Guest post by Katie Leach-Kemon, a policy translation specialist from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
Progress toward the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and establishing new goals after 2015 are a hot topic of discussion this week at the UN General Assembly in New York City.
In today’s post, we’ll use Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 (GBD 2010) data to explore how much progress countries have made in three key health MDGs, 4, 5 and 6, the first two focused on reducing child mortality and maternal mortality while the latter is on halting the spread of diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria.
MDG 6 is arguably the highest-profile goal and one that’s seen tremendous progress – halting or reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. By 2010, antiretroviral therapy financed by country governments and donors had succeeded in reversing the rise in HIV/AIDS deaths at the global level.
Below is a figure showing donor funding (also known at IHME as development assistance for health, or DAH) for HIV/AIDs from IHME’s report Financing Global Health 2012: The End of the Golden Age?
Viruses like the latest strain of bird flu (H5N1) or the newly discovered SARS-like coronavirus known as MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) get a lot of worrisome attention – in the media and by public health experts – because of their potential to mutate into a lethal human pandemic. But these are devils we know. According to this report, a team of scientists estimates that mammals harbor something like 320,000 unknown viruses with the same potential to ‘jump species’ – zoonosis - and become a devastating human disease.
Scary, yes. But perhaps it’s also comforting that Mother Nature tends, for the most part, to confine these bugs to their favored hosts and that the emergence of a truly dangerous new bug mutating out from a chicken or pig or civet appears fairly rare.
The mosquitoes that carry the malaria parasite are developing resistance to many of the chemicals used on bed nets and for residential spraying. Scientists are struggling to figure out new strategies (or how to better use the old one, DDT) for battling this trend.
It”s easy for either side in the techno-fix debate — the debate that almost always ensues when a particularly technological solution to poverty or inequity is proposed or launched — to simply dismiss the other as blindly stuck in an ideological rut. It’s also tempting for observers of the debate to dismiss the debate as so polarized as to be of little value since the truth of any matter is often located somewhere between the two warring camps.
Here’s an interesting analysis by Oxfam’s Duncan Green arguing that this highly polarized debate may deserve a closer look for what it reveals.
One might expect that with growing access to cheap smartphones around the world, cybercafes are destined for the wastebin of history. Why pay a fee to use a stodgy old desktop computer to get online? It’s all in the palms of our hands now.
A new study from the University of Washington turns that logic on its head. “One technology doesn’t replace the other. People need large, broadband service,” says Chris Coward, the director of UW’s Technology and Social Change Group. He says the five-year study shows definitively that mobile phones, contrary to some claims, “will not solve the access problem.”
Coward and his team scoured the earth, working with local research teams and surveying more than 5,000 computer users in Bangladesh, Botswana, Brazil, Chile, Ghana, Lithuania, Philippines and South Africa. What they found seems counter-intuitive.
“We saw large usership in every place we visited,” Coward says, of libraries, telecenters and cybercafes. Continue reading
“The profession is more attractive to individuals seeking cognitive ‘closure’ and clear-cut answers as opposed to more open-ended sciences — a disposition which has been empirically linked to conservative political attitudes.”
The malaria parasite already did this, creating a selective process in human evolution which gave some increased resistance to malaria but also caused sickle cell anemia. Scientists now report evidence that people in Bangladesh, where cholera is prevalent, are developing genetic resistance to the disease.