Indonesia's Fight Against Tuberculosis
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is currently working with the Indonesian government in the next step in the fight against tuberculosis (TB). Indonesia has already had significant success in fighting the disease and USAID is helping fund research to help the country completely eliminate fatalities caused by TB.

Last year, USAID granted Indonesia The Champion Award for its exceptional accomplishments for the category of “Work in the Fight Against TB”. Indonesia’s work with the World Health Organization (WHO) has helped decrease the number of TB-related deaths and raise awareness about the disease, as well as bolster the opening of new treatment centers. Today in Indonesia, more than 88% of people with TB have been successfully treated.

When patients have only been partially cured through treatment, TB sometimes resurfaces as multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB. USAID’s latest initiative in Indonesia will focus on helping fund research and treatment centers to help find new solutions to the public health threat of MDR TB. Indonesia will likely accomplish the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of fighting TB in the very near future.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: Global Post
Photo: CRW Flags

World Health Day
Every year on April 7, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) anniversary is celebrated. Established in 1948, the WHO is the “directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system.” It provides leadership on global health matters, shapes the research agenda, sets standards, monitors and assesses health trends, and provides technical support to countries. With the twenty-first century, the World Health Organization has regarded actions on public health as increasingly challenging with more and more sectors influencing health policies. Thus, since health is a social responsibility, the WHO has come up with six goals to surpass such challenges.

1) The promotion of health development is extremely important because access to prevention and treatment interventions and resources should be fair and equal; it should not be denied to poor people.

2) Collective security measures against “epidemic-prone diseases,” which are normally fueled by urbanization, lack of environmental care, the way food is produced, and how antibiotics are used.

3) In order to reach poor people, there is a need for stronger health systems that would allow for trained staff, financing, access to the necessary technology, and the access to important drugs.

4) In order to establish standards, the WHO needs information and evidence, and both come with research. Such research would allow for appropriate standards regarding keeping up with the evolving global health phenomena.

5) Continuing off of research, with more evidence the WHO is able to persuade other countries to implement programs that meet the organization’s set priorities.

6) Finally, the WHO is focused on improving its performance. Doing so has meant to be involved in reforms in order to become more efficient.

This year’s World Health Day theme is “Control your Blood Pressure.” Due to the presented statistic that 1 in 3 adults has high blood pressure, and the leading result of 9 million deaths each year because of it, the World Health Organization recommends decreasing salt intake this year!

Leen Abdallah 

Source: Earth Times

Neglected Tropical DiseasesNeglected tropical diseases, which are chronic and barely heard of by the public, have been proven to cause poverty and destabilize communities. Neglected tropical diseases generally affect people in poor regions, primarily those living on one dollar a day. However, recent research shows that the worst neglected tropical diseases, NTDs, happen to the poorest people living in “large emerging market economies that comprise the G-20,” which have a GDP close to that of Western European countries. NTDs cause various things including, “greusome limb disfigurement and skin sores to bladder and liver cancers to neurological damage,” and they tend to last for years or decades.

India, Brazil, China, and Italy are the world’s leading G-20 countries where more than 2/3 of cases of visceral leishmaniasis (this disease causes a chronic illness like leukemia) are reported. In addition to that, G-20 countries and Nigeria account for “almost half of the world’s cases of hookworm infection, while…schistosomiasis cases [which are] responsible for chronic renal disease, female genital ulcers, and liver disease – are [found largely] in Nigeria, South Africa, Brazil, China, and Saudi Arabia.” There are also several types of NTDs including Chagas, which is a type of heart disease, that are found in Eastern and Southern Europe and Southern U.S. Therefore, it is safe to say that NTDs exist everywhere in the world but affect those who suffer from extreme poverty, as opposed to assuming that these diseases are exclusive to poor developing nations only where GDP is low.

The good news is that USAID support led to low-cost packages of necessary medicines that will tackle such diseases to be delivered, and their access is enabled, to more than 250 million people in low and middle-income nations. However, other countries besides the U.S. and Britain, are barely contributing to defeat these diseases. Thus, there is a need to pressure G-20 countries to commit to what the World Health Organization (WHO) labels “preventive chemotherapy,” referring to these medicines that would help fight NTDs. Preventive chemotherapy is proven to be extremely cost-efficient because it typically costs about $ 0.50 per person a year. According to the World Health Organization, 1.9 billion people need such preventive chemotherapy measures and only 700 million are currently receiving these medicines.

Leen Abdallah

The UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) laid out a number of goals in tackling global poverty by 2015 but left a glaring omission in the equation to aid the world’s poor: serving those who are disabled.

Nearly 70% of the world’s disabled population resides in developing countries, and the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 575 million of those disabled live below the poverty threshold. Preventable diseases, such as polio and measles, that are not treated properly in poor and developing countries leave a high number of the population with lifelong disabilities.

Other conditions, such as civil war, lack of health care, and malnutrition also contribute to the problem. In developing nations, a disability is “often seen as a curse, the result of bad luck or witchcraft.” Because of this, disabled individuals and even their families are often shunned from the social community and are left without means to support themselves, and lack access to education and healthcare. In the worst cases, disabled people are left to die.

Although the MDGs include many aid programs with worthy recipients, the disabled population is completely left out although they are some of those who suffer the most. This crucial omission means that this large demographic is left out of specific aid programs. For example, many school-aged children have benefited from MDG education initiatives – but what about the 61 million children who still lack access to education, a majority of whom are disabled?

The UN has somewhat recognized this with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2008. It will be most important for development leaders, when evaluating post-2015 development goals, to include disabled people throughout the developing world in their plans and programs.

Christina Kindlon

Source: The Guardian

Almost half of all deaths in recent years in the Somaliland region of Somalia have been neonatal; that is to say that many children die in the first few days of their lives. Thankfully, organizations like Life for African Mothers are working to combat the issues of maternal health and frighteningly high infant mortality rates in many regions of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Life for African Mothers began providing medication to treat maternal health issues back in 2008 after U.K. Somalis solicited the aid on behalf of the residents of their homeland. The organization also provides crucial medication to hospitals and clinics in parts of Nigeria, Chad, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Uganda. Once delivered to Somaliland, that medication is distributed by The Somaliland Nursing and Midwifery Association to the many clinics that receive support from the organization. Ambassadors from Life for African Mothers recently visited the region and inspected the hospital facilities that receive their aid and found that the labor and delivery areas were clean and serviceable.

The latest data available from the World Health Organization still states that the entire country of Somalia has one of the highest rates of neonatal mortality on Earth. While great aid organizations continue in their efforts to change this depressing figure, it is critical that they not be left to complete the task by themselves.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: Wales Online, WHO
Photo: Life for African Mothers

Scientists Use iPhone Microscope to Diagnose Parasites
Consider the public health benefits of having the ability to use an electronic device the size of a mobile phone to diagnose diseases usually requiring expensive lab equipment and logistical support. Well thanks to a group of innovative scientists operating in a remote area of Tanzania, the iPhone microscope could usher in the future of a technologically driven global health policy.

Using nothing more than an iPhone, a flashlight, tape, and a camera lens; scientists were able to use their iPhone microscope to detect parasitic worms in a group of 200 students located on the Tanzanian island of Pemba. Isaac Bogoch, a Toronto-based physician remarked, “To our knowledge, this is the first time the mobile phone microscope had been used in the field to diagnose intestinal parasitic infections.”

Parasitic worms – clinically regarded as Helminth infections – affect nearly 1.5 billion people, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). By utilizing the iPhone microscope, health care workers will be able to analyze samples quickly and in close proximity to the patient, allowing for immediate parasitic identification and treatment. Thus far, the iPhone microscope diagnoses have been 70 percent accurate, and with greater zoom capabilities and higher resolution, is expected to improve in the near future.

The potential benefits of the iPhone microscope in alleviating global health outbreaks is promising due to its portability and ergonomic efficiency. By utilizing readily available technology such as the iPhone microscope to combat disease, aid workers have found an indispensable ally in the mobile phone market.

– Brian Turner

Source: CNN

March 24th will be World TB Day, a day to raise awareness of tuberculosis and the numerous TB deaths each year. As the day of awareness approaches, the World Health Organization, along with The Global Fund, have sent out a plea for more funding into medicine research and distribution.

The WHO claims that $1.3 billion is the annual funding required to effectively combat the disease. In 2011 only $0.5 billion was made available for TB research to find a cure. As TB has historically changed to become vaccine-resistant, it is critical that funding continues to come in and grows in volume. Dr. Margaret Chan, director of the World Health Organization (WHO), is worried by the shortcoming in research funding at a time when the number of medicine-resistant examples of the disease are increasing.

Along with working to increase funding to TB research, the WHO and The Global Fund are trying to make existing TB medications more easily available in the developing countries that are most often effected by the disease. They continue to work with big pharmacy companies like AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and Otsuka to lower the cost of medications for people who currently can’t afford them. They are also allying with Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF), also known as Doctors Without Borders, to help address the many issues that surround the efficient distribution of such medicine. Learn more about the efforts of MSF.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: PM Live
Photo: Top News

The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), a European non-profit, recently published a report entitled “The Unpaid Health Bill,” which elucidated the costs that coal-fire plants impart on citizens’ health. The study concluded that burning coal contributes to over $50 billion in lost resources annually, partially due to the over four million sick days required as a result of coal-fire plants. Even more shockingly, there are over 18,000 premature European deaths each year which can be attributed to this dirty form of energy.

HEAL’s Executive Director, Genon Jensen, urged that these findings “be taken into account when determining energy policy,” especially in consideration of the increasing levels of coal use in Europe. Her organization’s goals are to cease all production of coal-fire plants, and to completely end European use of coal by 2040.

Part of the reason alternative, cleaner energy sources seem so expensive when compared to conventional fossil fuels is because of an economic concept called “externalities,” which are essentially “side effects.” The costs associated with using coal go far beyond extracting the material and burning it; there are negative externalities such as the pollution of the atmosphere, which affects everyone breathing the air. If coal companies were forced to pay for all the costs of their business, they would be charged for the carbon they put into the air, in order to offset the costs everyone else has to bear. The positive externalities of renewable energy sources, like a reduction in medical costs and benefits to wildlife, can often go unrewarded. If governments recognized the amount they could save by switching to clean energy, and used part of those savings to subsidize the installation of such energy sources, then there could be an economically feasible plan for abandoning fossil fuels forever.

Jake Simon

Source: DW

Non-Communicable Diseases Key in Reducing PovertyIn a recent report, the World Health Organization (WHO) has deemed non-communicable diseases as the number one killer throughout the world. Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and chronic respiratory disease, have over an 80 percent occurrence rate in low-income countries and poverty-stricken regions, specifically.

The WHO also estimates that 63 percent of all deaths in 2008 were caused by NCDs, with 25 percent of those people being younger than 60 years old.

In a related study, Harvard University found that each extra year of life expectancy can raise a country’s GDP by nearly 4 percent, adding to the belief that NCDs help facilitate the spread of poverty and hinder development and economic growth. Although much has been done in industrialized countries to combat these diseases, the lack of health infrastructure throughout the developing world makes it very difficult to consistently provide the proper treatment to each individual affected by NCDs.

A “roadmap” to fight NCDs around the world, published by Johns Hopkins University, recommends that it is imperative for the private and public sectors to work together in order to find efficient solutions to tackling NCDs across the globe, especially in poverty-stricken countries. It also asserts that health infrastructure in low-income countries needs to be consistent and standardized in order to avoid building “systems that are complex, duplicative and inefficient.”

The roadmap also recommends a higher level of cooperation between pharmaceutical companies and regulatory institutions in order to streamline the process of approving selected treatments, and highlights the need for pharmaceutical companies to play a larger role in building “partnerships with communities and governments.”

Christina Kindlon

Sources: Forbes
Photo: United Nations University-MERIT

Students and faculty at the University of Bristol are actively making many necessary pharmaceuticals more available to people living in the developing world. The university created its’ own “equitable access policy” act in order to help create affordable medicine and drugs that will be more accessible to patients suffering curable diseases throughout the world.

Any drugs that are produced using the University of Bristol are entered into this program and the result is a giant difference in prices, making them more realistically available to many people who would otherwise not be able to afford their medicines. Hopefully, other universities will create similar policies and contribute to making needed medicine more accessible. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that limited access to medicine is responsible for about 18 million deaths every year. The ability to get needed medicine at a lower price could save lives while also allowing people in the developing world to hold on to more of their disposable income, letting that money move in and out of local economies. While some programs have already been established to provide HIV/AIDS related medication at lower prices, people suffering from other diseases have not yet been able to receive such aid.

Affordable medicine and treatment are important anywhere, but they are especially important in the developing world. More reasonably priced medicine may be able help many people who have to choose between buying their medicine or food for their family. It may be just a small step now, but if such programs spread to other universities, they could make a great impact in helping the world’s poor.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: Medsin
Photo: Photo Dictionary