“An infant’s first moments and the twenty-eight days that follow are the most precarious, and her risk of death is never higher,” but “[s]imple and inexpensive techniques, … such as drying her, clearing her airway, keeping her warm or using a simple ventilation device to stimulate her breathing, can help,” and frontline health workers “deliver these lifesaving techniques,” Sharon D’Agostino, vice president of worldwide corporate contributions and community relations for Johnson & Johnson, and Winifred Mwebesa of Save the Children write in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. They discuss the “Helping Babies Breathe” education initiative that trains health workers on skills such as resuscitation. The authors continue, “Frontline health workers are our global health heroes but, according to World Health Organization, we do not have nearly enough of them, especially in Africa, where there may be fewer than two trained doctors for every 1,000 people.”
Health Workforce & Capacity
In this post in the Public Health Institute’s (PHI) “Dialogue4Health” blog, Jeff Meer, director of PHI’s Washington-based advocacy on global health, reports on the Frontline Health Workers Coalition, launched Wednesday, which is “developing support for new investments in the global health workforce, particularly those working at the community level who are the first and often the only link to health care for millions of people.” He outlines the Coalition’s targets and quotes a number of officials indicating “that the Obama Administration and the U.S. Congress are coming to adopt the same view” (1/11).
Rwanda is expanding its medical male circumcision program this year, “as the country attempts to reach its goal of medically circumcising 50 percent of men by June 2013 as part of HIV prevention efforts,” PlusNews reports. “The free male circumcision program began in October 2011, and officials at the Ministry of Health say demand is growing,” according to the news service. However, with only 15 percent of men circumcised and a shortage of qualified health care workers, “the goal is unlikely to be met unless lower cadre health workers are involved in the campaign,” PlusNews writes.
Frontline Health Workers Coalition Launches Initiative To Add 1M Health Care Workers In Developing Countries
The Frontline Health Workers Coalition — which consists of 16 major non-governmental organizations (NGOs) including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Family Care International, the International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care, and RESULTS — has launched “a new initiative to add one million health care workers in developing countries,” VOA News reports, adding that the “Coalition says training more community-level workers is the most cost effective way to save lives, speed progress on global health threats and promote U.S. economic and strategic interests” (DeCapua, 1/11). “The Coalition, which launched today with the release of a new report (.pdf) focusing on the need for frontline health workers, is calling on the U.S. administration to train and support an additional 250,000 new frontline health workers — and to better support the capacity and impact of existing workers where the need is greatest,” a Coalition press release (.pdf) states (1/11).
In the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog, Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children, writes about the Frontline Health Workers Coalition’s call on the U.S. government to train 250,000 new frontline health workers in developing countries, stating, “At a time when every dollar counts more than ever, the new Frontline Health Workers Coalition believes this focus is the most cost-effective way to save mothers’ and children’s lives around the world, address global health threats, and help advance strategic U.S. interests in a secure and prosperous world.”
The New York Times examines developments in circumcision technology, after “three studies have shown that circumcising adult heterosexual men is one of the most effective ‘vaccines’ against [HIV] — reducing the chances of infection by 60 percent or more.” The newspaper writes, “[P]ublic health experts are struggling to find ways to make the process faster, cheaper, and safer” and “donors are pinning their hopes on several devices now being tested to speed things up.” The New York Times reports on several circumcision methods currently being tested, including PrePex, which received FDA approval three weeks ago and “is clearly faster, less painful and more bloodless than any of its current rivals” (McNeil, 1/30).
The January issue of the WHO Bulletin features an editorial on non-communicable diseases and post-conflict countries; a public health round-up; an article on Arab health professionals; a research paper on caesarean section rates in China; and a series of round table articles on the Global Fund and the interaction of public and private interests (January 2011).
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.”
“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).