KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

WHO Report Highlights Need For Research To Achieve Universal Health Coverage

A report published last month by the WHO finds “universal health coverage, with full access to high-quality health services for all, cannot be achieved without evidence from research,” SciDev.Net reports. “To achieve universal health access requires services to be increased while also protecting the poor from financial hardship when they have to pay for them, but we still do not know how to deliver both these things, says Christopher Dye, one of the lead authors of ‘Research for Universal Health Coverage,'” the news service writes, adding, “To open the way for universal health coverage, the report urges countries to increase national and international investments aimed at improving health services, and to establish closer collaborations between researchers and policymakers” (Del Bello, 9/12).

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IRIN Examines Research On Syringe Design, Prevention Of HIV

IRIN examines recent research that shows that differences in the design of syringes “can be ‘dramatic’ and may slow the spread of HIV infections.” The news service writes, “Better syringe design could ‘nearly eradicate global HIV [injecting drug user-related] infections within eight years,’ according to the U.S.-based health consultancy RTI International, based on research it published [recently].” IRIN outlines some differences in syringe designs, noting, “By reducing the amount of retained fluid, some researchers say the risk of passing on blood-borne diseases is also reduced.” The news service highlights the issue of access to “‘harm reduction’ projects aiming to minimize damage from injecting drugs globally,” discusses skepticism over the approach, and profiles a pilot program in Vietnam, writing, “PSI set up the country’s first ‘social marketing’ (marketing for the good of society) pilot project in 2012, studying the habits of people who inject drugs in the country’s two most populous cities, Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi” (Brown, 9/12).

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New Meningitis Vaccine Nearly Eliminated Disease In Chad, Study Says

“Use of a new vaccine in Chad has all but eliminated meningitis, according to a study that boosts the prospects for defeating one of the most feared infections across central Africa,” the Financial Times reports. “Just 57 cases of meningitis were identified last year in regions of Chad where MenAfriVac had been administered, compared with more than 3,800 cases in people in other parts of the country who were not vaccinated,” the newspaper writes, adding, “The figures, reported in the Lancet medical journal by academics led by the Centre de Support de Santé International in Chad and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, lend support to efforts to introduce mass vaccination with the product across … Africa’s ‘meningitis belt'” (Jack, 9/12). “Deadly epidemics of meningitis A are frequent in Africa’s so-called ‘meningitis belt,’ a band of … sub-Saharan countries which extends from Senegal to Ethiopia,” according to the Information Daily, which notes, “It is estimated that around 450 million people are at risk” (9/12). “Infants, children and young adults are most at risk of meningitis, an inflammation of the membrane around the brain and spinal cord that can cause death or disability, including deafness, paralysis and limb infection leading to amputation,” a London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine press release states (9/11).

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Thomson Reuters Foundation Examines Breakthrough In Combating Seasonal Malaria In West Africa

“A new way of using an old drug is proving to be a breakthrough in combating seasonal malaria in West Africa, which kills tens of thousands of children every year according to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF),” Thomson Reuters Foundation reports. “The medical charity says seasonal malaria chemoprophylaxis or SMC, a pioneering approach that uses sulfadoxine/pyrimethamine (Fansidar), reduced the number of cases of simple malaria by 66 percent during trials in Mali and Chad between July and October last year,” the news service writes, noting, “The trials, which involved 160,000 children in Koutiala, southern Mali, and 10,000 children in Moissala, southern Chad, also resulted in 70 percent fewer hospital admissions and 75 percent fewer blood transfusions due to malaria.”

“‘Fansidar was widely used to treat malaria throughout the world but has been phased out and replaced by artemesinin combination therapies (ACT), partly because of the build-up of resistance,’ MSF Tropical Medicine Adviser Estrella Lasry told Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone,” according to the news service, which adds, “‘Now, the new approach uses Fansidar with amodiaquine to prevent malaria in children between the ages of three months and five years by providing 12 doses over four months to maintain an adequate level of antimalarial drug in their blood during peak malaria season,’ she said” (Hussein, 9/11). The article is accompanied by a factbox outlining medical breakthroughs in the fight against malaria (Hussain, 9/11).

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VOA Highlights Efforts Of 3 U.S. Groups To Provide Medical Supplies To Improve HIV Services In Malawi

“In Malawi, three U.S. groups working against the spread of HIV have provided medical supplies to 85 health facilities,” Voice of America reports. The supplies, provided by PEPFAR, CDC, and the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF), were donated as part of a five-year program to improve HIV and health services in Malawi, VOA writes, adding, “Nicole Buono, the country director for EGPAF, said the supplies provided by the coalition of U.S. anti-AIDS groups include blood pressure meters, stethoscopes, thermometers, weighing scales, stop watches, gloves and furniture.” Noting a 2013 survey by Malawi’s National AIDS Commission and the Department of Nutrition and HIV/AIDS found a 10 percent drop in the HIV prevalence rate since 2008, the news service adds, “CDC spokeswoman Beth Barr said although the United States is encouraged by the tremendous progress Malawi is making in fighting HIV,  there are still gaps that needs to be filled” (Masina, 9/11).

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Editorials and Opinions

Maternal Mental Health Should Be Priority On Global Agenda

Writing in the PLOS “Speaking of Medicine” blog, Sara Gorman, an MPH candidate at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, examines the need for an increased focus on improving maternal mental health. “Integrating mental health programs with maternal health programs is not only as important in saving mothers’ lives as screening for malaria and treating HIV in pregnant women but it could also prove essential in achieving two distinct but interrelated Millennium Development Goals [MDGs]: improving maternal health and reducing the number of deaths in children under the age of five,” Gorman writes, noting that the MDG to improve maternal health has shown “particularly slow progress,” especially in sub-Saharan Africa. She discusses “some reasons why maternal mental health is not a high priority on maternal health agendas,” and states, “International donors and stakeholders should be made aware of the dire effects of maternal depression on maternal and child health and should be encouraged to provide funds and aid specifically for maternal mental health. In particular, the evidence for the effects of mental health on physical health should be emphasized in communication with international donors” (9/11).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

New Tool Aims To Improve Diets, Prevent Child Malnutrition In Guatemala

In a post in USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” published as part of “a series to coincide with ‘A Promise Renewed in the Americas: Reducing Inequalities in Reproductive, Maternal and Child Health Summit’ [being held] September 10-12 in Panama,” Monica Woldt, a senior advisor for maternal and child health and nutrition at FHI 360, and Gilles Bergeron, deputy director of country programs for FHI 360’s Food and Nutrition Technical Assistance III (FANTA) project, examine a new tool that aims to improve diets and prevent child malnutrition in Guatemala, “where about half of the children under five years of age are stunted (too short for their age — a sign of long-term deficits in the quantity and/or quality of food, including the right vitamins and minerals).” They write, “Optifood is a computer software program, developed by the [WHO] in collaboration with the [FANTA project], and Blue Infinity, that provides scientific evidence on how to best improve children’s diets at the lowest possible cost using locally available foods,” noting, “Optifood identifies nutrient gaps and suggests food combinations the local diet can fill — or come as close to filling. It also helps identify local foods’ limits in meeting nutrient needs and test strategies for filling remaining nutrient gaps, such as using fortified foods or micronutrient powders that mothers mix into infant or young children’s porridge” (9/11).

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Examining Women's Role In Polio Eradication

Writing in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Rachel Lonsdale, a communications officer at the foundation, examines “the critical role women vaccinators are playing in eradicating polio.” She highlights an article published in The Independent this week, which profiles a vaccinator in Pakistan named Gulnaz Sherazi. She states, “Today, we are at the cusp of worldwide polio eradication,” adding, “It can be done thanks to many global organizations including Rotary International, the CDC, UNICEF and the WHO that have been working for more than 25 years to rid the world of this paralyzing disease. But it is because of local leaders and health workers in Pakistan like Ms. Sherazi, and women like her [in] Afghanistan and Nigeria — we will defeat this terrible disease” (9/10).

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