Category Archives: Preterm Birth

5 Global Health Stories We’re Following This Year

2015 will be an interesting year in global health primarily because this is the year when the Millennium Development Goals should ideally be reached. Global health experts admit that many of the goals, for example MDG5, will not be reached globally even though some of them have already been reached on a country level.

Ethiopia effectively reached MDG4 along with Bangladesh, Liberia, Malawi, Nepal, and Tanzania according to a 2013 report in the Guardian and UN data. Globally, the proportion of people having access to safe drinking water was reached in 2012. That is cause for celebration.

The overarching theme this year will be how the global health community will save more lives in low and middle-income countries in the best ways possible. This does not necessarily mean substantive goals, target dates, and data measurements will be scaled back. Rather, improved approaches to global health will be devised to streamline processes and programs.

While there are many global health stories that deserve following in great detail here are our top five picks for 2015.

1. The Effect of Ebola on Maternal Health: While Ebola is being fought in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia there must also be an enhanced emphasis on women who are pregnant and need to deliver their babies in a hospital setting. As it is, with low resources and crippled health systems in these three countries, women still need to be afforded quality care during pregnancy and delivery while health workers also care for those stricken with Ebola.

As the year goes on it is probable that key data will emerge from lessons learned during the Ebola response. According to Scientific American, the WHO, UNICEF, and Save the Children have already devised best practices and protocols for safe delivery.

2. Global Immunizations: This year we will watch the increase in rotavirus vaccine roll-outs across poor countries. Why? Diarrhea is one of the top three leading causes of deaths for children under five, and yet the rotavirus vaccine isn’t accessible in the volume of some the other vaccines. That said, rotavirus roll-outs have increased substantially since 2011. There is more good news. With increased GAVI funding, the rotavirus vaccine will be introduced in 30 countries this year.

rotavirus

We will also look at the progress of the Ebola vaccine. GAVI has announced that it is ready to purchase a million doses of the vaccine as soon as the World Health Organization approves its use. Today, Johnson & Johnson announced that they have already begun clinical Ebola vaccine trials with volunteers in Africa.

3. Country Commitments to the Every Newborn Action Plan (ENAP): Last year saw the official adoption of the plan during last year’s World Health Assembly and the launch of the Every Newborn Action Plan in Johannesburg during the Partners Forum. Upon its launch there were already 40 commitments (PDF) to save more newborns globally. That said, this year we will also look for increased commitments, particularly country commitments, to the ENAP especially since 2.9 million newborns die every year due to largely preventable causes.

4. Scaling Up of Frontline Health Workers: Did you know there is a global shortage of 7.2 million frontline health workers? That key data has been widely shown by the lack of health workers in  Ebola stricken countries. It’s the lack of health workers that has made fighting Ebola harder than it should be and why many health workers outside of Africa have had to pick up the slack.

Scaling up health workers is a large expense, but it bears repeating that in order for countries to provide quality health care to their citizens there must first be enough health workers. Ethiopia is touted time and again as an excellent example of a poor country that effectively scaled health worker coverage across the country through a government-led effort. Other countries’ health ministers have traveled to Ethiopia to see best practices for scaling up their own frontline health force. The second step after key learnings, however, is making sure actions are taken besides pure lip service. In 2015 we will look at evidence from other low- and middle-income countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, that will introduce better national health worker programs.

5. Food Security in Conflict Areas: At the end of 2014, the World Food Programme said that it had suspended food aid to 1.7 million refugees in Syria due to a lack of donor funding. And previous to that, the WFP split vouchers in half to stretch funds according to the New York Times. Even though the World Food Programme received an emergency influx of funds after their voucher suspension announcement last month, it is never a good sign to see that there are not enough donor dollars to feed the world especially those who are living in conflict areas. Food security in not only conflict zones, but also in West Africa will be on our must-follow list this year.

Which global health stories are you following this year?

 UN Photo/Martine Perret

7 Facts About Premature Births You Might Not Have Known

Photo: A premature baby is shown in the postnatal ward at Cama Hospital, a major hospital for women and children, in Mumbai, India. UN Photo/Mark Garten

Premature births are now the number one killer of babies globally. Of the 6.3 million children under five who died last year, 1.1 million of them died due to complications from premature births. Most of these deaths occured within the first month of life, according to new research published in The Lancet.

“This marks a turning of the tide, a transition from infections to neonatal conditions, especially those related to premature births, and this will require entirely different medical and public health approaches,” says Joy Lawn, M.D., Ph.D., of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, a member of the research team and a long-term advisor to Save the Children. “The success we’ve seen in the ongoing fight against infectious diseases demonstrates that we can also be successful if we invest in prevention and care for preterm birth.”

Today is the the fourth World Prematurity Day, a global awareness campaign that focuses on the number of newborns that die every year and ways in which we can help those numbers decline. With heightened attention on premature births it is only a matter of time before global prematurity rates improve just as the overall child mortality statistics have improved steadily since 1990.

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Why Secondary Education for Girls Reduces Child Marriage, Early Pregnancies

UNESCO just released its report, Sustainable Development: Post 2015 Begins With Education, that takes a look at the critical importance of education on the post-2015 agenda. The core stance in the report portends that without greater access to education poverty eradication will become increasingly difficult to achieve by 2030. The betterment of women’s and girls’ lives across the globe, most specifically in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia depends greatly on their equal access to quality education.

In the poorest countries, 2.9 million girls are married by 15. If girls in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia simply have a secondary education child marriage would decrease by 69%. Secondary education also causes a delay in young girls having their first child. Young girls disproportionately die in childbirth. Education will, in turn, cause a reduction in not only maternal health, but also in newborn deaths. In fact, Brazil saw a a 70 percent reduction in its fertility rate because it became a country priority to improve schools and education.

Educated girls have children later and smaller families overall. They are less likely to die during pregnancy or birth, and their offspring are more likely to survive past the age of five and go on to thrive at school and in life. Women who attended school are better equipped to protect themselves and their children from malnutrition, deadly diseases, trafficking and sexual exploitation. – Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway and Graça Machel, President, Foundation for Community Development & Founder, Graça Machel Trust.

 

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Photos from the Field: Expectant Mother Seeks Help in “Lie and Wait” House #Ethiopia

Women in Lie and Wait Home

Expectant woman, Ayelech Fikadu, and her mother, Zarge Badunga sit in a “lie and wait” house at Project Mercy outside of Butajira, Ethiopia. The house was recently renovated by USAID and Pathfinder.

Butajira is located in Ethiopia’s southern highlands where many live in the mountains. Women who live in the mountains have a difficult time delivering their babies at a hospital or health center due to a lack of facilities as well as the distance from them.

Ayelech came to this “lie and wait” house because she experienced birth complications. She will deliver her baby at the nearby hospital at Project Mercy that is literally up the street from the “lie and wait” house. Without these services women who experience pregnancy complications have a greater chance of dying during childbirth and their newborns have a decreased chance of survival.

Lie and Wait House

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Photos: Jennifer James