Melinda Gates Shows Support for Family Planning

Melinda Gates delivers a video message to the attendees at the  2011 International Conference on Family Planning in Dakar, Senegal.  She expresses how family planning is one of the best ways to support families and public health.  She remarks, “”Governments should provide all women with access to family planning tools that are safe and effective and meet the needs of all women.  That means funding the development of innovative methods of contraception that women want to use.  It means advocating with governments to fully fund national family planning programs. It means being innovative about delivering contraceptives, so that women have easy access. “

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Healthy Dose November 30, 2011

Scientists Take Malaria Battle to Blood

European scientists are on the cusp of another breakthrough in the fight against malaria.

Researchers from Britain and France said they had identified genes in the Plasmodium falciparum parasite which produce enzymes called kinases.

Thirty-six kinases are needed for the parasite to develop in human blood cells, a key part of its complex life cycle, they reported in the journal Nature Communications.

“We are now looking for drugs that… stop the protein kinases from working. If we find these drugs then we will have a new way of killing the malaria parasite,” said Christian Doerig of France’s Institut National de la Sante et de la Recherche Medicale (Inserm).

Andrew Tobin of Britain’s University of Leicester said the search for a new weapon was vital, given the parasite’s dismaying ability to build resistance against treatment.

“It seems perfectly realistic to us that we can now develop novel anti-malaria drugs based on the findings that we have made — it certainly is a big moment in our fight against this terrible disease that mainly affects the world?s poorest people,” he said in a press release issued by the university.

The research is a further step, at research level, in identifying chinks in malaria’s armour.

Earlier this month, a team at Britain’s Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute said they had discovered a single microscopic channel through which P. falciparum must pass in order to infect red blood cells.

Intrusion depends on the interaction between a specific molecule on the parasite, called a ligand, and a specific receptor on the surface of the blood cell.

Blocking this lock-and-key interaction prevents the parasite from breaching the cell wall.

In October, early results from clinical trials among African children showed that the world’s first malaria vaccine cut infection rates by roughly half.

The so-called RTS,S vaccine, made by the British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, is the first of its kind to prime the immune system against a parasite, rather than a bacterium or a virus.

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How Peer Educators Serve on the Front Lines of Global Health

 Madhura Bhat is Associate Manager, Corporate Marketing, for PSI in Washington.

I recently returned from an inspirational trip to Rwanda. I say inspirational, because it impressed upon me the work that PSI does and the impact our programs have in the communities we serve. It also reminded me of two peer educators I met from our Vietnam program, Huong and Cuong who shared with me their stories of empowerment and hope.  They worked diligently to motivate their communities to fight HIV. In doing this work, they found fulfillment, confidence and hope for themselves and their families. Their video stories are below.

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CHMI Report Highlights Sun Quality Health

The Center for Health Market Innovations has released its annual report  that maps and highlights innovations from the past year. One of the featured innovations is social franchising, a space where PSI is very active.  The example used by CHMI is PSI’s very own Sun Quality Health in Myanmar:

CHMI documents over 60 social franchises operating in over 30 countries around the world. Franchising has gained popularity in recent years as an effective mechanism to organize independent private providers to offer a range of quality health services. Family planning and reproductive health services are key areas of focus for most documented franchises, but many programs are beginning to expand beyond these two areas, leveraging their platforms to deliver TB, HIV/AIDS, and malaria interventions. Franchises are also emerging as a potential service delivery mechanism for the screening and treatment of chronic diseases. In Myanmar,Sun Quality Health is beginning to offer low-cost cervical cancer screenings and cryotherapy (the use of cold temperatures to destroy abnormal tissue) through its network of franchised clinics. Similar initiatives are underway in Kenya and Uganda.

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Healthy Dose November 29, 2011

Aid Groups Kicked out of Somalia by Al Shabaab

16 aid organizations, including UNICEF, UNHCR and Concern, were evicted from Somalia by the rebel group Al Shabaab.Reuters reports:

Aiuti UNICEF alla popolazione del Corno d'AfricaThe move comes as aid groups battle to stem a famine that has left a quarter of a million Somalis in danger of starvation and Kenyan, Somali and Ethiopian forces fight the al-Qaeda-inspired rebels in the south and center of the country.

Al-Shabaab, which controls large areas of the anarchic Horn of Africa country, said it had “decided to permanently revoke the permissions of the following organizations to operate inside Somalia.”

It listed the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Norwegian and Danish Refugee Councils among others.

Some organizations were found to be “persistently galvanizing the local population against the full establishment of the Islamic Sharia system,” the group said in a statement.

Pieter Desloovere, WHO Somalia’s communications officer, confirmed WHO’s offices in the Somali towns of Baidoa and Wajid had been attacked on Monday.

UNICEF’s Jaya Murthy told Reuters the agency’s offices had been occupied by al-Shabaab in the southern-central town of Baidoa on Monday.

“All of our staff that were in the office at the same time were asked to leave. All of our staff are safe. Our Baidoa office is currently still being occupied. No other UNICEF office is currently being occupied and all staff in Somalia are safe,” Murthy told Reuters in Geneva.

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Who Are The Top Thinkers in Global Development?

It is that time of year when all of the lists of doers, thinkers and innovators begin to pop up.  Foreign Policy makes an early entry into listicle season with its annual “Top 100 Global Thinkers.”  The first 10 this year are activists involved in Arab Spring.  The ensuing 90 are philanthropists, academics, writers, and advocates from around the world.

We have complied a listing of some of the people honored who have an impact on global health, foreign aid and international development.

There are some who made the list and are not here and many others who did not make the cut according to FP.  Let us know who you think should have been included in the comments section.


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Bill and Melinda Gates on Foreign Aid and Innovation

In an interview with Charles Kenny of the Center for Global Development, Bill and Melinda Gates reveal what promising innovations spark their interest and share their hopes for the future of aid in development.

On working with governments on aid:

Within our areas of expertise, which include health and agriculture, some financial services, water, and sanitation, we are willing to really celebrate the great successes where rich-country aid budgets are funding things that are quite successful. We spend over $3 billion a year, of which $2 billion gets spent outside the United States, on these issues of helping the poorest countries. Getting the word out there — [so] that people know that when the U.S is spending on malaria bed nets it’s making a difference; or when Europe is funding new agricultural things, that that’s worked out; or The Global Fund or GAVI Alliance are doing great work — we spent quite a bit of time on that. Certainly at this G20 meeting [in November] we are encouraging rich countries and middle-income countries to spend their aid well and not to reduce their generosity lower than the minimum necessary.

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Healthy Dose November 28, 2011

Link Between Malaria and White Blood Cell Discovered

Australian researchers have discovered that the malaria parasite can survive in a type of white blood cell in the spleen.

B0004712 Malaria parasites in a mosquito midgutTraditionally, it was believed the parasite’s development was restricted to the liver and red blood cells.

Michelle Wykes, who conducted the study from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR), said the findings open up a whole new approach to developing drugs and vaccines, the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports.

“Our research has discovered how white blood cells called dendritic cells malfunction and shield the malaria parasite from the body`s immune attack.

“Dendritic cells normally function like generals of an army, giving orders to the body`s immune cells to fight infection,” QIMR quoted Wykes as saying.

“The system usually works brilliantly. However, the problem with malaria is that the disease has found a way to block dendritic cells from doing their work, meaning the disease over-rides our immune responses. (So) people get sick,” said Wykes.

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Wrapping Up and Looking Forward from #SF4Health

ED note. This post is from Leif Redmond, Communications Manager for PSI in Washington.

Social franchising improves access, quality, equity, and cost-effectiveness of health service delivery. This we know. By replicating a successful business model, social franchising enables the coordination of health services by private providers to meet the needs of the poor. PSI has 15 years of experience in social franchising and delivers service to 13.5 million clients annually in 22 countries through to 16,000 social franchisees.

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Social Franchising: Where to Next?

The following post is by PSI CEO and President Karl Hofmann.It is cross posted on our special SF4Health Conference blog.

We are in an era of real concern about costs, of flat or declining budgets for development and value-for-money of development spending. This sort pressure focuses global health NGOs on how to better meet the needs of our target audiences and deliver better value to them.

Social franchising has a proud history and impressive achievements to its name. Today PSI is a large part of the social franchising movement across the world. PSI’s 16,000 social franchisees currently deliver essential health services to an estimated 13.5 million clients in 22 countries worldwide.

It’s time to consider where we are headed and how we can improve. I’d like to propose six key areas for PSI and social franchising going forward.

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Healthy Dose November 23, 2011

Displaced Somali’s Fear Returning Home

The famine in the Horn of Africa is easing in some parts, which means that refugees are looking to return home. A report by the AP discusses how some people are too scared to go home.

IHH relief effort in refugee camps in Somalia, August 2011.A camp on the edge of town is home to 5,000 people, mostly women and children, who fled the famine in other parts of Somalia. Somalis have also crowded into famine refugee camps in other parts of the country, including the capital, and outside the country, in Kenya and Ethiopia.

A local U.N. worker, Abdi Nur, said many of the men at the Dolo camp have returned home to plant crops. But many of the women say they won’t join them.

“I don’t want to go back,” said Hafida Mamood, 62. “There’s no security and no animals. We don’t want to go anywhere. The food is here.”

Other women nodded in agreement and voiced the same conviction.

Challiss McDonough, a World Food Program spokeswoman, said the displaced Somalis “have to feel physically secure and have a livelihood that will allow them to make ends meet” in their home regions.

Doubt remains, and a recent push by Kenyan forces into Somalia has complicated matters.

Somalia’s famine has been made more severe by al-Shabab militants who control the country’s south have impeded the work of some aid agencies, such as WFP. U.N. officials say tens of thousands of people have died, though Mark Bowden, the U.N.’s top humanitarian official for Somalia, said he does not believe there will ever be a precise toll.

Kenyan forces moved into southern Somalia last month to battle al-Shabab, and Bowden said some Somalis have fled that fighting. The military intervention is also preventing some food supplies from being delivered, he said.

Alinovi said the conflict could keep food production down, despite the new rains. This rainy season, if all goes well, will only supply about 30 percent of Somalia’s food needs.

“Where conflict increases, farmers do not go to plant. They stay out of their field. If this happens things will get worse and worse,” Alinovi said.

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Understanding the 2011 Pneumonia Progress Report

Ed note. This is a post from PSI’s Ando Tiana Raobelison, Community Case Management Technical Advisor, Malaria & Child Survival.

Pneumonia control has gains renewed interest among global public health players, spurred by the World Health Assembly calling upon all countries in 2010 to make it a national priority. Since then, the International Vaccine Access Center an annual progress report on the status of coverage of key measures for pneumonia.

The 2011 Pneumonia Progress Report shows gains made on the prevention front with the introduction of PCV in 3 new countries. However, exclusive breastfeeding —  which is the main protection measure against pneumonia — remains at a sub-optimal rate in the 15 focus countries where the toll of childhood pneumonia-related death is the highest (including India, Nigeria, DRC, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania). In addition, access to care and antibiotics for pneumonia treatment in those countries still lags unacceptably behind the Global Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Pneumonia target levels of 90 percent.

Continued efforts to improve access to care and antibiotics for pneumonia treatment needs to be sustained and scaled up. This includes increased promotion of exclusive breastfeeding. Furthermore, growing evidence shows that reduction of exposure to indoor smoke results in reduction of a child’s risk to contract pneumonia by up to 50%. This  might be an innovative area to explore potential protective measures against pneumonia.

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