“About 200 million people around the world use illegal drugs every year, and that may be taking a toll on health and death rates in various countries, says a report released Thursday in the Lancet,” the Los Angeles Times’ “Booster Shots” blog reports. According to the blog, “[t]he study, part of a series the journal is doing on addiction, offers a plethora of information about [the] use of opioids, amphetamines, cocaine and marijuana worldwide” (Stein, 1/5).
Non Communicable Disease/Chronic Disease
“In 2012 there will be a major strategic shift in global health, away from development and towards sustainability,” a Lancet editorial states. “Since 2000, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), driven by a macroeconomic diagnosis of global poverty, have focused on investment in a small number of diseases as the most effective approach to decrease poverty, … [b]ut this approach is now delivering diminishing returns,” because of emerging challenges such as non-communicable diseases (NCDs), climate change, and financial security, as well as a heightened focus on integration and accountability, the editorial says.
“Countries need to change their current mindset to successfully tackle non-communicable diseases (NCDs), the head of the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) said [Monday], adding that governments will need to explore new approaches to prevent and treat these diseases, which have quickly become one of the most pressing issues in public health,” the U.N. News Centre reports (1/16). “In an opening speech to the annual WHO Executive Board meeting, Director-General Margaret Chan … urged the 34-member board to tackle the root causes of non-communicable diseases,” VOA News writes (Schlein, 1/16).
“Mental illness and drug abuse can wreak havoc in global societies and economies, and the U.N. General Assembly should devote a special session to the matter, global health experts said” in a PLoS Medicine article published on Tuesday, Agence France-Presse reports (1/17). “Mental, neurological, and substance use disorders (MNS) … are leading contributors to the global burden of disease and profoundly impact the social and economic well-being of individuals and communities,” a PLoS press release states, adding, “Yet the majority of people affected by MNS disorders globally do not have access to evidence-based interventions and many experience discrimination and abuses of their human rights” (1/17).
“While the U.S. military has formally withdrawn from Iraq, doctors and residents of Fallujah are blaming weapons like depleted uranium and white phosphorous used during two devastating U.S. attacks on Fallujah in 2004 for what are being described as ‘catastrophic’ levels of birth defects and abnormalities,” Al Jazeera reports. Samira Alani, a pediatric specialist at Fallujah General Hospital, “told Al Jazeera she had personally logged 677 cases of birth defects since October 2009,” the news service notes, adding, “Just eight days later when Al Jazeera visited the city on December 29, that number had already risen to 699.”
NPR’s “Shots” blog examines efforts to reduce cervical cancer deaths in Botswana, noting that “in Africa and other impoverished regions, few women get pap smears because the countries lack the laboratories and other resources necessary to offer them.” Ricky Lu, an obstetrician-gynecologist with Jhpiego, which is associated with Johns Hopkins University, “is promoting a cervical cancer screening technique in which a nurse or a midwife simply swabs a woman’s cervix with vinegar (or diluted acetic acid) and then looks with the naked eye, or a magnifying glass, for pre-cancerous lesions,” according to the blog. “The screening technique requires only vaginal spoons, vinegar and a bit of training” and “can be performed in the simplest health clinics without a need for laboratory tests or even electricity,” the blog writes, noting, “At least six countries in Africa have now adopted the technique as part of their public health care systems, and it’s also caught on in Thailand and parts of Asia” (Beaubien, 9/18).
“As world leaders make their way to New York this month to attend the United Nations General Assembly, we call on them to renew their commitments to combating non-communicable diseases (NCDs),” Jill Sheffield, president of Women Deliver, and Nalini Saligram, founder of Arogya World, write in the Huffington Post “Global Motherhood” blog, adding, “Tackling NCDs with a woman-centered focus is a critical step towards reaching all development goals.” They continue, “The solution to curbing NCDs and maternal mortality ultimately rests in improving women’s access to strong and capable health systems.” In addition, “[t]eaching women about NCD prevention by promoting healthy lifestyles will result in women not only changing their own lives, but also steer their families and entire communities towards healthy living,” they state, adding, “Educated and empowered women can work to build a healthier, more sustainable world and lift families out of poverty.” Finally, “[i]t’s also important to look at new solutions and technologies,” including clean cookstoves, Sheffield and Saligram write.
“The non-communicable disease [NCD] community always talks about the importance of prevention; many consider it the Holy Grail in the fight against NCDs. Why was it so hard to also accept treatment as part of the solution?” Princess Dina Mired, director general of the King Hussein Cancer Foundation in Amman, Jordan, asks in the Huffington Post “Impact” blog, noting only one target of the 2011 U.N. High-Level Meeting on NCDs “deals with treatment, the target on ‘essential medicines and basic technologies for treatment.'” She continues, “Treatment and prevention are heavily interrelated. The success of one is directly related to the other.” She adds, “A person in the developing world will not buy in to the importance of prevention if there is no treatment option available should that person get the disease.”
Noting that “[n]on-communicable diseases (NCDs) kill four times the number of people in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) that they do in high-income countries,” Benn Grover, a health communications specialist who manages policy for the National Forum for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, and Felicia Knaul, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and director of the Harvard Global Equity Initiative, write in the Huffington Post Blog, “The right to health of the majority of the world’s inhabitants is severely hampered due to vast inequalities in access to care and many of the social rights that determine their health. These inequalities are not just a matter of health, but issues of social justice and human rights.”
On the one-year anniversary of the U.N. High-Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), two blogs examine what has happened since. In the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Global Health Policy” blog, Victoria Fan, a research fellow at the center, and Laura Khan of Princeton University ask, “[W]here has the attention and commitment to NCDs gone?” They say “subsequent attention and action after the NCD Summit last year has been paltry,” and they explore some reasons why this might be the case (9/19). In an interview on the Council on Foreign Relations blog, Thomas Bollyky, senior fellow for global health, economics, and development, says, “So on one hand, the U.N. NCD meeting hasn’t yet managed to follow the HIV/AIDS blueprint in producing a groundswell of popular support, new donor resources, and concrete country action. On the other hand, optimists on this issue believe the U.N. meeting elevated a long-neglected cause to the heads-of-state level and firmly established it as an ongoing concern for the U.N.” (Johnson, 9/19).