When a US president visits a region, attention follows. And so President Obama’s trip to Africa over the past week has dominated the headlines. The president is sometimes criticized for a lack of attention to Africa, but The Washington Post‘s Michael Gerson says it’s not so much that the Obama administration has ignored Africa, it’s that the president hasn’t established a signature issue or effect. “Depending on its implementation and future scale,” Gerson writes, “Power Africa—aimed at doubling access to electricity across the continent—could be a major strategic and moral advance.”
Rwandan model posed as solution to deadly scourge of counterfeit drugs
Nature Medicine, July 2, 2013
The East African nation’s success is founded on the government’s integrated approach, linking health and enforcement agencies to regulatory control, says Amir Attaran, a senior author of an essay published online today in PLOS Medicine and a health law expert at the University of Ottawa. Some of the stringent steps the Rwandan government takes include giving drug contracts only to manufacturers with current WHO-approved certificates of good manufacturing practices, mandatory inspections of incoming drug shipments, and routine sampling of medications. The country’s Ministry of Health drafted guidelines in 2011 detailing measures to ensure drug quality, such as setting up agency outposts at 469 health centers to the rollout of patient forms for reporting adverse drug events. Rwanda also banned the majority of private pharmacies in the nation from selling tuberculosis drugs, making it easier to control the drug supply chain.
Start HIV drug therapy earlier, says World Health Organization
Los Angeles Times, July 1, 2013
Until now, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that patients with HIV start treatment only after their immune systems had sustained some damage from the virus and their CD4 cell count had fallen below 350 cells/mm3. After examining abundant data on the effect of starting treatment earlier, WHO officials said they felt confident that earlier treatment could lower the amount of virus in the blood and reduce the risk of transmission.
The Washington Post, July 1, 2013
Before his current trip, President Obama’s Africa strategy was known for inattention at the highest level. Former Chinese president Hu Jintao made five extensive visits to Africa as head of state. Obama spent 20 hours in sub-Saharan Africa in 2009. The intense affection of a continent seemed unrequited, and foreign policy experts wondered if US emphasis on the region had been consciously downgraded. This is one of those rare cases, however, in which the reality has often been better than the rhetoric (or lack of it).
All for one and one for all
Stanford Social Innovation Review, June 28, 2013
It is perhaps the most important public health challenge today: how to influence the thousands of personal health decisions people make every day in ways that add up to big improvements in public health. Like it or not, when it comes to health we humans respond to the personal over the professional. Personal fitness and other types of mobile health apps (such as Fitbit, RxMindMe, and Glucose Buddy) that help people take medications on time, eat better, and move more are growing in popularity and improving health. But, collectively, they could add up to so much more.