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Also In Global Health News: Gender Imbalance In India; Task-Shifting On Abortion; Family Planning In The Philippines; Antimicrobial Resistance; Dengue Fever In Paraguay; AIDS Drug Demand In Kenya; mHealth In Africa

India Census Data Reveal Gender Imbalance

India’s child sex ratio declined to 914 females to 1,000 males, which is the lowest level since 1947, census data released on Thursday show, Agence France-Presse reports (3/31). “Despite laws banning expectant parents from doing prenatal tests to determine the gender of their unborn child, the illegal abortion of female fetuses is still common in some parts of India, where a preference for sons runs deep,” Alertnet reports. “The data speaks volumes (about) the lack of efforts made over the last decade – everything has been on the periphery and nothing has been done of any real substance to save our unborn daughters,” Ranjana Kumari, director of the Centre for Social Research, said of the data (Bhalla, 3/31). 

Trained Nurses Can Perform Safe Abortions In Developing Countries, Study Says

Training nurses in developing countries to perform early first-trimester medical abortions could save the lives of about 47,000 women who die from the consequences of unsafe abortions, according to a study published in the journal Lancet, the U.K. Press Association/Nursing Times reports. I. K. Warriner, a physician with the WHO, and colleagues “designed a trial in Nepal to establish whether medical abortions can be provided as safely and effectively by mid-level healthcare workers as doctors. The clinical outcomes were similar, with 97.3% complete abortions performed by mid-level healthcare workers and 96.1% by doctors, with no serious complications recorded” (3/31).

Wall Street Journal Examines Debate Over Family Planning Programs In The Philippines

The Wall Street Journal examines “the latest battleground in the Philippines’ culture wars: a row over whether this conservative, overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country should introduce a family-planning program.” The article highlights opposition to family planning programs by the local council of Alabang, a “posh Manila suburb.” According to the newspaper: “Some Filipinos think the time has come for their government to encourage people to have fewer children. … But the Alabang council reckons state funding for contraceptives is a step too far and undermines the country’s Catholic traditions by encouraging unmarried people to have sex. The district’s firmly worded ordinance is designed to turn safe sex into a risky proposition. Pharmacists face up to four months in jail if they fail to secure proper prescriptions and log purchasers’ names and address. Individuals caught flouting the ordinance risk up to six months in jail, while foreigners defying the council’s law face the possibility of summary deportation” (Hookway, 3/31). 

Reuters Reports On Rise In Antimicrobial Resistance

In a special report, Reuters describes several factors contributing to a global rise of antimicrobial resistance: “For a start, antibiotics are everywhere, giving bacteria countless opportunities to evolve escape routes. The drugs can be picked up, without prescription, for pennies in countries like Thailand, India and parts of Latin America. … Perhaps most worryingly, the world’s top drug companies, faced with decreasing returns and ever more expensive and difficult science, have not only slowed their efforts to develop new antibiotics but have been quitting the field in droves.” The article details the “new wave of ‘super bugs’ with a mutation called NDM-1,” which enables bacteria to resist most antibiotics, and an uptick in cases of multidrug-resistant TB, and examines several ideas on how to promote interest in the development of new antibiotics. The piece also notes the WHO’s World Health Day on April 7 will be focused on antibiotic resistance (Kelland/Hirschler, 3/31).

Paraguay Suspends Elective Surgeries To Free Hospital Beds For Raging Dengue Epidemic

Edgar Gimenez, Paraguay’s deputy health minister, “announced Wednesday that all elective surgeries are being suspended to free up beds, and that the public health system wants to hire 2,000 new doctors and nurses to help respond to” an epidemic of dengue fever, which has resulted in 18 deaths this year, the Associated Press reports. “There is no vaccine for so-called bonebreak fever, which causes strong pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. With many patients getting treatment privately, more than 20,000 are thought to be infected overall, said Health Ministry official Ivan Allende,” the AP writes, noting that there were 15 deaths in the country in 2010. In 2009 and 2008, there were no reported dengue deaths (Servin, 3/30).

Daily Nation Examines High Demand For HIV/AIDS Drugs In Kenya

The Daily Nation examines how demand for HIV/AIDS drugs in Kenya is putting a strain on local drug programs and looks at actions being taken to deal with the need for drugs. “In less than a year, more than 70,000 people have joined the HIV treatment programme, exerting massive pressure on drugs, facilities and personnel. By the end of November 2010, the number of people on the ARVs treatment programme was 440,117, excluding those getting drugs through the private sector. Of these, 404,198 were adults and 35,919 were children. About 8,000 people are now being enrolled on the treatment every month, notes Nascop’s Kenya Anti-Retroviral Drugs Stock Situation – December 2010 report,” the publication reports (Okwemba, 3/30).

AFP Reports On How mHealth Is Changing Health Services In Africa

Agence France-Presse reports on how cell phones are helping to change health services in Africa. The article describes the benefits of several mobile health, or “mHealth” projects in Africa, including: text message reminders that have helped to reduce missed appointments in clinics, a program that allows physicians from various areas to connect with specialists and one that has shortened the wait time for the processing of HIV tests. “The explosion of phones in Africa is being used for applications from quizzes promoting good behaviour in Uganda to coordinating health workers in Senegal,” the news service writes. “But scaling up these projects remains a challenge and many governments don’t have eHealth policies yet” (Gerardy, 3/30).

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