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Archives for Global Health

Week 10: Addressing Malnutrition

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Insufficient food and lack of knowledge about child feeding makes malnutrition a major health problem in many developing countries. To help solve the problem Costa Rica in the 1960’s has established a National Nutrition Clinic under the direction of Dr. Uriel Badilla, one of only two nutrition specialists in the tiny country. Dr. Badilla received training for his work at the National Institute of Nutrition and Children’s Hospital of Mexico under a grant from USAID. Photo Credit: USAID

We have a long history of addressing malnutrition and it remains one of our top priorities.
Check out our current work at Feed the Future.

U.S. and Russia Further Cooperation In The Fight Against Polio

While in Moscow last summer, I visited the M.P. Chumakov Institute of Poliomyelitis and saw the history of collaboration between the U.S. and Russia on polio research.  I saw opportunity to advance our cooperation to address new challenges and work with Russian experts to eradicate polio for good enabled by the Obama Administration ‘reset’ policy and the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission.

Today, USAID Administrator Raj Shah joined Dr. Nils Daulaire, Director of the Office of Global Health Affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Dr. Veronika Skvortsova, Deputy Minister of Health and Social Development for the Russian Federation, in signing a Protocol of Intent that will deepen cooperation between American and Russian health experts to eradicate polio around the globe.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Betty King, HHS Director of Global Health Affairs Nils Daulaire,USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, and Russian Deputy Minister of Health Veronika Skvortsova

It’s fitting that Administrator Shah signed this Protocol while visiting Geneva to serve on the World Health Organization’s Commission on Information and Accountability for Women and Children’s Health.  Polio is a highly infectious disease that mainly affects children under the age of five.  One in 200 infections leads to paralysis and among those paralyzed, 5-10% die.  Polio is easily preventable with available vaccines, as evidenced by the success of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative to reduce polio by 99% worldwide since the Initiative started in 1988.   However, recent years have seen outbreaks in several countries.

It pains me to think of the children that unnecessarily suffer from a disease that can be prevented for 14 cents.  It’s incredible that we’re so close to ridding the world of this disease once and for all. I believe that, working with our international partners, we can finally live in a polio-free world.

I am excited by the impact that we can have on lives around the world working together as global partners.

‘Modern Development Enterprise’ – A Major Address by Administrator Shah

As featured in the White House Blog

Last week, USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah gave a major address to over 200 non-governmental organizations, think-tanks, academics, and international development leaders hosted by the Center for Global Development. The text of the speech as prepared for delivery can be found here.  Dr. Shah’s speech on The Modern Development Enterprise addressed the current state of development and formally announced the Agency’s 50th anniversary.

In his speech, Dr. Shah recognized the important role of religious and community groups in providing assistance to those most in need around the world. I thought you’d be especially interested in the excerpts below:

  • American Values:  When we prevent violence in Southern Sudan, we’re not just avoiding future military involvement; we’re also expressing America’s values.  When schoolchildren organize bakesales to pay for anti-malarial bed nets, they are expressing America’s values.  When more American families gave money to the Haiti relief than watched the Super Bowl, they were expressing America’s values.  When church groups across America raise money and volunteer to support children orphaned by AIDS, they are expressing America’s values.
  • Communities of Faith:  I’m proud to know that USAID is one of CRS’s largest supporters.  But I’m also proud to know that we support a wide-range of faith-based organizations, from Samaritan’s Purse to the American Jewish World Service. Organizations of faith not only express the moral values of millions of Americans, they also provide some of the most dependable support systems for millions in the developing world. In Kenya for example, 30% of all healthcare services are provided by Christian Hospitals.  Our success depends on listening to communities of faith, connecting with them deeply, and supporting the vital work they perform around the world.
  • Food Security:  Instead of merely providing food aid in times of emergency, we are helping countries develop their own agricultural sectors, so that they can feed themselves.  We launched Feed the Future – bringing together resources across the federal government and engaging in deeper partnerships to extend the impact of our efforts.  We are now leveraging more investment from countries themselves and from other donors.  Firms ranging from General Mills to local African seed companies are all doing more.  As a result, in just five of our twenty focus countries we will be able to help nearly 6.5 million poor farmers – most of them women – grow enough food to feed their families and break the grip of hunger and poverty for tens of millions of people.
  • Global Health:  In our Global Health Initiative, instead of a scattered approach that fights individual diseases one at a time, we are pursuing an integrated approach that will generate efficiencies and strengthen health systems.  We are now working with partners such as the NIH, CDC and PEPFAR to leverage recent advances in science and technology, especially in high return areas such as vaccinating children, preventing HIV, malaria and TB and focusing on childhood nutrition during pregnancy and the first two years of life.
  • Smart and Transparent Investments:  I want the American taxpayer to know that every dollar they invest in USAID is being invested in the smartest, most efficient, and most transparent way possible.
  • 50th Anniversary:  This year, USAID will celebrate its 50th anniversary. Our legacy is filled with incredible accomplishments. Throughout those fifty years, we have contributed greatly toward ending an incomprehensible measure of human suffering, and I urge you to learn more about our Agency’s rich legacy through our newly launched anniversary Web site, http://50th.usaid.gov.  But if I am lucky enough to live another 50 years, I hope I am also lucky enough not to witness our centennial. Instead, I hope we will be commemorating the success of USAID’s mission.

Ari Alexander serves as Deputy Director at the Center for Faith-based & Community Initiatives and the Coordinator of Global Engagement.

USAID Health Project Supports 8,000 Births in Armenia

I have visited a number of health facilities during site visits, and  I feel great pride when I hear of the positive impact of our assistance in improving health in rural communities, particularly mothers and children.  The stories about rural nurses like Alina Hovhannisyan are especially touching.  Alina is a community nurse in Haykavan village in Shirak province and a graduate of USAID/Armenia’s Safe Motherhood Clinical Skills training.  The knowledge and skills she gained from the course enabled her to help a village woman deliver her baby when she was in premature labor,  The nearest maternity hospital was 12 km away and there was no time to wait for the ambulance.  There are many other children, like little Mariam born that day, that our programs and trainings help to promote a healthier future for Armenia.

Community nurse in Aigeshat conducts infant check-up at the village health post, renovated through USAID’s Project NOVA. Photo Credit: USAID/Armenia

Quality and accessible health care has been USAID’s long-standing priority in Armenia.  In 2004, the Mission initiated Project NOVA to assist the Armenian Ministry of Health in their efforts to improve the quality of reproductive health, family planning, and maternal and child health services in the country.  Through this project USAID assistance helped extend free primary health care (PHC) and maternity services by equipping and renovating two-thirds of Armenia’s neediest rural health facilities, as well as training 25% of Armenia’s PHC physicians.  New systems of health care financing and monitoring were established such as the Open Enrollment system, whereby people choose their own health care provider (85%-90% of resident population are now enrolled).  Quality Assurance and family medicine practices were introduced.  The primary cause of maternal death in Armenia – post-partum hemorrhage rates – was reduced by over 60% from 5.4% in 2005 to 1.7% in participating facilities.

In January 2010, building on the accomplishments of this five year project, USAID launched the one-year Maternal and Child Health Improvement Project (NOVA 2) to follow on former activities in five southern regions and to expand assistance to five additional northern regions of Stepanavan, Akhuryan, Ijevan, Martuni, and Hrazdan.

NOVA 2 reached over 500,000 people in these ten regions and benefited 270 primary and secondary level facilities, supporting over 8,000 births.

Five Schools of Motherhood were added to the existing twelve set up by predecessor Project NOVA.  These schools provide pregnant women with free counseling, physical and psychological instruction on childbirth, information on the delivery process, and a wealth of information on the importance of a healthy lifestyle during and after pregnancy.  Future fathers are also encouraged to visit.  Indicative of the Schools’ popularity and high demand, the number of women who attended the classes in project-supported regions increased from 12.8% to 59.7% in less than a year.

The project, which marked its completion this month, was implemented by a consortium of international organizations headed by the Research Triangle Institute (RTI), in partnership with IntraHealth International and Save the Children, and in close collaboration with the Republic of Armenia Ministry of Health, regional health departments, healthcare facilities, Yerevan State Medical University, Erebuni State Medical College and select local NGOs.

From the Field

In Indonesia, we will hold the opening of the much anticipated IMULAI 3.0 innovation competition.  iMULAI is a national competition program for innovation in information technology (IT) software applications. The program seeks to promote the importance of IT innovation among businesses and the general public, achieve public awareness of USAID and Microsoft Indonesia’s social and economic goals and improve Indonesia’s IT competitiveness and the local software economy.

In Elbasan, Albania we will open a Tourism Information Office.  Joseph C. Williams, USAID/Albania Mission Director will join the Mayor of Elbasan and other local government officials along with local businesses to launch the site.  USAID will travel to Elbasan to participate in a series of site visits and events to highlight USAID assistance to the city and business community there.  Among the activities will be a ribbon-cutting for the city’s first Tourism Information Office, made possible through a public-private partnership with a local business, a visit to a major infrastructure investment project made possible with the support of USAID’s DCA for municipal borrowing, and a meeting with the Mayor and Small Business Association to raise awareness of a public information and sticker campaign to support tax payments by small businesses.

In Tajikistan, we will hold the USAID Safe Drinking Water Project opening to celebrate the completion of the water system renovation project. Opening speeches by the Ambassador and local government officials will be made, followed by a visit to a Safe Drinking Water Project site. There will be a total of eight launches in eight different villages.

Saving Lives in Rural Malawi with Knowledge Management and Mobile Phones

“An informal, but very insightful, first-person account of how cell phones are rapidly changing the way USAID implements health programs in the field. With a bit more focus and targeted resources, USAID could dramatically accelerate the mainstreaming of mHealth interventions, helping us achieve our GHI targets more rapidly, and leaving behind a legacy with enduring returns.”- Adam Slote, USAID/Global Health

By: Natalie Campbell, Management Sciences for Health

The most important item in Amon Chimphepo’s medical kit is a small cell phone. This single piece of technology has proved to be a lifeline for people living in one of the most remote regions of Malawi. Its power to reach and initiate help immediately from the closest hospital is saving lives and improving health outcomes. In fact, I met a woman, alive today, because Mr. Chimphepo and his cell phone were there to make an emergency call to the district hospital and get an ambulance.

A group of Malawian community health workers. Photo Credit: K4Health

I traveled to Malawi in December to take a closer look at our pilot project — K4Health Malawi — we launched in February 2010. One of its main interventions equips community health workers with cell phones and solar chargers. In his capacity as a community health worker, Mr. Chimphepo makes regular door-to-door visits in his area delivering HIV tests, and health and hygiene counseling. We knew this kind of outreach provides important health support in remote areas but had no idea how the rapid response component of cell phone communication was transforming health outcomes across the area.

Fast changes in health status are rare in this line of work. My background is food security and nutrition programs, and my timer was set to long-term changes from poor nutrition into better health status and, with any luck, the slow parallel development of sustainable food sources. Timeframes run in years. That a knowledge management project could lead to fast, life-saving aid and an immediate improvement in health and well being across this hard-to-reach population was highly impressive.

21st Century Communication Saves Lives in Remote Areas

When you connect community health workers by cell phone to the people, information and resources of a hospital you open a conduit of immediate aid that can save lives. Time telescopes — what took days and weeks before wireless communication, now takes minutes and hours. Visiting with Mr. Chimphepo, we were able to meet the people and hear the stories of injuries and conditions and sicknesses treated quickly and correctly because Mr. Chimphepo has access to professional advice and direct health services through the district hospital.

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Pharmaceutical Management – Assuring the Quality and Safety of Medicines

By Maria A. Miralles, PhD, USAID’s Senior Pharmaceutical Management Advisor

At the moment of using a medicine, do we trust that the product is of good quality and will not cause us any harm?   For those who live in countries with competent regulatory agencies and functioning systems, the answer is yes and this trust is generally well-placed.  This is pretty amazing when you consider the myriad of opportunities for problems to arise, from product development through to manufacture, distribution and use.  So, not many people were alarmed in April 2010 when the FDA informed the manufacturers of Children’s Tylenol® of violations in its Pennsylvania manufacturing plant affecting several dozens of products. The company immediately issued a voluntary recall, products were withdrawn from the market, potentially related morbidities and deaths were subsequently monitored.[i] Unfortunately, many developing countries lack the capacity to protect their citizens in this way, much less to protect them from unscrupulous drug manufacturers and vendors. What should be a matter of trust is more like a tragic game of chance with devastating odds.

Counterfeit ampicillin discovered through the PQM monitoring program in Southeast Asia. Photo Credit: Christopher Raymond (PQM/USP)

Many of us can remember the deaths of 138 Panamanians who consumed tainted cough syrup in 2006 and the 84 children in Nigeria in 2008 that were exposed to a teething medicine made with a counterfeit ingredient.  In both cases, investigations determined that these deaths could have been avoided had the responsible systems and authorities been vigilant and the systems sufficiently responsive.[ii] Deaths are not the only sign of potential product quality and patient safety problems.  Antimicrobial medicines with sub-therapeutic quantities of active ingredients have contributed to the rise in resistant strains of various infectious diseases rendering existing cheaper products useless and prolonging treatment periods. There is no question that there are likely to be many others cases we will never know about because they have occurred in places where there was no system in place to properly document them.

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Supporting Sustainable Livelihoods and Nutritious Meals

Food and nutrition are important elements across all cultures. In America there is a renewed sense of instilling good nutritional habits in children through the First Lady’s campaign against childhood obesity and the newly signed Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. At USAID, we are concerned with not only feeding those in need around the world, but making sure they have access to healthy and nutritious meals on a regular basis, as well as a sustainable livelihood.

But for many people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) like Thabit Obed, a farmer from Uganda, managing one’s health is no easy task. The infection causes or aggravates malnutrition through reduced food intake, increased energy needs, and poor nutrient absorption. Malnutrition weakens the immune system, which can hasten the progression of HIV, increase susceptibility to opportunistic infections, and reduce the effectiveness of treatment. Since food and nutrition support is such a critical component of successful HIV/AIDS care and treatment, USAID has an invested program to help those in need.

Mr. Thabit Obed, has mobilized fellow PLWHA to produce groundnuts for therapeutic food to treat malnourished PLWHA. Photo Credit: Mary Nabisere/NuLife

Thabit is a recipient of support from the USAID-funded program, NuLife—Food and Nutrition Interventions for Uganda, a program managed by University Research Co., LLC (URC) that works to improve the health and nutritional status of people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS through integration of nutritional assessment, counseling, and support (NACS) into HIV/AIDS services.

In addition to producing and prescribing food, such as RUTAFA a ready-to-use therapeutic food, the program also works to provide opportunities for farmers in Uganda to expand their businesses.

Through a partnership with RECO Industries, Ltd, a local manufacturer which produces RUTAFA, Thabit was able to expand his small coffee bean farm and begin growing groundnuts.

Thabit, an active community volunteer, became one of more than 4,000 farmers to grow groundnuts as input for RUTAFA. He was trained to support other PLWHA and raise awareness about HIV testing, counseling and treatment.

Through this program and similar partnerships, USAID NuLife has been able to help ensure HIV positive individuals who have recovered from malnutrition through treatment with ready-to-use therapeutic food are being offered an opportunity to earn a living, support their families’ and maintain a healthy nutritional status.

USAID/Uganda designed a program that not only reaches HIV positive clients with critical services and supports local industry and individual farmers, but connects those clients to sustainable livelihood opportunities producing inputs for the very product, RUTAFA, which can support their health and that of their fellow PLWHA.

“Helping Babies Breathe” Global Development Alliance Results in New Innovative Company

Sixty seconds – that is all it takes to breathe life into a newborn that is gasping for air.  This is the golden minute that can mean the difference between life and death for a newborn who is not breathing.  Jubaida, the community midwife, from Bangladesh was trained and equipped to act rapidly and appropriately when she heard no cry and felt no breathing when Baby Shifa was born.  Jubaida gently dried and rubbed the baby and, as the family looked on, she used a bag and mask and helped Baby Shifa breathe as the hands of the clock ticked by.

Helping baby Shifa breathe in Bangladesh. Photo Credit: Tore Laerdal

Every year, 10 million babies require help to breathe immediately after birth. Simple means to stimulate breathing, including drying and rubbing, and ventilation with bag and mask, could save the majority of these babies. Such lifesaving care is currently only available for less than one out of four newborns.  Scaling up newborn resuscitation is challenging because it requires provider skills, appropriate equipment, and systems strengthening.  In order to meet the Millennium Development Goal 4, birth attendants in large numbers must acquire the basic skills and equipment to help newborns breathe.

Challenged by this, USAID searched for a feasible and effective approach to scale up newborn resuscitation and found the answer in the Global Development Alliance model.  On June 16, 2010, USAID launched a Global Development Alliance (GDA).  The objective of the GDA is to reduce newborn mortality by expanding access to high-quality, affordable newborn resuscitation training materials and devices, improving the competence of birth attendants to resuscitate newborns, strengthening health systems and promoting global commitment and resources for life-saving newborn care.  A seemingly impossible task of scaling up newborn resuscitation became programmatically possible by bringing together diverse partners in an alliance.

This partnership is ground-breaking in many ways. The GDA model is a new way of doing business in the field of newborn health and has now become a key USAID strategy to roll out newborn resuscitation globally.  The approach is not without risks since, except for the long-standing partnership between USAID and Save the Children, it has forged a partnership between other organizations who had not previously worked together.  The GDA has also brought two USG Agencies – NICHD and USAID – together in a concrete and actionable way that took advantage of each Agency’s comparative advantage, i.e., NICHD’s research capacity and USAID’s program implementation capacity.  The individual partners of the GDA are themselves creators of innovative solutions: Laerdal developed a very low cost, life-like manikin (NeoNatalie) and a transparent suction bulb in response to the global need for a low-cost, resuscitation training simulator and an easy-to-clean and boilable device to clear the newborn’s airway; these life-saving technologies are available on a not-for profit basis to all 68 Millennium Development Goal countries.   AAP developed the “Helping Babies Breathe” curriculum that simplified the resuscitation action algorithm so that it can be implemented even in peripheral health facilities and communities.

Within six months of launching the GDA, 17 countries are planning to integrate “Helping Babies Breathe” within their newborn programs, AAP has pledged to train one million health providers by 2015, and Laerdal decided to spin off a new company called Laerdal Global Health to focus on developing new technologies at the base of the pyramid to address maternal and child health.

From Lab to Communities: Pioneering Low-Cost Approaches to Prevent Death and Treat Severe Illness

The third installment of the 2010 Health Research Report to Congress is newborn health. Today, we look at USAID’s seminal role in working to focus global attention on the issue of newborn survival as well as its investments in establishing the research foundation for action in this area.

USAID works to accelerate innovations through the complete development cycle — out of the labs and through a massive scale-up, into the communities to directly benefit the world’s poor. Our goal is to develop ways to save more lives and reduce the burden of diseases as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Of the estimated 8.8 million children under 5 that die each year – 3.7 million are newborn infants who die within the first four weeks after birth. Up to two-thirds of these deaths can be prevented through existing effective interventions delivered during pregnancy, childbirth and in the first hours, days and week after birth. USAID develops and tests simple, low-cost approaches with the greatest potential to prevent death and treat severe illness in low-resource settings with limited access to quality facility-based care.

An Afghan nurse checks a crying newborn boy who was born that morning in the maternity ward of a hospital in Kabul on March 15, 2010. Afghanistan has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world with an estimated 1,800 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.  Photo Credit: AFP PHOTO/BEHROUZ MEHRI

A growing body of knowledge has shown that home visits by appropriately trained workers to provide newborn care can significantly reduce neonatal mortality even where health systems are weak. Building on an evidence review, WHO/UNICEF released recommendations in 2009 providing new guidance on the importance of home visits in a baby’s first week of life. USAID is promoting and supporting partner country adoption of these recommendations into national programs, encouraging further investment in this area and assisting with capacity building efforts for health care providers and community cadres providing home-based care.

In countries with high mortality rates and weak health systems, high impact community-based approaches such as diagnosis and treatment of child pneumonia and newborn sepsis must be as accessible when it is needed to the people who stand to benefit the most. Approximately one-third of newborn deaths can be attributed to infections caused by birth in unhygienic conditions. A multi-country trial supported by USAID, in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Save the Children/Saving Newborn Lives program; and WHO, is researching different combinations of oral and intramuscular antibiotic regimens for simplified treatment of newborn sepsis in the community.

Each year, 10 million babies suffer from birth asphyxia; 10 percent of these newborns do not survive. USAID has supported the development and validation of newborn resuscitation training materials and devices used to develop the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Helping Babies Breathe (HBB) training curriculum. The Helping Babies Breathe Global Development Alliance (GDA), a public-private partnership launched by USAID along with several partners, is introducing HBB in multiple countries and offers evidence-based training and technical support on newborn resuscitation and high quality, affordable resuscitation devices to birth attendants in low-resource settings.

USAID is also supporting studies looking at the prevention and treatment of neonatal infections through the application of antiseptic to the newborn cord in parallel with research efforts to determine optimal product packaging; the effectiveness of low-cost resuscitation devices in treating birth asphyxia; and strategies to manage care for low-birth weight children including kangaroo mother care or skin-to-skin care.

A recent article in the Lancet noted USAID’s seminal role in working to focus global attention on the issue of newborn survival as well as its investments in establishing the research foundation for action in this area. Under the President’s Global Health Initiative, USAID will expand investments in game-changing innovation through promotion of research and development. Expanding these programs will mean providing easier access at a single location for a broader set of medical and health interventions. It means focusing more clearly and getting the full package of basic health services out to those people who are most vulnerable because they lack access to any protective care at all.

 

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