“Supplies — the essential medicines and medical equipment frontline health workers need to successfully do their jobs — are a vital part of the solution to saving the lives of mothers and newborns,” Catharine Taylor, a maternal health expert with PATH, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog, adding, “And yet, they are frequently overlooked in the ongoing conversation about how to improve maternal health in the developing world.” She continues, “All the skilled health care workers in the world can’t deliver the care women need if a clinic’s stock is empty and the next round of supplies is weeks away. Reliable availability of maternal health medicines and supplies will ultimately strengthen health care systems and make frontline health workers more effective.”
Health Workforce & Capacity
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).
“Morocco has made great strides in improving maternal health in recent years, decreasing its maternal mortality ratio by over 60 percent since 1990,” but “a wide maternal health gap” exists between women in urban and rural areas, where deliveries generally are attended by an experienced yet untrained family member, Women’s eNews reports. In 2010, according to a 2011 report from the U.N. Population Fund, the maternal mortality rate in urban areas was 73 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared with 148 deaths per 100,000 live births in rural areas, the news service notes. “[W]hen a [rural] woman runs into serious trouble … access to life-saving care is a two-hour walk away, on a rough mountainous path sometimes blocked by snow,” the news service writes, adding Abdelghani Drhimeur, head of communications at the Ministry of Health in Rabat, said, “Seventy percent of mothers who die do so on the way to the hospital.” Women’s eNews examines several organizations’ efforts to educate women about sanitation, hygiene, nutrition, and technical midwifery skills (Bhatia, 9/24).
“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.”
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).
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).
“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.
“An outbreak of Ebola hemorrhagic fever has claimed possibly as many as 31 lives in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo since May, Health Minister Felix Kabange Numbi said Thursday,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Numbi said an international committee for technical and scientific coordination in the fight against Ebola had carried out retrospective research to find previous cases, which raised the death toll,” according to the news agency (9/13). “We can expect an increase in the number of cases as more people are tracked. These are not necessarily new cases,” WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic said, adding, “I want to stress that this is a serious outbreak, and there is a risk of the Ebola virus spreading, but we would not say that it’s out of control,” NPR’s health blog “Shots” reports (Doucleff, 9/13). “The latest WHO figures show there are now 65 probable or suspected cases of Ebola in Congo, with 108 people under surveillance,” Reuters notes (9/13). “Last month an outbreak of a more deadly Ebola strain in neighboring Uganda killed 16 people, but health workers say the two outbreaks do not appear to be related,” according to BBC News (9/13).
“As many as 200 million children across the world fail to reach their full potential because their early brain development is held back by poverty, disease and malnutrition, global health experts said on Thursday,” Reuters reports (Kelland, 9/13). The Canadian government-funded Grand Challenges Canada on Thursday “announced $11.8 million CAD [$12 million] in funding over two years for 11 bold ideas from innovators in the developing world, to address health conditions causing diminished cognitive potential and stunting,” according to a Grand Challenges Canada press release (9/13). The projects, which will be implemented in developing countries such as Thailand, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Colombia, “include plans to encourage so-called ‘kangaroo mother care,’ where low-weight newborns are held skin to skin rather than put into incubators, and ways of combating maternal depression to boost interaction between mothers and babies,” Reuters notes (9/13).
“International relief officials reported an increasingly grim aid crisis stemming from the Syria conflict on Tuesday, with two million people there not getting desperately needed help, and a sudden acceleration of refugees overwhelming the ability of neighboring countries to absorb them,” the New York Times reports. “In the province of Homs, so many doctors have fled that only three surgeons remained to serve a population of two million, the officials said,” according to the newspaper. “The World Health Organization said that a United Nations mission to Homs last week had found that more than half a million people needed aid, including health care, food and water,” it writes, adding, “The mission found that the biggest hospital in Homs had been destroyed, and that only six of the 12 public hospitals and eight of the 32 private hospitals were still functional.” The newspaper notes, “At the United Nations, the head of UNICEF and the European Union’s top relief official said that only about one-third of the three million people in Syria who needed help were getting any, and that combatants on both sides would be held responsible for respecting international law protecting civilians during war” (Cumming-Bruce/MacFarquhar, 9/11).