GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog features an interview with freelance reporter and artist-in-residence at the University of Washington in Seattle Joanne Silberner, a former NPR correspondent, about her recent series for PRI’s “The World,” titled “Cancer’s New Battleground — The Developing World.” Produced in collaboration with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, the series examines cancer prevention, control, and research efforts in Uganda, Haiti, India, and the U.S., according to the blog. Silberner said she was “astounded” to learn “there are more deaths from cancer (in the developing world) than if you added up the deaths from HIV, [tuberculosis], and malaria,” the blog notes. She also said she was “surprised” to learn about the stigma against cancer in the developing world, which “keeps people from coming in [to clinics]” and “keeps local governments from supporting treatment efforts.” Silberner also said coverage of global health issues is important to raise awareness and knowledge in the U.S. (Judem, 12/6).
Quality of Care
A study led by World Bank economist Jishnu Das and published in Health Affairs on Monday examines the quality of primary care delivered by private and public health care providers in rural and urban India, a World Bank press release notes. The study found many providers do not have medical degrees; the quality of medical training is low; and less than half of providers provide correct diagnoses, according to the press release, which says the results show an “urgent need” to carefully measure the quality of care. “The study could help policymakers make evidence-based decisions,” the press release notes, adding, “In November, the government announced a five-year plan to triple health spending and improve the quality of health services” (12/3).
PRI’s “The World” this week features a series examining the challenges of addressing cancer in the developing world. The series, produced in collaboration with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, includes radio stories, multimedia features, an interactive map, and infographics, according to the main page. The radio stories examine cancer prevention, control, and research efforts in Uganda, Haiti, India, and the U.S. (12/3). In an interview with the series’ principal reporter, Joanne Silberner, Lancet editor Richard Horton said, “Cancer is certainly being under-recognized and neglected in low- and middle-income countries. … I think cancer is slowly becoming more recognized but there is a long way to go before it gets the attention it so urgently needs (12/3). On December 5, PRI will host a Facebook chat from 10am-4pm EST that will feature Silberner and cancer researchers and advocates (12/4).
The New York Times’ “India Ink” blog examines how “a growing number of ‘affordable health care’ entrepreneurs are focused on developing new solutions for the rural and remote parts of the country.” According to the blog, “Across India, access to health care remains a pressing problem, exacerbated by the country’s large population and shortage of doctors. Nowhere is this challenge more acute than in rural India, which is experiencing a severe shortage of qualified health care practitioners.” But one pilot program in Tamil Nadu is training and certifying traditional medical doctors “to serve as ‘independent care providers’ in a rural setting,” the blog states, noting the program was developed in conjunction with the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (Lavakare, 11/29).
Pharma Companies Improving Access To Medicines But Lack Oversight Of Outsourced Clinical Trials, Analysis Says
Pharmaceutical companies are showing “greater accountability in the boardroom today over access to medicines, with more openness, targets and investment in drugs relevant to the poor,” but they “show no evidence that they adequately supervise the conduct of outsourced clinical drug trials, according to a new analysis released on Wednesday,” the Financial Times reports (Jack, 11/28). Published every two years, the Access to Medicine Index “ranks the world’s 20 biggest drug companies,” BBC News notes, adding, “GlaxoSmithKline remains at the top of the index, followed closely by Johnson & Johnson and Sanofi.”
“More than one-quarter of people diagnosed with tuberculosis [TB] at a clinic in India’s largest city of 18 million have a strain that doesn’t respond to the main treatment against the disease, according to preliminary data from a new diagnostic being tested,” the Wall Street Journal reports. The newspaper obtained “preliminary and not peer reviewed” data from TB clinics in Mumbai, and Puneet Dewan with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation TB program in India “said the WHO and Indian authorities are taking the data seriously because it appears to confirm other studies in recent years of similarly high rates of multi-drug-resistance, in which patients don’t respond to the two most powerful TB medicines.” According to the newspaper, “The WHO and India currently estimate India has about 100,000 of the 650,000 people in the world with multi-drug-resistance” (Anand/McKay, 11/23).
Emergency Obstetric Care Reduced Maternal Mortality Rates Up To 74% In Two African Projects, MSF Reports
According to a new briefing paper (.pdf) from Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), access to emergency obstetric care, including ambulance service, could help save the lives of up to three quarters of women who might otherwise die in childbirth, AlertNet reports (Batha, 11/19). In two projects, one in Kabezi, Burundi, and the other in Bo, Sierra Leone, MSF showed “that the introduction of an ambulance referral system together with the provision of emergency obstetric services can significantly reduce the risk of women dying from pregnancy related complications,” according to an MSF press release. The services, which cost between $2 and $4 per person annually, are offered 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and are free of charge, the press release notes (11/19). The projects “cut maternal mortality rates by an estimated 74 percent in Kabezi and 61 percent in Bo,” Reuters writes, adding, “The charity hopes its model could serve as an example for donors, governments and other aid agencies considering investing in emergency obstetric care in countries with high maternal mortality rates” (11/19).
November 17 marked the second annual World Prematurity Day, sponsored by the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH). The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog published two posts discussing premature birth.
In the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Global Health Policy” blog, Amanda Glassman, director of global health policy at CGD, and Denizhan Duran, a CGD research assistant in global health, examine a new report (.pdf) by the IMS Institute, which focuses on how countries can advance the responsible use of medicines. “Today, one-fifth of total health spending goes to medicines,” they write, adding, “Figuring out how to realize efficiencies in medicines spending is therefore crucial for every country, and for the international funders that support them.” They discuss the conclusions and limitations of the report, which supports the findings “of our recent work on priority-setting in health.” In effect, they say improved health technology assessment (HTA) agencies “could weigh cost-effectiveness, affordability and other factors in order to decide which medical interventions should receive higher priority in the allocation of scarce public and donor money” (11/14).
Wall Street Journal Examines Program In Pakistan Looking To Provide Health Insurance For Poor Urban Residents
The Wall Street Journal examines how “some local social entrepreneurs are coming up with new ideas to provide the poor with access to better medical services” in Pakistan, where the health care system is “split between low-cost government-funded hospitals offering basic services and expensive private-sector medical institutions … [b]ut the majority of the country’s 190 million people have little access to health care.” The newspaper describes how one program, called Naya Jeevan — “a non-profit micro-insurance program for the urban poor” that “offers an insurance program at subsidized rates under a national group health-insurance model” — operates to help ensure affordable medical care for the poor and how it has come “under scrutiny from the country’s insurance regulator” (Bahree, 11/6).