Archive for March, 2010

Reading List 3/31/2010

March 31st, 2010

Today were reading a letter to the editor in the New York Times on the importance of defeating NTDs in Haiti, and the latest updates about what the Sabin Vaccine Institute, the Gates Foundation, and our founding ambassador Alyssa Milano are doing.

A Project for Haiti: The Eradication of Two Diseases, Donald Hopkins, New York Times

Sabin Vaccine Institute holds one day symposium with lawmakers, Liberia Broadcasting System

Melinda Gates: Foundation investing more in mothers and newborns, Kristi Heim, Seattle Times

American Red Cross Adds Eight New Members to its Celebrity Cabinet, American Red Cross

Global Pulse 2010: Day 2

March 30th, 2010

(Note: to read any of the Global Pulse discussions, you need to register here first.)

 Today marks the second day of Global Pulse, the ongoing online collaborative event focused on global issues. In the last day, we’ve seen the global health discussion include some very interesting conversations, such as if the expansion of information technology and basic health capability are competitive or cooperative goals, what the role of communities is in health systems, and about the reasons for the uneven distribution of public health education opportunities. Perhaps the two most interesting threads are the welcome thread created by Amie Batson, USAID Director of the Global Health Initiative, which has turned into a sort of open discussion on global health, and a thread with many proposed answers taken from the Human Resources and Health document recently published by USAID.

 We’re also seeing a discussion of NTDs and NTD issues begin to emerge. In global health, the importance of NTD control was brought up, while in the separate “Fostering Science, Technology, and Innovation” discussion, the topic of promoting innovation in the face of a limited market was discussed.

Here were some great NTD related questions posed on one thread that wed like to post here as well and are open for discussion:

  1. What have been your experiences with the delivery of a package(s) of services or commodities through community-level platforms? What lessons have you learned about effective integrated programming? How much can we build onto a single platform and continue to see efficiency gains?
  2. How can we best utilize and motivate community-level health workers and volunteers as we extend the health system to reach rural populations?
  3. What changes to the targeting / approaches to water and sanitation would strengthen the impact on NTD control, in both the short and long term? What else can the NTD control community do to strengthen the sustainability of its control efforts?  

With 28 hours left in the event, we’ll see if these conversations continue to develop. Check back in tomorrow for further discussion of Global Pulse.

US Government kicks off Global Pulse 2010 Day: 1

March 29th, 2010

As a communications associate for a nonprofit organization, I believe that one of the most important things an international aid agency can do is open the lines for effective two-way communication so that individuals like me can educate myself and ask questions about the worlds most pressing issues as well as get some clarity on what exactly the US government is doing to alleviate them. So, Im happy to see that USAID, in partnership with the Departments of State, Education, Commerce, and Health and Human Services, has kicked off Global Pulse 2010.

 Global Pulse is a three day online collaborative event that allows individuals for around the world to make comments, share opinions, and add ideas about important issues in the global community.

 According to the website:

 Global Pulse 2010 will provide an opportunity to voice opinions, share ideas, and create innovative solutions to social issues facing the global community within the fields of science and technology, entrepreneurship, and human development. This is a unique opportunity to influence a global conversation that will build partnerships across borders, strengthen understanding among cultures, and unite the human race in an effort to create innovative solutions to the most pressing social issues of our time.

 Even though the event is less than a day old, we’re already seeing some very active and interesting global health discussions on topics such as prioritizing health needs, bioinformatics, and how mobile phones can be used for health services. Participants from over 130 countries have been logging in all day and most of the posts in the global health arena have settled into one of three developing themes: increasing access to health care, utilizing technology to improve health, and figuring out how to distribute health care effectively.

 There have been posts by global health luminaries as John Monahan, Counselor to the Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Amie Batson, leader of USAIDs work with the Obama administration’s Global Health Initiative, and Ami Tsui, a Director with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and professor at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. Click here to read about other featured guests.

 By time the event ends on the 31st, this should be a valuable source of information and ideas moving forward in global health. If you want to find out more, go to the Global Pulse 2010 portal page or check back here for more info on how the conversation is developing.

Reading List 3/29/2010

March 29th, 2010

Happy Monday, everybody. To kick off the week weve got some pieces of global health news to read.

Two Groups Push for Health Funds, Robert Guth, Wall Street Journal

Facing up to failure on World TB Day, Patrick Adams,

Head lice trigger body lice epidemics, study finds, NatGeo News Watch

NTDs on the Small Screen: Global Health and Hollywood

March 25th, 2010

Mariska Hargitay and Brooke

When most people sit down to relax and watch their favorite television show after a long day’s work they are not thinking about neglected tropical diseases, maternal and child health or HIV/AIDS.  However, that is all changing thanks to new champions in global health like Emmy award-winning actress Mariska Hargitay and Executive Producer Dr. Neal Baer; both from the hit television show Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

 Through collaboration with Hollywood, Health & Society, a program of the University of Southern California Norman Lear Center in the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, popular television shows like Law & Order: Special Victims Unit are raising awareness for these issues by bringing them into the living rooms of people around the world each night. 

 At an event on Capitol Hill last night co-hosted by Hollywood, Health & Society, Chairman Howard Berman and Ranking Member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, panelists Mariska Hargitay, Dr. Neal Baer, Sally Canfield, Senior Program Officer for The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Sandra de Castro Buffington, Director of Hollywood, Health & Society had an exciting discussion on the impact of the entertainment industry’s portrayal of global health issues and the importance of global health advocacy. 

 Hollywood, Health & Society serves as a bridge between the creative community and the public health field by providing expert health information to the entertainment industry. Through collaboration with Hollywood, Health & Society, over 100 television series including Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, are informing audiences around the world on important global health issues.  Sandra de Castro Buffington highlights television audiences as a global health constituency by noting that more than two-thirds of viewers report learning something from a television show and one-third actually take action.

 Mariska Hargitay added “by raising awareness, we are bringing hope back.” 

 By raising awareness about pressing global health issues and shedding light on the plight of the more than one billion people who suffer from neglected tropical diseases, Hollywood really does have the ability to bring hope back.

 So next time you are watching tv, don’t be surprised if you learn a little bit about schistosomiasis or onchocerciasis at the same time!

Reading List 3/24/2010

March 24th, 2010

Today is World Tuberculosis Day so, in addition to todays guest post, were giving you a dose of news on the fight against TB. We also have an update on the fight against onchocerciasis in Nigeria and a promising new technology for water filtration.

Tangible Progress Reported in Control of TB in SE Asia, Steve Herman, Voice of America

Momentum in fight against tuberculosis must be maintained, Ban says, UN News Centre

New drug hope in fight against TB, BBC News

Nigeria: 19 Million Nigerians Treated for River Blindness in 12 Years, Peter Duru,

Nanoparticle Science Helps Create Low-Cost Water Purification Systems, Brit Leggitt, Inhabitat

More Attention Needed to Combat Drug Resistant Tuberculosis

March 24th, 2010

By Richard Skolnik

In 2006, 53 people in South Africa became ill with a form of TB that cannot be cured with the standard TB drugs.  

Fifty-two of them died. 

Some years before, there was an outbreak of TB in New York City that did not respond to standard TB treatment. These outbreaks should have made us take much greater notice of TB. Unfortunately, however, much work on effectively treating TB remains to be done, as we are reminded by World TB Day and by a new World Health Organization (WHO) Report on drug-resistant forms of TB.

There are about 9.4 million new cases of TB a year and about 1.8 million people a year who die of TB, making it one of the leading causes of adult death in low-income countries. 

TB is spread in an “airborne” manner, when people with TB breathe out the TB bacteria and someone else breathes it in.  Each person with TB is thought to infect 10 to 15 people per year. “Regular” TB can be cured with a 6-month course of treatment that is not expensive. 

However, some forms of TB, like those that occurred in South Africa and New York City that are referred to above, cannot be cured with the regular TB drugs.   One such form is resistant to two of the standard drugs and is called “multi-drug resistant” TB” (MDR-TB).  Another form of TB is resistant to even more TB drugs and is called “extensively drug-resistant TB” (XDR-TB).   People can get drug-resistant forms of TB by not fully taking their drugs when they have TB.   People can also get MDR-TB or XDR-TB by breathing in bacteria from people who already have these types of TB.    

It is harder to treat MDR-TB because it costs 10 times more to treat than drug-susceptible forms of TB, and the treatment success rates are much lower.   It is even harder and even more expensive to treat XDR-TB.

The best way of avoiding the development of more drug-resistant TB in the world is to diagnose people at an early stage of the disease and then to successfully cure them.   It is also important to successfully treat the cases of MDR-TB that already exist, so this form of TB cannot be spread further.

The new WHO report on MDR- and XDR-TB provides all the excuses we could want for getting involved with the battle against all forms of TB.  The good news is that progress is being made against MDR-TB in some places, such as in the Russian Federation.  The bad news, however, is that the data on resistant forms of TB is so limited that WHO cannot tell us the true number of cases worldwide or if that number is going down.  Even worse news is that 150,000 people died of MDR-TB in 2008, and there are 440,000 new cases a year globally with only about 1% of them being treated properly.  Moreover, there are some regions in Russia in which about 25% of all TB is MDR-TB and 58 countries have now reported XDR-TB.

We need to act urgently to get TB on the top of the global health agenda.  We also need to urgently support better detection of TB cases and their successful treatment, everywhere in the world.  We must push as hard as we can to get the world to strengthen laboratories for diagnosing MDR-TB.  This has to be coupled with measures to encourage the development of new ways of diagnosing all forms of TB, new drugs that can work better and faster on all forms of TB, and the development of a safe and effective TB vaccine.  Astoundingly for a disease of such importance, the TB vaccine is not very effective and is more than 100 years old.

We are all at risk for TB and MDR-TB poses special risks because it is harder to diagnose and harder and more expensive to treat successfully

We need to act now because waking up in a world with an increasing number of cases of drug-resistant forms of TB should be a thought too horrible to contemplate.

Richard Skolnik is a half-time Lecturer in Global Health at the George Washington University.  He previously served 25 years at the World Bank, two years as Executive Director of the Harvard PEPFAR Program, and two years as Vice-President for International Programs at PRB.  He was involved in the establishment of STOP TB and is the author of Essentials of Global Health.

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    • The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases is a major advocacy and resource mobilization initiative of the Sabin Vaccine Institute dedicated to raising the awareness, political will, and funding necessary to control and eliminate the most common neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)--a group of disabling, disfiguring, and deadly diseases affecting more than 1.4 billion people worldwide living on less than $1.25 a day.
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