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Recent Releases In Global Health

Will Health Ministers Come Up With A Solution For Smallpox Virus?: When health ministers gather for the World Health Assembly in May they will try to come up with a solution to “a dilemma that has dogged decision-makers for decades – whether and when to destroy the last remaining stocks of the smallpox virus,” David Heymann and Emma Ross, both of the Global Health Security Centre at Chatham House, write in an article in The World Today. They describe the tensions between those who want the virus destroyed and those who don’t. “Smallpox eradication was one of the greatest triumphs of public health, but it remains a threat. More than forty years ago, the world united behind a common objective and succeeded. Nations are gathering again this month to tackle the legacy of smallpox, but whilst they are still united in their desire to combat the threat, they are this time divided over the method. It remains to be seen whether this year is the year they can break the deadlock,” they write (May 2011).

To Maintain Progress In Fight Against Malaria, Countries Must Remain Committed: An MMWR article examines recent progress in malaria control and future challenges to achieving malaria eradication. “Although the tools for malaria control are much improved, to ensure continued progress, national programs, local communities, global health partners, and donors will have to build on initial successes, maintain a prolonged commitment, and invest in strategies for the future,” the authors write. “This will require leadership, perseverance, flexibility, and financial support. Research into new medications, insecticides, and vaccines will be required to achieve the eventual goal of eradication” (Mace et al., 4/22).

Q&A With Lesotho’s Health Minister: A post on ONE’s blog features a Q&A with Mphu Ramatlapeng, the minister of health for Lesotho, who was recently in Washington, D.C., for a series of meetings with the Stop TB Partnership and U.S. policymakers. During the conversation with ONE’s Erin Hohlfelder, Ramatlapeng describes the country’s efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV, retain health workers and raise awareness about the global threat of TB (4/21).

Short-, Long-Term Measures To Protect Vulnerable From Food Shortages: In a post on ONE’s blog, Tom Arnold, CEO of Concern Worldwide, outlines several short- and long-term measures to respond to global food shortages. “Right away, we must launch targeted nutrition interventions for the most vulnerable” and promote the addition of “more social protection schemes … in those countries and settings with the financial means and technological capacity to do so,” Arnold writes. “Long term, there has to be significant investment in agriculture and the entire food process, from harvesting and processing farm products to sale in the marketplace,” he adds (4/21).

How Private Sector Can Help Improve Public Health: The Washington Post’s “On Leadership” features a conversation with Karl Hofmann, a former American diplomat who is the president of the nonprofit health organization PSI. “Small interventions in public health really work. … to improve the health of populations,” Hofmann said, adding, “The private sector has a huge role and can play an even better and more positive role in terms of reaching and helping poor and more vulnerable people.” Hofmann describes PSI’s efforts to work with the private sector and the need to be creative about responses to public health issues and integrate funding streams to fight diseases (4/20).

Targeted SMS Helped Improve Post-Quake Response In Haiti:  In a post on the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ Commission on Smart Global Health’s blog, Mat Morgan, a communications officer for the American Red Cross in Latin America and the Caribbean, describes the benefit of an application that allowed the Red Cross to send text messages via short message service (SMS) targeted to mobile phone users in specific geographic locations in Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake. The post describes how this application helped to warn groups in Haiti of approaching storms during the 2010 hurricane season and to educate those in the region about cholera prevention and treatment (4/20).

Policy Brief Looks At Importance Of Agricultural Research: The Global Harvest Initiative this week released the first of five policy briefs that “describes notable returns on agricultural research and the role of research as a primary source of the innovation and productivity gains necessary to sustainably grow more and better food, help alleviate global poverty and hunger, and address food security issues,” according to a Global Harvest Initiative press release (4/20).

Fighting Stigma, Discrimination Against People Living With HIV/AIDS: In a post on USAID’s “Impact Blog,” Robert Clay, director of USAID’s Office of HIV/AIDS, describes the agency’s efforts to fight stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS. “With support from USAID, U.S. government country programs have been addressing stigma since the beginning of the epidemic and with increased intensity with the advent of PEPFAR in 2003,” Clay writes. Additionally, USAID engaged with “partners to develop indicators to measure various aspects of stigma and discrimination” and is continuing to work globally to strengthen policy and advocacy support for the reduction of stigma and discrimination” through its Health Policy Project (4/19).

The Role Of Private Rural Practitioners In Developing Countries: In a post on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation blog, Melinda Gates, co-chair of the foundation, describes the role that private rural practitioners play in developing countries by offering services to patients who might otherwise have little to no access to doctors. Gates focuses her story on the millions of Rural Medical Practitioners (RMPs), local providers with no formal training, in India. They “learn medical knowledge either passed down in their family or from apprenticeships with a pharmacy or medical practice. … RMPs may not know why they are prescribing certain things, but they learn to recognize certain remedies for specific illnesses,” she writes. “The reality is that these providers are entrepreneurs who, whether we like it or not, play an important role in the community. In many cases, if those providers weren’t there, people suffering from illness or disease wouldn’t go to a doctor at all” (4/19).

Conversation With Member Of African Leaders Malaria Alliance: A post on the Malaria Policy Center’s blog features a video interview with Joy Phumaphi of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA), who describes the economic impact of malaria on populations living in Africa and ALMA’s efforts to reduce the number of malaria cases. “The ALMA initiative has introduced an accountability mechanism and scorecard” to measure progress in treating the disease, Phumaphi said. Additionally, it allows African leaders to see the connections between diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS or malaria and nutrition and to develop strategies to integrate programs to tackle these diseases, she said (Brophy, 4/19).

Civil Society’s Contribution In Fight Against HIV/AIDS: PEPFAR “understands the critical role of civil society, including homegrown community-based organizations, in our efforts to fight HIV/AIDS,” U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby writes in a post on the State Department’s “DipNote” blog. Often, such organizations are “closest to the communities most affected by HIV, and serve as essential bridges for these populations into prevention, treatment, and care,” he writes. Goosby outlines several partnerships between PEPFAR and civil society before concluding, “Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has said that civil society partnerships are a cornerstone of both democracy and development. In many ways, the AIDS community has been at the forefront of demonstrating the power of this engagement” (4/18).

WHO Releases Chapters Of Updated World Medicines Report: The WHO this week published online several chapters of an updated version of its World Medicines Situation Report, which includes topics on “selection, procurement, supply management, rational use, financing and pricing,” as well as “household medicines use, access and human rights, good governance, human resources and national medicines policies.” The report states, “Current efforts to document and improve sharing of information have paved the way to accessing information that was not possible a decade ago, such as disaggregated data on pharmaceutical expenditures, consumption, drug prices and insights on policies and impacts on improving access to medicines. The aim of this publication is to gather relevant information comprehensively in a single site and publication” (April 2011).