Wednesday, September 7, 2016
This was originally published on Global Health TV on August 23, 2016.
A few years ago, in a survey by epidemiologist Larry Brilliant, 90 percent of epidemiologists said that a pandemic that will sicken 1 billion, kill up to 165 million and trigger a global recession that could cost up to $3 billion would come in the next two generations. Currently, we’re living through three pandemics — HIV, Zika and cholera. What will the next pandemic look like and where will it come from?
Those are some of the questions science journalist Sonia Shah attempted to answer in an event marking the centennial of the Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health and in her book “Pandemic: Tracking Contagions from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond,” published earlier this year. The book should be required reading for anyone interested in the future of global health.
Shah spent six years trying to figure out how microbes turn into pandemic-causing pathogens. She looked at the history of pandemics, particularly cholera because it’s one of our most efficient pandemic-causing pathogens. She went to places where new pathogens are emerging to try to figure out what are the political and social drivers that push these microbes into human populations.
Tuesday, September 6, 2016
Part of the problem, or the solution?
Call for change
Friday, September 2, 2016
|A worker selects medicine from the MEDS (Mission for Essential Drugs and Supplies) warehouse in Nairobi. MEDS is jointly owned by the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Christian Health Association of Kenya. Photo: Bedad Mwengi|
This was originally published on Global Health TV on July 16, 2016.
In comments last week at the International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said four things deserved credit for getting the AIDS pandemic under control — people living with HIV, biomedical companies, generic medicines and international finance.
But despite his gratitude to biomedical companies and generic medicines, the secretary-general is overseeing a process that threatens to undermine those companies' ability to improve access to medicine in developing countries.
The World Health Organization says an estimated 2 billion people (27% of the world’s population of 7.5 billion) lack access to essential medicine, most of them in Africa and Asia, but a full three-quarters of the world’s population (around 5.5 billion) have no access to proper pain relief treatment.
To address this staggering problem, the Secretary-General set up a High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines earlier this year. The purpose of the panel was “to review and assess proposals and recommended solutions for remedying the policy incoherence between the justifiable rights of inventors, international human rights law, trade rules and public health in the context of health technologies.”
Sounds like a great and noble idea, right? But some expert commentators say the panel is on track to do more harm than good because of its terms of reference.
Thursday, September 1, 2016
|A patient at a rural health camp in Mwae County, Kenya has his blood pressure checked as part of a full physical exam. If he needs hypertension treatment, he will get it as part of the cost of the camp. Photo: Bedad Mwangi|
This was originally published on Global Health TV on June 28, 2016.
For some time, huge disparities between global health spending and the global disease burden have raised concerns that this funding was not being allocated based on the evidence. That is, money was not always going where the disease burden was greatest.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) has pointed out that the disparities are most extreme in HIV/AIDS on the high end and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) on the low end.
As the toll from communicable diseases like AIDS and malaria decline and people live long enough to get NCDs, we need to invest more in fighting NCDs (also called “chronic diseases”) and reduce these glaring disparities between global health spending and disease burden. Countries like Botswana, Eritrea, Kenya Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zambia — all countries that increased their treatment coverage by more than 25% between 2010 and 2015, according to UNAIDS — now have to pivot to NCDs without taking their eyes off of HIV.
Kenya is an excellent case in point.
Monday, August 29, 2016
|Dr. Samuel Mwenda after receiving the award as the 2016 Christian International Health Champion.|
This was originally published on the Huffington Post on June 21, 2016.
In Kenya, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular and respiratory disease, diabetes and cancer used to be quite rare, because communicable diseases like AIDS and malaria were more likely to kill you first. That is why life expectancy peaked in 1987, and then went down in the 1990s, as AIDS made its presence felt.
But since about 2002, as more Kenyans have gotten AIDS treatment, life expectancy has started going up again and, if current trends continue, Kenya will return to its historic peak of 60 years in 2017, according to a World Bank blog.
That’s great news. But it also means many Kenyans are surviving AIDS only to live long enough to be killed by NCDs. Annually, 28 million people die from NCDs in low- and middle-income countries like Kenya, representing nearly 75% of deaths from NCDs globally. Health programs, therefore, must turn their attention to this new pandemic without losing focus on the existing one (AIDS). This scenario is playing out not only in Kenya but also in Botswana, Eritrea, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zambia. All of these countries increased their treatment coverage by more than 25% between 2010 and 2015, according to UNAIDS.
Dr. Samuel Mwenda is a seasoned veteran of campaigns against both pandemics. For 13 years, as the general secretary and CEO of the Christian Health Association of Kenya, a network of Protestant church facilities in Kenya, he has led CHAK’s comprehensive approach to HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment. Kenya is now considered an AIDS success story, with CHAK making a significant contribution to that success. UNAIDS says that Kenya is one of the countries “showing the most remarkable progress in expanding access to antiretroviral medicines and reducing the number of new infections.”
This was originally published at Global Health TV on May 24, 2016.
If you are reading this article, you probably already believe in global health, and its ability to improve the quality of life and save lives. Every month we tell some of these stories here at Global Health TV.
But some people do not believe that global health programs work or, perhaps, are just indifferent to that fact. The Kaiser Family Foundation recently released a survey of the U.S. general public that showed that the visibility of U.S. global health effort are declining – only 36% have heard a lot or some about U.S. efforts in the past year, down from 57% in 2010.
That’s why books like “Millions Saved: New Cases of Proven Success in Global Health,” written by Amanda Glassman, Miriam Temin and a team at the Center for Global Development, are so important. They provide us with specific examples of global health success that they culled from more than 300 examples of rigorous impact evaluations, and explain why there were successful.
“Around the world, people are benefitting from a global health revolution,” wrote Glassman and Rachel Silverman, both of the CGD, in a blog of the British Medical Journal. “More infants are surviving their first months of life; more children are growing and thriving; and more adults are living longer and healthier lives. This amazing worldwide transformation begs several questions: What, specifically, are we doing right? What are the policies and programs driving the global health revolution from the ground up? Or put more simply, what works in global health, and how do we know?”
Thursday, May 12, 2016
|Women gather for the launch of the national family planning campaign in a low-income neighborhood of Bamako, Mali in April.|
This was originally published on Global Health TV on April 26, 2016.
BAMAKO, Mali — Last year, there were several reports of how West Africa, after decades of seriously lagging behind the rest of the world (and Africa) in family planning, was finally starting to embrace it. IntraHealth International covered this topic extensively on its Vital blog, and I wrote about my own views of family planning in Mali here at Global Health TV.
Senegal, in particular, emerged as a family planning leader in West Africa and provided hope for the rest of the region. The three main reasons for Senegal’s success were strong political will, better coordination and collaboration and innovative approaches, according to Babacar Gueye, IntraHealth country director in Senegal.
New programs here in Mali, like Keneya Jemu Kan (USAID Communications et Promotion de la Santé, in the Bambara language), are making a major push to increase health indicators beyond the anemic progress of the past three decades. For example, the percentage of married women using any modern method of family planning in Mali has only increased from 1.3% in 1987 to 9.9% in 2013, and Keneya Jemu Kan is working to bend that rate upwards. (Full disclosure: I work as a consultant for Keneya Jemu Kan).
But a disturbing new report from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), or Doctors Without Borders, claims that similar progress is not being made in HIV/AIDS. On the contrary, MSF claims that millions of people in West and Central Africa are being left out of the global HIV response despite globally agreed goals to curb HIV by 2020, and is calling on the international community to develop and implement an urgent plan to scale up antiretroviral treatment for countries where critical medicines reach fewer than one-third of the population in need.