I don’t know what’s more sad – to actually hear about this news, or that I wasn’t too surprised to hear it. In its first-ever study done on women’s global health, the World Health Organization (WHO) found that the AIDS virus is the leading cause of death and disease among women aged 15 to 44. Unsafe sex is the leading risk factor in developing nations:
As Breast Cancer Awareness Month ended in the U.S. last week, new information reminds us that focus shouldn’t be delegated to just one nation, let alone to just one month. AP had a story yesterday not only on the rise of breast cancer in poverty-striken nations, but on how women are developing the disease at a much younger age than in the developed world. Additionally (and not surprisingly), diagnosis is often made late in the game:
by Adele Waugaman
Could a mobile phone be a key tool in the prevention of disease outbreaks and epidemics? Judges on the Wall Street Journal’s Technology Innovation Awards panel believe so.
DataDyne.org, a core partner in the United Nations Foundation and Vodafone Foundation’s mHealth (mobile health) program, has just won the prestigious award in the Healthcare IT category. An article in today’s paper explains:
In developing countries, gathering and analyzing time-sensitive health-care information can be a challenge. Rural health clinics typically compile data only in paper records, making it difficult to spot and to respond quickly to emerging trends.
With EpiSurveyor, developed with support from the United Nations Foundation and the Vodafone Foundation, health officials can create health-survey forms that can be downloaded to commonly used mobile phones. Health workers carrying the phones can then collect information—about immunization rates, vaccine supplies or possible disease outbreaks—when they visit local clinics. The information can then be quickly analyzed to determine, say, whether medical supplies need to be restocked or to track the spread of a disease.
A key advantage of EpiSurveyor is its sustainability: the software is free and open source, meaning that country health officials can download health surveys and modify them to meet local needs. For example, last month Kenyan health officials adapted EpiSurveyor to help track and contain a polio outbreak in the northern Turkana district.
Although large-scale immunization efforts eliminated the last indigenous cases of polio in Kenya in 1984, recent inflows of refugees fleeing violence in neighbouring Sudan renewed the threat of a polio epidemic. Health workers in Kenya used a web-enabled version of EpiSurveyor to help track and contain these outbreaks. On the DataDyne blog, health worker Yusuf Ajack Ibrahim noted how immediate access to health data enabled health workers to refine their emergency vaccination campaign:
Weakness noted were acted upon immediately. Some of the actions taken were redistribution of the vaccines, on the job training for our health workers, staff redeployment, immediate case investigation of suspected AFP cases, and change of [the] social mobilization strategy.
The Foundations invested $2 million to support the development, piloting and subsequent expansion of DataDyne’s EpiSurveyor health data-gathering software for mobile devices. In partnership with the World Health Organization and national ministries of health, the Foundations are helping to bring to scale the EpiSurveyor mHealth program in over 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
The new mHealth Alliance, announced earlier this year by the UN Foundation, Vodafone Foundation and Rockefeller Foundation, will build on this effort by promoting thought leadership, global advocacy and public-private sector collaboration to help bring the smartest ideas in mHealth to scale around the globe.
UNICEF released figures yesterday showing a dramatic decrease in child mortality over the last 18 years. In 1990, some 12.5 million children died before they reached their fifth birthday. In 2008 that figure shrunk to 8.8 million children. The figure is still ghastly, but but represents a 28% decline in child mortality. This is progress.
So what can be attributed to this decline? Aid. Or, more accurately, internationally sponsored public health campaigns in the developing world.
Public health experts attribute the continuing decline to increased use of key health interventions, such as immunizations, including measles vaccinations, the use of insecticide-treated bednets to prevent malaria and Vitamin A supplementation. Where these interventions have increased, positive results have followed (Emphasis mine. Our friends at Nothing But Nets should be proud!)
True, there is still a long way to go to reaching the Millennium Development Goal of lowering by two-thirds the number of children who fail to reach the age of five. The UNICEF figures show that a small handful of countries–India, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Nigeria–account for a large proportion of under-five deaths. If child mortality can be brought to heel in those countries, the MDG may yet be reached.
The figures released by UNICEF show that this kind international intervention can work. If we want to achieve this MDG, we ought to scale up our financial and political committments to these issues. Or, in the words of then-candidate Barack Obama “make the Millennium Development Goals American Goals.”
The SG: In Ethiopia over the weekend, the SG is now in the United Arab Emirates. Today he met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, where the two discussed developments in the region, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Middle East Peace Process.