Tipping point for control of TB

A senior WHO official in Southeast Asia has good news to share about a recent push to end tuberculosis (TB) as a public health threat. Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, the Regional Director of WHO Southeast Asia, says the drive to end TB has reached a tipping point.

In TB-affected countries, including those of the Southeast Asian region, domestic funding for TB programs has increased dramatically. In some countries – such as India – it has trebled. That political will was reinforced this week, when, at a TB summit in New Delhi, India, ministers of health and representatives of the WHO Southeast Asia Region – the world’s most TB-affected region – developed and adopted a Statement of Action – a manifesto that will intensify momentum to end TB’s unconscionable burden, both in the region and across the world.

Also, to date, global support for national and regional initiatives has been strong. Last year’s Ministerial Conference on TB in Moscow is a good example. There, ministers of health from across the world expressed their desire to get things done – to make TB a vestige of history, exactly as it is in much of the developed world, with donors pledging to provide the resources needed to chart bold progress.

Critical to present momentum is WHO’s recently elected leader, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. He has made it his personal mission to combat, with renewed vigor, the heartbreaking afflictions that destroy the lives of millions of people across the world, with a special focus on harnessing the full power of health coverage for all. Importantly, those afflictions include TB.

Dr. Singh says the momentum must be maintained to bring real change to the lives of millions of people and, in the process, create a healthier, more prosperous, and secure world.

"The drive to end TB has reached a tipping point. Now is the time to accelerate it".

The full artivle can be found in The Diplomat.

March 19, 2018

From #MeToo to Mothers and the link between health and wealth

Women are on the agenda this week at the 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women being held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 12 to 23 March 2018.

This week, The Lancet writes: “No one could have failed to notice the rise of women in the collective consciousness over the past year: their under-representation at the highest levels in the workplace, their discrimination in terms of pay, and their ongoing subjection to power-related assaults in the form of physical, psychological, and sexual violence and harassment.

"The World Economic Forum's latest Gender Gap Report shows a chasm between the countries with the greatest gender parity (Iceland, Norway, Finland, Rwanda) and those with the least (Chad, Syria, Pakistan, Yemen)."

Simply put: the poorest countries are also the ones with the greatest gender gaps.

In a comment, also in The Lancet, The Gambia Women in Science Working Group highlight how gender barriers still exist on a much more fundamental level in regions such as Africa. The perception of women and men as intellectually equal (by both men and by women themselves) is still not a given, and flexible working hours, parental benefits, and quality daycare (both for young children and elderly parents) are a distant dream to many.

Journalists can make a difference by highlighting these issues and finding stories of women who are breaking through these barriers.

Read the full article here: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(18)30105-0/fulltext

March 13, 2018

Prosperity Hinges on Health Security

Advocates for global health security hoped that the 2014 West African Ebola outbreak would be the game changer that would finally spur meaningful, coordinated investment in health security—and break the recurrent cycle of panic and neglect towards epidemics. There is compelling evidence that epidemics can push back years of progress in development gains, as was seen with the Ebola-affected countries.

Indeed, in the immediate aftermath of Ebola, there were significant investments in health infrastructure. The moral argument is clear-cut: epidemics cost lives—in some countries, much more than others. Some of the most epidemic-prone countries are the least prepared to address epidemic threats. However, moral arguments are not always the most effective means to sway policy makers, as highlighted by the recent drop in bilateral investments in global health security. With complacency creeping up, and the scaling back of bilateral support for disease surveillance and preparedness programs in “hotspot" countries, we once again face a heightened risk for another pandemic.

In this climate, there is a pressing need to strengthen the investment case for health security. But how? At the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, pandemics were on the agenda. They should always be, alongside other prospective economic issues for the 21st century, like job security, cross border trade, and economic growth. Global financial stakeholders must proactively acknowledge the critical links between economic prosperity and global health security. Before the powerful men and women return to Davos for the next WEF Annual Meeting, we hope to see a place reserved for the economic risks from infectious threats. The overarching message is clear—outbreaks, whether they happen at home or abroad, pose a threat to economies everywhere.

(This is a shortened version of an essay in GlobalHealthNow, a publication of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health).


March 3, 2018

New recommendations to care for healthy pregnant women

In the developing world, we often hear about complications in pregnancy and how to address it.

Now, the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued new recommendations to establish global care standards for healthy pregnant women. The idea is to reduce unnecessary medical interventions.

Worldwide, an estimated 140 million births take place every year. Most of these occur without complications for women and their babies. Yet, over the past 20 years, practitioners have increased the use of interventions that were previously only used to avoid risks or treat complications.

“We want women to give birth in a safe environment with skilled birth attendants in well-equipped facilities. However, the increasing medicalization of normal childbirth processes are undermining a woman’s own capability to give birth and negatively impacting her birth experience,” says Dr. Princess Nothemba Simelela, WHO Assistant Director-General for Family, Women, Children and Adolescents.

“If labour is progressing normally, and the woman and her baby are in good condition, they do not need to receive additional interventions to accelerate labour,” she says.

Unnecessary labour interventions are widespread in low-, middle- and high-income settings, often putting a strain on already scarce resources in some countries, and further widening the equity gap.

As more women give birth in health facilities with skilled health professionals and timely referrals, they deserve better quality of care. About 830 women die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications around the world every day – the majority could be prevented with high-quality care in pregnancy and during childbirth.

Health professionals should advise healthy pregnant women that the duration of labour varies greatly from one woman to another and women usually wish to retain a sense of personal achievement and control by being involved in decision making, and by rooming in with their baby after childbirth.

feb 26, 2018

Uganda to introduce the “panty condom”

“You can wear it and walk around with it for a whole day if you anticipate sex later that day,” says Dr. Moses Muwonge, director of the SAMASHA Medical foundation in Uganda.

The Foundation recently shared information about a new panty condom with journalists in an AVAC-Internews training program in Uganda, and journalists have reported on this innovation in all of the major media outlets in the country. Dr. Muwonge told the journalists that sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are a huge burden for Uganda. This is because condom use is low: a recent study conducted indicated that condoms were used effectively only 17% of the time. As a result, young girls have unwanted pregnancies and contract STIs.

Enter the panty condom: Dr. Muwonge’s organization is currently undertaking an acceptability study to find out what people think about it and if they will be willing to use it.

The condoms were first introduced in Colombia and are currently registered for use in some European countries, such as Germany.

The product is basically a panty that is like a G-string, which has a condom attached to it, with an inlet. A woman can wear it and go for work without the condom interfering with her work, says Dr. Muwonge. And each panty condom comes with an extra condom, which can be inserted in the panty after the first one has been used.

For Dr. Muwonge, it’s about choice and giving women the power to control their sexual health. “It is good for women who have been frustrated by men who do not want to use condoms”.

Time will tell if Ugandan women will opt for the panty condom.

Feb 13, 2018

A world more vulnerable

The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) is preparing to downsize its work in 39 countries. Those include the Democratic Republic of Congo, which recently experienced its eighth Ebola outbreak, and China, which recently underwent its worst outbreak of H7N9 bird flu. Lena Sun of The Washington Post confirmed this report on Thursday, writing that “notice is being given now to CDC country directors” as the first part of a transition.

Health experts have noted that these changes would make the world—and the United States—more vulnerable to a pandemic. “We’ll leave the field open to microbes,” says Tom Frieden, a former CDC director who now heads an initiative called Resolve to Save Lives. “The surveillance systems will die, so we won’t know if something happens. The lab networks won’t be built, so if something happens, we won’t know what it is. We can’t be safe if the world isn’t safe. You can’t pull up the drawbridge and expect viruses not to travel.”


Feb 7, 2018

WHO ramps up health support to camps in north-eastern Syria

WHO reports in Medium that huge population movements in Syria have prompted almost 8000 displacements per day — one of the highest rates in the world. In total, after almost seven years of conflict, more than 6.1 million people are uprooted inside the country.

Camp residents need a great deal of health support. The harsh winter months are especially difficult for children. Doctors commonly treat cases of leishmaniasis, scabies and measles and the situation for women giving birth is particularly bad as male doctors are not allowed to help them.

A variety of partners have come to the aid of these desperate people, including through mobile clinics, tents that change locations every few days in order to reach as many people as possible. 

For more on this story, see: https://medium.com/@who/medicine-on-the-move-96648c3fd527


January 31, 2018



All eyes on Davos

Most international publications are providing news and forecasts this week of what to expect from Davos 2018, this year’s meeting of the World Economic Forum.

It is a gathering of the world's business leaders, economists, politicians, even some celebrities.

There will be panel discussions and speeches, and background meetings behind the scenes between world leaders, business leaders and philanthropists. Here, philanthropists will present the business case for spending to make the world a safer, healthier place.

This year’s theme is "Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World". Among the big names attending are US President Donald Trump, Germany’s Angela Merkel, Theresa May, the Prime Minister of the UK, the new President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa, and Bill Gates and Elton John. There will also be hundreds of journalists, making sense of it for you and me.  

Jan 23, 2018

Major collaboration on environmental health risks

UN Environment and the World Health Organization (WHO) have announced wide-ranging collaboration to curb environmental health risks that cause an estimated 12.6 million deaths a year.

This agreement step up joint actions to combat air pollution, climate change and antimicrobial resistance, as well as improve coordination on waste and chemicals management, water quality, and food and nutrition issues. This represents the most significant formal agreement on joint action across the spectrum of environment and health issues in over 15 years.

"Our health is directly related to the health of the environment we live in. Together, air, water and chemical hazards kill more than 12.6 million people a year. This must not continue," said WHO’s DG Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.  

He added: "Most of these deaths occur in developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America where environmental pollution takes its biggest health toll."

The new collaboration creates a more systematic framework for joint research, development of tools and guidance, capacity building, monitoring of Sustainable Development Goals, global and regional partnerships, and support to regional health and environment fora.

January 19, 2018

Upbeat news this World Aids Day

World Aids Day related reports in the global media have been upbeat, citing the advances in science, as well as the new UNAIDS report that shows that access to treatment has risen significantly. In 2000, just 685,000 people living with HIV had access to antiretroviral therapy. Now, nearly 21 million people living with HIV are on treatment

Now people with HIV can expect to have a normal lifespan if they are on treatment. But stigma still keeps many millions of people from testing regularly. In many parts of the world, health policy needs to be reformed to ensure citizens have access to the full suite of HIV prevention tools, like Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis or PrEP, the once-a-day prevention pill for those at high risk of HIV infection.  

Nov 29, 2017