World Health Organization

{Photo credit: Todd Shapera}Photo credit: Todd Shapera

This post originally appeared on Devex.com.

Worldwide, there are severe shortfalls in the health workforce—not just in the quantity of doctors, nurses and other health workers, but in their management, performance and geographical distribution.

These shortfalls are particularly glaring in light of the global movement for universal health coverage, progress toward which will require a high-functioning workforce.

This month’s third Global Forum on Human Resources for Health, which convened global health policymakers in Recife, Brazil, trumpeted the need for political commitment to health workforce strengthening. With UHC a top priority of conference sponsors like the World Health Organization, conference discussions were framed as seeking solutions—such as improving retention and performance, or health workers’ advocacy—“toward UHC.”

{Photo by Warren Zelman.}Photo by Warren Zelman.

This post also appeared on Gates Foundation's Impatient Optimists Blog and on Frontline Health Workers Coalition's website.

In a week and a half, as a team of our colleagues arrive in Ethiopia for this year’s International Conference on Family Planning, others will already be in Brazil for the Third Global Forum on Human Resources for Health. This year’s HRH Forum addresses universal health coverage (UHC), a concept which continues to gain momentum as the focus of global health efforts from institutions like the World Bank and World Health Organization (WHO).

It’s symbolic that these two meetings are happening half a world apart: as movements around family planning, health workforce and UHC have advanced, there has been too little dialogue and collaboration across these communities.

 {Photo credit: Todd Shapera}Emanuel Bizimungu, a community health worker in eastern Rwanda, examines a girl.Photo credit: Todd Shapera

As the United Nations General Assembly kicks off general debate on the post-2015 development agenda this week, advocates of a universal health coverage (UHC) target are rallying other organizations to build and showcase support around UHC. These efforts include high-profile events on Monday and Tuesday, both hosted by the Rockefeller Foundation with partner support. On Wednesday, Johnson & Johnson hosted an event on the key role of frontline health workers to efforts like these. This post, which originally appeared on The Lancet Global Health Blog, is part of a "Rallying for UHC" series: MSH bloggers expanding on the themes raised by these events and considering the road ahead for UHC in post-2015 discussions. Readers can participate by adding comments on the blog posts, or joining the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag.  

{Photo credit: Pan American Health Organization}Photo credit: Pan American Health Organization

As the United Nations General Assembly kicks off general debate on the post-2015 development agenda this week, advocates of a universal health coverage (UHC) target are rallying other organizations to build and showcase support around UHC. These efforts include high-profile events on Monday and Tuesday, both hosted by the Rockefeller Foundation with partner support. On Wednesday, Johnson & Johnson hosts an event on the key role of frontline health workers to efforts like these. 

In a three-part series, MSH bloggers expand on the themes raised by these events and consider the road ahead for UHC in post-2015 discussions. Readers can participate through their organizations—which can sign on to a joint letter to UN Member States supporting a post-2015 UHC target—or as individuals: by urging their organizations to sign the joint letter, adding comments on this blog post, or on Twitter with the hashtag.  

{Photo credit: Reavis/MSH, Malawi}Photo credit: Reavis/MSH, Malawi

The World Health Organization (WHO) made waves at the International AIDS Society conference in Kuala Lumpur when it issued revised guidelines for HIV treatment. The new guidelines—WHO’s first major update since 2010—recommend an earlier start to treatment, from a CD4 threshold of 350 cells/mm3 to 500 cells/mm3. While most patients don’t show symptoms of disease at these higher CD4 counts (a measure of immune system strength), the new guidelines responded to evidence that an earlier start improves long-term clinical outcomes and that ARV treatment dramatically reduces patients’ likelihood of transmitting the virus to sexual partners.

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

Originally posted on Devex.

“If you want to go fast, go alone,” says an African proverb. “If you want to go far, go together.”

It’s been thirteen years since the international community adopted the Millennium Development Goals, an ambitious, self-imposed “report card” for global development that helped focus attention and resources on issues like HIV and AIDS. Since then, the global HIV response has gone fast. In 2002, just 300,000 people with HIV were receiving antiretroviral therapy in developing countries; today, UNAIDS reports, treatment reaches nearly 10 million.

World Hepatitis Day is commemorated July 28. {Photo credit: C. Urdaneta/MSH, Afghanistan.}Photo credit: C. Urdaneta/MSH, Afghanistan.

Hepatitis is a personal disease for me.  Some years ago, I spent two weeks leading training workshops for faculty at the University of Costa Rica in San Jose, Costa Rica. The work and the participants were delightful, as we worked together to improve medicine prescribing practices. Every day I ate lunch at a local seafood restaurant, often joined by a colleague. One Friday, two weeks after returning home, I felt exhausted—so tired that I could not continue working. By Sunday I was orange as a pumpkin, unable to walk or keep food down. I visited my physician and was diagnosed with acute, severe hepatitis A. I felt like I was dying. I lost 6 weeks of work and 25 pounds before I was able to return to normal functioning. I discovered that the colleague who had joined me for lunch developed hepatitis A with the same intensity and duration, and at the same time.  We traced this “point source outbreak” to some uncooked mussels that the restaurant used in a fish sauce that transmitted the hepatitis A virus to us both.

Photo credit: Sara Lewis/GAVI Alliance.

The field of global health is changing, with interest in a new era of multi-stakeholder involvement, chronic non-communicable diseases, health system strengthening, and universal health coverage.

The 66th World Health Assembly, the primary decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO), will consider these critical topics for addressing the health-related post-2015 development goals at its upcoming meeting in Geneva (May 20 to 28).

Join us --- the Global Health Council, Anheuser-Busch InBev, the Center for Global Health and Diplomacy, and Management Sciences for Health (MSH) --- in person or virtually, for a panel discussion on May 21 on how the global health community is responding to shifting health priorities, and what’s working—and what’s not—in the way we approach health delivery.

World Malaria Day 2013 {Photo credit: UNHCR/S. Hoibak.}Photo credit: UNHCR/S. Hoibak.

To me, malaria is a very personal disease.

I first came face to face with malaria during the war of my time: Vietnam. I was plucked out of residency after my first year, with only an internship under my belt, and sent as a Navy Medical Officer to war. Medical school and residency prepared me well for much of the trauma I encountered medically, but I was totally unprepared for the large-scale emotional trauma, and for the tropical diseases I had encountered only in books.

I was overwhelmed by the young children with malaria, some of whom literally died in my arms while treating them.  Yet, I also witnessed bona fide miracles: children at death’s door, comatose and unresponsive, who responded dramatically to treatments, and ultimately went home to their families.

To address malaria, I focused on promoting prevention (long-lasting insecticidal nets [LLINS] for families and intermittent preventive treatment [IPT] for pregnant women), early detection, and early treatment in the community—what is now called community case management.

That was 40 years ago.

We know what works to save the lives of children under five years old: We know which antibiotic to give for treating pneumonia, for example. Yet only 31% of children with suspected pneumonia receive antibiotics. And two million children die from pneumonia and diarrhea each year.

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