In a joint statement (.pdf), UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin and Agneta Bridges, secretary-general of the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), recognize the International Day of the Midwife on May 5. “The right to health is a basic human right that every woman should enjoy. Yet, every day, almost 1,000 women die in pregnancy and childbirth â€¦ One of the main causes for these tragedies is lack of access to maternity services, including the care of midwives or others with midwifery skills at childbirth,” they write, continuing, “Urgent action is needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 on child and maternal health before the target year of 2015, and investing in human resources for health, especially midwifery, is one the soundest investments a country can make to accelerate progress” (5/4).
Health Workforce & Capacity
In this post in IntraHealth International’s “Global Health” blog, editorial manager Susanna Smith examines how health care workers operating in areas of conflict are “being used as pawns of warfare.” Smith highlights the decision by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) last month to suspend services in prisons in the Libyan city of Misrata due to reports of torture and notes, “[MSF] General Director Christopher Stokes called the situation an obstruction and exploitation of the organization’s work.” Smith cites a Center for Strategic and International Studies report released last week “calling for ‘the mere handwringing that has largely greeted attack on the health care in the past’ to ‘be replaced by concerted international action and a system on documentation, protection, and accountability,'” and concludes, “The international community owes at least this much to these health workers, who give so much and put themselves at risk to care for others” (2/2).
In an opinion piece in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog, David Olson, a global health communications consultant who worked as a communications adviser to the Reproductive Health and Rights Alliance in Kenya earlier this year, describes how “abortion rights [in the country] have been liberalized in certain cases in a Constitution approved in a public referendum two years ago.” He continues, “The new constitution says clearly that ‘the life of a person begins at conception’ and ‘abortion is not permitted unless…'” Olson writes, “And that innocuous ‘unless’ is what keeps the abortion issue alive in Kenya, almost two years after the constitutional referendum: ‘…unless, in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is need for emergency treatment, or the life or health of the mother is in danger, or if permitted by any other written law.'”
Aissata Sall Yade, a communications assistant for the Senegal Urban Reproductive Health Initiative, part of IntraHealth International, writes in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog about Aissatou Dia Fall, a head midwife at Senegal’s Gallo Dia Health Center in Yeumbeul, and her efforts to improve access to health care for women in the community. She has reached out to different organizations for monetary assistance for her clients, Yade notes, adding, “Strategies like Aissatou Dia Fall’s will help improve Senegal’s national contraceptive prevalence rate, which is currently only 12 percent. It will also help reduce one of the world’s highest maternal mortality rates (410 deaths per 100,000 live births) and reduce the fertility rate (an average of five children per woman)” (10/17).
“The United Nations estimates the civil war raging in Syria has left more than 2.5 million people in dire need of food, water, drugs and medical supplies,” VOA News reports. “After 18 months of fighting, thousands are dead and thousands more wounded,” and, “[i]f past wars are any indication, the health and well-being of Syrians will likely be affected long after the last guns are fired,” the news service writes. WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic “says many hospitals and health centers in [the capital] Homs have been badly damaged by shelling” and “[o]nly six of 12 public hospitals remain open, and eight out of 32 private hospitals are still in operation — at greatly reduced capacity,” VOA adds.
“Scientists have come up with a test for the virus that causes AIDS that is 10 times more sensitive and a fraction of the cost of existing methods, offering the promise of better diagnosis and treatment in the developing world,” Reuters reports. “The test uses nanotechnology to give a result that can be seen with the naked eye by turning a sample red or blue, according to research from scientists at Imperial College in London published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology,” the news agency writes (Wickham, 10/28). “The test can be configured to a unique signature of a disease or virus — such as a protein found on the surface of HIV,” and if the marker is present, a chemical reaction causes a blue result and a red result if the marker is not present, according to BBC News. “Early testing showed the presence of markers of HIV and prostate cancer could be detected,” BBC News notes, adding, “However, trials on a much larger scale will be needed before it could be used clinically” (Gallagher, 10/28).
In this post on IntraHealth’s “Global Health Blog,” Pape Gaye, president and CEO of IntraHealth, discusses the organization’s commitment to providing quality training to Kenyan health care workers made at this year’s Clinton Global Initiative meeting. “We and our partners will use information technologies designed or adapted in Kenya to create and distribute training programs to Kenyan health workers. We are especially focusing on health workers who provide much-needed services in the remote Kenyan regions of Kitui and Kisumu,” Gaye writes. Noting that “one billion people in this world who may never come in contact with a health provider in their entire lives,” he continues, “I hope that by making the information and the training available where it’s needed the most, we are giving a chance to these people, a chance to get in contact with and receive services from a health worker” (10/9).
“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.
In this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Laura Newman, a senior communications officer of the Malaria Control and Evaluation Partnership in Africa, examines the role of community health workers in “Zambia’s three-step plan to establish large malaria-free zones in the country by 2015.” She notes “all three steps rely heavily on Zambia’s network of community health workers — the backbone of Zambia’s rural health system” — and she details these steps (9/18).
NPR’s “Shots” blog profiles Vanessa Kerry, a physician and daughter of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), and her work to develop the Global Health Service Partnership to send nurses and doctors to work abroad in exchange for a pay-down in their student loans. The partnership’s goal “is to reduce the severe shortage of medical workers in developing countries,” according to the blog, which adds Kerry “thinks the partnership will also strengthen health care here stateside by infusing U.S. doctors with a worldview centered on making the most of available resources.” The program is working with the Peace Corps and receives funding through PEPFAR, the blog notes (Doucleff, 9/26).