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New UNICEF Publications Show Universal Health Coverage Achievable Through Social Protection Measures

“Two newly released UNICEF publications demonstrate that while reaching universal health coverage (UHC) is possible in most countries, this requires a comprehensive social protection system of which health insurance is a crucial component,” according to this post on the UHC Forward blog. A recent UNICEF study “finds that even in middle and low-income countries that have adopted a formal policy of universal health coverage … many socio-economic barriers to access persist,” the blog reports, adding, “It is for this reason that the study has been framed in the broader approach recommended by UNICEF’s first global Social Protection Strategic Framework, which stresses the importance of developing and strengthening integrated social protection systems” (O’Connell, 6/4).

Al Jazeera Examines Afghanistan's Health Care System Since Fall Of Taliban

Al Jazeera examines Afghanistan’s health care system since the fall of the Taliban, writing, “Standards of health care in Afghanistan have improved significantly since the fall of the Taliban, but security continues to play a large role in determining access to and quality of care provided.” According to the video report, Afghanistan’s constitution mandates that health services be provided free of charge, which “leaves many small clinics reliant on foreign aid.” The news service notes, “There’s a big difference in the type of care you can get [in] rural areas and in urban areas,” adding, “Many procedures still require patients to travel to city hospitals, putting them at risk from violence and grueling journeys on poorly maintained roads” (Smith, 6/3).

MDR-TB, XDR-TB More Widespread Than Previously Believed, Study Shows

In a study published on Wednesday in the Lancet, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that “[a]mong 1,278 patients who were resistant to two or more first-line tuberculosis drugs in Estonia, Latvia, Peru, Philippines, Russia, South Africa, South Korea and Thailand, 43.7 percent showed resistance to at least one second-line drug,” which “suggest[s] the deadly disease may become ‘virtually untreatable,'” according to the study, Bloomberg Businessweek reports (Kitamura/Narayan, 8/29). “In about a fifth of cases, they found resistance to at least one second-line injectable [versus oral] drug,” according to Reuters, which states “[t]his ranged from two percent in the Philippines to 47 percent in Latvia.” Overall, 6.7 percent of patients had extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB), meaning patients are resistant to the first-line drugs isoniazid and rifampicin as well as drugs in the fluoroquinolone antibiotic class and a second-line injectable antibiotic, Reuters adds, noting “[r]ates in South Korea, at 15.2 percent, and Russia at 11.3 percent, were more than twice the WHO’s global estimate of 5.4 percent at that time” (Kelland, 8/30).

Indian Government Plans To Launch National Urban Health Mission To Complement Rural Program

Building on its seven-year-old National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), India’s government plans to launch the National Urban Health Mission (NUHM), which “will focus on improving health care delivery and public health systems,” the Lancet reports. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently “expressed hope that the two programs together will in the future lead to a unified National Health Mission,” according to the journal. “Unplanned urbanization brings forth a whole set of new health problems. [The] urban poor are three times more likely to die before attaining the age of five years, 20 times more likely not to have any antenatal care, three times less likely to get primary immunization, and two and a half to three times more likely to be stunted and wasted than urban richest,” Chandrakant Pandav, head of the Centre for Community Medicine at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, said, citing the third National Family Health Survey, the Lancet notes (Bhaumik, 8/11).

GlobalPost Series Examines HIV/AIDS In European, MENA Regions

As part of its ongoing series, titled “The State of AIDS,” GlobalPost published two articles examining the epidemic in different regions. In Eastern Europe, rates of HIV/AIDS diagnoses have risen in several countries, including Ukraine and Russia, according to the first article, which discusses some of the potential reasons for the increases. Also, “with the economic crisis affecting much of Western Europe, there is concern that declining health spending and cuts to research budgets could hurt AIDS treatment across the continent, even in nations that are leading the way in HIV/AIDS prevention and care like the United Kingdom,” the news service writes (Ames, 12/7).

Global Fund, Nigeria Sign Grants For HIV, TB Initiatives

“On Thursday (Dec. 14), [Nigeria] signed five grant agreements with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria,” with some of the money going “to provide for antiretroviral therapy treatment and prevention services, particularly on mother-to-child HIV transmission,” Devex’s “The Development Newswire” blog reports. Of the total $335 million, $265 million will go toward HIV/AIDS activities, while $70 million will be used for TB initiatives, the blog notes (Ravelo, 12/14). “For Nigeria, [the] grant agreements address a tremendous need: Nigeria has the second highest number of people living with HIV in the world and only 30 percent of people requiring HIV treatment are receiving antiretroviral therapy,” a Global Fund press release states (12/13).

World Bank Study Examines Quality Of Health Care In India

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).

Seattle Times Examines Partnership Between Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Uganda Cancer Institute

The Seattle Times examines a partnership between the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI). In 2008, “the two institutes formally agreed to collaborate on clinical care and research projects, and more recently a major building project at Uganda’s only cancer-research center,” the newspaper writes. Corey Casper, director of the UCI/Fred Hutchinson Research Center Cancer Alliance, “says [the partnership] has the potential to demonstrate ‘that you can do first-rate research that can alter the impact of cancer care in the developing world, and that the craft of oncology can be practiced as well in Africa as it is in the developed world, just like it is with HIV,'” according to the Seattle Times (Silberner, 12/16).

PRI’s ‘The World’ Features Weeklong Series On Cancer In Developing Nations

PRI’s “The World” this week features a series examining the challenges of addressing cancer in the developing world. The series, produced in collaboration with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, includes radio stories, multimedia features, an interactive map, and infographics, according to the main page. The radio stories examine cancer prevention, control, and research efforts in Uganda, Haiti, India, and the U.S. (12/3). In an interview with the series’ principal reporter, Joanne Silberner, Lancet editor Richard Horton said, “Cancer is certainly being under-recognized and neglected in low- and middle-income countries. … I think cancer is slowly becoming more recognized but there is a long way to go before it gets the attention it so urgently needs (12/3). On December 5, PRI will host a Facebook chat from 10am-4pm EST that will feature Silberner and cancer researchers and advocates (12/4).

Lancet Examines Indonesia’s Efforts To Reduce Maternal Mortality

The Lancet examines Indonesia’s efforts to reduce maternal mortality, one of the Millennium Development Goals President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has identified as a national priority. Indonesia’s risk of maternal death is one in 150, compared with one in 4,000 in developed nations, and the government has set a goal of reducing mortality to 102 for every 100,000 live births by 2015, one-quarter of the rate in 1990, according to the journal. Gita Maya Koemara Sakti, recently appointed as director of maternal health, explained the Ministry of Health “has adopted a four-step plan that starts with bolstered family planning campaigns,” the Lancet writes. Other efforts include providing free maternal health care through the national social assistance system, improving the national midwifery program, and providing more funding to rural health clinics, the journal notes. The Lancet includes quotes from other government officials and non-governmental organization representatives regarding these efforts and the challenges faced (Webster, 12/8).

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