The Blue Marble Health Collection: Redrawing Boundaries that Disease has Already Crossed

Peter J. Hotez, Co-Editor-in-Chief of PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, and Larry Peiperl, Chief Editor of PLOS Medicine, on a new PLOS Collection that highlights a shift in current thinking about global health.

This week PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases and PLOS Medicine have joined forces to launch Blue Marble Health: the mismatch between national wealth and population health, the most recent PLOS Collection.

Two key PLOS papers, each published in the fall of 2013, stimulated the genesis of this Blue Marble Health Collection.

The poor living among the wealthy.

Major areas of poverty in the G20 nations and Nigeria, where most of the world’s NTDs occur.
doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0002570.g001

The first, from PLOS NTDs - ”NTDs V.2.0: ‘Blue Marble Health’—Neglected Tropical Disease Control and Elimination in a Shifting Health Policy Landscape” –  found that while some NTDs such as river blindness, loiasis, African sleeping sickness and schistosomiasis are largely or exclusively diseases of sub-Saharan Africa, paradoxically many of the world’s highest concentration of NTDs occur in the 20 wealthiest economies – the group of 20 (G20) countries – especially in the mostly hidden pockets of extreme poverty that can be found in the big middle-income nations, such as Indonesia or in areas of the  BRICS countries, including northeastern Brazil, northern India, and southwestern China.  Moreover, the disease burden from NTDs is alarmingly high in the southern United States, especially in Texas and the Gulf Coast, in areas of Australia with large Aboriginal populations such as the Northern Territories, and Eastern Europe.

A parallel editorial in PLOS Medicine - Poor Health in Rich Countries: A Role for Open Access Journals - noted that relative poverty within a society is a stronger predictor of health than aggregate measures of economic power such as GNP or per-capita income. For example, tens of millions of Americans living in poverty, including many people of color, “experience levels of health that are typical of middle-income or low-income countries.” The editorial concluded that, for many issues that affect the health of people of lower socioeconomic status, clear-cut distinctions between “domestic” and “cross-border” research are becoming increasingly difficult to draw.


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Category: General, NCDs, Neglected Diseases | 1 Comment

New Statistics on ‘Modern-day Slavery’ Reveal a Shameful and Profitable Business

Jocalyn Clark analyses the ILO’s shocking recent report that ‘modern-day slavery’ generates billions of dollars globally each year.

Image credit: Bark, Flickr

Image credit: Bark, Flickr

When updated estimates increase three-fold, one tends to take notice. This is what happened to many I suspect when the International Labour Office (ILO) reported last week that forced labour, child labour, and sexual exploitation generate a massive US$150 billion each year, three times its previous estimate in 2005. Nearly two-thirds of the estimated profits come from sexual exploitation, including prostitution and pornography.

Twenty-one million men, women and children around the world are economically and sexually exploited by employers, trafficked, held in debt bondage or work in slave-like conditions, according to the report. Female victims are usually trafficked in commercial sex and domestic work, and men typically in forced labour in the agriculture, construction and mining sectors. That these victims are said to “generate billions of profits annually” is interesting use of language – of course, these modern-day slaves are generating profits for others and doing so under the forced and exploitative direction of others. Worse, this illegal activity helps fuel the world’s economy.
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Scientific Day 2014: The Role of Evidence in Humanitarian Aid

Sarah Venis and Philipp du Cros reflect on the theme of this year’s MSF scientific day which will be streamed live online on May 23rd.

SCIENTIFICDAY_FINAL_LOGOSThis year marks the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide in which between 500,000 and a million people were brutally killed. The international community failed to act and MSF concluded that “you can’t stop genocide with doctors”. The aftermath of the genocide included analysis of the failures of humanitarian aid and led to moves to improve its quality and accountability. But how far has humanitarian aid moved since then? In the past year, the bloody conflicts in Central African Republic (CAR), South Sudan and Syria have reached unspeakable levels of violence that have tested the limits of humanitarian assistance. Last month, three MSF colleagues were among 16 people killed during a meeting at the MSF hospital in Boguila CAR. MSF activities have been scaled down in the area as a result. In 2013, unable to guarantee the safety of its staff, MSF took the difficult decision to leave Somalia after 22 years. And, last week, five MSF staff were finally released after being kidnapped in Syria in January; again resulting in MSF having to withdraw medical assistance from populations in dire need.
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Category: General, MSF | 2 Comments

Is the EMA Poised to Make a Major U-turn on its Transparency Initiative?

In timing that highlights the importance of Clinical Trials Day and the AllTrials campaign, Peter Doshi and Tom Jefferson, two of the authors of the recent systematic review of Clinical Study Reports and summary of regulatory comments on Oseltamivir for influenza assess an alarming development in clinical trial transparency initiatives, which is also the subject of a public letter by the European Ombudsman.

Image Credit, Steven Depolo, Flickr

Image Credit, Steven Depolo, Flickr

Summary

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) appears poised to make a major U-turn on its transparency initiatives, reversing its principle of public access to clinical trial data as its sets up a system of controlled access similar to those independently established by industry. This is a stunning and surprising reversal, particularly as it comes after AbbVie dropped its lawsuit against EMA and after the passing of the European clinical trials legislation which will require public access to Clinical Study Reports. If finalized, the EMA’s new policy will prohibit a data requestor from even printing out a redacted Clinical Study Reports: they must instead read it in a so-called “view- on-screen-only” mode.


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The MSF Scientific Day 2014 will be streamed live online on Friday 23rd May

PLOS Medicine and BioMed Central are proud to be co-sponsoring this year’s MSF Scientific Day and have co-written this joint blog on both the Speaking of Medicine and the BioMed Central blog to mark the occasion.

Image Credit: @TiffDahmash

Image Credit: @TiffDahmash

Streamed live on 23rd May 2014 from the Royal Society of Medicine (RSM) in London, MSF Scientific Day is a unique opportunity to showcase medical and scientific research carried out in MSF programmes around the world. MSF provides medical aid to populations in over 60 countries affected by armed conflicts, epidemics, famines, natural disasters and those excluded from healthcare. The MSF Scientific Day was a huge success last year with over 2000 people taking part, 1700 of them tuning in from 92 different countries, with a keynote speech by international health expert, Hans Rosling on the synergy and conflict between research and advocacy.


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Integrated Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) Control: The Early Years

Peter J Hotez and the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases discuss integrated control measures for NTDs.

Co-endemicity map in Burundi communes in 2009 for trachoma, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis and soil transmitted helminth infections. Ndayishimiye  et al.

Co-endemicity map in Burundi communes in 2009 for trachoma, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis and soil transmitted helminth infections.
Ndayishimiye et al.

Among the unusual and striking aspects of global integrated NTD control and elimination activities was the exceedingly quick timeline between the time when the concept of integrating NTDs was first proposed and when implementation was initiated.  The intellectual framework for a public policy for integrated mass drug administration campaigns that targeted the seven major NTDs simultaneously – ascariasis, trichuriasis, hookworm infection, schistosomiasis, lymphatic filariasis (LF), onchocerciasis, and trachoma – entered the biomedical literature in 2005.  Within months a public policy was launched, and expanded implementation of this approach begun.

This month PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases published a detailed account of a four-year (2007-2011)-long integrated NTD program conducted in the nation of Burundi, a small, densely populated, and landlocked East African nation.  When the program began, Burundi had only recently emerged from more than a decade of civil conflict, yet the nation was one of the first few to employ integrated mass drug administration campaigns.  The project was launched through private support from the Legatum investment group channeled through the international philanthropy expert, Geneva Global, and ultimately the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases (known previously as the GNNTDC or Global Network for NTD Control) for financial management.  SCI (Schistosomiasis Control Initiative) and CBM served as technical implementation advisors to the Ministry of Health (MoH) of Burundi.  Together with a parallel program in Rwanda, these two projects established proof-of-principle for successful private financial investments in NTD control, which ultimately led to the establishment of The END Fund.


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Assessing Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision for HIV Prevention in a Unprecendented Public Health Intervention

PLOS launches a new collection, Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision for HIV Prevention: Improving Quality, Efficiency, Cost Effectiveness, and Demand for Services during an Accelerated Scale-up, which focuses on the challenges and opportunities of a large scale public health intervention. Dr. Emmanuel Njeuhmeli and Dr. Rhona MacDonald discuss the implementation and outcomes of the program so far.

Voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) – a surgical procedure that involves the complete removal of the foreskin by a trained medical professional – has been shown to be effective in the prevention of HIV transmission.

Image Credit: (left) Sgt. Adam Fischman, US Army Africa & (right) Sterling Riber, MFDI for Jhpiego/Tanzania

Image Credit: (left) Sgt. Adam Fischman, US Army Africa & (right) Sterling Riber, MFDI for Jhpiego/Tanzania

In 2007, WHO and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV /AIDS  recommended that 14 priority countries with high HIV and low male circumcision prevalence in Southern and Eastern Africa consider implementing VMMC as a key intervention in their HIV prevention portfolio.

This massive public health intervention launched in 2009 with support from WHO/UNAIDS calling for 80% coverage of male circumcision by 2016. Although the growth of VMMC programs has dramatically increased over recent years, it appears that the coverage goal will be unattainable by 2016.
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Category: General | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Arboviruses and Sandwiches: April’s Lunch & Learn with Dr LaBeaud

Kathleen Luschek, PLOS staff member, shares April’s Lunch & Learn with Dr Desiree LaBeaud, as part of an ongoing program to further dialogue between PLOS and the broader open community.

Dr. Desiree LaBeaud, CHORI

Dr. Desiree LaBeaud, CHORI

On April 11, 2014, the PLOS head office in San Francisco hosted our fourth Lunch & Learn of the year. This month’s speaker was Dr. Desiree LaBeaud, a research scientist at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, who also serves as Deputy Editor for PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. Dr. LaBeaud spoke about her research on arboviruses, specifically Rift Valley fever virus, chikungunya, and dengue. While most of Dr. LaBeaud’s work takes place in Kenya, she spoke about the recent (within the last 20 years) resurgence of outbreaks around the world; she described the dramatic increase not only in geographic distribution, but also in scale and types, with one cause being globalization and increased air travel. She explained that despite the spread of these mosquito-borne viruses into the developed world, they are still very much Neglected Tropical Diseases. As with other NTDs, both socioeconomic status and lasting effects are important, and while there are mosquito vectors here in the U.S., the largest outbreaks continue to occur in developing nations, particularly across Africa. (For more on Dr. LaBeaud’s views on why arboviruses belong on the list of NTDs, see her Viewpoint here.)
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Category: Dengue, Neglected Diseases | Comments Off

Arboviruses and Sandwiches: April’s Lunch & Learn with Dr LaBeaud

Kathleen Luschek, PLOS staff member, shares April’s Lunch & Learn with Dr Desiree LaBeaud, as part of an ongoing program to further dialogue between PLOS and the broader open community.

Dr. Desiree LaBeaud, CHORI

Dr. Desiree LaBeaud, CHORI

On April 11, 2014, the PLOS head office in San Francisco hosted our fourth Lunch & Learn of the year. This month’s speaker was Dr. Desiree LaBeaud, a research scientist at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, who also serves as Deputy Editor for PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. Dr. LaBeaud spoke about her research on arboviruses, specifically Rift Valley fever virus, chikungunya, and dengue. While most of Dr. LaBeaud’s work takes place in Kenya, she spoke about the recent (within the last 20 years) resurgence of outbreaks around the world; she described the dramatic increase not only in geographic distribution, but also in scale and types, with one cause being globalization and increased air travel. She explained that despite the spread of these mosquito-borne viruses into the developed world, they are still very much Neglected Tropical Diseases. As with other NTDs, both socioeconomic status and lasting effects are important, and while there are mosquito vectors here in the U.S., the largest outbreaks continue to occur in developing nations, particularly across Africa. (For more on Dr. LaBeaud’s views on why arboviruses belong on the list of NTDs, see her Viewpoint here.)
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Category: Dengue, Neglected Diseases | Comments Off

Launch of the PLOS Pediatric Medicine Collection

PLOS Medicine Editors Rhona MacDonald and Amy Ross on the launch of the new PLOS Pediatric Medicine Collection and the upcoming Pediatric Academic Societies and Asian Society for Pediatric Research Meeting, where PLOS will be in attendance.

pediatric_medicine

Image credits (clockwise from top left): Matt Erasmus, Flickr.com; D.C. Atty, Flickr.com; Frank Douwes, Flickr.com; U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt Eric T. Sheler, Wikimedia Commons

To coincide with PLOS Medicine’s participation in the Pediatric Academic Societies and Asian Society for Pediatric Research joint meeting (PAS/ASPR 14) in Vancouver on May 3-6, PLOS is delighted to announce the launch of a new collection on pediatric medicine. This collection collates key research and commentary relating to the health of children that has been published across the PLOS journals over the past year.

The Pediatric Medicine Collection covers children of all ages, includes those living in high, middle, and low-income countries, and covers the main conditions affecting children world-wide.
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Category: Collections, Conference news, General, Maternal Newborn and Child Health | Comments Off