Monday, April 9, 2018

Facing two water crises: Having enough water and ensuring it's safe to drink

A market vendor in Bamako, Mali buys Aquatabs water purification tablets for her shop from a Palladium sales promoter. The tablets are one of several solutions for ensuring safe water at point of use. Photo: David J. Olson

This was originally published on Global Health TV on March 29, 2018.

We talk about a world water crisis like there’s only one but there are really two. The first crisis we see playing out in Cape Town – the growing number of places that do not have enough water of any kind. The second crisis is ensuring that the water people do have is safe to drink.

The city of Cape Town has just dodged a bullet – at least for 2018. Day Zero -- the day when dams levels reach 13.5% of capacity and the taps are turned off – was originally expected to take place in April, then pushed back to July. Now it has been postponed to 2019. This video shows how Capetonians are dealing with the crisis.

The three-year long drought hasn’t ended but severe water rationing has helped postpone disaster. The combined levels of dams supplying Cape Town is down to 22.7%, according to the city’s water dashboard. Capetonians have been asked to limit their water use to 50 liters (13 gallons) per person per day, and many have risen to the occasion (as a point of comparison, the average U.S. resident uses 367 liters per day, or 100 gallons).

Unfortunately, Cape Town is not an anomaly: Fourteen of the world’s megacities now experience water scarcity or drought conditions, according to Ecolab’s Water Risk Monetizer

Friday, April 6, 2018

Mental health still grossly underfunded but there are glimmers of hope

A StrongMinds mental health facilitator (center) speaks with former patients in Uganda. StrongMinds has treated more than 25,000 Ugandan women for depression with group talk therapy. Photo: Kevin Di Salvo
This was originally published on Global Health TV on February 28, 2018.

The problem with mental health and substance abuse in Africa and other developing countries is not that awareness has not been raised about these huge contributors to the global burden of disability.

Annually since 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) Mental Health Gap Action Programme has been meeting to scale up services for mental, neurological and substance use disorders.

In 2013, the World Health Assembly adopted the WHO’s Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020, which is designed to provide guidance for national action plans in all resource settings.

And most notably in 2015, world leaders recognized the importance of mental health and substance abuse in the newly minted Sustainable Development Goals. Within Goal 3 (the health goal) of the 17 SDGs, there is a target for mental health and another target for substance abuse. Here are the Goal 3 targets.

So mental health has finally been given a hard-fought and much-deserved seat at the global health table. It just has not been given much money or resources.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Global contraceptive use rising but more progress needed to reach target

A DKT Nigeria counselor talks to a group of women in a low-income neighborhood of Lagos, Nigeria about their contraceptive options. Photo: David J. Olson

This was originally published on Global Health TV on January 30, 2018.

By July 2017, more than 309 million women and girls were using modern contraception in 69 focus countries identified by Family Planning 2020 (FP2020), a movement created in 2012 by four core partners, 38.8 million more than in 2012.

This information came out in FP2020’s annual report “The Way Ahead, 2016-2017,” released in December. It reported that use of modern contraception in these 69 countries from July 2016-July 2017 prevented 84 million unintended pregnancies, 26 million unsafe abortions and 125,000 maternal deaths. This is all great news.

It came with some less-than-great news. FP 2020 has set the goal of reaching 120 million new users in the eight years between 2012 and 2020 – or 15 million every year. By that measure, we should have reached 75 million new users by mid-2017, and 38.8 million is only 52% of that.

Clearly, we have a lot more work to do to reach the 120 million target.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

For global health, 2017 was a year of progress, near triumphs and threats

A trained community health workers in Bangalore, India takes photos of an oral lesion with a mobile phone during an oral cancer screening. Cancer is growing everywhere in the world. Photo: Biocon Foundation, Courtesy of Photoshare.
This was originally published on Global Health TV on Jan. 2, 2018.

In looking back over my last 12 blog posts here at Global Health TV, it is clear that 2017 was a year of progress, near triumphs and threats to global health.

In September, I reported that great progress has been made against diseases and health conditions that kill us (like respiratory infections, diarrhea, neonatal preterm deaths and communicable diseases like AIDS and malaria) while new threats had emerged  that are generally less fatal — things like obesity and mental illness.

In particular, we have made progress against communicable diseases but now face a rising tide of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like cancer, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases, as I wrote at the beginning of 2017.  Cancer is growing almost everywhere in the world. For example, cervical cancer causes over 500,000 new cases every year, even though vaccination, early screening and treatment of precancerous lesions can prevent most cases.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Polio vaccine switchover: An untold success story in global health

Syed Latif, a polio vaccinator and activist, hands out polio information at the Mansehra Polio Resource Center in Mansehra, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan. Photo: Mansehra Polion Research Center.
This was originally published on Global Health TV on November 28, 2017.

In April 2016, something extraordinary happened in global health. Thousands of community health workers in more than 120 countries — from African villages to the Himalayas to the Pacific Islands — all mobilized and synchronized their efforts to switch from one oral polio vaccine to another. Any slip-ups could have resulted in creating more “vaccine-derived” poliovirus cases at a moment when we are down to our last few cases of polio.

The fact that many children receiving such oral vaccines were living in areas of high conflict and low development (which means low levels of health infrastructure) made the accomplishment all the more remarkable.

The feat was accomplished in a single day (each country was told to pick one day within a two-week period in April 2016 to make the change).

The story of this amazing synchronized switch constitutes an untold global health success story and can be told with the backdrop of the current number of wild poliovirus type 1 cases down to only 15 — 10 in Afghanistan and 5 in Pakistan. The polio eradication community had hoped that we would be down to zero by 2017. Now they are hoping it will happen in 2018.