U.N. General Assembly notes progress against malaria

September 16, 2014

In Ghana:  Community members perform a scene to educate others on how and why to use bednets. (USAID/Kasia McCormick) 2012. USAID Africa Bureau

In Ghana: Community members perform a scene to educate others on how and why to use bednets. (USAID/Kasia McCormick) 2012. USAID Africa Bureau, via Wikimedia

In stark contrast to the usual hoax stories we get in the U.S. about malaria and DDT, the United Nations General Assembly this past week passed a resolution noting progress made in fighting the parasitic disease.

Quoting wholesale from Ghana Web:

The United Nations General Assembly at its 68th Session, adopted Resolution A/68/L.60, “Consolidating Gains and Accelerating Efforts to Control and Eliminate Malaria in Developing Countries, Particularly in Africa, by 2015” by consensus.

Recognising progress made through political leadership and a broad range of national and international actions to scale-up malaria control interventions, this annual resolution urges governments, United Nations agencies, and all stakeholders to work together to meet the targets set out in the Roll Back Malaria Partnership’s Global Malaria Action Plan (GMAP) and the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

An official statement issued in Accra and copied the Ghana News Agency said with just less than 500 days until the 2015 deadline of the MDGs, the adoption of this resolution by the General Assembly reiterates the commitment of UN Member States to keep malaria high on the international development agenda.

“We have seen tremendous progress against this killer disease in recent years, but continued success will require increased political and financial commitment from donor and endemic governments alike. Together we can scale-up efforts and continue saving lives,” it said.

The statement said since 2001, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that malaria death rates have decreased by nearly 50 per cent in Africa alone, where 90 per cent of all malaria-related deaths still occur – contributing to a 20 per cent reduction in global child mortality and helping drive progress towards UN MDG 4.

“Between 2001 and 2012, collective efforts helped avert an estimated 3.3 million deaths (69 per cent) of which were in the 10 countries with the highest malaria burden in 2000 and more than half of the 103 countries that had ongoing malaria transmission in 2000 are meeting the MDG of reversing malaria incidence by 2015.

“Despite these advances, almost half of the world’s population remains at risk from malaria, with an estimated 207 million cases of infection around the world each year and 627,000 deaths. Around the world, a child still dies from malaria every minute.

“The resolution calls for donor and endemic governments alike to support global malaria control efforts, including the secretariat of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, and to intensify efforts to secure the political commitment, partnerships and funds needed to continue saving lives.

“Increased financing will be critical to further advancements, as current international and domestic financing for malaria of US 2.5 billion dollars in 2012 amounts to less than half of the US 5.1 billion dollars estimates to be needed annually through 2020 to achieve universal coverage of malaria control interventions,” the statement said.

In 2012, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon named malaria as a top priority of his second mandate. Malaria control has consistently proven to be a strong global health investment, generating high return on low investments.

Impacting all eight of the United Nations MDGs, malaria prevention and treatment serves as an entry point to help advance progress against other health and development targets across the board by reducing school absenteeism, fighting poverty, and improving maternal and child health.

Did you see that report in your local newspapers, or on radio or television?

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World Malaria Day 2014 – How can you help beat the disease?

April 25, 2014

Poster from BioMed Central:

Poster from BioMed Central for World Malaria Day 2014

Poster from BioMed Central for World Malaria Day 2014

Time for a big push to smash the disease’s hold on humanity, maybe eradicate it.  Are you in?

No, DDT is not the answer, not even much of AN answer.

How can you help, right now?

  1. Send $10 to Nothing But Nets. Bednets are dramatically more effective than just insecticides, in preventing malaria infections and saving lives.  Your $10 donation will save at least one life.
  2. Write to your Congressional delegation, and urge them to increase funding to the President’s Malaria Initiative. Malaria does well when people in non-malaria regions turn their backs on the problem.  Malaria declines with constant attention to nation-wide and continent-wide programs to prevent the disease, by diminishing habitat for mosquitoes, curing the disease in humans so mosquitoes have no well of disease to draw from, and preventing mosquitoes from biting humans, with window screens, education on when to stay indoors, and bednets.

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Yogi Berra and ObamaCare

April 2, 2014

Cartoon from Tom Toles at the Washington Post, April 2, 2014:

“ObamaCare: Nobody goes there. It’s too crowded.” Tom Toles in the Washington Post, April 2, 2014.

Why you need to know a little history to get good jokes:

Yogi Berra is famous for his sayings, some of which sound foolish at first, but which generally pack a lot of wisdom or sharp observation.

Berra grew up in St. Louis, which has many famous restaurants.  On some occasion, someone suggested the group should go eat at Ruggeri’s, and Yogi’s reply became famous:

On why he no longer went to Ruggeri’s, a St. Louis restaurant: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”


How has ObamaCare (the Affordable Care Act) affected your family? Please take this poll

March 31, 2014

Taking America's pulse and heartbeat

Taking America’s pulse and heartbeat

Answers cannot be traced by me, by the way; answer accurately, with abandon.


Still have questions on Obamacare? Here’s the answer site (and a poll)

March 22, 2014

Here.  NPR is our most trusted news organization, and it has answers to specific questions and a collection of great stories on the entire law.

Is that a coincidence, or did they plan it that way?

Your Questions About The Affordable Care Act

By Danny DeBelius, Christopher Groskopf, Jessica Pupovac, Matt Stiles, Christopher Swope and Julie Rovner

NPR’s guide to the dozens of common questions about the new health care law known as Obamacare. Did we miss something? Send us your questions, and read our latest news stories on the issue.

Questions on the Affordable Care Act? Answers all over. Click the picture to go to the New York Daily News FAQ on the law, and how it affects you.

Questions on the Affordable Care Act? Answers all over. Click the picture to go to the New York Daily News FAQ on the law, and how it affects you.

Wait a minute, you say: “I want answers to questions, not just news stories.”

Yeah, they know:

Find Answers To Common Questions

What are the basics of the law?

Am I eligible?

How do I enroll?

How do the exchanges work?

Get the picture?  Click over there and start learning.

Then, when you’ve changed yoru health care plan (if you change it), come back here and answer this poll.  It should go without saying that you can answer the poll now if you’re not going to change.  Please answer only once.

The Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub Poll – Affordable Care Act


World malaria report 2013 shows major progress in fight against malaria, calls for sustained financing (but not DDT)

March 21, 2014

News release from the World Health Organization:

World malaria report 2013 shows major progress in fight against malaria, calls for sustained financing

News release

Cover of World Malaria Report 2013

Cover of World Malaria Report 2013

11 December 2013 | Geneva/Washington DC - Global efforts to control and eliminate malaria have saved an estimated 3.3 million lives since 2000, reducing malaria mortality rates by 45% globally and by 49% in Africa, according to the “World malaria report 2013″ published by WHO.

An expansion of prevention and control measures has been mirrored by a consistent decline in malaria deaths and illness, despite an increase in the global population at risk of malaria between 2000 and 2012. Increased political commitment and expanded funding have helped to reduce incidence of malaria by 29% globally, and by 31% in Africa.

The large majority of the 3.3 million lives saved between 2000 and 2012 were in the 10 countries with the highest malaria burden, and among children aged less than 5 years – the group most affected by the disease. Over the same period, malaria mortality rates in children in Africa were reduced by an estimated 54%.

But more needs to be done.

“This remarkable progress is no cause for complacency: absolute numbers of malaria cases and deaths are not going down as fast as they could,” says Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. “The fact that so many people are infected and dying from mosquito bites is one of the greatest tragedies of the 21st century.”

In 2012, there were an estimated 207 million cases of malaria (uncertainty interval: 135 – 287 million), which caused approximately 627 000 malaria deaths (uncertainty interval 473 000 – 789 000). An estimated 3.4 billion people continue to be at risk of malaria, mostly in Africa and south-east Asia. Around 80% of malaria cases occur in Africa.

Long way from universal access to prevention and treatment

Malaria prevention suffered a setback after its strong build-up between 2005 and 2010. The new WHO report notes a slowdown in the expansion of interventions to control mosquitoes for the second successive year, particularly in providing access to insecticide-treated bed nets. This has been primarily due to lack of funds to procure bed nets in countries that have ongoing malaria transmission.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the proportion of the population with access to an insecticide-treated bed net remained well under 50% in 2013. Only 70 million new bed nets were delivered to malaria-endemic countries in 2012, below the 150 million minimum needed every year to ensure everyone at risk is protected. However, in 2013, about 136 million nets were delivered, and the pipeline for 2014 looks even stronger (approximately 200 million), suggesting that there is real chance for a turnaround.

There was no such setback for malaria diagnostic testing, which has continued to expand in recent years. Between 2010 and 2012, the proportion of people with suspected malaria who received a diagnostic test in the public sector increased from 44% to 64% globally.

Access to WHO-recommended artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) has also increased, with the number of treatment courses delivered to countries rising from 76 million in 2006 to 331 million in 2012.

Despite this progress, millions of people continue to lack access to diagnosis and quality-assured treatment, particularly in countries with weak health systems. The roll-out of preventive therapies – recommended for infants, children under 5 and pregnant women – has also been slow in recent years.

“To win the fight against malaria we must get the means to prevent and treat the disease to every family who needs it,” says Raymond G Chambers, the United Nations Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Financing the Health MDGs and for Malaria. “Our collective efforts are not only ending the needless suffering of millions, but are helping families thrive and adding billions of dollars to economies that nations can use in other ways.”

Global funding gap

International funding for malaria control increased from less than US$ 100 million in 2000 to almost US$ 2 billion in 2012. Domestic funding stood at around US$ 0.5 billion in the same year, bringing the total international and domestic funding committed to malaria control to US$ 2.5 billion in 2012 – less than half the US$ 5.1 billion needed each year to achieve universal access to interventions.

Without adequate and predictable funding, the progress against malaria is also threatened by emerging parasite resistance to artemisinin, the core component of ACTs, and mosquito resistance to insecticides. Artemisinin resistance has been detected in four countries in south-east Asia, and insecticide resistance has been found in at least 64 countries.

“The remarkable gains against malaria are still fragile,” says Dr Robert Newman, Director of the WHO Global Malaria Programme. “In the next 10-15 years, the world will need innovative tools and technologies, as well as new strategic approaches to sustain and accelerate progress.”

WHO is currently developing a global technical strategy for malaria control and elimination for the 2016-2025 period, as well as a global plan to control and eliminate Plasmodium vivax malaria. Prevalent primarily in Asia and South America, P. vivax malaria is less likely than P. falciparum to result in severe malaria or death, but it generally responds more slowly to control efforts. Globally, about 9% of the estimated malaria cases are due to P. vivax, although the proportion outside the African continent is 50%.

“The vote of confidence shown by donors last week at the replenishment conference for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is testimony to the success of global partnership. But we must fill the annual gap of US$ 2.6 billion to achieve universal coverage and prevent malaria deaths,” said Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré, Executive Director of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership. “This is our historic opportunity to defeat malaria.”

Notes for editors:

The “World malaria report 2013″ summarizes information received from 102 countries that had on-going malaria transmission during the 2000-2012 period, and other sources, and updates the analyses presented in 2012.

The report contains revised estimates of the number of malaria cases and deaths, which integrate new and updated under-5 mortality estimates produced by the United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation, as well as new data from the Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group.


Big health care news story you probably missed (because your local media didn’t cover it)

December 10, 2013

Just sayin’, you know?

This is news economists and budget watchers and policy makers have been hoping to hear for 60 years.

Here it is — did you see it in your local paper? On TV? On Facebook?

Chart showing news coverage of record low health care cost rises.  From ThinkProgress

Chart showing news coverage of record low health care cost rises. From ThinkProgress

One criticism aimed at the Affordable Care Act that had some legs was that it did not go far enough to control actual costs. Cost controls would have been impossible to add to the bill, politically. So the hope was that this first step would have some impact.

In 2009, health care cost inflation ran about 20% per year, despite the recession. For the previous two decades, health care costs inflated at a greater-than 10% clip every year.

By 2012, with a push from the reforms in the ACA, Bill Clinton reported that health care cost inflation had dropped to 4% per year.

Now?  1.3%.  This is huge news.

Who covered it?  Not many, according to ThinkProgress.

Bad news gets 24-hour coverage and bulletins during the ads.  Good news is an orphan.  How wrong is that?

Bookmark the chart and ThinkProgress; you’ll need facts in your discussions.

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