Infectious Diseases

Contagious and infectious diseases are not only a global health threat but an economic one as well.

Lack of prevention for diseases such as HIV, malaria and tuberculosis (TB), as well as emerging infectious diseases such as Dengue fever and West Nile virus (WNV), can have detrimental effects especially for those living in developing nations.

One major solution to battling infectious diseases is to stop the issue before it starts. According to renowned physicians and global health consultants, David Heymann and Osman Dar, prevention is the key to fighting infectious diseases, both economically and efficiently.

According to the CDC, 21.8 million children do not receive typical vaccines, leaving them susceptible to deadly, infectious diseases. Additionally, about 70 percent of these children reside in only ten countries, including India, Nigeria and Mexico.

Preventative measures, such as vaccinations, protect not just the current generation but also future generations from contracting the same diseases. Diseases such as smallpox have been completely eradicated thanks to vaccinations and other diseases such as polio are fading from existence due to immunizations as well.

In many developing nations simple, preventative measures such as daily hygiene, safe sex, clean water and immunizations are sometimes ignored or inaccessible, even within the healthcare system. In addition, millions of patients across the globe are affected by healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs), much of which stems from a lack of handwashing and basic hygienic practices.

Global health organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are establishing preventative care programs around the world, which includes WHO’s Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) Unit.

IPC is a global WHO Service Delivery and Safety (SDS) Department meant to stress hand hygiene and other simple preventative measures between health care providers and their patients.

Ultimately, prevention is a strategy that saves millions of lives as well as millions of dollars and unlike simple multi-drug antidotes, which are expensive and often inaccessible, prevention saves future resources and generations.

Jenna Salisbury

Photo: Flickr


Every year, the Social Progress Imperative comes out with an index that measures how individual countries perform in basic human needs, foundations of well-being, and opportunity. One subset of the foundations of well-being category is health and wellness. This subset takes into account life expectancy, non-communicable disease deaths between the ages of 30 and 70, obesity, outdoor air pollution attributed deaths and suicide rates. Below is a list of the world’s ten most unhealthy countries in the world, based on this subset.

10. Bulgaria, 60.63

Bulgaria is in the eastern part of the Balkan Peninsula. The country has a high mortality rate from cardiovascular disease. Additionally, Bulgaria has the worst air quality in Europe, with some of the highest concentrations of particulate matter, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide.

9. Mozambique, 60.40

Mozambique’s main health problems are to due with high mortality rates due to drought, poverty and HIV/AIDS, as well as a lack of experienced health workers in the country. The HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to decimate portions of the population in the country. In addition, capacity building and risk reduction expertise are both low.

8. Swaziland, 60.29

Located in southern Africa, Swaziland has an extremely high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, reaching over 26 percent. Swaziland needs the most improvement in life expectancy and non-communicable disease deaths between 30 and 70.

7. Latvia, 59.97

Latvia, too, has problems with air quality that cause long-term health problems. Latvia also needs to address substance abuse problems such as alcohol and tobacco, which both contribute to ill health in the country at a disproportional rate.

6. Armenia, 59.36

Armenia’s health issues revolve around a broken, extremely expensive health care system that cannot meet the burden of care. With economic downturn, basic medicines and doctor visits can become too expensive.

5. Moldova, 58.00

Moldova is currently experiencing negative population growth. The two main causes of death are heart disease and cancer. Moldova has high rates of substance abuse-related deaths, like alcohol and tobacco. Tuberculosis, especially multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, is rapidly becoming a major health concern in the country.

4. Belarus, 56.56

The main areas that need improvement in Belarus are non-communicable diseases and suicide rates. The country, located in Eastern Europe, is also relatively polluted, which can cause long-term ill-health.

3. Russia, 51.99

Russia needs improvement in almost all categories, including life expectancy, non-communicable diseases, air pollution and suicide rates. Additionally, Russia experiences high rates of mortality due to smoking for both men and women. HIV/AIDS is also becoming more of a concern.

2. Ukraine, 51.82

Ukraine, located in Eastern Europe, has similar problems as its neighbors, mainly bad air quality, high levels of tobacco and alcohol abuse and high suicide rates. Additionally, Ukrainians spend about 13 percent of their lives in ill-health, which is much higher than most of their neighbors. Ukraine also has the highest rate of infectious diseases in Europe.

1. Kazakhstan, 49.93

Kazakhstan, located in Central Asia, is ranked as the unhealthiest country in the world, according to the Social Progress Imperative. Kazakhstan needs dramatic improvement in life expectancy, deaths related to non-communicable diseases, air quality and suicide rates. HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis have become growing concerns; TB, especially, is of great concern because of drug-resistance.

Caitlin Huber

Sources: Social Progress Imperative, World Health Organization 1, World Health Organization 2, World Health Organization 3, World Health Organization 4, World Health Organization 5, New York Times, UNICEF, National Center for Biotechnology Information, Common Dreams, World Bank, University of Pittsburgh
Photo: Flickr

Possible Health is a “for-impact” healthcare organization based in Accham, Nepal. It seeks to provide low-cost, high-quality health care to the world’s poorest people. It addresses the challenge of rebuilding the public sector health system to ultimately benefit the patient. Since starting in 2008, Possible has treated over 222,000 people. In the first quarter of 2014, Possible treated over 16,000 people, spending about an average of $20.22 per patient.

Possible functions as a partnership between the government of Nepal and the nonprofit to create a healthcare that guarantees the highest standard of treatment to the poor who cannot afford to pay for it. They use what they call a “hub and spoke” model, which allows patients to receive treatment in any of these four ways: through government hospitals, clinics, community members or referral care depending on what treatments are necessary.

For instance, Possible operates out of Bayalpata Hospital in Accham. Around the Bayalpata Hospital, they have established several clinics so that patients who live further have access to great clinical treatment closer to their homes. Trained Nepali staff are established as community members and sent out to patients’ homes to provide check-ups and follow-ups. Those whose conditions are more complicated, and who are unable to be treated by Bayalpata and its clinics are referred to other urban hospitals that have the means to do so—and those costs are fully crowdfunded so that finances are not an issue for the sick when it comes to treatment.

Choosing Accham, Nepal to pilot their program was both a strategic choice as well as jumping on an opportunity to take on a challenge. Back in 2008, when Possible was starting, Accham was one of the poorest regions in the world, where each person made less than an adjusted $0.39 USD per day, far below the world poverty line of $1.25.

And yet, despite its war-torn history and low economic performance, the constitution of Nepal held one of the most progressive and impressive health care stances in the world: the right to universal healthcare—even for the poorest among them all. The government of Nepal has invited Possible to partner with them in creating a new model of health care.

As a team, Possible loves the challenge of defying the impossible. In this case, the job was to create a healthcare model that is sustainable and effective even after providing services to the very poor.

Their strategy is groundbreaking: they identify best attributes of each sector and amplify that into their own design, which they call “durable healthcare,” that will reach the poor. For instance, the private sector is usually too expensive while the public sector is often known to provide poor-qualify services. Then there is philanthropy that comes up with innovative solutions, yet rather expensive and difficult to scale.

However, each sector does have its own forte. The government has existing infrastructure such as hospitals that can deliver effective health care. The private sector holds a standard of healthcare that everyone should receive. And philanthropy can help finance the costs!

Because Possible considers itself a for-impact, and not a for-profit, organization, they are not concerned with revenues. The only financial matter that they are concerned with replacing the costs of the services. This is done through donations and partnerships.

Possible’s motto is, “We make healthcare possible in the world’s most impossible places.” As they continue to succeed in Nepal, perhaps they will replicate it in the other impossible places of the world.

Christina Cho

Sources: Center for Health Market Innovations, Possible: Health
Photo: Quartz

The United Nations has a well-stated goal to end extreme global poverty by the year 2030, and to achieve that goal their agencies are fighting on a number of fronts. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has recently announced the importance that Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) have in the fight against global poverty. Ban wrote in a recent letter that, “poverty reduction and the elimination of NTDs go hand-in-hand.” He has also issued a report on the importance of eliminating these preventable diseases.

Recent studies done by the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases state that one in six people in the world suffer from an NTD. Neglected Tropical Diseases are considered any one of 17 parasitic and bacterial infections, seen as precursors to such widely known diseases as malaria and tuberculosis. The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases states that they “disable and trap the poor in a cycle of poverty… by undercutting adults’ ability to work productively and take care of their families.”

These diseases are considered “neglected,” because they are treatable, yet the money and resources are not available in many developing nations. Instead it is up to agencies and networks to get the proper necessities to the people. Organizations like the World Health Assembly, the World Bank and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have all made pledges to combat Neglected Tropical Diseases, yet the problem is still rampant in certain areas of the world.

Neglected Tropical Diseases are fought in a number of ways, but general methods focus on providing people with basic needs such as safe drinking water and accessible health care. Researchers are currently developing vaccines to combat various Neglected Tropical Diseases, while others struggle to gain access to existing drugs for diseases like malaria.

While agencies like the World Bank and the United Nations are working to fight the spread of these diseases, their efforts are spread thin over a number of areas. Cholera is considered an NTD by some, and it has emerged as a major problem in post-earthquake Haiti. Cholera has once again become an epidemic, as aid from the earthquake has begun to disappear. Recently, over 5,000 Haitians filed a lawsuit against the UN, blaming the organization for the outbreak. According to one study, 700,000 cases of cholera have been diagnosed in Haiti in the past three years, pointing to the epidemic plaguing the country.

The fight against Neglected Tropical Diseases is closely tied to the fight against global poverty. Some of these diseases have been problems in the world for hundreds of years, yet in the Western world they have largely become a thing of the past. It is up to the leaders of wealthy, Western nations to take up this fight and give people in developing countries a fighting chance to participate in the global economy and create a safer world for their families.

Eric Gustafsson

Sources: Global Network, The Guardian, Malaria Policy Center, Global Network, NIH
Photo: Bionews Texas

Many of us spent some time in May being thankful for our mothers. Something else that we may not think to be thankful for is the healthy and sanitary conditions mothers were able to give birth in. For women living in developing countries, this is a huge concern for pregnant women. One country, however, has proven to be the worst place to give birth: Chad.

This statistic was identified by the organization, Save the Children, in their annual Mother’s Index. The group uses an index that includes a woman’s risk of death during childbirth or pregnancy. Chad was deemed the worst place for a mother to give birth because 1 in 15 mothers are at high risk of dying while pregnant or in child labor.

A contributing factor to these startling statistics is that women get married and become pregnant at a young age. 50% of girls are mothers by the age of eighteen. These girls are at risk because their bodies are not fully developed enough to safely experience pregnancy and childbirth. Malnutrition is also a concern for mothers in Chad. High levels of poverty make healthy diets unattainable for many mothers.

The second worst country for women to give birth in is Somalia. This country is the highest ranking in not providing proper care during pregnancy, with 74% of women not receiving adequate care. Somalia also is barely behind Chad in terms of the risk of death during pregnancy and childbirth. In Somalia, one in sixteen women are at risk. The newborn child is also at danger when it is born in Somalia. About eighteen newborns die per 1,000 live births.

Other countries that are ranked in worst places to have a child are Niger, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea-Bissau, Central African Republic, Mali, Nigeria and Guinea. In order to improve childbirth conditions in these developing countries, it is necessary to invest in health systems and the training of health employees, midwives and other who may assist in the birth process. With these improvements in healthcare, more women will survive and be able to celebrate Mother’s Day with their children.

– Mary Penn

Source: Devex, Save the Children
Photo: Global Giving


USAID is partnering with Somalia groups to form the Camel Milk Value Chain Development project. This project is part of the U.S. President’s Feed the Future Initiative in Ethiopia. Feed the Future is a project started by the Obama Administration that focuses on helping countries become self-sustainable through agriculture reforms and improvements. The goal of the Camel Milk Development project is to improve the production of camel milk and to make it more marketable and competitive in Ethiopian communities.

The camel milk initiative is projected to benefit 50,000 “targeted households” in the country. Abdifatah Mohamud Hassan, Somali Regional State Vice President, said, “The Camel Milk Value Chain Development project is an innovative project that addresses cultural wealth of the pastoralists and contributes to the Ethiopia Agricultural Growth and Transformation Plan.”

Once the project is underway, local farmers will be educated on camel productivity, which includes breeding, better feed, and improvements to the camels’ health. The last aspect of this strategy to increase productivity will be a main focus as USAID trains more animal health care workers. Another goal of the organization is improved camel milk quality. This will happen through extensive trainings that teach workers about proper sanitation.

Finally, USAID hopes to create a better market for camel milk by connecting local milk markets with larger milk networks. This will generate a more stable market for farmers, negating some of the uncertainty and stress that goes along with the agriculture sector. Along with a stronger market, USAID will improve hygiene, food safety standards, and infrastructure.

Given Somalia’s unpredictable weather patterns that often include drought, camels could prove to be a vital source of nutrients for a majority of the country. The USAID Ethiopia Mission Director, Dennis Weller, has even called camels the “animal of the future.” As camel milk becomes more common, those living in Somalia will experience better food security as well as economic independence.

– Mary Penn

Source: USAID
Photo: Mercy Corps

Here are seven things you did not know about one of the World’s largest health system support organizations, Intrahealth International.

  1. For over 30 years in 90 countries, Intrahealth has empowered health workers to better serve communities in need through programs that foster local solutions to health care challenges such as health worker performance, strengthening health systems, harnessing technology, and leveraging partnerships worldwide.
  2. Intrahealth was founded in 1979 as the Intrah Program at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and incorporated as an independent nonprofit organization in 2003.
  3. Intrahealth’s approach to improving health care calls for listening, analyzing, and collaborating with leaders and communities to develop the most effective solutions for a particular environment.
  4. Intrahealth’s mission statement says that it works to empower health workers to better serve communities in need around the world, including all of the individuals who support health workers in their jobs: from educators and software developers to health facility managers, lab technicians, and community leaders.
  5. Intrahealth partners with numerous governmental organizations and NGOs, as well as community, faith-based, and private groups. The organization also partners with US and international NGOs with compatible missions and programs.
  6. Currently Intrahealth works in more than 30 countries and territories, including: Angola, Belize, Benin, Botswana, Burundi, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, DR Congo, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Kenya, Laos, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mongolia, Namibia, Nigeria, Panama, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, West Bank/Gaza, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
  7. The organization currently has a staff of nearly 600 employees working on programs in over 20 countries in Africa, the Americas, and Asia, with its main offices in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and Washington, DC. Opportunities for individual can be searched here.

– Kira Maixner

Senator Bill Frist Calls For Global InvestmentBill Frist, a former Republican senator and majority leader from Tennessee, recently called on America and Congress to “continue our legacy of saving lives.” Less than 1 percent of the US federal budget goes to improving global health, an investment that results in changing the lives of hundreds of thousands every year. “It’s hard to imagine a better return on investment,” said Frist.

In a lengthy article, he recaps the history and precedent that has made America a global leader in developing, supporting and administering life-saving medicines and healthcare practices. Under President George W. Bush, congress made a founding pledge of $300 million to the international initiative – Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Bush, with bipartisan support from Congress, also established the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the largest program ever to combat a single disease. President Barack Obama has likewise embraced this program and America’s role in eradicating AIDS/HIV.

2013 is the 10th anniversary of PEPFAR, and since its founding the number of people on life-saving treatment has increased more than twenty-fold. HIV infection rates are down, the number of malaria cases is down by more than 50%, and tuberculosis mortality rates are consistently falling. Working in more than 150 countries, the Global Fund is saving an estimated hundred thousand lives each month.

Frist goes on to say what a critical time we are in right now. He emphasizes the importance of continuing on the path of involvement and aid in order to make sure our gains are not lost. The momentum must not be jeopardized or diseases may spread in new ways, mutate and reclaim the lives of people whom medicines have previously made healthy. Frist stated that investment in global health is “good for national security, economically prudent and – most importantly, is the right thing to do.”

– Mary Purcell
Source: Roll Call