Ali Mokdad

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Visualizing health in the Arab world | 

Guest post by Katie Leach-Kemon, a policy translation specialist from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Mohamed Bouazizi
Mohamed Bouazizi

In Tunisia in December 2010, a poor, unemployed college graduate named Mohamed Bouazizi, set himself aflame after the contents of his fruit stand were confiscated by police because he was operating without a license. Bouazizi’s frustration about his inability to earn a living struck a chord with many other young people in the country, prompting mass protests against a government many viewed as guilty of keeping people in poverty.

Thus began the so-called Arab Spring, a revolutionary wave of anti-government protests that spread from Tunisia to neighboring countries such as Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Yemen. Most of the protesters were similarly motivated by frustration with oppressive governments perceived as indifferent to the suffering and inequity experienced by most citizens.

The protests continue, having in many cases exploded into deadly clashes and outright civil war. Many of those in the conflict are unemployed young people like Bouazizi who have taken to the streets – or even taken up arms – to demand a better life. It’s worth noting that 77% of the Arab world is under age 40.

What did the health landscape look like in these countries leading up to the uprisings? To answer this question, we’ll use data from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 and a recently-published study on health in the Arab world. Continue reading

UN summit on global health: Making a longer list or better strategy? | 

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I’m in New York this week for a special meeting at the United Nations on matters of global health.

It’s a potentially important meeting, one in which some hope to re-direct the global health agenda. So I’m going to focus on covering, and reporting, out of the meeting. News Rounds will just have to take a break.

The last time the UN held a special meeting devoted to global health, out of it came the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria — arguably one of the most significant and successful efforts in the history of international health.

That was a decade ago. At the time, there was fairly strong consensus that the world needed to do something to respond to the global HIV/AIDS pandemic.

The spread of HIV had come under greater control in much of the rich world thanks to new drugs. But in sub-Saharan Africa and many other parts of the developing world, the virus was still burning a deadly swath. It was an intolerably unjust situation.

So the Global Fund was created to fight AIDS and two other top killers, TB and malaria, in poor countries. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest private donor to the Global Fund, was on the scene but really just getting started reinvigorating (and remaking) the global health landscape. President George W. Bush jumped in as well, launching Pepfar to fight AIDS in Africa. The global economy, generally speaking, was good.

Those were heady, hopeful days.

Expanding the global health agenda while tightening its belt

Today is the first day of the unfortunately named UN High-Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases. I’ve already said why it’s a bad name. More importantly than its branding problem, this meeting faces a number of challenges the UN AIDS summit 10 years ago did not. Continue reading