The following summaries of two opinion pieces and an editorial explore a recent paper published by the World Bank discussing significant declines in infant and under-five mortality in Kenya and across sub-Saharan Africa.
HIV transmission in China is increasing faster among men who have sex with men (MSM) than in any other population, a trend that “cannot continue,” a group of researchers working in China write in a Nature commentary, adding, “Policymakers, public health researchers, clinicians, educators, community leaders and other stakeholders in China must come together to educate everyone, and gay men in particular, about HIV prevention and treatment — before any more people become infected as a result of ignorance and fear.” They continue, “Chinese people aren’t uncomfortable just in discussing homosexuality” but “sex in general,” which has resulted in “a pervasive stigma against people with HIV, a lack of general sex education for young people, and poor epidemiological data about the spread of HIV in some populations around the country,” as well as “a hidden population of individuals who are afraid to seek out HIV information resources or testing and counseling centers.”
Target Of 25% Reduction In Premature Mortality From NCDs By 2025 A 'Rallying Call' For Global Health Community
Member states at the 65th session of the World Health Assembly, which concluded last week, “agreed to adopt a global target of a 25 percent reduction in premature mortality from non-communicable diseases [NCDs] such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases by 2025,” Devi Sridhar, a lecturer in Global Health Politics at Oxford University; Lawrence Gostin, professor of law at Georgetown University, faculty director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, and director of the WHO’s Collaborating Center on Public Health Law and Human Rights; and Derek Yach, senior vice president of global health and agricultural policy at PepsiCo and former executive of the WHO, write in the journal Global Health Governance. The authors discuss the basis on which the target was set and examine what will need to be done, and by whom, in order to achieve the goal.
“The CIA’s vaccination gambit put at risk something very precious — the integrity of public health programs in Pakistan and around the globe” and has “also added to the dangers facing nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in a world that’s increasingly hostile to U.S. aid organizations,” opinion writer David Ignatius writes in a Washington Post opinion piece. Noting that attention in the U.S. has focused on a 33-year prison sentence given to Shakil Afridi, a doctor convicted of treason for helping the CIA track down Osama bin Laden through a vaccination program, Ignatius says, “Afridi and his handlers should reckon with the moral consequences of what they did. Here’s the painful truth: Some people may die because they don’t get vaccinations, suspecting that immunization is part of a CIA plot.”
In this Atlantic opinion piece, Rachel Hills, a freelance writer based in London, examines the WHO’s decision on May 25 to declare polio a public health emergency, “calling for the 194 member states to fully fund the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, and fill the currently $945 million gap in its budget for 2012-13.” She writes, “Few people probably associate the phrase ‘global health emergency’ with polio, a disease that has been around for 5,000 years and is on a decades-long decline so steep that there are less than a thousand recorded cases left on Earth,” but “polio’s threat is still very real, and the mission to finally stamp it out forever is a crucial one for reasons even bigger than the disease itself.”
“With a growing population and an onslaught of new planetary pressures expected to limit terrestrial food production, the conversation about how we’re going to feed a hungry planet should include the oceans,” Andrew Sharpless, CEO of Oceana, and actor Ted Danson write in the Huffington Post’s “Green” blog. “We need to produce 70 percent more food to meet the coming hunger needs, with meat production alone increasing from 270 million metric tons in 2009 to 470 million metric tons in 2050, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization,” they continue, adding, “The oceans will provide us an opportunity to meet that demand in a way that’s eternally renewable, but only if we start taking the appropriate steps right now.”
Citing a U.N. report released in May, titled “Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2010,” which shows “the number of women worldwide dying of pregnancy and childbirth-related complications has almost halved in the last 20 years,” Agnes Odhiambo, a researcher for women in Africa at Human Rights Watch, writes in this Inter Press Service opinion piece, “Although there was a 41 percent reduction in sub-Saharan Africa, the progress is slow and uneven. â€¦ Greater effort is urgently needed to save pregnant women.” She continues, “African governments need to invest in strong health care systems and to ensure that there are enough health care facilities that can provide emergency obstetric care, equitably dispense suitable drugs and supplies, and employ a sufficient number of adequately trained health professionals, including those with midwifery skills.”
In a two-part series in his Slate blog “The Reckoning,” author Michael Moran examines the “silo” effect of Western aid to improve health in Africa, writing in the first part, “Charities know that raising money for exotic disease eradication in the West is a good deal easier than, say, funding upgrades to substandard cardiac facilities. Yet the later is the real win in the long run.” He references an article published recently in Foreign Affairs by Thomas Bollyky, which Moran summarizes by saying, “Bollyky argues coordinated action to confront communicable crises like HIV/AIDS, malaria or tuberculosis must be part of the world’s approach to global health. But by ignoring far greater, non-communicable problems, he says, we doom Africans to low life expectancies and fail to create the impetus for reform and behavioral changes that could be transformational” (5/28).
“As the world’s worst outbreak of cholera continues to ravage Haiti, international donors have averted their gaze,” a Washington Post editorial writes. The editorial notes that a “pilot project to vaccinate Haitians against the disease … reached only one percent of the population, with no immediate prospect of expansion,” and “[o]f the 100 or so cholera treatment centers that sprang up around the country after the disease was detected 19 months ago, fewer than a third remain.” The solution to the epidemic is “equally well known and costly,” the editorial states, adding, “Haiti needs modern water and sanitation infrastructure, an undertaking that might cost $1 billion. But while donors tend to respond generously to emergencies, such as the earthquake that devastated Haiti in early 2010, they lose interest in long-term fixes of the sort that would deal decisively with cholera.”
In this post in the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog,” Gro Harlem Brundtland and Fernando Henrique Cardoso, both of whom are involved in Elders+Youngers, an inter-generational dialogue on the future of the planet initiated by the Elders, a group of eminent global leaders working together for peace and human rights, comment on a “lack of urgency in the run-up to the Rio+20 summit next month,” writing, “The meeting provides a historic opportunity to chart a sustainable future for the world,” but “at the moment, there is a real chance the opportunity will be thrown away.”