“Mental illness and drug abuse can wreak havoc in global societies and economies, and the U.N. General Assembly should devote a special session to the matter, global health experts said” in a PLoS Medicine article published on Tuesday, Agence France-Presse reports (1/17). “Mental, neurological, and substance use disorders (MNS) … are leading contributors to the global burden of disease and profoundly impact the social and economic well-being of individuals and communities,” a PLoS press release states, adding, “Yet the majority of people affected by MNS disorders globally do not have access to evidence-based interventions and many experience discrimination and abuses of their human rights” (1/17).
Health officials from India and the WHO are scheduled to meet in Mumbai on Tuesday to discuss how to manage the cases of at least 12 patients infected with a highly drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) strain, Bloomberg reports (Narayan, 1/17). “The ‘totally drug-resistant’ tuberculosis (TDR-TB) reportedly emerging in India is actually an advanced stage of drug-resistant TB, which researchers called totally drug-resistant for lack of a better term,” IRIN notes (1/17).
Mark Bowden, the U.N.’s official in Somalia, on Sunday said “tens of thousands of people will have died over the last year” in the country’s famine, adding that the rates of malnutrition are “amazingly high,” BBC News reports. “He said a quarter of a million Somalis were still suffering from the famine,” and he “said malnutrition rates have begun to drop but the crisis was likely to continue for the next six or seven months,” the news service notes (1/15).
“The World Health Organization says it will take a role in helping sort through an international scientific controversy over two bird flu studies that the U.S. government deemed too dangerous to publish in full,” the Canadian Press/Winnipeg Free Press reports. Keiji Fukuda, the WHO’s assistant director-general for health security and environment, on Sunday in an interview with the Canadian Press “said the agency will pull together international talks aimed at fleshing out the issues that need to be addressed and then work to resolve them.” On the advice of the National Science Advisory Board on Biosecurity (NSABB), the journals Science and Nature “have grudgingly agreed to abbreviate the papers, leaving out the details of how the work was done,” according to the news service.
“Countries need to change their current mindset to successfully tackle non-communicable diseases (NCDs), the head of the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) said [Monday], adding that governments will need to explore new approaches to prevent and treat these diseases, which have quickly become one of the most pressing issues in public health,” the U.N. News Centre reports (1/16). “In an opening speech to the annual WHO Executive Board meeting, Director-General Margaret Chan … urged the 34-member board to tackle the root causes of non-communicable diseases,” VOA News writes (Schlein, 1/16).
The expected re-appointment of Margaret Chan as the WHO’s director-general “comes at a perilous moment for WHO,” a Lancet editorial states. Although “WHO is in crisis” and “[r]escue is needed,” the situation is not “a fair reflection of the director-general’s performance,” the editorial adds, noting several successes of her first term, including initiatives on women’s and children’s health and non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius “administered polio vaccination drops to children in New Delhi on Friday as India marked one year since its last case of the crippling disease,” the Associated Press reports (1/13). The Hill’s “Healthwatch” reports that “[o]fficials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] say U.S. funding and experience were key to beating back the disease,” but “[t]he news comes as federal funding for global health programs now faces sharp cuts from Tea Party lawmakers and others worried about the deficit” (Pecquet, 1/12). “ÂGlobally, the U.S. government has provided $2 billion for the polio eradication campaign, Rotary International has raised about $1 billion from its members, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has donated more than $1 billion,” and the CDC “weighed in with crucial expertise,” the Washington Post writes (Denyer, 1/12).
“The work of the essential medicines department of the World Health Organization (WHO) is under threat because of a serious shortage of funds, says a worrying and important letter published in the Lancet [on Thursday],” Guardian Health Editor Sarah Boseley reports in her “Global Health Blog.” “According to the letter from Mohga Kamal-Yanni of Oxfam, the work of updating … the essential medicines list, which tells every health ministry in every corner of the world, however tiny their budget, which drugs they should be getting for their people … [and] for children, is now being paid for by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,” the blog writes.
International Health Groups Ally To Fight Cholera In Haiti; Officials Emphasize Need For Sanitation Infrastructure
“Unless steps are taken to eliminate cholera from Haiti and the neighboring Dominican Republic, the disease will likely resurge and could even spread to other parts of the Caribbean, international health officials said Wednesday,” CQ HealthBeat reports (Bristol, 1/11). Officials from the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), UNICEF and the CDC “said they would join with the Haitian and Dominican governments to develop a plan to eradicate cholera from the island the two countries share by extending clean water and sanitation to stricken areas,” Reuters writes, adding, “The effort faces a daunting financial challenge if it is to meet a goal of reaching at least two-thirds of the Haitian population by 2015, a task that could cost $1.1 billion” (Morgan, 1/12).
“Findings that a one-time oral treatment to cure yaws, a neglected tropical disease, is as effective as the currently recommended penicillin injection have prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to convene a meeting on how the disease may be wiped out,” IRIN reports. “‘We may be closer now than we have been in decades,’ Kingsley Asiedu, a yaws expert with WHO’s Department of Neglected Tropical Disease Control, told IRIN, calling the study on the bacterial skin disease, which leads to chronic disfiguration and disability in 10 percent of untreated cases, the most significant in half a century,” the news service writes.