GAVI – the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation – or GAVI Alliance as it is now tautological branding would have us call it, has had a rather happy September thus far. The 11 year-old Public Private Partnership on Friday 16th of the month proudly declared Burundi will become the tenth African country to roll out the new pneumoccal vaccine. GAVI said more than 16,000 children die of pneumococcal diseases including bacterial pneumonia in Burundi every year, almost all of which would been prevented by the vaccine.
Five days later, on 21 September, praise was rained down on the Alliance by two rather grande fromages of the aid world. That is Andrew Mitchell the UK’s secretary of state for international development, the chief of the Department for International Development (DFID), and Raj Shah, head of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the world’s single biggest development donor. They said GAVI is a “game changer” in a meeting at the UN General Assembly in New York.
Non-communicable diseases or NCDs are the hot topic at the World Health Organisation (WHO) right now. NCDs, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, some cancers and chronic pulmonary disease account for a large portion of morbidity and mortality in the world, and not just the developed bit. I am told it is Geneva’s big new thing and understandably so. A paper in the New England Journal of Medicine, published last year, said:
The prevalence and impact of noncommunicable diseases continue to grow. Chronic diseases account for 60 per cent of all deaths worldwide, and 80 per cent of these deaths occur in low- or middle-income countries, where the toll is disproportionate during the prime productive years of youth and middle age.
Bulletin, the WHO’s monthly public health journal, feature two editorials on the subject. One focused on how the UN is addressing the issue and the other focused on technical issues of balancing investment in treatment and prevention.
Cholera cases total between 3-5 million each year with 100,000-120,000 deaths. It is endemic in Asia and Africa. It causes devastating outbreaks and global pandemics. It is said to have originated in the Bay of Bengal.
The two most recent outbreaks of this gastro-intestinal disease are in Haiti and the Congo River. As of 10 July 2011 388,958 cases had been reported in Haiti, with 5,899 deaths. On 20 July 2011 the World Health Organisation reported 3,896 cases and 256 deaths on the banks of the Congo River in the Democratic Republic of Congo. From 14 to 20 July a total of 181 cases and six deaths were reported in the neighboring Republic of Congo.
Cholera is entirely preventable with comprehensive provision of hygiene, sanitation and drinking water. There has not been an outbreak of cholera in London since such infrastructure was built in the mid-19th century. Read the rest of this entry »
Here in lies a brief comment on this new Save the Children campaign. The advert for which is below.[youtube:http://youtu.be/Jn9oMA1GQ5Q%5D
Embedded from YouTube.com. Originally uploaded by Save the Children UK
A few weeks ago I saw Lord Robert Winston speak about the urgent need for greater scientific literacy in UK school leavers. He spoke about the responsibility scientists have to society to ensure their work is widely understood. Then people will be able to make informed value judgments, rather than relying on propaganda from the Pro- and Con- camps. It will enhance the debate over vaccines, genetic modification, animal testing among others. It is key to this goal of improved understanding of science in society that researchers reach out to the public, especially school children. Read the rest of this entry »
The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has published A Guide For Assisted Living. It is a ‘how-to’ for designers, healthcare workers, architects and anyone else “who may have to take decisions on the appropriate design, specification, construction and adaptation of ‘assisted living enabled’ buildings.“
As we are all aware, we are an aging population. The Western world has coaxed life-expectancy out to new extremes and so rates of chronic disease have increased. This week’s edition of The Lancet has given over its pages (actually its website, I cannot say I have seen a copy but presumably one mirrors t’other) to the staggering burden of diabetes across the globe. The well-worth-a-read editorial cites a 2011 study that shows the worldwide burden of the disease is 347 million cases, as of 2008.
The RIBA guide recognises that the growing chronic disease burden threatens to overwhelm the ever-more scant healthcare resources:
The changing demographic means that traditional arrangements for supporting those with long term conditions will not be sustainable even in the medium term.
A watershed moment in our perception of disease came with the discovery of penicillin. All of a sudden we had the power to beat infections which would have killed the strongest.
The wonder drugs that are antibiotics beat back the deadly microorganisms. With such a weapon in our arsenal it was assumed that at last we would rid our world of pestilential microbes.
William Stewart the Surgeon General of the USA in 1967 said:
“The time has come to close the book on infectious diseases. We have basically wiped out infection in the United States.”
This could be seen as emblematic of how our attitudes to science and nature have changed. In the 1960s we assumed the automobile economy was the wave of the future; we saw nature as something to master; we thought we could wipe out all infections.
As we moved from the twentieth to the twenty-first century however we have developed a more conservationist approach. Biodiversity, sustainable development and halting climate change are the recurring themes of current popular discourse. Read the rest of this entry »
I quickly brush the dust off Extra mural to say the following:
Any of you out there who actually read this thing, valuable as the product of a toddler beating a typewriter with wooden duck as it is, I am sorry for the complete absence of any postage of late.
I hope you will tollerate this when I tell you I have been quite busy. I have been scribbling furiously for Elements, the pre-eminent science-based website in the entire of the World Wide Web.
In fact Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of aforementioned Web, said he finally feels someone has put his creation to its proper use. When pressed he said he was talking about Elements. This is now believed to have been a bid for some intellectual credibility on his part. Having spoken to individuals intimate with the situation I can report he actually was referring to Lolcats. Read the rest of this entry »