Our global health stories this week offer inspiring examples of the power of a second look. They present new data on changing trends in health worldwide, revisit the origins of tuberculosis, and offer a nuanced look at the fears and beliefs that can prevent otherwise great health programs from succeeding. One, more literally, shares how a common household item is giving health workers in low-resource settings the power to see—and stop—a leading killer of women.
Chronic illnesses outpace infections as big killers worldwide
NPR, September 4, 2013
People around the world are getting healthier and living longer. Infectious diseases are declining around the globe. But at the same time, chronic health problems are on the rise, particularly in developing nations. These are some of the key findings in the latest reports by the World Bank and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
TB has human, not animal, origins—says study
The origins of human tuberculosis (TB), have been traced back to hunter-gatherer groups in Africa 70,000 years ago, an international team of scientists say. The research goes against common belief that TB originated in animals only 10,000 years ago and spread to humans. If scientists can understand how TB and humans co-developed, it may help find a way to reduce the prominence of the disease.
What is free maternity care in Kenya worth?
Impatient Optimists, August 28, 2013
The newly appointed government of Kenya is making health care during pregnancy and birth free for Kenyan mothers, notes blog contributor Jane Otai. This is a positive step, “But as someone with over 15 years of experience talking with women and families in Kenya’s informal settlements, I also know that tradition and what many Kenyans perceive as poor-quality hospital care will stand in the way of this well-intentioned programme.” Otai suggests that for the program to succeed, it must provide medical services from skilled workers who respect mothers’ need for kindness and attention.
Tackling cervical cancer with a dab of vinegar
The Daily Beast, September 4, 2013
Susan Banda, a nurse in Lusaka, Zambia, is called the “the lady healer,” by the women who line up to see her. They’ve come to be checked for cervical cancer, a leading killer of women in developing countries. Pap smear technology isn’t available at her clinic, so Banda uses an effective, low-cost alternative: she brushes vinegar on the cervix to check for precancerous lesions. If any are present, the vinegar will turn them white, and she’ll remove them during the same visit. The process is fast, reliable, and inexpensive—and it’s saving lives in low-resource settings worldwide.