The United Nations (U.N.) gathered in New York late last November to celebrate positive progress on the 2015 Millennium Development Goals made to curb one of the world’s deadliest diseases: malaria. Global leaders, diplomats, and health experts were also present to witness the good news.

“Today, we celebrate major advances in our fight against malaria,” U.N. Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon said in a message.

In 2000, a set of eight universally-agreed goals to rid the world of extreme poverty and disease by 2015 was developed by the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG). The program saw much success, particularly regarding malaria.

“The world’s success in rolling back malaria shows just what can be achieved with the right kind of determination and partnerships,” said Mogens Lykketoft, the President of the UN General Assembly. “It provides bold inspiration to all nations that seek to create a healthy environment for their children and adults. We can and we must eliminate malaria by 2030.”

In order to achieve the 2030 target, the UN says that they will need full cooperation from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership and the World Health Organization (WHO). “In it, we have the path forward,” said Lykketoft. “I urge all members states to fully support implementation of this strategic plan.”

The UN announced that it surpassed MDG goals to “bring reversing malaria incidence by 2015.” Their progress is responsible for 6.2 million averted malaria deaths, 97 percent of which are young children.

Over 100 countries are declared “free” of malaria. Another 55 are on track to reduce new malaria cases by at least 75 percent by the end of the year. African countries are even seeing fewer malaria cases, a historical statistic for a continent that has struggled against the disease.

Despite the progress made, WHO estimates that approximately 214 million people were infected with malaria in 2015. Of that staggering number, 472,000 people lost their lives, a large percentage of which were children under the age of five.

Advancements in technology, as well as new measures, have helped reduce malaria deaths by up to 20 percent in African children since 2000. About 95,000 newborn deaths related to malaria pregnancy have also been averted between 2009 and 2012.

Although health ministers will move away from the eight Millennium Development Goals and transition to a new set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) next year, the Roll Back Malaria Partnership is “urging continued commitment to achieve malaria elimination by 2030” while also helping to advance development across government sectors.

“Under MDGs, we have seen what can be achieved when we join our efforts and come together in a coordinated fashion,” said Herv Verhoosel, Representative from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership Secretariat in New York.

“As we set our sights on elimination, we stand to avert nearly 3 billion cases of infection and generate some $4 trillion in additional economic output over the next 15 years,” he said. “But we must ensure political commitment and predictable financial resources necessary to carry us over the finish line.”

Alyson Atondo

Sources: San Antonio Post, UN 1, UN 2
Photo: Flickr




In celebration of World AIDS Day, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have announced that 17 countries and territories have likely eliminated the vertical transmission of HIV from mother-to-child through screening and intervention efforts.

Cuba was the first nation to be certified as transmission free by the WHO. At least 17 other nations are close behind or have already achieved the same success. The elimination of mother-to-child HIV transmission is a part of the United Nation’s campaign to end the AIDS epidemic, which has claimed the lives of 39 million people since it began.

Marcos Espinal, Director of PAHO/WHO’s Department of Communicable Diseases and Health Analysis, said, “If we want to end HIV by 2030, we need to accelerate action for prevention and access to treatment, focusing on key populations and increasing investment and resources.”

There is now strong evidence that an increased investment in preventative measures could make vertical transmission a thing of the past on a global scale. Carissa Etienne, Director of PAHO/WHO, said in a news release “The countries of the Americas have made tremendous efforts to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV, cutting new infections by half since 2010.”

Despite steps in the right direction, the transmission of HIV from mother to child is still a critical issue for millions. Transmission can occur during pregnancy, birth, or during breastfeeding.

To combat mother-to-child HIV transmission, pregnant women are given HIV medication throughout their pregnancies. For those who have not received treatment throughout the course of their pregnancies, an IV-administered antiviral called zidovudine can be given during labor, the point at which infants are most exposed to infected blood and bodily fluids.

The IV treatment enters the infant’s bloodstream via the placenta, rendering the infant immune to HIV infection, regardless of the level of the mother’s infection.

Due to the many risk factors associated with mother-to-child HIV transmission, the eradication throughout an entire nation is an impressive feat.

This success in the Americas signals a new phase of hope in the preventive medicine game.

Claire Colby

Sources: AIDS info, A Plus
Picture: Google Images

A diagnosis could be as quick as a text message away through the program MedicSMS.

MedicSMS is a new way for doctors to give diagnoses to patients in developing countries. The service is provided by means of Artificial Intelligence (AI), an upcoming technology that is gaining credibility and popularity.

Many people in developing countries have access to basic mobile phones. According to the 2015 Ericsson Mobility Report there are 2.6 billion smartphone subscriptions that exist globally. By the year 2020, Ericsson predicts that number will jump to 3.5 billion.

MedicSMS capitalized on growing mobile connections, creating a new way for patients and their doctors to interact when “in-person” is not an option. The program works collaboratively with IBM Watson, a “supercomputer platform” that can “analyze health data” and Twilio, the SMS service used. The machine, using basic question and answer sets, will “reveal insights from large amounts of unstructured data,” according to IBM.

After the data is received from the patient, Watson goes to work. The AI interface translates the SMS into a “likely diagnosis,” according to MedicSMS. The patient is then delivered a set of steps to follow for their newly diagnosed condition.

After a diagnosis is made, patients can start a treatment regimen immediately.

A service similar to MedicSMS, called FrontlineSMS, is seeing success from its pilot project in Malawi, which is the world’s poorest country, according to data from the World Bank.

According to the FrontlineSMS website, the service saved hospital staff an estimated “1,200 hours of follow-up time and $3,000 in motorbike fuel.” The time saved by Frontline SMS could be allocated to other patients in need of “in-person” aid, while the financial resources could be stretched further to assist other people in need.

The MedicSMS AI interface also asks for a location from the patient. That information is logged and transported to local health authorities that can administer extra aid if needed, as well as medication that the patient requires.

The GPS location also allows health authorities to pinpoint where illnesses and diseases are taking place, helping them to be better prepared for future outbreaks of certain diseases.

Harley Katz, one of the Ph.D. members of the MedicSMS team, hopes that soon, health organizations can better understand where the epicenter for diseases and outbreaks are taking place.

“Eventually, we’re hoping to track much more, including where similar symptoms are popping up on the map,” he said.

Alyson Atondo

Sources: World Bank, Ericsson, IBM, Frontline SMS, Techcrunch, Devpost
Photo: Google Images


Health care is considered by many to be a fundamental right. However, there are so many people in the world that do not have access to the care and services they need, creating a global health crisis.

A project called Waiting for Health brings awareness to this problem through a photo series that chronicles the stories of those waiting for health care. The photos are taken by 12 photographers and focus on 12 different countries.

The Waiting for Health project was created by the Global Coalition for Universal Health Coverage. It also had support from the Rockefeller Foundation.

Ultimately, the project hopes to spark a conversation about the disparity that exists in health care around the world.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately one billion people in developing countries do not have the access to health care that they need due to a number of factors such as high costs, poor quality facilities as well as a shortage of health care workers.

A 2014 WHO World Health Statistic revealed that in the African Region there were approximately 2.6 physicians per 10,000 patients. The density of the remaining health workforce to the population is also concerning: nursing and midwife personnel (12), dentistry personnel (0.5) and pharmaceutical personnel (0.9).

Due to the lack of financial resources, many people living in extreme poverty often have to choose between getting the medical attention that they need or buying food for survival.

Waiting for Health hopes to rejuvenate the conversation surrounding health care. Photographer Aurelie Marrier d’Unienville says that the photos will give people a different perspective on health care in developing countries. The photos will add a touch of “humanity” giving viewers a better visual understanding of what is occurring around them.

“Statistics and surveys present us with inanimate and abstract figures of which we can’t relate,” she said. “These photos present a compelling and visual story, which can evoke a sense of real understand and empathy.”

Her photos focused on the health care crisis in Guinea, but the series documents many other global experiences. Another example focuses on Libyan refugees in Norway waiting for mental health care.

According to the Waiting for Health website, “We hope these photographs inspire all of us to slow down and think more deeply about what really needs to change and make universal health care coverage a reality,”

Alyson Atondo

Sources: European Parliamentary Research Service, World Bank, Waiting for Health, Mashable
Photo: Flickr

measles in developing countries
The measles vaccine has saved approximately 17.1 million lives since 2000, however, global targets to eradicate the disease are still off track according to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

Notably, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently reported that while global measles vaccination coverage increased from 72 percent to 85 percent between 2000 and 2010, it has remained unchanged for the past 4 years.

Founded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Gavi recently approved a new support package that aims to end measles in developing countries.

The organization’s new support package will help install a strong immunization routine with high coverage. The new Gavin Vaccine will also take advantage of children’s visits to health care facilities to increase the coverage rates of the vaccine.

Gavi will also support data-driven campaigns on measles and rubella to reach children not protected by immunization. These campaigns will be synchronized with other immunization activities to better reach children in isolated communities.

In developing countries measles vaccination involves a series of strategies and large-scale campaigns which rely on the support of the Measles & Rubella Initiative (M&RI).

In 2014, campaigns and immunization activities reached 221 million children. In the African Region, cases of measles dropped from over 171,000 in 2013 to under 74,000 in 2014.

This new support package also requires developing countries to have a five-year rolling measles and rubella plan, together with their long-term routine immunization plans, all of which will be updated annually.

“Countries cannot begin to hope to eliminate measles until they get epidemics under control,” said Dagfinn Høybråten, Chair of the Gavi Board, “The package of support we have agreed on today will save lives and give developing countries a golden opportunity to reform how they protect their children against measles.”

Marie Helene Ngom

Sources: Gavi, WHO
Photo: Flickr

Reach Every Mother and Child Act
On the African continent, women are 47 times more likely to die from preventable complications during childbirth than they are in the United States. That amounts to approximately 800 women dying a day in developing nations. Mothers are not the only vulnerable ones. Each day, an estimated 17,000 children under the age of five will also die from treatable conditions.

Delaware’s Senator Chris Coons and Maine’s Senator Susan Collins hope to dramatically shrink and ultimately eliminate these statistics. In July 2015, the senators introduced the Reach Every Mother and Child Act of 2015 in order to increase the amount of U.S. aid being directed toward ending these tragic and preventable deaths. The bill establishes a framework to implement the existing tools and focus necessary for winning the battle against preventable mother and child deaths.

The bill calls for a strategic and attainable 10-year plan to succeed in ending preventable maternal, newborn and child deaths by 2035. This includes the creation of a permanent Maternal and Child Survival Coordinator at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) who will be responsible for implementing the 10-year plan and to confirm that resources and interventions are being effectively utilized in target nations.

The U.S. government will also create a financing framework that will allow the use of U.S. funds to leverage additional funds from nongovernmental organizations, partner countries and international organizations.

While introducing the bill in their floor speeches, Senators Coons and Collins both stressed that the Reach Every Mother and Child Act is not a bolt-from-the-blue or a handout.

“Investing in maternal and child health in developing countries is an investment in the future, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to help all mothers and children around the globe get the health care they deserve,” said Senator Coons.

Acting USAID Administrator Alfonso Lenhardt echoed Coons’ sentiment. “As children survive and thrive, parents are choosing to have smaller families,” said Lenhardt, “unleashing a virtuous cycle of progress and prosperity.”

USAID recently released a new report showing that previous efforts to improve the survival rates of mothers, newborns and children under the age of five have already saved 2.5 million children and 200,000 mothers since 2008. This demonstrates substantial evidence that the new act will be successful.

“There are simple, proven and cost-effective interventions that we know will work if we can reach the mothers and children who need them to survive,” said Senator Collins. The Reach Every Mother and Child Act, if passed, is anticipated to improve the health of millions of impoverished and at-risk mothers and children.

World Vision’s Director of Government Relations Lisa Bos is particularly excited about the bill, praising Senators Collins and Coons for championing the bill. “The goal of ending preventable maternal and child deaths is achievable, but it will take renewed commitment, coordination and resources,” said Bos. “This bill builds on the progress we’ve made and is critical for ensuring we reach every mother and child. We hope every Member of the Senate will support this legislation.”

Claire Colby

Sources: Senate, USAID, World Vision

Water and Sanitation for Nicaraguans










The Nicaraguan urban poor have a long-standing history of lacking access to basic services, such as water and sanitation. In the capital city, Managua, the Greater Managua Water and Sanitation Project (PRASMA) was devised to create new water and sanitation infrastructure throughout the city.

This includes a system of low-cost sewage networks designed to target the poor regions of Managua. Although the PRASMA was a solid start, city officials realized that more was needed if they hoped to achieve their goal of reaching universal piped water connectivity.

The Ministry of Finance and Public Credit (MHCP) reached out to the World Bank for funding to create the Nicaraguan Water and Sewerage Enterprise (ENACAL) in order to expand 15,798 water and 19,716 sewer connections to some of the poorest households.

Before ENACAL was launched, only 26.5 percent of households had access to piped water. Only 1.2 percent had in-house toilets. The majority of the population, more than 72 percent, used latrines. The remaining portion of the population concerned city officials the most, with more than 26 percent lacking access to any sanitation services.

Among the poorest neighborhoods, it was not uncommon to see raw sewage running down the streets. In other impoverished neighborhoods, even for those connected to piped-in water, service was less than reliable. Some households received water as infrequently as two hours per day.

Since collecting $20 million in credit and $20 million in grant money from the World Bank to get ENACAL operational, the project has improved service reliability for 161,896 Nicaraguans as well as increasing the overall financial sustainability of its operations.

The World Bank reported a little less than half of the money was used to expand and add additional infrastructure. The remainder of the funds were used to optimize technical efficiency and strengthen institutional activities.

Moving forward, ENACAL is developing the Master Plan for Operational Efficiency in Managua. This focuses on non-revenue water reduction and the optimization of energy efficiency.

With the assistance in the funding of $300 million from the World Bank and other international donors, continued improvements under the Program for Human Water and Sanitation will take place over the course of the next 15 years.

Thus far, ENACAL has benefited 62,295 residents and improved the percentage of households with access to water for 16 or more hours a day to 72 percent.

Claire Colby

Sources: Central America Data, World Bank
Photo: University of Colorado Boulder

A career in public health can mean a lot of different things; public health professionals analyze and develop programs that improve or protect the health of people in all corners of the globe.

There has been an increased focus on international health, which generally means the health of people living in low-income or developing countries, as part of the public health equation because global health falls under the public health umbrella.

This holistic approach has lead to the creation of new jobs. As a way to prepare those who are interested in a global health career, many universities now offer global health degrees, which focus on understanding the health of populations in a global context and making worldwide improvements.

Arizona State University began offering a global health degree program about six years ago. The first graduate from their program, Mackenzie Cotlow, has since then used what she learned in the classroom in the context of improving global health.

After graduating, Cotlow started working with Doctors Without Borders in South Africa as a fundraising consultant. She helps inform the public about what the organization does and works to raise the funds necessary for its work to continue to touch the lives of those it helps.

Like many global health degrees, part of Cotlow’s major requirements was studying and working abroad, which she fulfilled in New Zealand and Fiji.

When students are given the chance to widen their worldview by gaining first-hand experience with how people in their academic or career field tackle similar issues, they can expand the collective action toward accomplishing the same goals.

Global health degrees can prepare students for a vast variety of career paths. The global health sector includes international development, social justice and health care professionals.

Emmanuel Kamanzi worked in Rwanda as a program officer for Partners In Health (PIH) for more than five years.

According to PIH, when asked what advice he has for those considering a profession in global health, he said, “Building health care platforms that deliver high-quality care to the most poor and vulnerable communities requires a collaborative workforce that can build partnerships…[and this] requires a deep understanding of the local context and extensive assessment of financial, social and political perspectives.”

Students and professionals in the global health field must continue to work to understand the needs of the communities they are working in and for.

Often solutions or programs that work within one community can be adapted for many other communities, but they must be tailored to the demands present in each unique community. That is why global health work relies on an in-depth understanding of the people being served.

As global health gains a larger presence in the public health sector, global health degrees come with excellent job perspectives and a way to learn the tools that can make for an incredible global health professional and a step toward accomplishing the life mission of improving health worldwide.

Brittney Dimond

Sources: Explore Health Careers, PIH, Arizona State University
Photo: Flickr


EARTH University focuses on public health and environmental sustainability. The school is based in Costa Rica and began supporting underdeveloped communities in 1990.

The founders of EARTH University’s goals were to teach young people from the Caribbean and Latin America how to use sustainable methods to help their communities thrive.

Now, 25 years later, EARTH University’s impact has spread from Latin and South America to regions in Asia and Africa. EARTH University offers rigorous undergraduate programs that elicit graduates in just four years.

Graduates from EARTH University learn how to utilize sustainable agricultural methods to create prosperous and just communities. Programs offered include agricultural sciences and natural resources management.

The curriculum at EARTH University is based on four guiding principles.

  1. The first principle guides the college to educate its students in technical and scientific knowledge to ensure they practice accurate and sustainable agricultural practices in the future. This helps alumni manage their natural resources and have a prosperous agricultural career.
  2. EARTH University works hard to help its students develop personally by exposing them to positive attitudes and values. The EARTH community fosters self-awareness, empathy, respect and tolerance, while using teamwork, effective communication and lifelong learning to promote peace and understanding.
  3. The University teaches ethical entrepreneurship. During a student’s first three years of schooling, he or she engages in an intensive entrepreneurial project. The project prepares students to leave EARTH University with the knowledge and experience needed to run their own business to help their community develop positively.
  4. EARTH University is dedicated to applying their resources to train their students in sustainability. EARTH’s curriculum promotes maintaining a healthy environment, and graduates are equipped with the knowledge to grow sustainable crops and prevent issues like soil erosion. And with this knowledge, graduates are able to help their communities rise out of poverty.

As of 2014, EARTH University had 422 students from 43 countries in the Americas, Africa, Asia and Europe. According to the EARTH University website, graduates like Claudia Jeronimo, who graduated in 2005, return home to use their newfound knowledge of sustainability and social justice to revitalize their communities.

Jeronimo has worked hard since graduating to promote gender equality and food security in her community. Since its inauguration, almost 2,000 students have graduated from EARTH University, with 97 percent of them dedicating their knowledge and experience to assist their home communities.

Julia Hettiger

Sources: Explore, Earth, Consortium Earth
Photo: Flickr


The Virtual Care Clinic, recently announced by the University of Southern California, is a pioneer in the field of virtual health care that promises easily accessible and personalized health care across the globe.

The two main components of this virtual clinic are hologram house calls, which stream video to individuals and an app that assesses someone’s needs based off of archived data as well as the information the patient provides.

The ninth annual University of Southern California’s Body Computing Conference was heralded by the announcement of hologram house calls, a prime feature to the previously announced Virtual Care Clinic which is currently under development.

The house call consists of a hologram or video beamed across the globe to wherever a patient in need resides, giving an incredible advantage for doctors to assess a patient with a little more contextualization.

This feature is important because it allows for a quick diagnosis and also allows doctors to further understand the situation of health care recipients, most of whom live in poverty.

The hologram house call is an essential extremity of the Virtual Care Clinic because this alone provides easily accessible care not just domestically but abroad, which is really an amazing feat.

Just by using the hologram house call anybody may speak to a trained medical physician in seconds and be given a diagnosis in minutes; the potential for giving health care guidance shrinks from providing establishments to providing a device that will stream the video.

Also, the house call operates with wearable or injectable technology that logs data in order to provide an almost complete examination; with these technologies working together, it is as if one were visiting a real doctor who would give him or her a precise consultation.

Along with the hologram house call, a second part of the virtual care clinic is less data intensive and focuses more on providing consistent, non-personnel type of aid.

With the app, all one must do is insert his or her age, medical condition and history of diseases that run in the family to be given accurate and helpful information on what kind of treatment to seek and when to seek it.

The potential for this technology is overwhelming considering that the mobile tech industry is ever-growing in places where development is occurring faster every day. Conceivably, the Virtual Care Clinic would provide consistent and affordable health care with the ultimate utility of being completely mobile.

Emilio Rivera

Sources: University of Southern California, Co.Design, Popular Science
Photo: Wikipedia