AllAfrica correspondent Cindy Shiner recently interviewed Vanessa Kerry, CEO of the Global Health Service Corps, at the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene taking place in Atlanta this week. Next year, volunteer doctors and nurses will travel through the Service Corps to Tanzania, Malawi, and Uganda to work in partnership with the Peace Corps, according to AllAfrica. In the interview, Kerry said the program grew out of a desire on the part of physicians and other health care workers to help in resource-poor countries, as well as calls from those countries for more U.S. assistance in building health system capacity. Kerry discusses the focus of the program, how it works as a private partner with public programs, and how the first countries were chosen (11/13).
Health Workforce & Capacity
The Wall Street Journal examines how “Greece has seen decades of advances in public health rolled back, as a flood of illegal immigrants, a dysfunctional government and budget cuts ravage a once proud health-care system.” Noting “[o]ver the past two years, more than 50 endemic cases of [malaria] and more than 100 imported cases have been identified in Greece,” the newspaper writes, “The return of malaria, a scourge in developing countries, to Greece is a disturbing indicator of the nation’s decline since it crashed in 2009 under the weight of a debt binge.” The Wall Street Journal examines the history of malaria’s return to the country and how the government is responding. “In addition to malaria, public health officials say they are worried about rises in everything from infectious respiratory-tract diseases and skin conditions to tuberculosis and HIV,” the newspaper notes (Granitsas, 11/14).
Noting “[t]he WHO has estimated that there is a global shortage of more than four million trained health care workers,” Robert Bollinger, professor of infectious diseases at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, writes in the Huffington Post “Impact” blog, “It is very clear that new and innovative strategies are needed to train the large number of health professionals needed for Africa, Asia, and Latin America.” He continues, “It is also clear that these strategies must ensure that the quality of training is excellent and that there are new efforts to support the long-term training of graduates in their own communities, to reduce brain drain, and to ensure that the communities they serve benefit from more and better trained health care providers.”
A recent video from the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) on global health and national security discusses the importance of military and non-military health partnerships with middle- and low-income countries, the American Public Health Association’s “IH-Blog” reports. The video features commentary from leaders in security and health, according to the blog (11/9). A CSIS report titled “Global Health as a Bridget to Security” is available online (11/1).
Noting World Bank President Jim Yong Kim at the World Knowledge Forum last month “spoke of the need to ‘lay the foundations for a new field that will collect and distribute Practical Knowledge that countries can use to get delivery right in their unique contexts,'” Wolfgang Munar, a senior program officer in the Family Health Division at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Larry Prusak, an adviser on knowledge networks for the Foundation, examine in the organization’s “Impatient Optimists” blog why “[p]ractical knowledge is a topic worth exploring and better understanding for business, governments and philanthropies.” According to the authors, “the global health community faces the challenge to better understand, foster, and share practical, implementation knowledge that can, in turn, improve people’s lives” (11/7).
“A yellow fever outbreak in Sudan’s Darfur region has killed 67 people so far,” and “the number of cases has more than doubled since the start of the epidemic last month,” the WHO said in a statement on Wednesday, the U.N. News Centre reports. The report “stated that the outbreak has now affected 17 localities in central, south, west and north Darfur, with 194 cases reported — a significant increase from the 84 initial cases reported at the start of the outbreak,” according to the news service (11/7). “WHO announced in the report a plan of action to counter the spread of the disease, including a vaccination campaign and training of medical cadres,” the Sudan Tribune writes. The Ministry of Health “said it needs four million vaccine units to counter the outbreak,” according to the newspaper (11/7). “The report’s recommendations also include strengthening disease surveillance in eastern Darfur, continuing laboratory testing of patients from newly affected localities, and finalizing a vaccination plan that identifies resources available as well as partners to implement it,” the U.N. News Centre writes (11/7).
Since its arrival in Haiti two years ago, “cholera has sickened more than 600,000 people and killed more than 7,500,” and “[t]his year the epidemic is on track to be among the world’s worst again, with nearly 77,000 cases and 550 deaths, according to the Haitian Ministry of Health,” Ralph Ternier and Cate Oswald of Zanmi Lasante/Partners in Health in Haiti write in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog. “Despite the decrease in cases from 2011, every new case represents an unnecessary and preventable infection and an even further potential of completely preventable and unnecessary death in hardest-to-reach areas,” they state. Though a “multi-pronged approach” to treating and preventing cholera has significantly decreased the number of cases, “[t]he sad reality is that … we know that cholera is not going away, [yet] emergency funding for cholera is,” they write.
Ongoing ethnic tension and sectarian violence in areas of western Myanmar are preventing Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) from delivering medical care in the region, the group said on Monday, the New York Times reports. The group “reported that many of its local staff members were afraid to work at refugee camps and medical centers in Rakhine State, where people wounded in clashes need treatment for wounds from guns, knives, arrows and other weapons,” the newspaper writes. “Aid workers have reported severe malnutrition among children and widespread malaria,” according to the New York Times (Fuller, 11/5). “[S]ince the outbreak of violence in June, MSF is operating at a fraction of its capacity due to access limitations largely stemming from threats and intimidation,” the organization said in a press release, adding, “Tens of thousands of long-term residents, previously receiving medical care, have gone without care for months.” In the press release, MSF “calls for unhindered access and for tolerance of the provision of medical care to all those who need it” in the region (11/5).
“Polio will never be eradicated in Pakistan until a way is found to persuade poor Pashtuns to embrace the vaccine, according to a study released by the World Health Organization” in its November bulletin, the New York Times reports. A survey of 1,017 parents of young children living in “Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city and the only big city in the world where polio persists, … found that 41 percent had never heard of polio and 11 percent refused to vaccinate their children against it,” according to the newspaper. Some parents from poor families “cited lack of permission from family elders,” Anita Zaidi, a professor at the Aga Khan University in Karachi, said, adding some wealthy parents said the vaccine was “harmful or unnecessary,” the newspaper notes. “Pashtuns account for 75 percent of Pakistan’s polio cases even though they are only 15 percent of the population,” the newspaper adds, noting poorer children are at a higher risk because they are more likely to be exposed to raw sewage, where the virus travels. According to the New York Times, “the eradication drive is recruiting Pashtuns as vaccinators and asking prominent religious leaders from various sects to make videos endorsing the vaccine” (McNeil, 11/5).
Noting the progress made since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the upcoming recognition of World AIDS Day on December 1, Ronald Valdiserri, deputy assistant secretary for health, infectious diseases at the Department of Health and Human Services, writes in a Public Health Reports opinion piece (.pdf), “[W]e would do well to keep in mind the following caution. No matter the elegance of the controlled trial, the statistical significance of the results, or the superiority of the science, we must confront this inevitable reality: We will never be able to take full advantage of our progress in HIV clinical and prevention science until we develop and sustain the human, organizational, and structural capacities necessary to implement these new scientific breakthroughs.” He continues, “If we fail to attend to the ‘on-the-ground’ details of implementation, we risk dissipating the promise of new drugs, novel therapies, and enhanced interventions that could, in fact, lead us to an AIDS-free generation.”