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Also In Global Health News: Cancer In Developing Countries; Preventing Deaths From Diarrhea; Food, Drug, Medical Personnel Shortages In Libya; Benefits Of Electronic Health Records In Kenya

Scientific American Features Q&A With Paul Farmer On Rise Of Cancer In Developing Countries

Scientific American this month features a Q&A with Harvard medical anthropologist Paul Farmer, who cofounded the group Partners In Health, on the rise of cancer in developing countries. According to the magazine, last October, Farmer “and a team of other leaders from the Global Task Force on Expanded Access to Cancer Care and Control in Developing Countries announced an ambitious, multipronged plan to increase these countries’ access to cancer medical resources – by raising money, driving down the cost of drugs, and figuring out new ways to get those drugs to patients in need.” In the interview, Farmer elaborates on how the group is working to achieve its goals, how cancer care lends itself to strengthening health systems overall, and the role of community health workers in treatment (Carmichael, March 2011).

Computer Model Evaluates Interventions To Fight Diarrhea

The implementation of preventive measures and interventions for diarrheal diseases can greatly reduce the number of annual deaths from the disease, according to a PLoS Medicine study published Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times’ “Booster Shots” blog reports. The researchers used a computer model to “generat[e] total numbers of diarrhea deaths assuming a gradual implementation [under two different scenarios] of the preventive measures in the years 2010 through 2015,” the blog writes. Such measures included “breastfeeding; vitamin A supplements; hand-washing with soap; improved sanitation; improved drinking water; better water treatment at home; rotavirus vaccination; and treatments with antibiotics, oral rehydration salts, and zinc” (Brown, 3/22). According to a PLoS press release, the authors “found that a do-able increase in the coverage of all interventions would reduce child deaths due to diarrhea by 78% by 2015 at a cost of US$0.80 per capita. However, if these countries were able to provide all of their citizens with the package of interventions, by 2015, diarrhea deaths could be reduced by 92% at a cost of $3.24 per capita – averting nearly 5 million deaths” (3/22).

Violence In Libya Challenging Public’s Access To Food, Medical Care, Medicine

Ongoing violence in Libya is exacerbating food shortages and creating greater barriers to medical care and medications, U.N. officials said on Tuesday, Reuters reports. Amid bombing from the U.N.’s enforcement of a no-flight zone, relief organizations are attempting to deliver food aid and emergency health kits to the country. In addition, efforts are being made to deliver food aid to people fleeing Libya into Tunisia and Egypt. “Nearly 325,000 people have fled Libya since violence began, mainly migrants from Tunisia and Egypt, but including some 40,000 Libyans, according to the UNHCR’s latest tally,” the news service writes (Nebehay, 3/22). BMJ News describes how Libya is experiencing an “acute shortage of physicians and nursing staff in intensive care units,” according to Fadela Chaib, a WHO spokesperson. “WHO’s regional office for the eastern Mediterranean estimates that 400 specialised nurses are urgently needed inside Libya,” the publication writes (Zarocostas, 3/22).

Computer-Generated Reminders Improve Care Of HIV/AIDS Patients In Kenya

Computer-generated reminders can improve clinician adherence to CD4 testing guidelines in resource-limited settings in sub-Saharan Africa – a step vital to patient treatment – according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, the International Business Times reports. The findings, based on the use of an open source electronic medical record system, known as OpenMRS, at clinics in Kenya, suggest “reminders might be able to help solve a real problem in countries where doctors are in short supply,” the news service writes. “The clinics are part of the Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare (AMPATH) program, which cares for more than 120,000 HIV-infected adults and children at 25 main clinical sites in Western Kenya,” IBT writes (Emspak, 3/21).