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Global Health 'Blunders' Can Lend Useful Lessons

New York Times reporter Lawrence Altman recounts his experience in the mid-1960s with a measles immunization campaign in Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) during his time with the Epidemic Intelligence Service of the CDC in a “Doctor’s World” perspective piece in the newspaper. Altman says that although the effort to expand the immunization campaign from a small field trial to a regional program “failed miserably,” the “lessons learned from these blunders led to a new program that wiped out smallpox, still the only human disease to have been eradicated from the planet.”

Health Workers Key To 'Effective Health Care Delivery'

In addition to “essential money,” “the right policies, government commitment and citizen accountability” are needed to decrease child mortality and improve other global health indicators, “[b]ut the sine qua non for effective health care delivery is health workers. Whether it’s prevention, treatment or care, it’s all about health workers,” Jonathan Glennie, a research fellow at the Overseas Development Institute, writes in a post on the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog.”

World Leaders Should Commit To Closing Health Care Worker Gap

Recent U.N. statistics showing a drop in child mortality are both good and bad, because the number of child deaths continues to drop, but “progress isn’t reaching all families around the world, and it isn’t reaching newborn babies as often as older children,” Joy Lawn, director of Global Evidence and Policy for Save the Children’s Saving Newborn Lives program, writes in a GlobalPost opinion piece. While the knowledge and technology exist to save lives, “too often, there is simply no one equipped to deliver basic lifesaving care to families who need it most. More than anything else, babies and children die for lack of frontline health workers,” she writes.

Three Reports Evaluate Global Progress To Meet MDGs 4 And 5

Three recent reports — a one-year assessment released by the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH) of the WHO on Tuesday, an analysis by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington published on Tuesday in the Lancet, and a Save the Children report released on Monday entitled “No Child out of Reach” — examine the progress of the global campaign to save mothers and children under five in developing nations and evaluate whether Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4 and 5, reducing child mortality by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015 and maternal deaths by three-quarters over the same period, can be met.

Leaders Should Push For More Frontline Health Workers

“Innovation can transform a company, a culture, and even the world. But innovation doesn’t have to come in the form of a gadget. It can come in the form of a smiling neighbor knocking at a family’s door, toting some basic supplies and the skills to address matters of life and death,” Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation writes in a Huffington Post opinion piece.

Famine In Somalia Testing Advancements In Coordination Of Care, Food Aid

The Washington Post examines how high rates of malnutrition among Somali children — approximately 36 percent under age five are malnourished and almost 16 percent are severely malnourished, according to Somalia’s Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit — are “the biggest test yet of recent improvements in assessing and treating malnutrition, changes that range from the coordination of care to the ingredients of food aid.”

Women Struggling To Find Truly Free Health Care In Sierra Leone's System, Amnesty International Report Says

“Sierra Leone’s free health care plan for pregnant women and young children is dysfunctional and hobbled by corruption and a lack of accountability,” according to a report (.pdf) released Tuesday by Amnesty International, Agence France-Presse reports. The nation’s free health care program for pregnant women, nursing mothers and children under five years old was launched in April 2010 with support from UNICEF, the World Bank, the WHO and the U.K. Department for International Development, AFP notes (9/6).

Save The Children Index Measures Reach Of Health Care Workers, Ranks Best And Worst Countries For Child Health

A new index (.pdf) released Tuesday by Save the Children measures the nationwide reach of health workers and ranks the best and worst countries for a child to fall sick in, with Chad and Somalia at the bottom and Switzerland and Finland at the top, according to a Save the Children press release (9/6). According to the analysis, “[c]hildren living in the 20 countries at the bottom of the index … are five times more likely to die than those further up the index, Save the Children said,” AlertNet reports (Batha, 9/6). The study also highlights countries such as Ethiopia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, according to Reuters (Kelland, 9/6).

'Sustainable Global Pharmacovigilance' Systems Needed To Monitor ARVs, Other Drugs

With more widespread access to antiretroviral (ARV) drugs “comes a greater need to monitor and promote the safety and effectiveness of these essential medicines in the new environments, which are distinct from those of pre-market studies and the resource rich countries that have had ARV access for years. Without sufficient monitoring systems in place, we can’t efficiently identify and stop counterfeiting of ARV drugs,” Jur Strobos, deputy director of the Forum for Collaborative HIV Research, and Andy Stergachis, professor of epidemiology and global health and director of the Global Medicines Program at School of Public Health at the University of Washington, write in an opinion piece in The Scientist.

Libyan Health System Suffers Following Months Of Fighting

“Recent fighting in Libya, especially in the capital Tripoli, has taken a toll on medical services with overstretched personnel working under very difficult conditions, and seriously ill and injured patients unable to reach hospitals and clinics, health workers say,” IRIN reports.