GlobalPost reports on Cuba’s medical outreach to Africa, writing, “A generation ago, Fidel Castro sent Cuban soldiers to intervene in African civil conflicts and fight the Cold War against U.S. proxies. Now, Cuba’s doctors are fanning out across the continent as the island expands its role in administering medical services to some of the world’s most ailing countries.” The news service continues, “Some 5,500 Cubans are already working in 35 of Africa’s 54 countries, Cuban Foreign Ministry official Marcos Rodriguez told reporters this week at a press conference in Havana,” noting, “Of those, 3,000 are health professionals, and 2,000 are doctors, he said.”
Health Workforce & Capacity
“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.”
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).
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).
In this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, editor Amie Newman, a communications officer at the foundation, highlights the work of “two HIV home-visit health workers who work with the CDC Kenya (Centers for Disease Control) to visit with a family in a remote area in the Nyanza province.” According to the blog, the “center is responsible for most of what goes on when it comes to researching HIV/AIDS in this country: what prevention and treatment methods work, monitoring the number of new HIV/AIDS cases, the number of births, deaths, implementing those treatment and prevention methods (including voluntary medical male circumcision, distribution of condoms, medicine for treatment), and maternal and newborn health issues which are directly connected to HIV (like prevention of mother-to-child transmission)” (6/25).
In this post in the IntraHealth “Global Health Blog,” Kate Tulenko, senior director of health systems innovation at IntraHealth, provides an excerpt of her recently published book, “Insourced: How Importing Jobs Impacts the Healthcare Crisis Here and Abroad,” in which she argues that the practice of “relying on foreign-born health workers to fill health care gaps, particularly in providing primary care … has dire economic and social consequences, threatening the quality of medical care in both source countries and the U.S.” (8/30). The blog also links to a recent interview by IntraHealth in which Tulenko discusses the issues raised in her book (8/29).
“Abortions are just as safe when performed by trained nurse practitioners, midwives and physician assistants as when doctors do them, a new review of the evidence suggests,” Reuters reports. “Researchers analyzed five studies that compared first-trimester abortion complications and side effects based on who performed the procedures in close to 9,000 women — and typically found no differences,” the news service writes. The review is published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, according to the news service.
This Lancet editorial reflects on a medical crisis in Syria, highlighting a new report (.pdf) by Amnesty International that “documents the human rights abuses already occurring in the city.” The editorial states, “A disturbing feature of modern conflicts and, indeed, the Arab uprisings, has been the flagrant disregard for the Geneva Conventions, including targeting of civilians, persecution of health workers, and attacks on hospitals, alongside the failure of the U.N. system to prevent these violations,” and it highlights several examples cited in the report.
Communal Violence In India Forces Up To 400,000 Into Overcrowded Camps Without Sufficient Food, Water, Medicine
“Hundreds of thousands of people sheltering in squalid, overcrowded camps in India’s northeast desperately need food, water and medicines after fleeing some of the worst communal violence in a decade, officials and aid workers said on Monday,” AlertNet reports. Up to 400,000 people have fled to government-run camps in Assam state, the news service notes, adding Assam’s Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said, “We are in a state of high alert. … People in the camps are suffering from diarrhea, dysentery, malaria and high fever. We are concerned about the condition of the babies and pregnant women.” According to AlertNet, “Sarma said around 8,000 children under two-years-old are sick, while hundreds of others have tested positive for malaria. There are also around 4,000 pregnant women in the camps who need medical support, he added.” The news service notes that at least 12 people have died, including four children (Bhalla, 8/6).