Blog Posts by Sara Holtz

{Photo Credit: Sara Holtz/MSH}Photo Credit: Sara Holtz/MSH

Strong, well-functioning health systems need strong leadership, management, and governance. Over the next couple of weeks, leading up to conversations that MSH is hosting at the Global Symposium on Health Systems Research next month in Vancouver, we will be sharing stories and insights about the role of leadership, management and governance in health systems strengthening. This is the third in a series of four blog posts on this topic. See the full series

In my nearly 20 years of experience in global health, I have seen that leadership and governance often receives little attention, even though it is an essential building block of any strong health system.

This is why LeaderNet – an online global community of health professionals – recently hosted a seminar entitled Dream Teams: Bringing Boards and Staff Together for Organizational Success.

The seminar aimed to bring leadership and governance to the forefront of the conversation, providing a forum for global health professionals to exchange ideas, experiences, and resources about leading teams that work at all levels of health systems around the world.

 {Photo credit: Matthieu Koy Matili/MSH}Elene O. and her baby, Omedji village, Benadibele health zone.Photo credit: Matthieu Koy Matili/MSH

Breastfeeding is a human right, and critical for the health of both newborn and mother. Newborns benefit from early skin-to-skin contact and the antibodies in the mother’s first milk, plus factors that protect against later obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes and asthma. Mothers benefit because early breastfeeding assists in uterine shrinkage and helps prevent postpartum bleeding. In addition, frequent, exclusive, breastfeeding reduces the likelihood of an immediate new pregnancy.

Optimal breastfeeding is most advantageous when started within an hour of birth and continued exclusively for six months; research shows that it could save 800,00 children’s lives. Yet, globally, only 38 percent of infants are breastfed exclusively.

World Breastfeeding Week 2015 (August 1-7) focuses on supporting women breastfeeding at the workplace (“Let’s make it work”).

For many women, especially in the developing world, barriers to breastfeeding start in the home or even the health facility -- before returning to work in her household, community, or workplace.

{Photo credit: MSH staff, Afghanistan}Photo credit: MSH staff, Afghanistan

In 2013 diarrhea killed 578,000 children under the age of five, 9 percent of all deaths in this age group globally. The tragedy of these deaths is that they are avoidable at many levels. The risk of contracting diarrhea can be drastically decreased through basic hygiene measures, such as consistent and exclusive use of a latrine and washing one’s hands with soap. Once a child becomes ill with diarrhea, most cases can be managed with oral rehydration salts and zinc. But the gap between what is known in the public health community regarding prevention and treatment of diarrhea, and what is practiced in many settings, is wide and deadly.

In Afghanistan, diarrhea killed 13,000 children under the age of five in 2013 and was the third most frequent cause of mortality (after neonatal conditions and pneumonia) in the age group. Many organizations, including Management Sciences for Health (MSH), have worked to improve access to treatment for children with diarrhea, but less attention has been paid to prevention.

{Photo credit: Warren Zelman.}Photo credit: Warren Zelman.

April 2014 is an important month for malaria control. On April 25, the global community commemorates World Malaria Day 2014, with a theme of: "Invest in the Future: Defeat Malaria". Earlier this month, April 7, the theme of World Health Day highlighted the "small bite, big threat" of vector-borne diseases.

To commemorate these days and advance effective malaria programming worldwide, Management Sciences for Health (MSH) will host a 3-day virtual seminar, April 22-24 focusing on State of the Art Malaria Programming that leads to malaria elimination in this generation. The sub-themes of the seminar are:

  • April 22: State of Art for Malaria Elimination
  • April 23: Malaria Pharmaceutical Management
  • April 24: Vector Control, Prevention, and Parasitology

Participants must register on LeaderNet to participate.

{Photo credit: Warren Zelman.}Photo credit: Warren Zelman.

Today, November 12, is World Pneumonia Day. Pneumonia is the leading cause of death among children under five, killing more children annually than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined. About 1.1 million children under five died of pneumonia last year, 99 percent in developing countries.

No child should die from pneumonia. Usually caused by bacteria or virus, pneumonia most often manifests in children as a cough and difficulty breathing. The global child health community has proven strategies to prevent and treat pneumonia including vaccines, immediate exclusive breastfeeding, handwashing with soap, access to sanitation, oral rehydration solution with zinc, safe water, amoxicillin, and vitamin A.

 {Photo credit: Todd Shapera.}A Rwandan mother and newborn rest under a bed net.Photo credit: Todd Shapera.

Over one hundred years ago on this date, (August 20, 1897), British scientist Sir Ronald Ross discovered that infected female mosquitoes transmit malaria between humans. (Like any vector borne disease, the malaria-causing parasite, Plasmodium, needs a specific host: in this case, the mosquito. The female mosquito needs blood to nourish her eggs; the male just eats nectar.) Dr. Ross received the Nobel Prize for his discovery that year. Today, we mark the day, August 20, as “World Mosquito Day.”

What’s all the buzz about?

A child in sub-Saharan Africa dies every minute as a result of malaria—more than 1,400 children globally every day. Malaria affects about 220 million people, with 80 percent of all cases occurring in just 17 countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 660,000 people died from the disease in 2010; most in Africa. Two countries—Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Nigeria—hold 40 percent of the burden of malaria mortality. Despite these challenges, progress is being made: since 2000, malaria mortality rates have dropped 33 percent in Africa, and 25 percent globally (more on malaria from WHO).

International breastfeeding symbol

This week the global health community celebrates World Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7). Breast milk is nutritious, clean, available, natural, and does not require special preparation or handling. Let’s take a moment to consider some of the numerous benefits of breastfeeding to baby and mom:

  1. Breastfeeding is the world's most effective solution to reducing child deaths
  2. Breastfeeding could save the lives of nearly 1 million children per year
  3. Breastfeeding reduces deaths to pneumonia and diarrhea
  4. Breastfeeding and nursing promote closeness for baby and mom
  5. Nursing reduces mom’s risk of breast and ovarian cancer later in life
  6. Nursing contributes to reduction in maternal mortality by helping moms space their births and prevent unintended pregnancy
  7. Nursing helps lower rates of obesity among women

In addition to the individual benefits to baby and mom, breastfeeding can help the global community achieve Millennium Development Goals 4 (reduce child mortality), 5 (reduce maternal mortality), and 1 (reduce poverty and hunger).

Seasoned HIV & AIDS experts gathered at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on Saturday evening, July 21, to weigh in on the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) on the eve of the XIX International AIDS Conference, dubbed "AIDS 2012".

The conference is taking place in the USA for the first time in 20 years thanks to President Obama’s lifting of the travel ban on HIV-positive visitors.

“What has been PEPFAR’s strategic significance?”

An illustrious panel including Ambassador Eric Goosby (United States Global AIDS Coordinator), Ambassador Mark Dybul (former United States Global AIDS Coordinator), and Dr Anthony Fauci (Director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIAID) discussed the first topic: “What has been PEPFAR’s strategic significance?”

Dr Fauci, who was one of the architects of PEPFAR, talked of the humanitarian and moral responsibility that George Bush felt. He mentioned an African male comment that “PEPFAR is the best thing that ever happened to Africa.”

Seasoned HIV & AIDS experts gathered at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on Saturday evening, July 21, to weigh in on the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) on the eve of the XIX International AIDS Conference, dubbed "AIDS 2012".

The conference is taking place in the USA for the first time in 20 years thanks to President Obama’s lifting of the travel ban on HIV-positive visitors.

“What has been PEPFAR’s strategic significance?”

An illustrious panel including Ambassador Eric Goosby (United States Global AIDS Coordinator), Ambassador Mark Dybul (former United States Global AIDS Coordinator), and Dr Anthony Fauci (Director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIAID) discussed the first topic: “What has been PEPFAR’s strategic significance?”

Dr Fauci, who was one of the architects of PEPFAR, talked of the humanitarian and moral responsibility that George Bush felt. He mentioned an African male comment that “PEPFAR is the best thing that ever happened to Africa.”

Togolese health hut. {Photo credit: S.Holtz/Peace Corps.}Photo credit: S.Holtz/Peace Corps.

The World Health Statistics 2012 report released this year reveals a mixed bag of amazing progress and underachievement.

The report --- the World Health Organization's (WHO) annual compilation of health-related data for its 194 Member States --- includes a summary of the progress made towards achieving the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and associated targets.

Countries have achieved amazing success in some areas and little or no progress in others. Here are some highlights:

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