Archive for the 'Advocacy' Category

Frank remarks on disease burden estimates

Disease burden estimates are contentious as I’ve previously discussed on the blog (here and here) and in print (here, here, and here). So I won’t say much but share some surprising new comments. They are surprising not for their content (which we’ve already said) but because they are from the Global Burden of Disease group, which includes the authors of the controversial malaria estimates, and they are published in the Lancet, which published and actively promoted these estimates.

We now joke to each other how we used to get away with murder in the past doing burden studies. We tended to make lots of not so replicable ad-hoc decisions and few people knew what we were doing anyway.

We have also had some experiences of disease experts taking on roles of advocates with aim to ‘boost the numbers’ rather than being ‘impassionate’ scientific advisers.

Countries should develop sufficient capability to independently assess the merits of different methodologies and interpretation of findings: simply because WHO has issued estimates of disease burden does not make them correct.

Let’s see if these get noticed. I should add that I admire the openness of the article and the intent to change business-as-usual expressed there within (thanks Matt for the link).


Malaria Day 2010

It’s world malaria day. In the past year, a combination of sources (papers, program reports, routine surveillance, and stories from workers) suggest malaria cases and deaths are falling in many places. That’s good news indeed.

Malaria day of the Americas 2009

I get a lot of emails about malaria and other global health events. Here’s a recent one that may be of some interest to those living near Washington, DC:

Malaria in the America Forum 2009:
“Counting Malaria Out” towards the 2010 targets and the UN Millennium Development Goals.

Friday, November 6, 2009
1:00pm – 4:30pm
Room B, Pan American Health Organization
525 Twenty-Third Street, NW
Washington D.C.

The Pan American Health Organization, the Pan American Health and Education Foundation and the Center for Global Health at the George Washington University in the 2009 commemoration forum for Malaria Day in the Americas on November 6, 2009 (Friday). We welcome you to take part in an engaging discussion which will highlight the progress of efforts towards achieving global goals and national targets on malaria prevention and control, the challenges of malaria elimination, and resolving various issues on malaria work with mobile populations.

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Another reason this caught my eye  is I have an old malaria day of the America’s shirt from Guyana. The motto is quite a mouthful! Speaking of mobile populations and Guyana, Bill Brieger at Malaria Free Future has excellently covered both recently.

African leaders pledge to eliminate malaria, again

The African Leaders Malaria Alliance announced during the United Nations general assembly claims it is “the first Head of State-level assembly expressly dedicated to ending deaths from the disease.” Is it just me or does this simply happen every ten years or so? If you also feel a sense of déjà vu it probably stems from the Abuja declaration signed by 44 heads of state (or their representatives) in 2000. OK, maybe the snarky comments are a bit much. Political will is important, but I have little patience for ceremony. At a glance the new alliance is seeking to exceed the goals set at Abuja (eg. No deaths vs 50% reduction) but in a longer timeline (2015 vs 2010). Also of note, according to the website only 11 countries are participating though some reliable sources are reporting 20.

Malaria, pneumonia, and advocacy for health

Sometimes I hate advocates. Anything which smacks of “my disease is more important than yours” is a great way for me to stop listening. Nicholas Kristoff’s blog post on pneumonia importantly highlights the large disease burden and the relatively scant public attention. However, the solution is not to have a world pneumonia day. Nor do we need to justify schistosomiasis control with tenuous evidence on its association with HIV prevalence. I understand what Hotez et al. are trying to accomplish since the latter is a hot issue, but I wonder whether we will be undermined by such messaging in the long run. As a friend of mine said, “Treat schisto to treat schisto.  Anything else is icing on the cake.”

We need to move beyond unilateral thinking and organize around broader public health platforms. Unfortunately, this is not as tangible as a single topic, and it doesn’t make a good bumper sticker.

How do we do it?

World Malaria Day 2009

Today is World Malaria Day.

Many more people are aware of this fact in 2009 with the increase in advocacy, particularly  in the Western world. Some would say malaria is now “hip”. For others, that’s as much a cause for concern as it is for celebration. In any case I’ll certainly take a minute today to reflect on how far we’ve come, and where we’ll go.

Malaria (and other communicable diseases) in Southeast Asia

I’m an author on an editorial in this month’s Bulletin of the World Health Organization on communicable diseases in Southeast Asia.


Multidrug-resistant malaria, including artemisinin resistance at the border of Cambodia and Thailand, threatens to jeopardize the provision of effective antimalarial treatment worldwide…

A theme issue of the Bulletin will provide a forum for sharing the region’s successes, and its future opportunities in disease control and research. The issue aims to foster greater international collaboration and partnership. Since the region has such a high communicable disease burden and risk, greater investment and collaboration will benefit not only the communities it serves but the entire world.

It’s not about the importance of SE Asia vs Africa or any other region – that would be silly. We take a brief snapshot of accomplishments, current challenges, and recent innovations in SE Asia to highlight the value of investment in control, elimination, and research. All in all, its an impressive rate of return. The practical point of the editorial is to provide the rationale for a full region-specific Bulletin issue. It’s a call for papers and the resultant issue should be a great forum for anyone interested in reaching a broad audience.