NPR gives Bill Gates the forum to explain why spending a billion dollars per year chasing after a few hundred (or fewer) polio cases is money well spent.
Global health is primarily about public health, medical and research efforts aimed at assisting poor countries.
Bill Gates loves vaccines.
He says so all the time. The media, as well as the social media hipsterverse, regularly report on this love affair, usually cheering along with Gates in favor of the cause of polio eradication — a cause which was advanced recently at a meeting he and other glitterati convened in Abu Dhabi, the world’s richest city.
Gates says the very foundation of his foundation comes from his realization in the 1990s that kids were dying for lack of access to a vaccine we in the rich world take for granted. As a result, boosting vaccination worldwide became the prime mover, the raison d’être, for what would soon be the world’s biggest philanthropy.
Yet few appreciate today just how revolutionary, and unlikely, was the start of this love affair.
Promoting this powerful, fundamental tool for children’s health may look now like an obvious humanitarian thing for a philanthropist to do. But it wasn’t either obvious or that celebrated when the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation started down this path (pun intended) in the 1990s.
The Gates Foundation’s push for a revolution in immunization was greeted, from the outset, by a weird combination of controversy and apathy. Continue reading
The birth of a child is usually met with celebrations and joy. But for more than one million mothers around the world every year, it is a day of mourning.
Save the Children estimates that more than one million children die each year on the day of birth. Another two million children do not survive their first month of life, says the 14th State of the World’s Mothers report.
Released around Mother’s Day every year, the report from Save the Children scores countries on the health and safety of mothers. This year, the index calls attention to child survival in addition to maternal health.
Nearly two-thirds of global newborn deaths occur in ten countries. They include larger nations like Nigeria, India, China and Indonesia as well as nations with high infant mortality rates such as Ethiopia, Afghanistan and Tanzania.
“Saving newborn lives will prevent incalculable suffering. It is also a vital piece of the global development agenda,” says Melinda Gates in the report introduction. “Children surviving and staying healthy means more children in school and able to learn, which in turn means productive adults who can drive sustained economic growth.”
Sometimes, it’s just simple. Studies have shown that teaching mothers to hold their newborns against their skin — aka kangaroo care — could help many babies survive.
All most of us know is that a woman named Beatriz, a 22-year old mother of one, is critically ill in a San Salvador hospital with kidney failure, an auto-immune disorder and at the center of a growing controversy.
Beatriz is also five months pregnant with an anencephalic fetus, a fatal malformation where the brain and skull of the fetus are largely missing.
Doctors say the baby will almost certainly be born dead and with all of these factors Beatriz must abort the fetus to save her life. But Beatriz’ chance for survival is illegal in this tiny and very Catholic country.
“We hope that the Supreme Court treats this case with the urgency it merits, given that Beatriz’s life and health are at risk,” said Esther Major, Amnesty International’s expert on Central America. “She is suffering cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in being denied the medical intervention she so urgently needs.
To be a poor woman with an unwanted pregnancy in El Salvador is to be at the convergence of misfortune. Abortion has been entirely illegal in El Salvador, without exception, since 1998. Such bans do not result in fewer abortions, of course, just more clandestine and unsafe procedures. Continue reading
GlobalPost talked to Dr. Neil Fishman, associate chief medical officer at the University of Pennsylvania Health System, about this new strain of bird flu and how likely it is to evolve into a major human pandemic. As things look right now, Fishman says it’s not too likely.
The world has made great strides against malaria, bringing down the estimated global death toll from more than a million — mostly children — to about 650,000 per year today.
That’s been done through a concerted and diversified strategy supported by the international community, through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, Roll Back Malaria, the President’s Malaria Initiative … the list goes on, and on. Countless organizations, public as well as private, have helped distribute hundreds of millions of insecticide-treated bednets, anti-malaria medications, conducted spraying campaigns and worked on a number of fronts to achieve these major gains.
But the situation remains precarious, says one of the world’s leading malaria experts, and malaria today is perhaps best thought of as a coiled spring held down under pressure.
“In one year, if we don’t keep up, we could easily undo this past decade of progress,” said Robert Newman, director of the global malaria program at the World Health Organization. Newman was in Seattle recently and gave a talk at the University of Washington describing the current state of affairs in the battle against malaria. “I’m concerned that we may not be keeping up.” Continue reading
Anyone who thinks words can’t kill should think again. As the BBC notes, measles — once reduced to a handful of cases in Britain — has made a comeback thanks largely to one doctor’s claim that the vaccine for preventing the infectious disease, known as MMR (because it’s combo of mumps, measles and rubella vaccines) causes autism.
That claim has been disproven, but its unhealthy legacy persists.