Monday, August 29, 2016

A Christian warrior for health takes on chronic disease after battling AIDS

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.”

"Millions Saved" shows that global health programs can achieve success

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 (BMJ). “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?”