Tuesday, July 2, 2019

From Hot Spots to Holy Places: Group sales of health products contribute to women’s empowerment and better health in Mali

Togo Kadiatou Malle, president of Muso Yiriwa Ton in Mali, is now an ardent proponent of condoms and contraceptives.
This was originally published on the Knowledge4Health Blog on July 1, 2019.

The first five times the sales manager of Keneya Jemu Kan came looking for Madame Togo Kadiatou Mallé to talk about her women’s association selling condoms and other health products, she ran away and hid, so terrified was she of the prospect of having to work with condoms. 

But the sales manager’s persistence paid off. Eventually, they talked, and Madame Togo has become such an enthusiastic condom promoter, she is known as Mama Condom. She laughs about her fear of condoms. 

Madame Togo is president of Muso Yiriwa Ton (MYT), which means “women-empowering group” in the Bambara language, a women’s association based in the very poor Sabalibougou neighbourhood of Bamako, Mali. Her association – as well as other women’s associations – are a major reason for the success of Keneya Jemu Kan (“Communication Around Health”), or KJK, a project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and led by the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs that seeks to reduce maternal, infant, and child mortality in Mali. Palladium leads the social marketing component of KJK.

MYT has more than 400 members, and roughly half of them sell the KJK’s male and female condoms, as well as Aquatabs (water purification tablets)Orasel Zinc (zinc tablets and oral rehydration solution to treat diarrhoea), and CycleBeads (a natural family planning method). MYT members sell an average of 107 cartons of Protector Plus condoms per month. That’s 64,200 condoms. The partnership helps to enhance economic prospects of its members. 

“It has become a source of life for many families,” said Madame Togo. “And it is improving health of the areas where they sell, in Commune 5 and beyond.”

Monday, March 18, 2019

In Brazil, condoms become popular by emphasizing fun, not responsibility

DKT promoted its Prudence brand of condoms in the São Paulo Carnival of 2019, as they do every year.

This was originally published by Knowedge4Health Blog on March 11, 2019.

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — In 1991, a non-profit social marketing organization set out to make condoms accessible and affordable in Brazil at a time when condoms were hard to find and expensive and the number of Brazilians infected with HIV was climbing. In the process, DKT Brazil made its brand Prudence the number one condom in the very competitive Brazilian market, and also helped enhance contraceptive security. 

The result is that condoms have become normalized in Brazil – more used and less stigmatized – and that has helped limit the spread of HIV.

In 1990, the World Bank estimated that Brazil would have 1.2 million people living with HIV by 2000. However, that never happened: By 2000, there were fewer than 500,000 infections. After peaking in 1996, according to UNAIDS, AIDS-related deaths have remained fairly stable. Brazil is now considered an HIV success story. Condoms – distributed both by the public and private sectors – played an important role in that success.

Prudencehas become the most popular condom in Brazil by taking a very different approach to the positioning and marketing. While most commercial condom distributors marketed their products for responsibility and protection, DKT eroticized its condom messaging, celebrated sexuality and used humorous vernacular, with no medical jargon. Its advertising was daring and provocative: The PrudenceYouTube page demonstrates that.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Faith groups do more to promote "healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies"

The Reverend Cannon Kabana and his wife Damalie Kabanda talk to their congregation about the benefits of family planning at St. Mark's Church in Uganda. More religious institutions are promoting the "healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies to their members. Photo: Mona Bormet, Christian Connections for International Health.
This was originally published on Oct. 31, 2018 on Global Health TV.

The role of religious organizations in promoting and advocating for voluntary modern methods of family planning – once met with skepticism or derision — is gradually gaining more acceptance both in the religious and secular worlds. However, the faith-based community still does not get significant funding for family planning (or global development more broadly) despite a growing consensus that faith-based organizations (FBOs) are vital and trusted development partners at the community level. 

When family planning is positioned primarily as a major public health contributor to improved maternal, child, and family health, the trend has clearly been for growing support for family planning in most religious communities,” said Ray Martin, who was executive director of Christian Connections for International Health(CCIH), a membership network of faith and secular organizations that promote global health and wholeness from a Christian perspective (full disclosure: I am a board member of CCIH). “When family planning was seen as a tool for old-style versions of population control, it was harder to marshal Christian support.” 

Monday, December 10, 2018

Breastfeeding becomes controversial again even through breast is still best

A woman breastfeeds her child while waiting for health services outside a health center in Nampula, Mozambique.  Copyright 2017 Arturo Sanabria, Courtesty of Photoshare

This was originally published on Sept. 25, 2018 on Global lHealth TV.

Breastfeeding — one of the most documented and proven best practices in global health — has become controversial again.

In the mid-1970s, Swiss-based Nestlé corporation was accused of unethical methods of marketing infant formula over breast milk to poor mothers in developing countries. Legal challenges to these practices by Nestlé and other companies led to a boycott of Nestlé. This led to the 34thWorld Health Assembly adopting an International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes in 1981. Three years later, Nestlé agreed to the code, and the boycott ended.

In May, the U.S. delegation to the World Health Assembly shocked other delegates when they tried to water down a resolution to promote breastfeeding and limit misleading marketing of infant formula. When that failed, according to The New York Times, they threatened Ecuador, the sponsor of the resolution, with trade sanctions and withdrawal of military aid. Russia introduced a similar measure and it was ultimately approved in a slightly altered form that was supported by the U.S. The U.S. ambassador to Ecuador, Todd Chapman, later called reports that the U.S. threatened Ecuador “patently false and inaccurate.” 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Stepping up fight against malaria in Asia to protect gains made everywhere

A mother from Myanmar and her child waiting to be seen at the Wang Pha clinic near Mae Sot, Thailand, near the Thai–Myanmar border. Her son has symptoms of malaria. Photo: Mark Tuschman 
This was originally published on Global Health TV on August. 31, 2018

The future of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa and everywhere else may depend on whether we can stop drug resistant malaria in five countries of the Greater Mekong subregion of Southeast Asia and whether new vaccines will work against it.

Great progress has been made against malaria on both continents. The incidence rate of malaria has decreased 18% globally between 2010 and 2016, according to the World Health Organization. The WHO South-East Region recorded the largest decline (48%) followed by the African Region (20%). Malaria cases worldwide have fallen from 237 million in 2010 to 216 million in 2016.

Two years ago, Sri Lanka became the first country in the region to eradicate malaria. Six more countries (Bhutan, China, Malaysia, Nepal, South Korea, and Timor-Leste) are on track to eradicate it by 2020 and the other 15 nations are targeting 2030. But a few of those 15 countries are struggling – malaria cases increased in six of them in 2016. India has the third largest burden of malaria in the world, accounting for 89% of malaria cases in the Southeast Asia Region.

“We’ve made extraordinary progress in the Asia-Pacific Region,” says Dr. Ben Rolfe, CEO of the Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance based in Singapore. “Malaria has been halved, and then halved again. Even Myanmar has made extraordinary progress in the most difficult of circumstances. The downside is that we have only bitten off the easy fruit. We are now getting down to dealing with remote communities with very little access to health services. It gets exponentially harder to reach those places.”

Monday, September 17, 2018

New book "Factfulness" asserts that world is much better than most believe

This was originally published on Global Health TV on August 6, 2018.

I first saw Hans Rosling deliver a presentation on facts and fiction on global health in New York in 2010. Like many of his fans, I was swept away by his stunning visual presentations of data, his charming Nordic folksiness and his ability to shed light on some glaring misconceptions of global health and development that he has been working to rectify the last two decades.

He was shocked to discover that people get basic facts on population, health and development wrong, and not just the general public but also highly educated people, even at the World Economic Forum in Davos and Nobel laureates. So this Swedish professor of global health set out to educate people, primarily through his TED talks, which have been viewed more than 35 million times (check out “Let my dataset change your mindset” and “How not be ignorant about the world”), to such an extent that he became a nerdy global health rock star.

In September 2015, Hans and his son Ola Rosling and daughter-in-law Anna Rosling Rönnlund decided to write a book to explain why people do not see the world as it really is, and why we get so many basic facts so wrong. Five months later, he received a diagnosis of incurable pancreatic cancer, and was told he had two or three months to live. He threw himself into finishing this book to such an extent that he was going over printed copies of the latest draft from his hospital bed in the days before he died in February 2017.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Trump's expansion of Global Gag Rule sows chaos in global health

One of Donald Trump’s first acts as U.S. president was the re-imposition of the Global Gag Rule (GGR), also called the Mexico City Policy, a policy that denies healthy options to women and girls, not just safe abortion and contraception but potentially all areas of global health. 

Trump changed its name to “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance,” but most global health advocates call it the Global Gag Rule because it silences health providers from providing comprehensive reproductive health options to women and girls.

The global gag rule is a failed, outdated and deadly policy,” writes Serra Sippel, the president of the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE), in the comprehensive new report Prescribing Chaos in Global Health: The Global Gag Rule from 1984 to 2018.

“Throughout this report, CHANGE seeks to document the breadth of the GGR’s impacts on civil society and health systems. For example, CHANGE provides evidence that the GGR under President George W. Bush had consequences outside family planning programs, and that it adversely impacted a wider range of health services provided by foreign NGOs. Some of these impacts were mitigated when President Barack Obama rescinded the policy, but the harmful effects have been shown to linger, particularly as each iteration has become more oppressive, culminating now with the Trump GGR.” 

The policy is having exactly the effect the Trump Administration intended it to have – women are losing health services, programs are being down-sized or closed and advocacy work disrupted. Because of poor communication and miscommunication coming from the U.S. government and prime partners, the CHANGE report says, many organizations are over-interpreting the policy, and going further than they really need to go, out of fear of losing funding and alienating an important donor (the U.S. government).