New Global Health Certificate at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

This looks like a pretty neat opportunity for global health professionals.

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has a new certificate program in global health.  Designed for junior and mid-level professionals who want to expand their global health skills and knowledge. This accredited certificate is fully online and you can enroll as a part-time or non-degree student.

For eligibility, cost, courses and how to apply, see their website or contact Cristina Salazar ( for questions.

Healthy Dose November 4, 2011

Polio Outbreak Identified in Angola

A state of medical emergency has been declared in the northern Angolan province of Uige after a boy was diagnosed with polio. News24 reports:

Polio vaccinationThe boy, who was not vaccinated, lives in Quimbele, an isolated region near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) district of Popokobaka, which has had nine confirmed polio cases this year, the UN children’s fund said.

“This shows that surveillance is working,” said World Health Organisation representative Rui Vaz in a statement.

“The new case was discovered locally, and the samples were hand-delivered, carried back after a three-day walk through the bush. The systems are clearly in place to monitor cases in even the hardest to reach areas.”

After eliminating new polio cases for three years in succession following its 27-year civil war, Angola saw a strain of the crippling virus reappear in 2005.

Last year, Angola registered 33 new polio cases, the DRC 93 and Congo 50, raising concern among anti-polio campaigners, who had already considered the disease to be eradicated in all three countries.

Angola has had just five new cases this year, Unicef said, crediting a mass immunisation drive with slowing the outbreak.

Kristof: Family Planning Will Slow Population Growth

Nick Kristof says that family planning is one of the most effective ways to slow down population growth. With the world population hitting 7 billion on Monday, the case for family planning is even more evident. He writes in the New York Times:

Historical Population by Region Chart[W]e’ve seen that family planning works. Women in India average 2.6 children, down from 6 in 1950. As recently as 1965, Mexican women averaged more than seven children, but that has now dropped to 2.2.

But some countries have escaped this demographic revolution. Women in Afghanistan, Chad, Congo, Somalia, East Timor and Uganda all have six or more children each, the U.N. says. In rural Africa, I’ve come across women who have never heard of birth control. According to estimates from the Guttmacher Institute, a respected research group, 215 million women want to avoid getting pregnant but have no access to contraception.

PSI Research Series: The Use of Condoms for Regular Sexual Partners

Ed note. The following post is the first installment of our new PSI Research Series in which we highlight some intriguing studies on behavior and global health to which PSI experts have contributed.  For each study, we will lay out a simple explanation of what was discovered and share insights from one of its authors.  

In this first installment, we take a look at the study Dangerous subtlety: relationship-related determinants of consistency of condom use among female sex workers and their regular, non-commercial partners in Hai Phong, Viet Nam by Leah Hoffman and Trace S. Kershaw.

The Problem

Worldwide, regular sexual partners are less likely to use condoms than partners who engage in casual (ie. one night stand) or commercial (sex worker/client) sex.

The Research

In Hai Pong, Vietnam, 50 sex workers and their partners were interviewed about their relationship and condom use. Researchers found that the sex workers reported higher HIV communication content than their partners. They observed that a higher divergence between the two partners increased the likelihood that condoms were not used during sex.

The Conclusion

The authors suggest that sex workers need support to improve their communication skills with their respective partners.

The Expert’s Take

The study’s lead research, PSI’s Leah Hoffman, writes for Healthy Lives:

Worldwide, condom use is lower with regular partners than in sexual partnerships that are casual (one night stand) or commercial (sex worker/client). Our research was to better understand why. A study in China found that sex workers who reported that their boyfriends had other sexual partners were more likely to have HIV than those who did not. Low condom use in regular partnerships, particular among those with multiple partners, is a potential driver in HIV epidemics and is largely ignored in interventions.

Healthy Dose November 3, 2011

Unusual Combination of Swine Flu and Seasonal Flu Raises Concerns

In Cambodia, a person has contracted both the swine flu and seasonal flu, drawing concerns from researchers. AFP reports:

The unusual diagnoses were made in a 23-year-old teacher and one of his young male students, who had H1N1 and a human season flu H3N2 at the same time, said the findings in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

Neither patient was hospitalized and their illnesses did not appear any more severe than in typical patients who are afflicted with a single strain.

The cases date back to 2009, the year the pandemic H1N1 flu emerged, and do not pose a current threat, but rather remind experts of the dangers that a strain such as H5N1 bird flu could mix with human flu and sicken millions.

“Influenza viruses are continually changing,” said study author Patrick Blair, director of respiratory diseases at the US Naval Health Research Center in San Diego, California.

“Finding a co-infection in an area where there is considerable seasonal flu, pandemic flu and H5N1 avian flu shows there is an opportunity for co-mingling in swine or human hosts that could create an ominous global health problem.”

In the Cambodian case, researchers analyzed and sequenced both virus genomes and found there had been no “genetic recombination,” or mingling of the two.

Other case studies included in the report also show that such co-infections are rare.
One study in 2010 of 2,000 samples turned up no cases of dual infections and another pointed to fewer than two dozen co-infections with H1N1 — one in Singapore, six in China, and 11 in New Zealand.

Can Stories Make a Difference?

This post, by Neal Baer, originally appears on the Gates Foundation Impatient Optimists blog.  It is a part of the coverage of a convening of global health and communications experts at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation this week.

We are by nature storytellers. Our brains are wired to tell stories.

Think for a moment about how many stories you’ve already told today: to your spouse or partner; to your children; to your colleagues; or to your friends. Stories are the currency of our lives, they are the measure of our days. We are nothing without our stories, because stories encapsulate our fears, our failures, our dreams, and our desires. We understand and make sense of our own lives by telling stories about ourselves and others. People who can’t tell stories, like those afflicted with Alzheimer’s Disease, are lost to us.

Stories are the touchstones for our emotions. Stories guide us; they are ways for us to make sense out of all the facts and figures and arguments we hear about improving global health.

Healthy Dose November 2, 2011

Concerns Over Medical Supplies in Thailand

The government of Thailand says that the country can deal with immediate medical needs, but given the time it could take for the flood waters to recede there is doubt about whether the health system can withstand this kind of stress over the long term.  IRIN reports:

it's like walking in river.“Hospitals are panicking now, though they are not necessarily running out of supplies,” Pongpan Wongmanee, deputy secretary-general of the government’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) told IRIN, adding that most hospital stocks could last for at least a month.

Official predictions for how long it will take to drain waterlogged areas vary from 10 days to weeks.

Though flooding has disrupted the production of 393 registered medicines in more than 10 factories in Bangkok and neighbouring provinces, there is no report of drug shortages yet, according to the Health Ministry on 31 October.

But some hospital officials are concerned their supplies will dwindle quickly as operations at these pharmaceutical plants are suspended, and demand for scarce medicines is expected to increase.

“At this point, the biggest limitation is medication. There are lots of volunteers and nurses, but very little medication,” said Pranya Sakiyalak, assistant dean of public relations at Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok. The hospital is sending a mobile medical team daily to one of the most hard-hit provinces 70km north of the capital, Ayutthaya.

Most urgently needed are aspirin, antibiotics and saline solution as patients in flood-affected areas report common minor illness and injuries, he added.

Delivery of medicines is difficult as some main roads are inaccessible, forcing operators to use indirect routes for transportation, said Pongpan from the FDA.

Four New Studies on Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies

Four articles in the Malaria Journal have been published recently that discuss artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs). Through ACTwatch, PSI works with partners to “provide and promote evidence and recommendations for policy makers on methods to increase availability and decrease the consumer price of quality assured artemisinin-based combination therapies through the private sector.”

The first study, The ACTwatch project: methods to describe anti-malarial markets in seven countries, describes the design of ACTwatch.

ACTwatch is a unique multi-country research project that threads together anti-malarial supply and consumer behaviour to provide an evidence base to policy makers that can help determine where interventions may positively impact access to and use of quality-assured ACT and RDTs. Because of its ability to detect change over time, it is well suited to monitor the effects of policy or intervention developments in a country.

For the next three papers, we will include the titles followed by the respective study’s conclusions. Click on the title to read the ungated study.