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GHC NEWS FLASH: GLOBAL HEALTH ROUNDUP 5/01/2017

GHC Reflects on its Own First 100 Days
In global health, we know benchmarks matter. They’re the difference between whether a child reaches his or her 5th birthday or dies of a vaccine-preventable illness. They signal how a health system would respond to the next pandemic or humanitarian crisis. What gets measured gets done, and saves lives. That’s why GHC has been paying attention these first 100 days of 2017. We looked at what we’ve done to serve our members, and opportunities to make the greatest impact. Thank you to all of the global health advocates who have joined us so far. Read more.


GHC Hosts Discussion on U.S. Leadership and Engagement at WHA
On April 25, GHC convened various stakeholders for a critical dialogue on the U.S. government’s priorities at the Seventieth World Health Assembly (WHA70). The one-hour webinar, which attracted over 60 participants from the non-profit, academia, international development, and government sectors, was the second in a series of WHA Policy Scrums organized by GHC in preparation for WHA70. We were honored to have special guest speakers with strong government backgrounds and experience at WHA participate in our webinar and share their insights on the best way for civil society to engage at WHA70. You can view brief notes or watch the full webinar recording that provide a recap of this important conversation. Please join us for our final WHA Policy Scrum and New Delegate Webinar on May 9. Registration details.


A New Malaria Vaccine Implementation Program in Africa
The World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa (WHO/AFRO) announced that Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi will participate in the WHO-coordinated pilot implementation of the RTS,S malaria vaccine. RTS,S was developed to protect young children from infection by Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest of the malaria parasites affecting humans. It is the first malaria vaccine candidate to be recommended for pilot implementation by WHO, and the first to receive a positive opinion from a stringent regulatory authority, the European Medicines Agency (EMA). The Malaria Vaccine Implementation Program (MVIP) is being coordinated and led by WHO in close collaboration with Ministries of Health in the participating countries and a range of in-country and international partners. Learn more.


Call for Nongovernmental Organizations to apply for Consultative Status with the United Nations
The United Nations invites nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to apply for consultative status with its Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) if they wish to be considered by the NGO Committee in 2018. NGOs that are accredited with ECOSOC can participate in a number of events including, but not limited to, regular sessions of ECOSOC, its functional commissions, and its other subsidiary bodies. Consultative relationships may be established with international, regional, sub-regional, and national non-governmental, non-profit public, or voluntary organizations. Those interested should submit their application and required documents by June 1. View the call for applications.


Global Resolve to End Neglected Tropical Diseases
The NTD Summit 2017, held between April 19 – 22, drew attention to the unprecedented progress and milestones that have been reached in efforts to control, eliminate, and eradicate neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) over the last five years. For several decades, development of new drugs and vaccines to target the most debilitating NTDs, categorically described as diseases of poverty, stalled because there was simply no business incentive to do so. Since the signing of the London Declaration on NTDs in 2012, pharmaceutical companies, academic institutions, NGOs, and other partners have joined forces to bring treatment to millions of people afflicted by NTDs. NTDs kill, disable, disfigure, stigmatize, and cost developing economies billions of dollars every year in lost productivity. Progress in NTD eradication has been touted as a remarkable display of how U.S. foreign assistance works to eliminate obstacles to development. Read more.


Registration is Now Open for the Women Leaders in Global Health Conference
Women in Global Health (WGH) is a movement of dynamic professionals around the world, of all genders and backgrounds, working within many different areas of global health looking to achieve gender equality in global health leadership. WGH believes that diverse, gender-balanced leadership is key for achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs), improving health and well-being, and are working to give all genders an equitable voice in the global health arena. WGH is pleased to partner with Stanford University’s Center for Innovation in Global Health to present the Women Leaders in Global Health Conference this October 12. Registration is now open for this inaugural event. The conference builds on the global movement to press for gender equity in global health leadership by celebrating great works of emerging and established women in the field and cultivating the next generation of women leaders. More details.

Cervical Cancer vs. Womankind: Game, Set, Match

A girl in Than Hoa, Vietnam, reads the leaflet provided to her before receiving the cervical cancer vaccine, as her mother anxiously awaits the procedure. © 2010 Amynah Janmohamed, Courtesy of Photoshare.

Receiving a cancer diagnosis is a life-altering experience that can be summed up in one word — fear. Irrespective of an individual’s geographic location, socioeconomic status, gender, education, religion, or ethnicity, cancer provokes this universal response.

Today cancer remains one of the most frightening diagnoses for a patient. This is primarily because even with all the advances in medicine and health care over the last century, when it comes to dealing with most cancers, successful management still seems to boil down to a great degree of luck. Luck that the cancer is identified in time; luck that the cancer is less aggressive than the treatment; luck that an individual even has access to treatment; and luck that one is in the right physical shape to see the fight to the finish.

Indeed luck carries a great deal of weight in beating most cancers, but this should not be the case with cervical cancer – a battle that should be over before it even begins. Cervical cancer is almost exclusively the consequence of long-term infection by two strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV). Modern medicine has provided a safe and effective vaccine that can be administered to adolescent girls and young women, offering them adequate protection before they ever come into contact with HPV. Yet despite this remarkable intervention, the World Health Organization (WHO) and several other sources report that cervical cancer is still the second most-common cancer among women in poor countries; and the fourth most-common cancer among women universally.

Robust screenings, effective treatments, and HPV vaccinations have contributed to cervical cancer rates dropping dramatically in many high-income countries over the past 30 years. Progress has been much slower in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), which account for more than 90% of the mortality from cervical cancer that occurs today. This huge disparity is mostly  due to competing health demands in the developing world, such as: infectious diseases, WASH, and maternal and child health, which often take priority over cancer and other noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) during budget allocation.

Only 5% of global cancer resources are spent in LMICs; however, current trends make a compelling case for governments in poor countries to increase investments towards the overall management of NCDs. By 2030, NCDs, including cancer, are expected to overtake mortality from infectious diseases in developing countries.

As it stands, the majority of LMICs are ill-prepared and too poorly financed to cope with the heavy burden of cancer that is projected to double every five years due to dramatic changes in lifestyle, increasing urbanization, and aging populations. Poor countries already face severe challenges in managing the existing load of cancer patients today, including: a shortage of specialized health workers and inadequate healthcare infrastructure. This makes preventative measures for highly prevalent malignancies like cervical cancer all the more urgent.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 67 countries globally had introduced HPV vaccinations in their national immunization programs by October 2016. Coverage rates for most of Southeast Asia and Africa, where the highest prevalence exists, still remain very low. Periodic roll-outs of cervical cancer screening and HPV vaccination campaigns have shown promising results in reaching more women, but it is imperative for governments to establish more routine and consistent access to services by integrating and enhancing HIV/AIDS and family planning programs to include cervical cancer prevention and management efforts.

Several of GHC’s member organizations are at the forefront of implementing sustainable programs for cervical cancer prevention and expansion of screening services. Jhpiego has done tremendous work in Côte  D’Ivoire and Botswana; reaching tens of thousands of women with its low-cost screen-and-treat approach. PATH’s HPV vaccination projects in India, Peru, Vietnam, and Uganda laid the groundwork for effective vaccine introduction and contributed to a decision made by the Vaccine Alliance (GAVI) to subsidize the HPV vaccine for poor countries.

In 2013, GAVI made strong commitments to accelerate HPV vaccine uptake, with the aim of vaccinating over 30 million girls in more than 40 countries by 2020. Vaccinating this large portion of the population will strengthen the immunity of the entire population.

As we commemorate World Cancer Day on February 4, we celebrate the tremendous strides that have been made in tackling cancer globally while also recognizing the work ahead. With more political will, resource mobilization, task-shifting, and collaboration, we have a rare opportunity to take one battle to the finish line. Let’s end cervical cancer for all of womankind!

A year in review: The top stories in global health innovation that shaped 2016

This guest post was written by Kat Kelley, Senior Program Assistant at Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC), and originally appeared on GHTC’s website.

A health worker's hand holds up a cartridge of the SD BIOLINE Onchocerciasis IgG4 rapid test pre-production prototype, for diagnosing onchocerciasis (river blindness), showing a negative result.

2016 was a year that ushered in significant shifts in the global health landscape. We witnessed the waning of the Ebola epidemic and the waxing of the Zika outbreak; important leadership changes among the biggest institutional players in global health; and the development and introduction of new innovations that could turn the tide against leading infectious disease killers.

GHC Member, Global Health Technologies Coalition reflects on the top stories in global health innovation that made news in 2016. Here are seven of those top moments:

1. Scientists mobilize against Zika

Once considered an obscure virus responsible for a mild illness, Zika took the world by storm in 2016. As the virus gained a foothold in more than 60 countries, its association with devastating birth defects and neurological conditions was firmly established. Prior to Zika’s emergence in the Americas, only 25 research papers had been published on the virus. As the epidemic grew, scientists around the world joined the fight against Zika, often sharing their data and research in real time to speed progress. Thanks to the efforts of these researchers, over the past year our scientific understanding of Zika has grown exponentially, and we have advanced a robust pipeline of new tools to prevent, detect, and treat Zika. Today, there are more than 35 Zika vaccine candidates under development; 13 Zika diagnostics have been authorized for use by the US Food and Drug Administration; and researchers are screening novel compounds and evaluating existing drugs to advance treatments for the disease.

2. The world commits to the fight against antimicrobial resistance

2016 marked the year the world finally got serious about tackling antimicrobial resistance. On the heels of several major analyses examining the potentially devastating health and economic impact of antimicrobial resistance, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly convened global leaders for a high-level summit on antimicrobial resistance—the fourth time such a meeting has been held on a health-related topic during the UN’s 71-year history. At the close of the summit, UN member states unanimously endorsed and adopted a political declaration committing to developing action plans and policies; mobilizing resources; and supporting public awareness, surveillance, and R&D efforts to combat antimicrobial resistance. It is our hope that 2017 will mark the year political commitment translates to concrete action to advance the development of new antibiotics.

3. New strategies deployed to stymie mosquito-borne diseases

Mosquito-borne diseases remain an age-old scourge, but 2016 saw the advancement of several novel strategies to combat these tiny foes.

Efforts to combat mosquito-borne diseases with the transmission blocking–bacteria Wolbachia took an important leap forward this year. Past studies have shown that when the Wolbachia bacteria is introduced to Aedes aegypti mosquitos—which carry viruses like Zika and yellow fever—it prevents the viruses from replicating and blocks further transmission. Because the bacteria can be passed from one generation of mosquitoes to the next, the bacteria offers hope for eliminating a virus’s presence within a local mosquito population. After several years of conducting small-scale tests of this method, the Eliminate Dengue Program announced in 2016 it would begin conducting two large-scale trials in South America to determine whether this approach is effective in halting the spread of mosquito-borne diseases in large urban settings.

This year the biotech company Oxitec also advanced efforts to test the use of genetically modified mosquitoes to reduce mosquito populations and disease transmission. The company has engineered mosquitoes that mate with A. aegyptimosquitoes, producing offspring that are unable to mature to adulthood. Early last year, Oxitec introduced the mosquitoes into the Brazilian city of Piracicaba, resulting in an 82 percent decrease in the population of A. aegypti mosquitoes in just nine months. Now, Oxitec has expanded the trial to a larger geographical area and is also initiating trials in the Florida Keys and the Cayman Islands.

4. World’s first kid-friendly TB medicine launches

Children who receive tuberculosis (TB) medicines require a different dose than adults, yet until this year, there were no TB medicines designed specifically for children, so parents were forced to split or crush adult pills in an attempt to administer the right dose to their child. This year, that all changed with the launch of the world’s first kid-friendly TB medication. Developed by TB Alliance, the medicine is designed with the unique needs of children in mind: It is fruit-flavored, dissolvable in water, easy to administer, and appropriately-dosed. Already, more than 30 countries have adopted the new medicines, and enough orders have been placed to treat half of childhood TB cases worldwide.

5. Unique HIV prevention option for women reaches important development milestone

Women may soon have a powerful new tool at their disposal to prevent HIV infection. Earlier this year, the International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM) announced the results of two large phase 3 clinical trials demonstrating that a monthly vaginal ring containing the antiretroviral drug dapivirine can help protect women from HIV. While initial results indicated that the dapivirine ring reduced HIV risk by approximately 30 percent, further analysis revealed that the ring reduced infection rates by 75 percent in women who used the ring consistently. Now, IPM is seeking regulatory approval for the dapivirine ring and is conducting open-label studies, enabling trial participants to continue using the ring as IPM collects additional data. The dapivirine ring is the only long-acting, female-initiated HIV prevention tool to have proven successful in phase 3 clinical trials. Young women in sub-Saharan Africa are more than twice as likely to be infected with HIV than their male counterparts, and thus female-centered prevention tools are needed stem the epidemic.

6. Roll out begins of world’s first malaria vaccine candidate

After decades of development and testing, the world’s first malaria vaccine candidate will soon be introduced in several communities in sub-Saharan Africa. The vaccine—RTS,S—was developed by PATH and GlaxoSmithKline and received a positive opinion from the European Medicines Agency last year following completion of phase 3 clinical trials. In November, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced it would pilot and evaluate the vaccine in real-life settings, thanks to funding from The Global Fund; UNITAID; and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. Pending results of these pilot tests, WHO will determine whether to deploy the vaccine on a wider scale.

7. New global health technologies advance through the pipeline

Over the past year, several other promising new health innovations have moved through the development pipeline and one step closer to reaching the hands of patients:

  • Two important health tools—a novel, affordable oral cholera vaccine developed by the International Vaccine Institute, and the Woman’s Condom developed by PATH and partners—received WHO prequalification this year, paving the way for their procurement by UN agencies and other international procurement organizations.
  • Two new rapid diagnostic tests for the neglected tropical diseases onchocerciasis (river blindness) and lymphatic filariasis were launched this year. Developed by PATH, these tests provide results in just 30 minutes and can be stored at a wide range of temperatures.
  • Development has begun for an affordable therapy for hepatitis C. In 2013, the world’s first cures for hepatitis C hit the US market, however, treatment remains out of reach for many patients due to the high price tag. This year, the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative announced it would begin testing an alternative therapy in phase 2 and 3 clinical trials, with a guarantee from the manufacturer that, if successful, the entire regimen will be sold for no more than US$294.

As 2017 begins, it is time for the global health community to redouble our efforts to make sure this vital progress in global health innovation continues to ensure that people around the world will have access to lifesaving and life-improving health technologies.

Antimicrobial Resistance: Addressing MDR TB, Artemesinin-resistant Malaria and Increasing Vaccine Use

Antimicrobial Resistance:
Addressing MDR TB, Artemesinin-resistant Malaria and Increasing Vaccine Use

September 19, 2016
Panel session: 5:00–6:00 p.m.
Reception: 6:00–7:00 p.m.

Grand Hyatt Hotel
109 East 42nd Street
New York, NY

RSVP BY SEPTEMBER 13

An estimated 700,000 people die around the world each year from bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. The threat is real, but solutions are available. 

Please join the CDC Foundation and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on September 19 in New York City for a leader-to-leader session to address the global threat of antimicrobial resistance from a unique perspective. This event will take place on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, just before the UN High Level Meeting on Antimicrobial Resistance, and will feature CDC Director Tom Frieden and other global experts on malaria, tuberculosis and immunization.

The session will provide an opportunity for the public, private and philanthropic sectors to hear from experts focusing on the devastating economic and social costs of artemisinin-resistant malaria and multi-drug resistant tuberculosis. Panelists will also highlight the critical role vaccines could and should play to prevent these infections and limit unnecessary antimicrobial usage. A reception will follow.

 

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Eradicating Polio Requires Protecting Vaccinators

By Dr. Christine Sow, Executive Director, Global Health Council. This post is part of the #ProtectingKids blog series. Read the whole series here.

PK-Table-lineVaccines against debilitating and deadly diseases save the lives of over 2.5 million children every year[i]. They are an arguably smart global investment with an economic return of 18-30%.[ii] Vaccine campaigns, especially in the developing world, have greatly reduced the incidence of diseases such as whooping cough, diphtheria and Hib meningitis. By further scaling up childhood vaccinations in 72 of the poorest countries, we can save an estimated 6.4 million between 2011 and 2020.[iii] Continued support from donors, including the United States, has ensured progress in finding vaccines for HIV/AIDS, malaria and a number of neglected tropical diseases.

Today the most notable vaccine campaign is the push to eradicate polio, and we are within reach of achieving this goal, with 99% of the world polio free. Polio remains endemic in just three countries: Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, polio outbreaks continue as cases are imported from endemic countries to other countries, and fragile states like Syria and Ukraine face immunization levels that fall below 50%.

An increasingly alarming roadblock to eradicating polio is the rise in attacks on health care workers employed as vaccinators. In 2013-2014, 89 polio workers and their police escorts were killed in Pakistan and Nigeria. What’s most striking about this figure is that it exceeds the estimated number of actual deaths from polio; the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) estimated that between 15 and 30 people died from the disease in 2014.ProtectingKids_bug_PATH_WIW_ blog_carnival

Much needed attention was paid to the question of health worker safety during the Ebola crisis in 2014 and into 2015. Health workers ensure the frontline prevention and response to infectious disease; it seems logical, albeit tragic, that their lives would be at risk because of their proximity to infected patients. However there is no reason that health workers participating in vaccination campaigns should have to risk their lives to carry out their task – a task that ultimately saves lives. The reasons given for these attacks tie into local fears and suspicions that often are connected to a larger geopolitical calculus; the admission by the United States that it had used a vaccination campaign as a cover to gather information about the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden reinforced these fears, even if the admission was accompanied by a pledge never to use this approach again.

Frontline health workers deserve this title because they are at the forefront of efforts in a war against disease. However it should not have to also reflect the danger of soldiers on the frontlines of war – we know the impact of battle on the chances of survival. GPEI has set 2018 as the year to certify the world as polio-free. We are so close to achieving this goal, but it will not be accomplished without stronger efforts to protect those without whom the war on polio could not be waged.

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[i] “State of the World’s Vaccines and Immunization, 3rd ed,” WHO, UNICEF, The World Bank, 2009.

[ii] Bloom, D.; Canning, D.; Weston, M. “The value of vaccination,” World Economics, vol. 6, no. 3, 2005, p. 15-39.

[iii] “Vaccine Expansion in 72 of the World’s Poorest Countries Could Avert 6.4 Million Deaths,” Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 2011. http://www.jhsph.edu/news/news-releases/2011/ivac-vaccine-studies.html.