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Also In Global Health News: Street Pharmacies; China Health Care; Hospital Safety; African Cardinals; Cells Phones For Health

AFP Examines ‘Street Pharmacies’ In Benin

Agence France-Presse examines Adjegounle, the “drugs” district in Benin. Although some are able to support their families by selling drugs at “street pharmacies,” a minimum of “250 deaths and 340 cases of chronic illnesses linked to such drugs were recorded between April 2007 and June 2008,” according to a medical thesis, the news service writes. “Counterfeit medicine networks have been accused of taking advantage of poor or non-existent drug regulatory systems in Africa – and elsewhere – to dump drugs with little or no active ingredient in the continent,” AFP writes, noting that the government has had a difficult time curbing the informal industry. France’s former president Jacques Chirac recently launched an initiative that aims to raise “awareness among political leaders around the world to work against the proliferation of such fake pharmaceuticals” (Vidjingninou, 10/15).

Wall Street Journal Examines China’s Health Care Overhaul

The Wall Street Journal examines China’s “plan to spend more than $120 billion on the first phase of a 10-year overhaul of the health-care system.” According to the Wall Street Journal, “[s]piraling drug costs, inadequate insurance and big out-of-pocket expenses” are causes for concern among many Chinese.  The article looks at government efforts to train medical professionals, most of whom are not university graduates; improve medical facilities; and broaden access to state-sponsored health insurance coverage. “A central goal of Beijing is to improve the affordability and availability of care in China’s less well-off rural areas, which are home to more than half the population,” the newspaper writes (10/15).

Health Officials Address Global Hospital Safety

International health sector officials came together Wednesday at a conference in London marking International Day for Disaster Reduction with a goal of trying “to find ways to make hospitals safer and stronger so that when disasters happen, health facilities will be more resilient,” VOA News reports. According to the WHO, the world’s “49 least developed countries” have at least 90,000 health facilities, which are mostly vulnerable to disasters, the news service writes (Hennessy, 10/14).

In related news, at an annual emergency preparedness and response workshop in Johannesburg, South Africa, member countries from the Southern African Development Community agreed “to strengthen their ability to respond to natural disasters and reduce risks on their populations,” New Era reports. “To mitigate climate change, migration, rising food prices and global recession, the SADC Secretariat agreed to take the lead in setting up a regional disaster risk reduction unit,” according to the publication (10/14).

African Cardinals Denounce Conditions Put On Western Aid

Two African cardinals attending a meeting at the Vatican to address the role of the Catholic Church in Africa “said their countries needed economic development partnerships that are based on trust and fairness, not ones that exploit Africa’s natural resources and put conditions on aid,” the Associated Press reports. Cardinals Theodore-Adrien Sarr of Dakar, Senegal, and Wilfred Fox Napier of Durban, South Africa, “denounced ‘hidden’ agendas of international aid groups and countries that promote abortion rights and condoms to fight HIV, saying the West was trying to impose its views on Africa,” the AP writes. Against abortion and artificial contraception, the Vatican “has come under heavy criticism for its opposition to condoms as a way of fighting HIV, particularly in hard-hit Africa” (10/14).

Boston Globe Examines Cellphone-Based Health Projects

The Boston Globe examines NextLab, a course at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which has helped to create “nearly two dozen cellphone-based projects” related to health. One of the class projects created cellphone “software that allows health workers in the remote northernmost Philippines province of Batanes to dramatically reduce the time it takes to get X-rays to a radiologist – and to get a diagnosis for a patient being tested for tuberculosis,” the newspaper writes. The article discusses other technologies that started because of the course (Denison 10/14).