Also In Global Health News: Post-Disaster Health Implications; Surging Interest In Global Health; Reproductive Health Policy In The Philippines; ICRC Flags Cote d’Ivoire Conflict; Health As a Human Right; GAVI Alliance Suspends Funds

High Rates of Cardiac, Psychiatric Illnesses In New Orleans Show Implications For Other Post-Disaster Areas

The health effects of major natural disasters can continue to affect populations years after the occurrence, according to a study showing New Orleans residents continued to experience a threefold increase in heart attacks and increased rates of psychiatric disorders four years after a massive hurricane hit the city in 2005, Agence France-Presse reports (Sheridan, 4/3). Anand Irimpen, associate professor of medicine for the heart and vascular institute at Tulane University, presented the study findings on post-disaster health consequences at the American College of Cardiology conference on Sunday, according to Reuters. “It appears that these psychiatric illnesses – like anxiety and depression – all seem to be contributing, and they are known to contribute to cardiac illnesses,” he said. “Irimpen had a message for physicians in Japan and other areas hit by large-scale disasters: ‘It’s important to let people know that they should give health a priority, concentrate on diet and exercise, be compliant with their medications and make an appointment with your doctor,'” according to the news service (Berkrot, 4/3).

New York Times Examines Growth Of Interest In Global Health Among Young Americans

The New York Times examines a trend of “surging interest” among young Americans who want to combat “deadly epidemics ravaging the world’s poorest countries.” The increased interest is “fueled in part by the billions of dollars that the American government, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other organizations have poured into international health in recent years,” according to the newspaper. The article looks at some of the different programs that send Americans overseas to participate in global health programs and looks at the effects of their involvement on local health programs (Dugger, 4/2).

U.N. Delegation Recommends National Reproductive Policy To Lower Maternal Deaths In The Philippines

A visiting delegation comprised of representatives from six U.N. bodies said on Friday that a national reproductive policy in the Philippines could lower the country’s high maternal death rate, Reuters reports. “The absence of a national reproductive health policy, especially for the poorest, is a vital concern,” said Brian Bowler, Malawi’s permanent representative to the U.N., who led the delegation (Mogato, 4/1). “While acknowledging that the Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country and religion must be observed, he also said that the government must push its efforts in improving maternal health as mothers are getting younger in rural areas,” Business World Online reports. “The global evidence is saying that by putting in place [the] right kind of legislative framework in terms of reproductive health, the country can be better,” said Nojibur Rahman, economic minister of the permanent mission of Bangladesh to the U.N., who was also part of the delegation (Desiderio, 4/1).

ICRC Highlights Concerns Over Cote d’Ivoire Conflict

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) recently highlighted its concerns about the situation in Cote d’Ivoire in a funding appeal, Reuters reports. The ICRC called on parties to the conflict to distinguish between military and civilians, asking that only military targets be attacked. The organization said that “[t]ens of thousands of destitute people are on the move after fleeing fighting and looting in the country where the humanitarian situation has steadily deteriorated,” adding that “[s]tocks of medicines are running out” in the capital of Abidjan, the news service reports. In addition, ICRC said health centers have closed because staff cannot get to work and chemicals are needed to treat water, Reuters writes. “The country is now in the throes of a full-fledged internal armed conflict,” Pierre Kraehenbuehl, ICRC’s director of operations, said of the situation (3/31).

Health Advocates Rally For Health To Be Recognized As Human Right

At a meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, health advocates from eastern and southern Africa called for the United Nations to develop a policy framework to ensure countries treat health as a human right, Health-e reports. The article says that developed countries have “back-tracked on their commitments to fund” health-related programs in developing countries and African nations have not met their pledges in the 2001 Abuja Declaration to allocate at least 15% of their national spending to health. Mark Heywood, director of the organization Section 27, highlighted concerns about HIV/AIDS funding cuts. “There are threatened cut-backs for funding for HIV. There are retreats from commitments to universal access,” he said. “In the context of AIDS and the delivery of services on AIDS programmes we have seen how our own health care systems in our own countries, especially in Africa and in the developing countries, have actually buckled under pressure. We are not delivering enough on health. We’re not delivering the best service in health,” said Treatment Action Campaign Chair Nonkosi Khumalo (Bodibe, 3/31).

GAVI Alliance Announces Suspension Of Funds In Several Countries To Investigate Possible Misuse

The GAVI Alliance last week announced it was suspending funding for three cash-based programs in Niger, Cote d’Ivoire, and Cameroon to investigate the possible misuse of funds, Nature’s “The Great Beyond” blog reports. During the investigation, however, the affected countries will continue to receive vaccines (Van Noorden, 3/30). “GAVI had already informed its Board about an investigation of two cash programmes in Mali last year, which is expected to be completed in May 2011. Investigations have recently commenced in Niger and Cameroon, and will follow in Cote d’Ivoire once the political situation in the country improves,” a GAVI press release states. In total, the money “under investigation in the suspended programmes totals approximately $18 million” (3/30). “The Great Beyond” notes, “It’s not unusual for large aid programmes to suffer corruption, but many choose not to publicise, or even examine, fraud cases out of fear of losing donors.” Rarer still, the blog writes, is “for such programmes to make such investigations public before they have concluded, as GAVI has here” (3/30). 

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