Global experts report that a child’s early years are critical to the rest of life. Proper nutrition and brain stimulation improve physical growth and learning ability, while the absence of proper care and feeding in the first 1,000 days can lead to stunting, poor school performance and lower earnings as an adult.
While recent health crises, such as the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa, have caused much human and economic devastation in the affected countries and tested the resolve of the international community, the past hundred years have witnessed dramatic improvements in human health not seen in previous centuries when life was in most cases “poor, nasty, brutish and short” as Thomas Hobbes, the English philosopher, observed in the 17th Century.
It really caught my attention when a friend of mine, an otherwise healthy chest physician in his late 40s, told me recently that he almost died of pneumonia. He had to be hospitalized twice, given an IV cocktail of antibiotics each time, only to recover about a month later, totally drained and weak. He told me that it was caused by Klebsiella pneumoniae -- a bacterial infection increasingly resistant to antibiotics and known to strike the immunocompromised, frail and alcoholics -- which he thought he must have gotten from a patient. He considered himself lucky to have survived.
The recent Durban 2016 International AIDS Conference celebrates the success of AIDS treatment in reducing illness and death. The pall of despair and wasting death that hung over the Durban 2000 International AIDS Conference has truly been lifted. In KwaZulu-Natal, where the conference was held, AIDS treatment has increased community life expectancy by a full 11 years, reversing decades of decline -- life expectancy in KwaZulu-Natal is higher today than before the HIV epidemic. This is indubitably one of the great successes of global health.
This year’s World Breastfeeding Week calls attention to the powerful link between investing in breastfeeding and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Ideas about what is important gain currency in the international development community with the regularity of ocean waves reaching the shore. As yesterday’s important idea recedes back into the ocean, today’s idea laps at our feet. A few years ago, the idea of country ownership came up in nearly every conversation about health information system (HIS) strengthening. We wanted to be sure that systems were not just dropped on a country, and that the country in question would value the system enough to use it and maintain it. After a few years, the salience of country ownership gave way to the idea of sustainability. The two terms share some elements—both express an interest in long-term maintenance. But this particular notion of sustainability explicitly included the transition of funding from donors to host governments.
This blog first appeared in the New York Times on June 20, 2016.
Nutrition is not only fundamental to an individual’s cognitive and physical growth, it is also the cornerstone of all development efforts, whether improving education, health, income or equality, at home or abroad. And the most important time for good nutrition is in the 1,000 days from the beginning of a woman’s pregnancy to the second birthday of her child. What happens in those first days determines to a large extent the course of a child’s life – his or her ability to grow, learn, work, succeed – and, by extension, the long-term health, stability and prosperity of the society in which that child lives.
A recent study on patient safety in Kenya revealed that less that 5% of health facilities, both public and private, have attained the minimum international standards of safety. Although such studies are rare, there is reason to believe that the same picture prevails in most of SS Africa.
Tens of millions of people are already feeling the effects of climate change—and the poorest among us feel them the most. Inaction could push 100 million more people into poverty by 2030.
Globally, the demand for timely and accurate health information is growing, driven mainly by an increased focus on strategic resource allocation and priority setting, as well as the availability of technology. However, in real life, setting up a system to capture accurate and timely information comes with many challenges especially in low and middle income countries. System inputs are often costly, hard to build and maintain and difficult to integrate.