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Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

Countries Engage In Public Awareness Activities Surrounding Global Handwashing Day

“From Ethiopia and Yemen to Bolivia and Vietnam, millions of children [on Tuesday took] part in the sixth annual United Nations-backed Global Handwashing Day, driving home the message that the simple use of soap and water can slash highly preventable diarrheal diseases that kill 1,400 children under five every day,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “‘Washing hands before eating and after defecation drastically reduces the spread of diarrheal disease and has far reaching effects on the health and welfare of children and communities,’ the global head of the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programs, Sanjay Wijesekera, said in a message marking the day, whose theme this year is ‘The Power Is In Our Hands,’” the news service notes (10/15).

In Sierra Leone, a network of non-governmental organizations known as the Urban WASH Consortium, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Water Resources organized the country’s first flashmob of about 200 dancers to attract the public’s attention to the issue, VOA News reports. In addition, “[a] short film is being put together by Concept Multimedia, a local film company, and the Urban WASH Consortium, which will include footage of the flashmob and some key hygiene messages,” the news service notes (De Vries, 10/15).

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New York Times Examines Breast Cancer In Uganda

The New York Times in two articles examines breast cancer in Uganda, where stigma, poverty and misinformation often lead to delays in treatment for women in need. In the first article, the newspaper highlights a rise in cancer rates across Africa as the continent continues to make progress against infectious diseases, and examines how “Uganda is trying to improve the treatment of all types of cancer in ways that make sense in a place with limited resources.” For example, the country is “sending health workers into rural areas to educate and examine women,” and “teaching doctors to use ultrasound to examine lumps that women have already noticed, and quickly identify those who most urgently need treatment,” the newspaper notes. The article tells the story of Mary Namata, a Ugandan woman living in a village outside Kampala, and her difficulties obtaining treatment for tumors in her breast (Grady/Bakyawa, 10/15).

The second article tells the story of Jessy Acen, a 30-year-old Ugandan woman with advanced breast cancer who has to travel nearly 200 miles from her home north of Kampala to receive chemotherapy at the Uganda Cancer Institute. “Patients like Ms. Acen are ‘the raw nub of our situation,’ said Dr. Jackson Orem, the director of the cancer institute, who looked pained as he acknowledged that many patients traveled long distances to Kampala for chemotherapy and had nowhere to sleep but the hospital grounds,” the newspaper notes. “In Africa, women with breast cancer tend to be younger than those in developed countries, and they are more likely to die, in large part because of late diagnosis and inadequate treatment,” the article continues (Grady, 10/15).

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Mexico Proposes Policies To Support Anti-Obesity Campaign Supported By Bloomberg Philanthropies

“In a bet against an epidemic of obesity and diabetes, [Mexico's] President Enrique Peña Nieto has proposed a tax on sales of all sugary drinks,” the New York Times reports, adding, “If it goes through, the tax will make Mexico a rare test case of a national soda tax directed at a severe obesity problem.” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s foundation is supporting the effort, the newspaper notes, writing, “Its three-year, $10 million grant is being used to support anti-obesity advertising campaigns, finance research at Mexico’s National Institute of Public Health and promote policies like the soda tax, nutrition labeling and controls on junk-food television advertising aimed at children. The foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, calls its work in Mexico a pilot project that could be adapted to other developing countries if it is successful” (Malkin, 10/15).

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International Community Must Address Syria's Humanitarian Crisis With Urgency, MSF Warns

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) “says the international community should demonstrate the same urgency in addressing Syria’s humanitarian crisis that it did in pressing for the destruction of its chemical weapons,” VOA News reports. “The call from MSF Operations Director Bart Janssens came Tuesday, along with a warning that the threat of malnutrition and starvation in the country is rising as people run out of food,” the news service writes, adding, “He said in an interview with VOA that malnutrition will reach dramatic levels in the coming weeks, particularly in areas where access to refugees is blocked by ongoing fighting.” The news service notes, “International monitors say more than 100,000 people have been killed in the 30-month Syrian civil war, which has displaced more than two million people internally and forced millions more to flee the country” (10/15).

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China Confirms First H7N9 Case Since August

“China has confirmed a new case of the H7N9 bird flu, state media said, the country’s first report since August of human infection with a virus that has so far afflicted 135 people,” Reuters reports. “China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission said 45 people had died from the virus, which was first detected in humans early this year,” the news agency writes, noting the man recently diagnosed is in critical condition. “While there have been only a handful of H7N9 infections during the summer months after a surge in April, flu experts warn that the threat posed by the virus has not passed,” Reuters notes (Martina/Kelland, 10/16).

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BBC News Series Examines Maternal Mortality In Afghanistan

Lyse Doucet, chief international correspondent for BBC News Magazine, examines maternal mortality in Afghanistan. “For our 100 Women series, I’ve spoken to Minister of Health Suraya Dalil at Malalai Hospital, the oldest and largest hospital in Kabul,” she writes and introduces a short video of her visit there. She also introduces a special edition of Newshour on the BBC World Service, “guest-edited on Monday by Chelsea Clinton, who chose maternal mortality as one of her key themes” (10/14).

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Editorials and Opinions

Global Fund Withdrawal From Romania Negatively Impacting HIV/AIDS Epidemic

Reflecting on a visit to Bucharest last week in an effort “to understand the origin of the recent outbreak of HIV among people who use drugs in the city,” Michel Kazatchkine, the U.N. secretary-general’s special envoy for AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, writes in the Huffington Post U.K.’s “Politics” blog, “I am disheartened to say that the fears of many of us working in global health held about the potential negative impact on the HIV/AIDS epidemic caused by the withdrawal of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria from a number of countries, including Romania, have been realized.” He notes, “Romania’s ‘middle income’ country status has ruled it ineligible to receive Global Fund money and since 2011, the gap in service provision, especially to people who inject drugs (PWID) cannot be met by a civil society sector that receives no State funding whatsoever.”

Kazatchkine recounts several “tragic Bucharest stories” from PWID, writing, “These … stories are being or will be repeated in other countries where the Global Fund is leaving and it is no coincidence that increases in HIV amongst PWID have begun to surface in Romania.” He continues, “Eastern Europe nations and other economies in transition are facing dramatic HIV/AIDS emergencies amongst PWID. Decision makers within those countries remain blind to this reality.” He concludes, “After my meetings with government officials I’m of the view that the HIV/AIDS scenario in Romania and countries that find themselves in a similar funding situation will not change in the coming months or indeed, years” (10/14).

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With CDC Activities Halted, Protection Against Disease Outbreaks Diminished During Shutdown

In a National Journal opinion piece, staff correspondent Brian Resnick examines the CDC’s role in infectious disease monitoring, writing, “The CDC provides disease-tracking services that no other agency or private entity does. The CDC is the agency that makes the judgment call about what flu vaccines to distribute across the nation. Without the CDC, we have no real-time tracking of disease outbreaks. It monitors high-security labs that do tests on deadly pathogens like anthrax. It collaborates across international borders to stop outbreaks.” He interviews Gregory Poland, an infectious disease expert at the Mayo Clinic, about the implications of the government shutdown and how these activities will be affected. According to the transcript, Poland discusses how “the country’s protection against disease outbreaks [is] diminished during the shutdown,” as well as how the shutdown impacts operations at the Mayo Clinic (10/15).

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Global Trachoma Mapping Essential To Eliminating Disease

“Today we draw attention to trachoma, a disease deeply affecting Mozambicans, and the world’s leading cause of preventable infectious blindness,” Sharone Backers, the resident program adviser for the Envision project, managed by RTI International in Mozambique, writes in The Guardian’s “Global Development Professionals Network” blog, noting the theme for World Sight Day 2013 — observed on October 10 — was universal eye health. As the goal of eliminating trachoma by 2020 approaches, “collaboration between national governments, [non-governmental organizations (NGOs)] and donors is essential in determining where interventions are needed,” Backers continues.

“At present, over 110 million people are believed to live in areas where trachoma is endemic but the exact distribution and disease burden of trachoma is unknown, with many areas left unmapped or having out-of-date epidemiological data.” She notes, “RTI International, through the USAID-funded Envision project, and Sightsavers, through the DfID-funded global trachoma mapping project, are working together to respond to this need for mapping,” and describes their work. She concludes, “While we are at the beginning of our journey to eliminate blindness from trachoma in Mozambique, we have a clear target. Our progress in trachoma mapping thus far shows what can be achieved when a country is committed and when aid organizations work collaboratively, using their expertise and financial resources to support a common goal” (10/15).

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Opinion Pieces Address World Food Day

October 16 is recognized as World Food Day, with this year’s theme of “Sustainable Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition.” The following summarizes several opinion pieces addressing issues surrounding food production, distribution and security.

  • Chris Brett, The Guardian’s “Sustainable Business” blog: “According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a third of the food currently produced never reaches our plates,” Brett, head of corporate responsibility and sustainability at Olam International, writes, adding, “[A]lthough some element of waste is inevitable, reducing its scale will have a significant impact on the future of global food security and the sustainability of agricultural development.” He continues, “Everyone has a role in securing the future of food but the onus is on major influencers, not least the food industry, to lead the way” (10/16).
  • José Graziano da Silva, Achim Steiner, Project Syndicate: The amount of food waste “is all the more unfathomable, given that, alongside this massive wastage and loss, 840 million people experience chronic hunger on a daily basis. Many millions more suffer from ‘silent hunger’ — malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies,” FAO Director-General Graziano da Silva and Steiner, U.N. under secretary general and executive director of the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP), write. They discuss a new FAO report (.pdf) highlighting “another troubling aspect of the problem: the negative consequences for the environment and the natural resources on which we rely for our survival.” The authors note several steps that can be undertaken to address the issue of waste and conclude, “The world confronts many seemingly intractable problems; food wastage is one issue that we all can do something about now” (10/15).
  • Sarah Edwards, Huffington Post U.K. Blog: “Indigenous children in Peru are growing up stunted and with cognitive impairments, and food aid programs are part of the problem,” Edwards, head of policy and campaigns at Health Poverty Action, writes, noting the findings of a report from her organization. She says many food aid programs do not consult with the people they are meant to help, and “the most significant flaw in the food aid approach is its unsustainability.” She adds, “Enabling communities to have the power to produce their own food rather than rely on externally produced hand-outs is an approach known as ‘food sovereignty.’” Edwards concludes, “[A] long-term answer should involve prioritizing the development of local agricultural and food production using local resources to achieve self-sufficiency, with food aid programs being an interim measure that are designed with the involvement of the community they are intended to help” (10/15).
  • Kathleen Mogelgaard, Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog: Mogelgaard, principal at KAM Consulting, writes about her experience visiting Keur Moussa, Senegal, where women were working to shore up water resources for the growing season. “Yet food security depends not only on the amount and quality of food available, but also on the number of people who need to share it. And unfortunately, planning families is not an easy thing for many women in Senegal,” she writes, adding, “The women of Keur Moussa, like millions of women around the world, are on the front lines of efforts to achieve food security and better nutrition for their families and communities.” She concludes, “When their needs are met — including their needs for family planning — this year’s World Food Day theme will be within closer reach” (10/15).

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Recent Releases

Blogs Address Global Handwashing Day

Two blogs address Global Handwashing Day, recognized on October 15. Writing in the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Global Health Policy” blog, Victoria Fan, a CGD research fellow, and Rachel Silverman, a research assistant for the CGD global health team, say, “[We] would urge child survival advocates to raise the priority of handwashing among donor and survey operators. With a staggering two million preventable deaths each year from diarrhea and respiratory infections worldwide, today’s occasion would be the perfect time for the global health community to spring for a shiny new handwashing indicator” (10/15). And Hanna Woodburn, communications director for the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing, writes in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog that educators, parents, and policymakers have a role to play to “ensure that our communities experience the health benefits” of handwashing (10/14).

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BBC News Features Interactive Worldwide Vaccination Coverage Maps

BBC News features three interactive maps on worldwide vaccination coverage for measles, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), and diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough), or DTP. “These maps chart the growth of global vaccine coverage from 1980 and show which countries are doing best — and worst — at protecting their population,” the page notes (10/16).

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