“The World Health Organization (WHO) hopes to hold a meeting late this fall to discuss ‘dual-use’ research issues raised in the controversy over publication of two studies involving lab-modified H5N1 viruses with increased transmissibility, a WHO official said,” CIDRAP News reports. “The WHO hosted a closed meeting of disease experts and government officials Feb 16 and 17 to discuss the two H5N1 studies,” CIDRAP notes, adding that “the WHO [on Wednesday] released a brief statement about its activities related to the H5N1 research controversy since the February meeting in Geneva.” Keiji Fukuda, the WHO’s assistant director-general for health security and environment, said, “We hope to hold a second meeting to discuss the broader concerns related to potential dual [use] research in the late fall, if resources are available,” the news service notes.
Seriously Ill Children Administered Zinc In Addition To Antibiotics Respond Better, More Quickly To Treatment, Study Shows
“In a newly released clinical study, conducted in India” and published in the Lancet on Thursday, “hundreds of seriously ill infants who received zinc — an essential micronutrient for the immune system and human growth — as well as antibiotics, responded better and more quickly to treatment than those who did not,” IRIN reports, adding, “This finding is the first proof that zinc supplements may boost infant survival from infections.” According to the news service, “More than 300 infants no older than 120 days (four months), hospitalized in New Delhi, the capital, for suspected meningitis (an infection of the brain or spinal cord lining), pneumonia (a lung infection) or sepsis (blood poisoning), were given zinc in addition to antibiotics” and “were found to be 40 percent less likely to experience ‘treatment failure’ — needing a second antibiotic within one week of the first treatment, or intensive care or death within 21 days — than those given a placebo.”
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.
“As the nations of the world attend the World Health Assembly in Geneva this week, the World Health Organization is in a budget crisis and continuing to struggle for relevancy among better-funded, more agile philanthropic foundations and disease-specific initiatives,” Thomas Bollyky, senior fellow for global health, economics, and development at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), writes in this CFR expert brief. “Survival for the institution is possible, but only if WHO reinvents itself as a twenty-first century international institution that can adapt to changing global health needs and thrive in austere times,” he writes (5/23).
“The World Health Assembly [on Wednesday] appointed Dr. Margaret Chan for a second five-year term as Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO),” a WHO press release reports (5/23). This will be the second consecutive term for Chan, who was first elected in November 2006 and “was the sole candidate nominated ahead of Wednesday’s election,” Agence France-Presse notes. According to the news service, “the WHO said [Chan] received the backing of 88 percent of members who voted” (5/23).
“A global initiative to rid the world of polio launched an emergency action plan on Thursday because gaps in funding and vaccination coverage threaten to derail a final push towards stamping out the paralyzing disease,” AlertNet reports (Rowling, 5/24). “Despite the dramatic drop in polio cases in the last year, the threat of continued transmission due to funding and immunization gaps has driven the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) to launch an Emergency Action Plan,” a GPEI press release states. “‘Polio eradication is at a tipping point between success and failure,’ said Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization,” the press release states. “We are in emergency mode to tip it towards success — working faster and better, focusing on the areas where children are most vulnerable,” she added, according to the release (5/24).
UNAIDS and PEPFAR recently brought together the ministers of health and representatives of the 22 countries with the most new HIV cases among children to discuss progress on the Global Plan towards the Elimination of New HIV Infections among Children by 2015 and Keeping Their Mothers Alive agreed to at the 2011 U.N. High-Level Meeting on AIDS, according to a UNAIDS press release. Though “great strides have been made in reducing HIV infections among women of reproductive age and expanding access to antiretroviral therapy for pregnant women living with HIV, … progress is not being scaled up as quickly on meeting the family planning needs of women living with HIV, preventing maternal mortality and ensuring that all children living with HIV have access to antiretroviral therapy,” according to UNAIDS. “The meeting was the first annual face-to-face gathering of representatives from the 22 focus countries since the launch of the Global Plan,” the press release notes (5/23).
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria “expects to have an additional $1.6 billion to fund projects in 2012-2014, [the fund’s General Manager Gabriel Jaramillo] said on Wednesday, a turnaround from a funding freeze last year,” Reuters reports (Miles, 5/9). “The new funds are a result of ‘strategic decisions made by the Board, freeing up funds that can be invested in countries where there is the most pressing demand,’ a statement by the fund said,” according to PlusNews (5/10). “The money includes funds from new donors, from traditional donors who are advancing their payments or increasing contributions and from some donors, such as China, that have offered to support projects in their own country to free up cash for more pressing needs elsewhere, Jaramillo said,” Reuters notes (5/9). “This forecast is better than expected, and it comes from the fantastic response we are getting to our transformation,” Jaramillo said, adding, “But we need more to get the job done. Countries that implement our grants are saving more and more people, but demand for services is still enormous,” according to the statement (5/9).
Ahead of Mother’s Day on May 13, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe writes in this post in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog, “Together we can go from 390,000 children becoming infected with HIV each year to zero,” and he highlights “three simple things we can all do to ensure babies everywhere can be born free from HIV.”
Anirban Chatterjee, chief of health and nutrition for UNICEF in Ghana, said the country “is doing a lot” to fight child mortality — referring to a recently launched vaccination campaign and an initiative to educate mothers about nutrition — but “I don’t think it’s enough” to reach the fourth U.N. Millennium Development Goal (MDG) to reduce the under-five mortality rate by two thirds by 2015, Inter Press Service reports. “I think there is definitely scope and need for more improvement,” he added, according to the news service. A GAVI Alliance-supported campaign to provide vaccines against rotavirus and pneumococcal disease is underway, but Chatterjee added that efforts to improve nutrition need to be provided simultaneously because he “said malnourishment can sometimes double or triple the chances of dying from a condition like diarrhea or pneumonia,” IPS writes.