Two days before the world observes International School Meals Day, I’m here sitting in the U.K. Houses of Parliament thinking about the unexpected evolution of school meals programs in recent years.
Photo courtesty Creative Commons
For those of us who have been impacted by the death of loved ones due to the negative health consequences of smoking, the recent announcement by Larry Merlo, the CEO of the U.S. pharmacy chain CVS, to stop selling tobacco products in the chain’s 7,600 stores, was a ray of hope and a step toward a future when public health concerns trump short-term profit motives.
Countries working to provide quality health care often face bottlenecks in keeping remote health clinics stocked with essential medicines. This isn’t necessarily because they can’t afford sufficient drugs and supplies. Delivery may be stymied by bad roads and poor communications systems. Or the distribution process may have been established for a centralized system and can no longer keep pace with the growth in clinics in faraway settlements.
“In this clinic we are accommodated well and treated respectfully… We have the opportunity to converse with the health worker, describing the illness, and when we are mistaken or do not understand, we are not threatened. They help us locate the pain and they explain everything about the disease and how to treat it. They encourage us to speak and they try to give us confidence.” –Patient in Burkina Faso
On this year’s World AIDS Day – 1 December 2013 –the world commemorates remarkable scientific progress against AIDS and the translation of this progress into saving lives: In the last decade, new HIV infections, AIDS deaths and TB-related deaths among people with AIDS have declined by one- third.
As a newcomer in my new post in Accra, I am starting to learn about Ghana’s achievements and challenges. I have been impressed with some innovative policies and measures adopted to address difficult development challenges in the social sectors.
Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are becoming a significant burden in sub-Saharan Africa, and road traffic injuries are rapidly emerging as a major cause of death and disability. By 2010, cerebrovascular diseases (stroke) and road injuries were already within the top 15 causes of years of life lost, joined by ischemic heart disease, diabetes mellitus, and hypertensive heart disease in Southern sub-Saharan Africa. Road traffic injuries are expected to be the number one killer of children aged 5-15 in Africa by 2015 if current trends continue unabated. Yet, this burden remains largely hidden.
This past week, I attended a couple of interesting seminars at the World Bank’s Human Development Forum on how some mineral-rich countries have been able to translate their newfound riches into sustained economic growth, improved living conditions, and better nutrition, health and education levels for their populations.
While much of the health focus in sub-Saharan Africa has been directed toward communicable diseases, particularly HIV/AIDS, there has been less acknowledgement that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are a growing problem. These diseases already account for about 30% of deaths and are expected to become the leading cause of ill health and death by 2030 (see chart).
This week (August 1-7) is World Breastfeeding Week, an occasion to remind ourselves of the important role that optimal infant and young child feeding plays in the healthy growth and development of individuals, communities, and nations. For more than 30 years, the World Bank has championed the importance of breastfeeding. This includes investing in advocacy and communications to policymakers, strengthened health systems, and effective community-based outreach to provide the knowledge and support needed by women and their families.
To mark World Breastfeeding Week, World Bank nutrition experts have updated this helpful Q/A on the topic:
What are the health benefits of breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding is one of the most powerful tools available to a mother to ensure the health and survival of her child from the moment he/she is born. Optimal breastfeeding practices, which include initiating breastfeeding within an hour of birth, feeding only breast milk until 6 months, and continuing to breastfeed up to 24 months, are key elements in the fight against malnutrition. Breast milk provides all the nutrients a child needs for healthy development in the first six months of life. And the antibodies that are transferred from a mother to her child during breastfeeding help protect infants against common childhood illnesses that can lead to death, such as diarrhea and pneumonia.
The Lancet’s 2008 series on Maternal and Child Undernutrition has estimated that the relative risk of death (all cause mortality) is 14 times higher for a child who is not breastfed versus one who is exclusively breastfed. When broken down by disease, the relative risk of death from diarrhea and pneumonia is 10.5 and 15 times higher, respectively, for children who are not breastfed versus those that are exclusively breastfed.