Category Archives: Global Health

Travel smart: get vaccinated – CDC

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Before you travel internationally, ensure that you are up to date on all your routine vaccines, as well as travel vaccines.

airplane thumbMore and more Americans are travelling internationally each year. Today more than a third of Americans have a passport.  It is important to remember that some types of international travel, especially to developing countries and rural areas, have higher health risks.

These risks depend on a number of things including:

  • Where you are traveling
  • Your activities while traveling
  • Your current health status
  • Your vaccination history

Measles and International Travel

Each year, unvaccinated people get measles while in other countries and bring it to the United States. This has sometimes led to outbreaks.  The majority of measles cases brought into the U.S. come from U.S. residents. When we can identify vaccine status, almost all are unvaccinated.

Vaccination is the best protection against measles. Before leaving for trips abroad, make sure you and your family are protected against measles. Plan ahead and check with your doctor to see if you and your family need MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine.

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Global pandemic of fake medicines poses urgent risk, say experts

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pills-spill-out-of-bottleFrom the National Institutes of Health

Poor quality medicines are a real and urgent threat that could undermine decades of successful efforts to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, according to the editors of a collection of journal articles published today.

Scientists report up to 41 percent of specimens failed to meet quality standards in global studies of about 17,000 drug samples.

Among the collection is an article describing the discovery of falsified and substandard malaria drugs that caused an estimated 122,350 deaths in African children in 2013. Other studies identified poor quality antibiotics, which may harm health and increase antimicrobial resistance.

However, new methodologies are being developed to detect problem drugs at the point of purchase and show some promise, scientists say. Continue reading

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No evidence Ebola in West Africa is becoming more deadly, study

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Ebola virusFrom the National Institutes of Health

The Ebola virus circulating in humans in West Africa is undergoing relatively few mutations, none of which suggest that it is becoming more severe or transmissible, according to a National Institutes of Health study in the journal Science.

The study compares virus sequencing data from samples taken from patients in Guinea (March 2014), Sierra Leone (June 2014) and Mali (November 2014).

Ebola virus, isolated in November 2014 from patient blood samples obtained in Mali. The virus was isolated on Vero cells in a BSL-4 suite at Rocky Mountain Laboratories.

“The Ebola virus in the ongoing West African outbreak appears to be stable—that is, it does not appear to be mutating more rapidly than viruses in previous Ebola outbreaks, and that is reassuring,” said Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of NIH. “We look forward to additional information to validate this finding, because understanding and tracking Ebola virus evolution are critical to ensuring that our scientific and public health response keeps pace.” Continue reading

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Ending subsidies, water sector graft key for global development – UN – TRFN | Energy & Oil | Reuters

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rain-dropsA crackdown on corruption in the water sector and increasing investment in infrastructure are essential to avoid conflicts over water, “life’s most vital resource”, a United Nations University report said on Tuesday.

Population growth, economic insecurity, corruption and climate change threaten the stability and the very existence of some nations, the report said.

via Ending subsidies, water sector graft key for global development – UN – TRFN | Energy & Oil | Reuters.

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Tech’s Next Challenge In Global Health: Tools, Not Apps – Forbes

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Earth against the black void of spaceThis month, PATH produced a new tool for diagnosing river blindness, a disease that affects nearly 18 million globally (stats that are often unheard of).  It’s the first of its kind, says Nicole Fallat, Communications Officer at PATH.

via Tech’s Next Challenge In Global Health: Tools, Not Apps.

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How to stop the Ebola epidemic – Paul Farmer

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From People Power Television

As the death toll from the West African Ebola outbreak nears 1,400, two American missionaries who received experimental drugs and top-notch healthcare have been released from the hospital.

We spend the hour with Partners in Health co-founder Dr. Paul Farmer discussing what can be done to stop the epidemic and the need to build local healthcare capacity, not just an emergency response.

“The Ebola outbreak, which is the largest in history that we know about, is merely a reflection of the public health crisis in Africa, and it’s about the lack of staff, stuff and systems that could protect populations, particularly those living in poverty, from outbreaks like this or other public health threats,” says Farmer, who has devoted his life to improving the health of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.

He is a professor at Harvard Medical School and currently serves as the special adviser to the United Nations on community-based medicine. He has written several books including, “Infections and Inequalities: The Modern Plagues.”

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NIH to test Ebola vaccine in humans

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From the US National Institutes of Health

Trial will evaluate vaccine’s safety

Initial human testing of an investigational vaccine to prevent Ebola virus disease will begin next week by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health.

ebola

The early-stage trial will begin initial human testing of a vaccine co-developed by NIAID and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and will evaluate the experimental vaccine’s safety and ability to generate an immune system response in healthy adults.

The pace of human safety testing for experimental Ebola vaccines has been expedited in response to the ongoing Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa.

Testing will take place at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

The study is the first of several Phase 1 clinical trials that will examine the investigational NIAID/GSK Ebola vaccine and an experimental Ebola vaccine developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada and licensed to NewLink Genetics Corp.

The others are to launch in the fall. These trials are conducted in healthy adults who are not infected with Ebola virus to determine if the vaccine is safe and induces an adequate immune response. Continue reading

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Health system needs to prepare for global warming

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Climate change is happening, and with that will come more deaths from heat-related illness and disease, according to a report released Tuesday.

The report, spearheaded and funded by investor and philanthropist Thomas Steyer, former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, examines many of the effects of climate change for business and individuals.

“One of the most striking findings in our analysis is that increasing heat and humidity in some parts of the country could lead to outside conditions that are literally unbearable to humans, who must maintain a skin temperature below 95°F in order to effectively cool down and avoid fatal heat stroke,” the report’s authors wrote.

The average will be miserable. When your sweat can’t evaporate, you have no way to moderate core body temperature, and some people will die.

They use a “Humid Heat Stroke Index” that combines heat and humidity levels to measure how close they come to the point where the body is unable to cool its core temperature. So far the nation has never reached that level, “but if we continue on our current climate path, this will change, with residents in the eastern half of the U.S. experiencing 1 such day a year on average by century’s end and nearly 13 such days per year into the next century.”

al sommer300

Dr. Al Sommer (Photo:Francis Ying/KHN

Dr. Al Sommer, the dean emeritus of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, was on the committee that oversaw the development of the report.

He says that often overlooked in the current debate about greenhouse gases and climate change is the effect of global warming on individuals and hospitals. Continue reading

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IHME stats thumbnail

Americans living longer but less healthy lives, UW-led research finds

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IHME stats

Change in leading cause of death in high-income North America 1990-2010

Americans are living longer lives, but we are living out these longer lives with chronic illnesses in large part due to our lifestyle choices, including eating unhealthy diets, failing to exercise, smoking, and using alcohol and drugs, according to research led by researchers at the University of Washington.

In the analysis, the researchers looked the causes of death and disability in 187 countries around the world. The study was led by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

A live webcast will be held tomorrow, March 5 from 9 am to 10:30 am PST, in which Microsoft founder Bill Gates, UW President Michael Young, and and IHME Director Dr. Chris Murray help launch a new suite of online data visualization tools.

The webcast can be viewed at http://www.healthmetricsandevaluation.org/gbd/live.

Researchers from more than 303 institutions and 50 countries contributed to the project, called the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study 2010.

US: a “mixed picture”

Analysis of the US health data revealed a “mixed picture” the researchers said: we are living longer but many of us are not enjoying a healthy old age.

The average life expectancy of American women, for example, increased from 78.6 years in 1990 to 80.5 years in 2010, yet only 69.5 of those 80.5 years were lived in good health.

The picture was the same for American men who in 2010 lived, on average, to be 75.9 years old – up from 71.7 in 1990 – but only 66.2 of those years are healthy.

Most of the illness and death in the US is caused by relatively few conditions. The top causes of death and disability were ischemic heart disease, followed by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, low back pain, lung cancer, and major depressive disorders.

The analysis also found that the leading causes of death had changed over the past 20 years. Over those two decades,

  • ischemic heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer remained the top three causes of death;
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lower respiratory infection, and colorectal and breast cancers had moved down;
  • and diseases like diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and Alzheimer’s disease moved up.

US: Lagging behind

The study found that the US also lagged behind many wealthy and middle-income countries with Americans living shorter lives — and shorter healthy lives — than the residents of many other nations.

For example, men in 39 other countries – including Greece, Lebanon, and South Korea – live longer, and men in 30 other countries – such as Costa Rica, New Zealand, and Portugal – enjoy more years of good health.

American women fare about the same; in terms of life expectancy they are ranked 36th in the world, and in terms of healthy life expectancy they are ranked 35th, the analysis found.

We are doing so poorly because of our lifestyle choices:

  • The number one culprit: a diet that puts us at risk for such obesity-related illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes.
  • Number two: smoking, which leads to lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, heart disease and stroke.

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Globe floating in air

Chronic illness and disability becoming world’s leading health challenges – UW-led study finds

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Globe 125X125By Michael McCarthy

We’re living longer, but many of us are living with chronic illnesses that significantly lower the quality of our lives, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of Washington.

The survey, called the Global Burden of Disease Study, finds that there has been a major change in the causes and impact of poor health over the past decades, with a shift away from early death to chronic illnesses and disability.

The survey found that since 1970 life expectancy has increased by 11.1 years for men and 12.1 years for women and that deaths among children under age 5 have plummeted, except in subSaharan Africa where childhood mortality remains high.

In general, improvement in life expectancy has been steady, but it slowed in the 1990s largely due to deaths from HIV infection in sub-Saharan Africa and alcohol-related deaths in in easter Europe and central Asia.

With our longer life expectancy, the major burden caused by disease is no longer early death but instead chronic illnesses that cause pain and disability, such as arthritis, diabetes and dementia, and psychological disorders, the study concludes.

Change in the leading cause of deaths from 1990 to 2010

Change in the leading cause of deaths from 1990 to 2010 – Click on image for interactive display.

The study was led by University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“We’re finding that very few people are walking around with perfect health and that, as people age, they accumulate health conditions,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, director of IHME and one of the founders of the Global Burden of Disease.

“At an individual level, this means we should recalibrate what life will be like for us in our 70s and 80s. It also has profound implications for health systems as they set priorities,” Murray said.

Dr. Paul Ramsey, chief executive officer of UW Medicine and dean of the University of Washington School of Medicine, said the study will serve as “a management tool for ministers of health and leaders of health systems to prepare for the specific health challenges coming their way.”

“At a time when world economies are struggling, it is crucial for health systems and global health funders to know where best to allocate resources,” Dr. Ramsey said.

The study found that while heart disease and stroke remained the two greatest causes of death between 1990 and 2010, all the other rankings in the top 10 causes changed.

Diseases such as diabetes, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease moved up the list, and diarrhea, lower respiratory infections, and tuberculosis moved down, the researchers report.

Explore the changes with this interactive chart.

And while malnutrition used to be a major cause of illness and death, today poor diet and physical inactivity are to blame for soaring rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke the study found.

“We have gone from a world 20 years ago where people weren’t getting enough to eat to a world now where too much food and unhealthy food – even in developing countries – is making us sick,” said Dr. Majid Ezzati, Chair in Global Environmental Health at Imperial College London and one of the study’s lead authors.

The study appears in this week’s issue of the medical journal The Lancet.

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