus on improving emergency obstetric and newborn care services and the nutritional status of expectant mothers and their children” and “will also strengthen health sector planning and resource management, human resources development, management of pharmaceuticals, health information systems and maintenance of health care facilities,” a World Bank press release states (9/12).
Rwanda next week will host the Conference on Social Health Protection in the East African Community, which “will consider various approaches to providing universal health coverage in Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Burundi,” VOA News reports. The news service highlights a new study on universal coverage, published in the WHO Bulletin, “that reviewed health systems in 12 African and Asian countries” and, based on “impact indicators” that include “the way financial resources are collected to fund insurance plans, the amount of coverage provided to recipients, whether that coverage is provided to all segments of society and whether there’s been an improvement in the quality of life,” found “social and community health insurance plans ‘hold untapped potential’ for achieving universal coverage.” According to VOA, study author Ernst Spaan of the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center in the Netherlands said “that the study’s findings ‘back the World Health Organization’s view that pre-paid financing mechanisms, such as health insurance, are a key route to universal coverage'” (DeCapua, 9/4).