Opinion: Chronic Disease In Africa; Education Can Help Combat Disease; Climate Change And Health; TB Vaccine

More Studies Needed As Africa’s ‘Chronic-Disease Epidemic Looms’

“An epidemic of chronic, non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, mental illness, cancer, diabetes, and obesity is growing in Africa, a continent still struggling with infectious and nutritional diseases,” according to a Boston Globe opinion piece by Michelle Holmes and Shona Dalal. Although in Africa, “[u]nhealthy lifestyles are becoming more common with a shift from agrarian to urban living,” and the continent has “the highest mortality rate at every age and from nearly every cause,” there have been no “studies asking what people eat, how much they exercise or smoke, or detailing their family and reproductive histories over decades. This absence of large-scale preventive research on Africans is an appalling gap as the continent’s chronic-disease epidemic looms,” the authors write.

They conclude that President Obama’s recent speech in Ghana “should be the clarion call for the next health frontier, to get ahead of the chronic diseases of the more modern and complex Africa to come” (Holmes/Dalal, 8/17).

Can Fight Disease

“It is very clear that the Obama administration shares a deep concern for the problems facing the people of my continent and those throughout the world, and I applaud the United States for making Africa’s future a priority in U.S. foreign policy,” writes Desmond Tutu in a Washington Times opinion piece. According to Tutu, “universal basic education” can have a “profound impact on global poverty and is critical to the development of human potential.”

Research shows that between 1970 and 1995 “almost half of the reductions in child malnutrition were due to improvements in secondary school enrollment — girls’ education and not food aid was more important to the health and survival of babies born into poverty,” he writes, adding that education has also been called a “social vaccine” for preventing HIV/AIDS. During his campaign, Obama promised a contribution toward the creation of a global fund for education, but “this fund has not yet become a reality,” Tutu writes. “Mr. President, please do not to lose sight of this goal: We need a global fund for education now,” he concludes (Tutu, 8/16).

Climate Change Highlights Challenegs Of Poverty

“Climate change is revealing the ugly head of” poverty, which is “exacerbated by the growing schism between the developed and developing worlds,” according to a Washington Times opinion piece by Jan Eliasson and Rep. Michael Honda (D-Calif.). “With 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty on incomes of less than $1.25 a day, and 2.5 billion people living in poverty at less than $2.50 a day, we allow those most vulnerable to be even more exposed to the costs of climate change. The food crisis, for example, exacerbated by climate change, hit the poor hardest,” the authors write, adding that the number of malaria cases is “bound to rise as 300 million more people could be living in malaria-infested areas by 2080 as a result of changing global temperatures.” The authors examine the cost of supplying clean drinking water and funding Millennium Development Goal projects. They conclude, “The time is now to bridge the gap between the rich and poor worlds, and to quickly devise a plan to help cure what is plaguing the planet: poverty” (Eliasson/Honda, 8/16).

More Effective TB Vaccine Could Be Available By 2016

“Annually, about 9.3 million people become sick with tuberculosis (TB), and 1.8 million die from the disease, the majority in Asia and Africa,” Jerald Sadoff, Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation president and chief executive, writes in a Washington Post letter to the editor. Though the current TB vaccine “is not very effective,” there is “hope,” according to Sadoff. He writes that several vaccine candidates are “undergoing clinical trials for safety and efficacy,” which could mean that “more effective vaccines may be available by 2016 to prevent suffering” (Sadoff, 8/17).

The KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report summarized news and information on global health policy from hundreds of sources, from May 2009 through December 2020. All summaries are archived and available via search.

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