World Health Organization

This week’s Lancet returns the spotlight to Option B+, an innovative strategy for preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV which was first developed in Malawi with technical assistance from MSH. Four letters respond to the concern that international organizations have too quickly endorsed the Option B+ approach of providing lifelong triple antiretroviral therapy (ART), irrespective of CD4 count, to pregnant women with HIV in high-burden countries.

MSH experts Scott Kellerman, Jonathan Jay and Jonathan Quick argue that “a strong case exists for expanding research on Option B+, but not for impeding countries that pursue it on the basis of available evidence and programmatic experience:”

Patients wait in a well-ventilated area outside the TB clinic in Homa Bay, Kenya. {Photo credit: A. Kwiecien and A. Salakaia / MSH.}Photo credit: A. Kwiecien and A. Salakaia / MSH.

The state of tuberculosis (TB) is in a tug-of-war as current challenges threaten to undo past successes. One of the primary hurdles currently facing TB prevention and cure is the emergence of strains that are resistant to at least two of the most effective medicines (rifampicin and isoniazid).

So-called drug-resistant (DR)-TB arises when patients are unable to complete a full-course of appropriate, high quality anti-TB medicines. As compared with the 6 month treatment regimen for drug-sensitive (DS)-TB, DR-TB requires 18-24 months of treatment with medicines that are less effective, can cause sometimes severe side effects, and can cost up to 300 times more.

World TB Day celebration in Ghana (2012). {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

Sunday, March 24, 2013, is World TB Day, and MSH staff and partners are promoting global efforts to stop TB throughout the week.

Here are highlights from some of our activities around the world:

The Afghanistan TB CARE I team is working with the national TB program (NTP) to conduct celebration events at 290 health facilities and communities in 13 USAID-supported provinces. TB messages will be aired through local telephone companies to approximately one million people throughout the nation. TB CARE I is also identifying and publicly rewarding high-performing health workers.

The Bangladesh SIAPS TB team will participate in a national rally on March 24 with all TB partners and stakeholders within the NTP network, as well as in a press conference, workshop, and scientific session.

I was circumcised when I was eighty days old, as is the tradition in Ethiopia. My sister was three. My mother had tried to spare us, but her aunt discovered that we were not circumcised and took it upon herself to have us circumcised.

Years later, I asked my aunt why she did it. Her response was not defensive. On the contrary, she responded very matter-of-fact: My sister and I were circumcised so that we could find a husband, have children, and become women. This is the cultural ideology that most Ethiopian women believed at that time, and unfortunately, that many still adhere to in the 21st century---an ideology and practice that is detrimental to a woman’s health.

Female genital circumcision alters or causes injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. There are no health benefits for girls. On the contrary, the procedure can lead to severe bleeding, infections, and problems urinating, during sexual intercourse, and complications in childbirth, as well as later cysts and increased risk of newborn deaths---not to mention the severe pain and shock of the procedure.

A Rwandese woman shows her child's community-based health insurance card. {Photo credit: C. T. Ngoc/MSH.}Photo credit: C. T. Ngoc/MSH.

Last week, the 67th United Nations General Assembly adopted a historic resolution that emphasizes universal health coverage (UHC) in the global health and foreign policy work of the UN and Member States in the coming year.

Meet Okata and his grandmother, watch the video.Meet Okata and his grandmother, watch the video.

On this World Health Day, we invite you to meet Okata, a 3-year-old orphan living with HIV, and his grandmother, his caretaker.

World Health Day, celebrated April 7th, marks the founding of the World Health Organization. This year's theme, "Good health adds life to years," encourages the global community to rethink what it means to be "old".

Watch the video, Building a Stronger Health System in Uganda, and share Okata's story with your network of family and friends.

Mother and children, Salima, Malawi, April 2011

Malawi leads the developing world as the first to propose an approach to prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV that addresses the health of the mother. Recently my MSH colleague Erik Schouten and his colleagues in Malawi wrote a commentary in the Lancet about Malawi’s innovative, public health approach to PMTCT. Malawi calls its model “B+” because it complements the World Health Organization’s (WHO) B option, whereby a mother’s CD4 cell count, a measure of the volume of HIV circulating in her blood, determines her eligibility for lifelong antiretroviral therapy (ART).

The theme of this year’s Global Health Council annual conference was Securing a Healthier Future in a Changing World. As populations are shifting, so are their health priorities. Increasing urbanization has led to more people living in and around cities, creating a series of problems that are new to public health professionals. Nutritional challenges, the need for improved water and sanitation infrastructure, and addressing the issue of unregulated health care providers are all problems facing governments, ministries, NGOs, donors, and populations. In addition, non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, and mental illness, are adding a new strain to many already resource constrained health systems. Of course, immunization, malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea, and maternal death are all still very serious challenges in many of these systems and remain key priorities.

Drug Therapeutic Committee training course in Kampala, Uganda.

As we celebrate World Health Day on April 7, 2011, the global health community is focusing on an increasingly dangerous health challenge---drug resistance. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR)---defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the resistance of a microorganism to an antimicrobial medicine to which it was previously sensitive---is a global public health threat that is rapidly wiping out the effectiveness of many first-line treatments. It undermines major public health achievements in treating infectious diseases such as HIV & AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and sexually transmitted infections. Not only is AMR a complex, cross-cutting problem affecting a wide variety of sectors, but it has crossed all national, geographical, and ethnic boundaries and is spreading globally.

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