This Week in Global Health

A lot of recent developments in global health have been sparking discussion around the office. I thought I’d share a couple of the items we’d been talking about lately.

In non-communicable diseases, we’ve been hearing lots of updates and reflections from the ministerial conference on NCDs that happened in Moscow, Russia at the end of April. It seems like most are seeing the meeting as at least a tentative success, with positive indications from country governments that they’re willing to make real commitments in the major UN summit on NCDs in September. It was also exciting to hear that WHO Director General Margaret Chan make positive references to engaging the private sector, including NGOs, researchers, and companies, in the global response.

In the infectious disease world, we’ve been following with great interest some of the recent news on the HIV front. In particular, the announcement of trial results that showed a tremendous reduction in risk of passing on the virus when HIV-positive individuals start antiretroviral therapy early – see here. This protective effect has been presumed in the past to a certain extent, but this study is a major confirmation of that fact. The question now is, what does the global health community do with this knowledge? Does this lead to a rallying of the advocacy community around the goal of ramping up treatment faster, as Elizabeth Dickinson at Foreign Policy poses?

Finally, on the vaccine front, Bill Gates called for a “Decade of Vaccines” in a speech to the World Health Assembly. The Gates Foundation’s blog has been particularly active on the topic this week, including some fun graphics like this one comparing the costs of various vaccines everyday purchases. Amid all the crucial high-level advocacy on the topic, it’s heartening that the foundation and others are also addressing the public perceptions of the importance of vaccines. This seemed particularly pertinent to me as I just finished reading Seth Mnookin’s excellent book The Panic Virus, which gives a riveting account of the damage caused by all of the myths and pseudoscience out there regarding vaccination. 

What's been sparking discussion in global health for you this week?

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