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Voters Need More Information On Free Trade Agreement That Could Impact Drug Prices

In an opinion piece in the Guardian’s “Comment is Free” blog, Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, discusses potential policies contained within the “Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), a pact that the United States is negotiating with Australia, Canada, Japan and eight other countries in the Pacific region.” However, “[a]t this point, it’s not really possible to discuss the merits of the TPP since the governments are keeping the proposed text a secret from the public,” he says. Noting “[a] few items that have been leaked give us some insight as to the direction of this pact,” he discusses how the “pharmaceutical industry is … likely to be a big gainer” from the TPP if the pact includes “stronger and longer patent protection and also increased use of ‘data exclusivity.'”

Indonesia Plans To Include HIV Treatment In Universal Health Care Coverage

During a meeting with UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe on Tuesday, Indonesia Minister of Health Nafsiah Mboi “pledged to scale up HIV testing and treatment programs” with a “focus on 141 districts where key affected populations are the highest,” a UNAIDS feature story reports. “Indonesia also plans to become one of several countries in the region to offer universal health care by 2014,” with HIV treatment to be covered, according to the health ministry, UNAIDS notes. Sidibe said, “Indonesia is a key partner in the drive to end the AIDS epidemic. … Universal health coverage is a game changer for Indonesia. I am delighted to know that HIV treatment will be included in this national program. This sets the stage for sustainable funding of HIV programs,” the article states. “The Ministry of Health estimates that more than 600,000 people are living with HIV and that there are more than 76,000 new HIV infections each year,” according to UNAIDS, which adds, “Currently HIV treatment coverage is at less than 20 percent” (10/23).

Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreading In Asia, Experts Warn

“Drug-resistant malaria is spreading in Asia, experts warned as a high-level conference opened Wednesday with the aim of hammering out an action plan to strengthen the region’s response,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Resistance to the drug used everywhere to cure the life-threatening disease has emerged in Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar,” Richard Feachem, director of global health at the University of California, San Francisco and former head of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, said, according to the news service. “The danger is that at some time this resistance may break out of Southeast Asia and crop up in Africa,” he added, AFP writes. Feachem spoke ahead of the “Malaria 2012: Saving Lives in the Asia-Pacific” conference in Sydney, which “will seek consensus on the actions needed to strengthen the region’s response to malaria,” according to AFP (Coorey, 10/31).

Health Experts Warn Of Linkages Between Climate Change, Increased Malnutrition

“Malnutrition is likely to be the most serious health threat linked to climate shifts in the coming decades, as farmers struggle to cope with more unpredictable weather, … epidemiologist Kris Ebi warned during a recent World Health Organization (WHO) briefing on adapting health systems to climate shifts,” AlertNet reports. “Linkages between climate change, extreme weather and health have so far focused mainly on an expected increase in deaths from disasters and heat waves, as well as rising cases of malaria, dengue fever and diarrhea,” the news service writes.

Congress Can Help Improve WASH, Survival For Children Worldwide

David Winder, chief executive of WaterAid USA, highlights the findings of the recently released UNICEF report on child mortality in this Huffington Post “Impact” blog post, saying the decrease in annual number of child deaths “is great news, but is tempered by sobering statistics, especially for children in sub-Saharan Africa,” who continue to face high rates of mortality. “However all is not lost and much can be done to ameliorate the situation. Improving access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene is a key step in preventing many of these needless deaths,” he writes, adding, “Known collectively as WASH, these three basic services are important factors in preventing pneumonia and diarrhea, the leading causes of mortality among children between one month and five years of age.”

Hereditary Blood Disorder Found In South-East Asia, South-West Pacific Could Offer Clues For Malaria Vaccine

“A team of international scientists has found that a type of hereditary disorder in some communities in South-East Asia and the South-West Pacific protects its sufferers from malaria, a finding that could drive future vaccine design,” SciDev.Net reports. “Southeast Asian Ovalocytosis (SAO), an inherited disorder in which red blood cells are oval, instead of round, could be a unique human adaptation to resist malaria, according to a paper published in PLoS Medicine this month,” the news service writes.

Bangladesh Struggles To Provide Health Care In Urban Slum Areas, Guardian Reports

As more people move into the urban slum areas surrounding Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, basic services such as water, sanitation and health care are being stretched to capacity by “[n]ew residents [who] are increasingly pushed out to the city’s fringes,” the Guardian reports. “According to health care workers, hospitals are already unable to meet the growing demand for treatment and services,” the newspaper writes, adding, “Dhaka’s largest hospital is operating at 50 percent staff capacity and trying to accommodate 3,000 patients in a facility with just 800 beds.” In addition, “no health care facilities are provided in the slums, [so] Dhaka’s newest — and poorest — residents are facing a health care black hole,” according to the Guardian. The news service says women and girls “most often fall through the cracks,” and describes one project “that aims to bridge this gap and prevent urbanization creating a free fall in maternal and infant mortality levels” (Kelly, 9/18).

IPS Examines Challenges To Slowing Spread Of HIV In Eastern Europe, Central Asia

“Despite pledges from governments across Eastern Europe and Central Asia to fight HIV/AIDS — one of the eight Millennium Development Goals — the region has the world’s fastest-growing HIV epidemic,” Inter Press Service reports in an article examining challenges to stemming the spread of the disease, particularly among injection drug users. “Punitive drug policies, discrimination and problems with access to medicines and important therapy are all driving an epidemic which is unlikely to be contained, world experts say, until governments in countries with the worst problems change key policies and approaches to the disease,” the news service writes. According to experts and activists, a lack of opiate-substitution therapy (OST) and needle-exchange programs, as well as discrimination against and “active persecution” of drug users who try to access therapy programs, contributes to the spread of HIV, IPS notes (Stracansky, 9/3).

IRIN Examines Child Nutrition, Stunting In Asia

“Stunting is a key factor holding back progress on children’s well-being, and Asia faces a significant challenge with millions of children under five stunted,” according to Save the Children’s 2012 Child Development Index (CDI), IRIN reports. The news service examines data from the 2012 State of the World’s Children report (.pdf), noting that nearly 60 percent of children under five in Afghanistan and Timor Leste have moderate to severe stunting, which puts children “at greater risk of illness and death, impaired cognitive development and poor school performance, say health experts.”

WHO Convenes Lawmakers From Southeast Asia To Discuss Bolstering Of Health Systems In Region

This week the WHO brought together lawmakers from across Southeast Asia in Bangkok “to discuss how to bolster their health systems back home,” IRIN reports. Meeting participants were “called on to advocate the boosting of health spending, workforces and access to health care in their home countries in addition to drafting ‘healthy public policies,’ such as conducting health assessments before large infrastructural projects are undertaken,” the news service writes.

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.