A study led by World Bank economist Jishnu Das and published in Health Affairs on Monday examines the quality of primary care delivered by private and public health care providers in rural and urban India, a World Bank press release notes. The study found many providers do not have medical degrees; the quality of medical training is low; and less than half of providers provide correct diagnoses, according to the press release, which says the results show an “urgent need” to carefully measure the quality of care. “The study could help policymakers make evidence-based decisions,” the press release notes, adding, “In November, the government announced a five-year plan to triple health spending and improve the quality of health services” (12/3).
Private Sector Involvement
“The global economic crisis has caused many to reassess, refocus and redirect financial priorities,” and “[a]s a result, vital international aid to combat global health issues like HIV/AIDS is threatened,” Rhonda Zygocki, executive vice president of policy and planning at Chevron Corporation, and Frank Beadle de Palomo, CEO of mothers2mothers International, write in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog. “But there is good news: Mother-to-child transmission of HIV can be eliminated,” they continue, adding, “Through education, voluntary testing and counseling, antiretroviral therapies, safe delivery practices and breastfeeding protocols, we can ensure babies are born HIV-free.”
In a joint initiative headed by GBC Health, UNAIDS, and Levis Strauss & Co., more than 40 CEOs have signed a pledge urging 45 countries to repeal policies and laws restricting travel for people living with HIV, TakePart.com reports (Doheny, 11/28). “CEOs oppose HIV travel restrictions because they are discriminatory and because to succeed in today’s globalized economy, companies must be able to send their employees and best talent overseas, regardless of their HIV status,” according to a joint press release. Forty-five countries, including key hubs for international business, “still deny entry, stay, residence or work visas for people living with HIV,” the press release notes (11/28). Restrictions in some countries “also include denial of work visas, disallowing short-term stays for business trips or conferences, and blocking longer-term stays, such as residence-for-work relocations and study-abroad programs, according to UNAIDS,” the U.N. News Centre writes (11/28).
Writing in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog, Chip Bergh, president and CEO of Levi Strauss & Co., and Kenneth Cole, CEO of Kenneth Cole Productions and chair of the Board of amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, discuss why some CEOs oppose HIV travel bans. “Restrictions based only on positive HIV status deny the entry, stay, residence or work visas for people living with HIV, even though the HIV virus can’t be transmitted through casual contact,” they write, adding, “These laws and policies not only violate human rights and don’t protect the public health, they also harm a business’s bottom line.”
The New York Times’ “India Ink” blog examines how “a growing number of ‘affordable health care’ entrepreneurs are focused on developing new solutions for the rural and remote parts of the country.” According to the blog, “Across India, access to health care remains a pressing problem, exacerbated by the country’s large population and shortage of doctors. Nowhere is this challenge more acute than in rural India, which is experiencing a severe shortage of qualified health care practitioners.” But one pilot program in Tamil Nadu is training and certifying traditional medical doctors “to serve as ‘independent care providers’ in a rural setting,” the blog states, noting the program was developed in conjunction with the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (Lavakare, 11/29).
Pharma Companies Improving Access To Medicines But Lack Oversight Of Outsourced Clinical Trials, Analysis Says
Pharmaceutical companies are showing “greater accountability in the boardroom today over access to medicines, with more openness, targets and investment in drugs relevant to the poor,” but they “show no evidence that they adequately supervise the conduct of outsourced clinical drug trials, according to a new analysis released on Wednesday,” the Financial Times reports (Jack, 11/28). Published every two years, the Access to Medicine Index “ranks the world’s 20 biggest drug companies,” BBC News notes, adding, “GlaxoSmithKline remains at the top of the index, followed closely by Johnson & Johnson and Sanofi.”
“Poverty is the leading cause of many vitamin deficiencies, especially vitamin A,” and the problem is acute in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where food staples such as cassava and rice are high in calories but low in nutrients, Inter Press Service reports. Some experts say parents’ lack of knowledge about the nutritional requirements for children can lead to undernourishment, particularly in children under age five, the news service notes. “Still, there are signs that the trend is changing, largely due to a renewed push by development practitioners around the world to tackle the problem,” IPS writes and describes several efforts to improve access to vitamins. The news service concludes, “Nutrition plays a role in achieving almost every [Millennium Development Goal] — its impact on child health, for instance, could also boost the number of children attending school, promote gender equality by empowering women to take a more active role in their children’s health, and also improve maternal health, thereby reducing the maternal mortality ratio” (11/26).
Nigeria’s Kano State, Dangote Group, Gates Foundation Sign Memorandum Of Understanding To Fight Polio
Nigeria’s Kano State government, the Dangote Group, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on Monday signed a multi-year memorandum of understanding “geared towards the eradication of polio in Kano State,” Actualite Afrique reports. According to the news service, a statement from the Gates Foundation said the public-private partnership aims to “improve routine immunization and primary health care in Kano State with a goal of reaching 80 percent coverage with basic vaccines by 2015” (11/27). Under the partnership, the organizations “would provide funding, equipment and technical support to the Kano State government to strengthen polio immunization,” Agence France-Presse writes (11/26).
“In October 1987, Roy Vagelos, then the chief executive of [pharmaceutical company] Merck, launched the largest pharmaco-philanthropic venture ever,” William Foege, an epidemiologist and former director of the CDC, writes in a Washington Post opinion piece highlighting the company’s efforts to combat onchocerciasis in the developing world through the free distribution of its drug Mectizan. Initially developed to protect dogs against heartworms, Merck found a human version of the drug “could inhibit the microfilaria of onchocerciasis for a year with a single dose,” Foege continues, adding, “Merck said that it would supply the drug as long as it was needed. Extended surveillance has shown this to be one of the safest drugs ever developed.”
In a statement released on Monday, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said “[s]everal recent media articles are creating misinformation and confusion in the public health arena” by “erroneously suggesting that, in working to reduce non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes, WHO receives funding from the food and beverage industry,” the U.N. News Centre reports. Referring to an October 19 article by Reuters suggesting the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) had accepted money from the industry and a similar November 1 piece by Mother Jones, Chan said, “The allegations in these articles are wrong,” and she added, “When WHO works with the private sector, the organization takes all possible measures to ensure its work to develop policy and guidelines is protected from industry influence,” the news service notes (11/19).