Also In Global Health News: UK’s Global TB Control Program; Yellow Vaccine Scarcity In Uganda; Rats Detecting TB; Volunteer Health Workers In Afghanistan; Cuba’s Health System

Paper Criticizes UK’s Global Approach To TB Control

A paper published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine highlights concern about the U.K. Department of International Development’s (DfID) global tuberculosis control strategy, the Guardian reports. “Bruce Currey, Professor Quazi Quamruzzaman and Professor Mahmuder Rahman, all based at Dhaka Community Hospital in Bangladesh, accuse the [DfID] of glossing over the deaths of nearly half a million people,” the Guardian writes. “The Crown’s term ‘moderate mortality’ [used in a December 2008 factsheet] covers up an annual tuberculosis death toll, estimated by WHO, of almost half a million people (460,003), mostly poor, in south Asia,” they write. “The three experts praise the UK’s leadership at the G8 meeting in Okinawa in 2000, which pledged to ‘Reduce TB deaths and prevalence of the disease by 50% by 2010.’ But, they say, the commitment was then watered down,” the newspaper notes. DfID’s strategy is also aimed at preventing TB from spreading to the West and does not focus on controlling the disease in communities where it is rampant, according to the authors, the Guardian reports (Boseley, 1/4).

Uganda’s Yellow Vaccine Campaign Postponed

Uganda’s health ministry has “postponed the mass vaccination exercise against yellow fever due to the scarcity of the vaccine,” New Vision reports. “Vaccination is not starting today because we have not yet got any feedback regarding the availability of the vaccine,” said Paul Kaggwa, the assistant commissioner of health at the ministry. The health ministry is looking into working with UNICEF and other international agencies in an effort to secure enough vaccines, Kaggwa said (Niinsima, 1/4). The vaccine scarcity “comes at a time when Cameroon is also battling yellow fever and the available 1.5 million doses have to be shared between the two countries,” according to the Daily Monitor. Kenya Mugisha, who led the National Task Force on Yellow Fever to Northern Uganda, “said the situation is now under control with no new cases registered in recent days while most of those who were admitted have been discharged from hospital. ‘The situation is calm, by Friday, only 23 people were still contained in hospitals,’ he said” (Layero/Makumbi, 1/3).

New York Times Examines Viability Of Using Rats As ‘Fast, Cheap’ Way To Test For TB

The New York Times reports on how the Gambian pouched rat, “an omnivorous rodent with puffy cheeks … [that] weighs 10 to 15 pounds and thrives in colonies of up to 20 all over sub-Saharan Africa,” is being used as a “fast, cheap” way to test for tuberculosis. According to a December report in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, the “animals’ sensitivity – that is, their ability to detect the presence of tuberculosis – ranged as high as 86.6 percent, and their specificity, or ability to detect the absence of the germ, was over 93 percent. In another test that compared the rats’ success to microscopy, the rats picked up 44 percent more positive cases,” the newspaper writes. Alan Poling, a professor of psychology at Western Michigan University who led the study, “said that while the animals had been accepted as a reasonable diagnostic tool in Tanzania, ‘the medical community is still skeptical'” (Bakalar, 1/3).  

IRIN Examines Importance Of Volunteer Community Health Workers In Afghanistan

“Some 22,000 community health volunteers in Afghanistan are vital to the country’s health system but some are beginning to wonder if they might provide a more effective service if they were paid, and had formal work contracts,” IRIN reports. Suraya Dalil, the country’s acting public health minister, said, “If we are to see Afghanistan’s public health system stand on its own two feet, we have to develop a system that can sustain the interest and commitment of [community health workers or CHWs] who are, in fact, volunteers.” According to the news service, the WHO “appears to back the above stance of health officials: ‘We really need to train more female CHWs and community health supervisors and bring them into the workforce if we are to achieve Millennium Development Goals [MDGs] 4 and 5 targeting maternal and child health in Afghanistan,’ Peter Graaff, WHO representative in Afghanistan, was quoted as saying in a joint press statement on 5 December” (1/3).

Leaked U.S. Cable Includes Anecdotes About Cuba’s Health System

A U.S. diplomatic cable made public by WikiLeaks in December “offers a withering assessment” of Cuba’s health care system, the Miami Herald reports. The dispatch was written by an unidentified nurse assigned to the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana. “The U.S. cable is not an in-depth assessment of Cuba’s health system. Rather, it’s a string of anecdotes gathered by the [nurse] from Cubans such as ‘manicurists, masseuses, hair stylists, chauffeurs, musicians, artists, yoga teachers, tailors, as well as HIV/AIDS and cancer patients, physicians, and foreign medical students.’ At one OB-Gyn hospital, the dispatch reported, the staff ‘used a primitive manual vacuum to aspirate’ the womb of a Cuban woman who had a miscarriage ‘without any anesthesia or pain medicine. She was offered no … follow up appointments,'” the newspaper writes (Tamayo, 12/29).

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