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More Research Needed Into How Transgender Persons In Asia, Pacific Affected By HIV, Stigma, Report Says

A report released Thursday in Bangkok by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Asia Pacific Transgender Network (APTN) says more research needs to be conducted to determine the extent to which transgender persons in Asia and the Pacific are affected by HIV, are socially ostracized, and lack fundamental rights, including access to basic health care, a UNDP press release reports. The report, released to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, is “a comprehensive review of material gathered from across the region over the past 12 years” and “emphasizes that inclusive research, designed and implemented in partnership with the transgender community, is critical to enable governments, community-based organizations and supporting organizations to enhance HIV and sexual health care services specific to the needs of transgender people, and foster action by governments to adopt more socially equitable policies and practices to protect their rights,” according to the press release (5/17).

Sierra Leone Has Made Progress In Improving Maternal, Child Health Care, But ‘Much More To Do’

“Just two years ago, our country had one of the worst maternal and infant death rates in the world,” Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma writes in a Huffington Post U.K. “Impact” blog post, adding, “We knew something had to be done.” So in September 2009, the government announced “that all health user fees would be removed for pregnant and lactating women and children under the age of five” and “introduced the Free Health Care Initiative [FHCI] in April 2010, which would give around 460,000 women and a million children a much better chance of having a longer and happier life,” Koroma writes. In one year, the FHCI facilitated a “214 percent increase in the number of children attending outpatient units” and a 61 percent reduction in “the number of women dying from pregnancy complications at facilities,” and “increased the number of health workers and ensured they were given big salary rises to reflect the importance of their positions,” he notes.

UNFPA, International Confederation of Midwives Recognize International Day Of The Midwife

In a joint statement (.pdf), UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin and Agneta Bridges, secretary-general of the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), recognize the International Day of the Midwife on May 5. “The right to health is a basic human right that every woman should enjoy. Yet, every day, almost 1,000 women die in pregnancy and childbirth … One of the main causes for these tragedies is lack of access to maternity services, including the care of midwives or others with midwifery skills at childbirth,” they write, continuing, “Urgent action is needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 on child and maternal health before the target year of 2015, and investing in human resources for health, especially midwifery, is one the soundest investments a country can make to accelerate progress” (5/4).

Experts Discuss Universal Health Coverage At CFR Roundtable

This post in the UHC Forward blog describes the second meeting of the Universal Health Coverage Roundtable Series, “Toward Sustainable Universal Health Coverage,” which was hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City on February 9. The panelists “examined the possibilities, challenges, and paths toward achieving Universal Health Coverage in different resource settings by exploring the methods for expanding and supporting coverage worldwide” and discussed issues such as how to define UHC, the importance of quality in health care, improving cost-effectiveness, and how to increase utilization of existing services, according to the blog (Wellington, 2/20).

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.”

Blog Posts Discuss World Prematurity Day

November 17 marked the second annual World Prematurity Day, sponsored by the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH). The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog published two posts discussing premature birth.

Wall Street Journal Examines Program In Pakistan Looking To Provide Health Insurance For Poor Urban Residents

The Wall Street Journal examines how “some local social entrepreneurs are coming up with new ideas to provide the poor with access to better medical services” in Pakistan, where the health care system is “split between low-cost government-funded hospitals offering basic services and expensive private-sector medical institutions … [b]ut the majority of the country’s 190 million people have little access to health care.” The newspaper describes how one program, called Naya Jeevan — “a non-profit micro-insurance program for the urban poor” that “offers an insurance program at subsidized rates under a national group health-insurance model” — operates to help ensure affordable medical care for the poor and how it has come “under scrutiny from the country’s insurance regulator” (Bahree, 11/6).

Facilitating Low-Cost Innovations In, Increased Usage Of Health Care

The argument that “a country’s quickest way to better health for its people is economic development … is only one factor, and not the most important one, in explaining global health outcomes,” Charles Kenny, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, writes in a SciDev.Net opinion piece. “The challenge is to ensure that a cheap basic package of health interventions is available to — and is used by — all,” he continues.

U.S. Army Working To Bring Virtual Health Care To Albanian Hospitals

The U.S. Army in a news article on its website reports on how it is working to “bring virtual health care to Albanian hospitals” through a telemedicine program that “aims to link different levels of health care to ensure a better functioning and sustainable system.” According to the article, “Currently, five of the 12 major regional hospitals in Albania are connected via a hub-and-spoke information technology system to the central e-heath center in Tirana,” and, “[b]y March of this year, three additional hospitals will have the infrastructure in place to connect to the network.”

U.N. Office On Drugs, Interpol Better Equipped Than WHO To Combat Counterfeit Drug Trade

“The worldwide counterfeit drug market is huge and growing,” Tim Mackey and Brian Liang of the Institute of Health Law Studies at the California Western School of Law and Thomas Kubic of the Pharmaceutical Security Institute write in a Foreign Policy opinion piece, noting such “drugs occupy a wide spectrum of medications, and their quality is suspect; they can be mislabeled, tainted, adulterated, ineffective, or, in the worst cases, all of the above.” They argue for a new framework for fighting the illegal drug trade because “[g]lobal policy has not kept up with the burgeoning counterfeit drug trade.” The authors say that although initial results of the WHO IMPACT (International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeit Taskforce) are “encouraging,” they note that “[s]ome WHO member states, including India and Brazil (both top producers of generic drugs) and other developing countries, have questioned whether WHO can rightly take on enforcement operations” because it “is not a global law enforcement agency.”