Health

  • There’s no more time to waste: Let’s find the missing cases of TB

    Tuberculosis (TB) has now overtaken HIV as the world’s leading cause of mortality. There were about 10.4 million TB cases in 2016, despite the fact that TB is an old and often curable disease whose incidence declined in industrialized countries long before the introduction of the TB vaccine and anti-TB drugs. TB continues to disproportionately affect low-income countries. For those of us who work in public health, this is tragic — we ought to be moving forward at a much faster pace to end TB for good.

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  • Building the case for contraceptive technology innovation

    Why do women who do not want to get pregnant choose not to use modern family planning methods? While this question is not bounded by geographies, the most recent Guttmacher Institute report, which focused on the low- and middle-income countries, is most illuminating. The two most common answers given by married women were health reasons/side effects or fear of side effects (26 percent) and claims of infrequent sex or not being sexually active (24 percent). Among unmarried women, infrequent sex (49 percent) was the top reason.

    Equally informative are recent FHI 360 findings from a user preference study in Uganda and Burkina Faso showing that 75 percent of women currently using a method would be open to trying new technologies. It quickly becomes clear that existing methods do not satisfactorily address the changing needs of women throughout their 30- to 40-year reproductive journey.

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  • Outsmarting TB using research and collaboration

    A version of this post originally appeared on FHI 360’s R&E Search for Evidence blog.

    Tuberculosis (TB), which in 2016 killed an estimated 1.7 million people, is an ancient disease found in the bones of mummies dug up from Peru. It has evolved with humans, and like other successful organisms, finds ways to avoid death, so it can thrive and spread to the next person. Trying to get ahead of this successful adversary requires pursuing a consistent, aggressive research agenda aided by international collaboration.

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  • The importance of clinical trials in epidemic preparedness: Three FHI 360 experiences

    One of the biggest challenges in international development is anticipating when the next pandemic health threat will strike and how we can minimize its damage. Pandemics can be unpredictable, and it is hard to know when and where to focus attention. Having safe, effective drugs ready to use when they are needed saves lives. Clinical trials, which focus on safety and efficacy, are pivotal to the development of these drugs.

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  • It is time for a bold approach to end the HIV epidemic

    Big breakthroughs in HIV science, such as antiretroviral therapy and the “universal test and treat” policy, create hope and galvanize efforts to bring the epidemic to an end. Yet, no matter how promising the strategy, we know from experience that it is not easy to incorporate the latest approaches into poorly resourced, over-stretched health systems. Nor is it reasonable to expect that health systems can absorb the increased volume of patients that seems to go hand in hand with innovations.

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  • My tribute to Peter Lamptey’s lifelong contributions to global health

    A version of this post originally appeared on FHI 360’s R&E Search for Evidence blog.

    Known around the world, Prof. Peter Lamptey is a global health champion in any light. Many of you may know him from his early involvement in the global HIV response or from his fight to raise public awareness of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). I first heard Prof. Lamptey speak about the role of laboratory science in the NCD response at a conference plenary hosted by the African Society for Laboratory Medicine, my former employer. A compelling talk for sure, but notably his plenary was also my first significant introduction to FHI 360’s research.

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  • Research improves handwashing programs by uncovering drivers of behavior change

    A version of this post originally appeared on FHI 360’s R&E Search for Evidence blog.

    Evidence on the health and social benefits of handwashing is strong. We know that handwashing can prevent up to 40% of diarrheal diseases, and can lead to fewer school absences and increased economic productivity. However, many people don’t wash their hands at critical times, even when handwashing facilities are available. While research on behavior change has shown examples of approaches that lead to increased rates in handwashing, we’re still seeking to understand why people wash their hands, and how motivation for handwashing can be translated into programs that result in effective behavior change.

    In advance of Global Handwashing Day on October 15, USAID and the Global Handwashing Partnership – an international coalition with a Secretariat hosted by FHI 360 – organized a webinar on drivers for handwashing behavior change. The Partnership’s work focuses on promoting handwashing with soap as key to health and development, with an emphasis on connecting practitioners with research findings to inform their work. Our webinar speakers provided two examples of how research is exploring behavior change from cognitive (how we think about and understand handwashing) and automatic (how we can be unconsciously prompted to wash our hands) standpoints. In this blog post, I’ll summarize how the two examples show different ways of understanding human behavior and discuss how the findings help us understand what drives behavior change for handwashing.

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  • Preventing hunger in the Horn of Africa through improved community engagement

    Drought is threatening livelihoods in the Horn of Africa and is increasing the vulnerability of households to food insecurity, economic shocks and resource-based conflicts. Approximately 12 million people in the region are expected to need food aid in the coming months. A response that protects household assets and helps people grow their own food and minimize livestock losses is critical to their survival.

    Timely interventions, such as fodder production, are needed to keep livestock healthy, prevent a rise in hunger and deepen community engagement in building resilience to shocks. Beyond the drought, fodder production is also a system-level response to growing demand for animal source foods and the rapidly expanding dairy sector in Kenya in particular. This expansion has many positive aspects but does put pressure on sourcing the necessary animal feeds, further reason to explore and develop efficient and integrated animal feed and fodder production and the integration of crop-livestock production systems to ensure high land productivity.

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  • Three ways to turn science into practice to reduce HIV among key populations

    Later this month, leading scientists and cutting-edge thinkers will gather at the International AIDS Society’s 9th IAS Conference on HIV Science in Paris to discuss the latest scientific discoveries in HIV prevention, care and treatment. These discoveries hold the potential to accelerate progress toward the global 90-90-90 targets set forth by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). And, they are especially important for key populations — including men who have sex with men, sex workers, transgender people and people who inject drugs — who shoulder a disproportionate burden of HIV. UNAIDS estimates that 45 percent of all new HIV infections among adults worldwide occur among these key populations and their sex partners. Reaching these groups with new technologies and approaches is essential to ending the epidemic.

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  • Standing up for science

    Now, more than ever, is a time to stand up for science. The U.S. administration’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018 calls for severe cuts to several key science-generating institutions, including the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These cuts would result in a deterioration of the science that has allowed the United States to be the global leader in medicine, public health and environmental science. They would also stall progress in global development, an area which has benefited greatly from the many lifesaving solutions produced through science.

    Given the administration’s apparent disregard for science, we should take a step back and ask ourselves what may seem like a simple question: What is science and why does it matter? Of the many definitions, the most basic is the standard dictionary definition: a systematically organized body of knowledge on a particular matter. More importantly though, science is a process or way of thinking that seeks to reveal the “truth.” Not knowing the truth about something is like driving through a heavy fog. Science can cut through this fog and reveal the truth.

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