“Wait, My Snow Boots Are at Coat Check”: The REAL Survival Guide to Davos

The following post is by PSI’s Kate Roberts, Vice President – Corporate Marketing, Communications and Advocacy. This originally appears on the Huffington Post.

At the 1984 Winter Olympics, Jayne Torvill proved to the world that a British gal could navigate her way across ice — and the global stage — with grace and balance.

I pray that I won’t squander her legacy this week.

I’ve just arrived in blistery Davos, Switzerland for the annual World Economic Forum, under 3 feet of snow. On Wednesday, this tranquil mountain hamlet will welcome three thousand movers and shakers from around the world to set a course for 2012. It’s an unparalleled opportunity for companies, governments and NGOs to work together and respond to economic, health and environmental challenges that affect us all.

This year, I am particularly excited to hear the ideas from the 200 Young Global Shapers and Young Global Leaders that the Forum has invited to join the discussion. Most of the world is facing a bleak future when it comes to jobs, education, housing and health. The voices of the under 30 and 40 are crucial to charting the course of future prosperity.

With my golden ticket in hand — and my fellow lady powerhouses in tow — I have spent the last week brainstorming how to make the most of this opportunity. Working for the global health organization PSI (Population Services International), a non-profit, my time and resources need to be well spent.

Promising and Worrying Attitudes on Male Circumcision by Kenyan Women

A small study of Kenyan women’s attitudes about male circumcision show both promising and worrying signs.  The women were happy about the way that their partners’ penis looked after the surgery and noted that sex was more enjoyable.  However, women also said that they were less concerned with contracting HIV when a partner was circumcised.

The findings are promising because the women are happy with the decision by their partner to get circumcised.  These attitudes can encourage more men to be circumcised.  It is worrying  because there is a lack of education for the women when their partner is circumcised.  While WHO data shows that circumcision can reduce the risk of spreading HIV, it is not a solution by itself.  Neglecting to use a condom will keep the risk of HIV at a high level.

IRIN reports:

The University of Illinois’ Chicago School of Public Health study of 51 young women – presented in December 2011 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at the 16th International Conference on AIDS and Sexually transmitted infections in Africa – found that most women were happy with the appearance of their partner’s penis and enjoyed sex more after circumcision.

Healthy Dose January 23, 2012

Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius: Why Global Health is a US Interest

Voice of America interviews U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius who discusses why global and domestic health are of equal importance.

Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, UN Press Conference“We can no longer separate global health from America’s health,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius at a recent seminar on global health. “We need to look beyond our borders to improve health inside our country.”

Cross-border movement of people and goods increases the chances of disease-causing pathogens hitching a ride. That’s the bad news, said Secretary Sebelius. The good news is that other countries are working to develop solutions for the same problems, and we can share research and ideas. This is true not only for contagious health threats such as the H1N1 flu, for example, but also for chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer, which are rapidly increasing within the global population.

However, there are many more reasons beyond preventing diseases from entering the US for taking a global approach to improving America’s health. After all, those health issues which affect US citizens, from chronic disease, to rising health costs to the shortage of primary care providers are not unique to our country. These are agenda items of governments around the world.

“One area in particular where we are learning from each other is the importance of investing in the health of women and girls. When you give women better access to health information and services, there are huge benefits not just for the women themselves, but also for their children, families, and communities.

”[The HHS Global Health Strategy] does not represent a radical new direction. Rather, it seeks to provide a new focus going forward so that we can use the [Department’s] unique expertise, resources and relationships to make the biggest impact possible,” said Secretary Sebelius.

Congrats to P&G for Winning the Secretary of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence

On Wednesday January 18, the thirteenth annual Secretary of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence (ACE) were presented at the Harry S. Truman building in Washington, D.C. The 2011 ACE winners were selected from the following 13 finalists: Amway in China, ANOVA Food LLC in Indonesia, Archer Daniels Midland in Paraguay, Cargill in India, General Motors in Uzbekistan, Grenada Chocolate Company in Grenada, Intel in Vietnam, Johnson & Johnson in Russia, Joy Global Africa in South Africa, Procter & Gamble in Nigeria, Procter & Gamble in Pakistan, Sahlman Seafoods in Nicaragua, and Tiger Machinery in Russia.

In her opening remarks, Secretary Clinton said, “In an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world, corporations play an important role. What we are focused on here today is that when companies act responsibly they can make contributions that benefit everyone. For many people around the world the most direct contact they will have with the United States is through American companies.  It is how they learn who we are.”

One of the two ACE winners was long term PSI partner Procter & Gamble for work in both Nigeria and Pakistan. “In Nigeria, where the company has invested more than $70 million since 1999, the company has worked with schools to develop health programs for girls that reach 1 million students each year,” said Secretary Clinton.

Interview with PSI’s Beth Skorochod on HIV/AIDS in Togo

PSI's Beth Skorochod tells the story of how she went from being a mid-career Peace Corps volunteer doing HIV/AIDS projects in Swaziland to working with PSI in Togo. Beth helps administer programs for men who have sex with men, which is group that is at high risk for contracting HIV.  Listen to this radio program from WBEZ Chicago to hear what motivated Beth and her husband to make a sudden career change and work with PSI in Togo. Read more

Healthy Dose January 20, 2012

UN Predicts a “Massive” Reduction in HIV/AIDS in South Africa

An official with UNAIDS predicts that things are turning around in South Africa, which will see a significant drop in HIV/AIDS cases over the next decade.  AFP reports:

A map of South Africa“It now has more people with HIV infections than any country in the world, with 5.6 million. That is because a lack of political commitment before,” said Sheila Tlou, UNAIDS regional director for East and Southern Africa.

“However there is a turnaround in the new government under President (Jacob) Zuma which is committed,” in its fight against HIV and AIDS, she said.

“By 2020 there will be massive reductions in South Africa.”

Zuma, who has dramatically expanded South Africa’s AIDS treatment programme since taking office in 2009, last month unveiled a plan to halve the number of HIV infections over the next five years.

The five-year plan is the first drafted since the 2008 ouster of president Thabo Mbeki and his health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, known as Dr Beetroot for advocating vegetables rather medication to treat AIDS.

Tlou said East and Southern Africa was known as “the centre of the epidemic” because of the 34 million people living with HIV in the world, almost three quarters live in that region.

“One of our targets is to reduce new infections by 50 percent,” by 2015 she told a press conference in Geneva.

But Tlou noted that recent reductions in the commitment of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria which assists UNAIDS could have a negative impact on the fight against the disease.

The Freakonomics of Handwashing

In the mid-nineteenth century, Vienna General Hospital was considered a world-class research center. But the hospital’s maternity ward didn’t have such a good reputation…In 1847, one in six women died. And that was the year a young Hungarian-born doctor named Ignatz Semmelweis joined the staff. He was horrified by the situation. And he went digging in the numbers for a clue. Now, here was something strange: There were two separate maternity wards in the hospital – one staffed by doctors, who were all male, the other by midwives, who were female. The death rate in the midwives’ ward was far lower. So was it a guy thing that was causing all this death? One theory at the time held that birthing mothers were such fragile creatures that being seen naked by a male doctor was enough to kill them! Now, Semmelweis didn’t buy it. He also discovered that women who delivered their own babies, on the street, had an even lower rate of childbed fever

The most recent podcast from the Freakonomics mind of Stephen Dubner looks at how the importance of handwashing was discovered. It took the unfortunate death of a colleague to gangrene that helped Dr Semmelweis begin to understand that doctors were carrying “invisible cadaver particles” that would cause the infections. Dubner narrates, “Semmelweis figured if he could get rid of the smell, he could get rid of the dangerous particles. So he ordered every medical attendant who entered the doctors’ ward to submerge his hands in a chlorine wash before seeing patients. Within six months, the death rate of women in the doctors’ ward had plummeted.”

Healthy Dose January 19, 2012

WHO: Unsafe Abortions Put Women At Risk Globally

A new WHO report published in the Lancet spotlights the risks of unsafe abortions worldwide. The BBC reports:

Kumba, a young pregnant mother, stands in the doorway of her home in the West Point area of Monrovia, Liberia.The World Health Organisation study suggests global abortion rates are steady, at 28 per 1,000 women a year.

However, the proportion of the total carried out without trained clinical help rose from 44% in 1995 to 49% in 2008.

The Lancet, which carried the report, said the figures were “deeply disturbing”.

Unsafe abortion is one of the main contributors to maternal death worldwide, and refers to procedures outside hospitals, clinics and surgeries, or without qualified medical supervision.

Women are more vulnerable to dangerous infection or bleeding in these environments.

n developing countries, particularly those with more restrictive abortion laws, most abortions are unsafe, with 97% of abortions in Africa described this way.

To compile the figures – often a difficult task in countries where abortion is illegal – the researchers used surveys, official statistics and hospital records.

They concluded that while the abortion rate had fallen since 1995, that drop had now levelled off, and overall, the rise in world population meant that there were 2.2 million more abortions in 2008 compared with 2003.

In the developed world, the proportion of pregnancies ending in abortion fell from 36% in 1995 to 26% in 2008.

Countries with restrictive abortion laws did not have a corresponding decrease in abortion rate – in some cases, the reverse was true.

Professor Beverly Winikoff, from Gynuity, a New York organisation which pushes for access to safer abortion, wrote in the Lancet: “Unsafe abortion is one of the five major contributors to maternal mortality, causing one in every seven or eight maternal deaths in 2008.

“Yet, when abortion is provided with proper medical techniques and care, the risk of death is negligible and nearly 14 times lower than that of childbirth.

Asia’s Growing Health Inequality

In a report released late September, Asian Trends Monitoring showed how growth in Asia is up for many countries, but it is coupled with rising inequality.  The report focuses on three areas of inequality: access to infrastructure, maternal and child health and chronic disease in ASEAN, and the unconnected unbanked.

The infographic above shows how issues like infant mortality are a much higher burden on the poor that the wealthy.  This is by no means a surprise, rather it helps to illustrate that reaching the goal of a lower infant mortality is possible as it is already an option for some people in a country like Vietnam.  The same gap exists in immunizations.  From the report:

Immunisation coverage is taken as a primary indicator of a health system’s effectiveness by health experts. There are marked differences in immunisation coverage by location (urban versus rural) and wealth (highest versus lowest quintile), but the biggest discrepancy by far is the mother’s educational level (highest versus lowest). In the Philippines, mothers with the lowest levels of education are almost three times less likely than those with the highest levels of education to have immunised their 1-year old child against measles.