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(sponsored by the Harvard Center for Cancer Prevention)

"Around 2005, amid the grim accumulation of reports on the totality of meth’s [methamphetamine, or crystal meth] destruction…Oregon had become one of those meth-ravaged states…But like many drugs, meth proved difficult for officials to track; they couldn’t provide objective figures on who exactly was using the drug. In the subjective, unreliable world of tracking drugs [Oregon State University environmental chemist, Jennifer] Field…found a way to quantify results with hard science…a way around one of the oldest impediments to effective drug enforcement and treatment: knowing who’s using, where, and how much…The implications don’t stop at meth, or even at illegal drugs. Because almost everything we consume will ultimately be found in our waste water…Beneath Field and [University of Washington research scientist, Caleb] Banta-Green’s research lies a simple but often overlooked truth about any system…If you want to know what’s truly happening inside, you can get a pretty good idea from looking at its waste…Tracking drug use is a frustrating art…the [drug epidemiology] field is constrained by the limits of its data…[in 2008] Field and Banta-Green…initiated a single-day study...[to measure drug prevalence in Oregon municipalities']…water-treatment facilities…[scanning the waste] for meth, cocaine, and ecstasy…The study sought to prove only that the testing could work, and it did: The results clearly corresponded with the expected distribution of those drugs in the state…[however] Meth was still being used everywhere [in Oregon despite stricter controls on cold medicines; drops in both meth-related deaths and the rate of meth-lab busts]…There were limits to the study…[but the] paper offers the prospect of a profound change in drug policy. Drug arrests and even decreases in drug production don’t tell the full story of how drug use is spread through a population…[and beyond] drugs [the research technique could explore]…which other chemicals might appear in waste water…[or even] say a lot about the food we eat. The more you know, the more targeted a problem you can treat, and the more ambitious you can be in solving it."

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U.S. Health Care

Hospital-Related Infections Drop Under California Initiative
(Los Angeles Times, August 24, 2011)
"Scores of California hospitals, under pressure to reduce infections…have managed to cut costs and save lives through an initiative that has nurses and doctors redoubling efforts to prevent deadly germs from taking root. The three-year campaign is bringing together 160 hospitals across the state with the aim of reducing…hospital-related infections…Hospital infections have long been a problem, but the health threat has become more urgent with medical care increasingly delivered in outpatient clinics, leaving hospitals to treat the sickest patients, who are most susceptible to infection-related illnesses. The situation contributes to an estimated 99,000 deaths nationally every year and adds as much as $33 billion annually to healthcare spending, according to university and government researchers."
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Critical Drugs in Short Supply
(San Francisco Chronicle, August 21, 2011)
"Record shortages of prescription drugs in the United States are forcing pharmacists and doctors to scramble to find medications for their patients, suitable alternatives or to delay potentially lifesaving treatments…Federal recalls, production problems and corporate decisions to discontinue certain medications for financial reasons are cited as the chief causes of the dwindling drug supplies. In 2006, 70 drugs were in short supply. By the end of last year, the number had jumped to 211, according to the University of Utah Drug Information Service, which tracks prescription drug shortages…The shortages involve a wide range of drugs, but most tend to be medications that are used in hospitals -- typically older, generic injectables, cancer drugs, types of anesthesia used in surgery, electrolytes, vitamins and minerals."
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Related graphic:
Prescription Drug Shortages
(San Francisco Chronicle, August 21, 2011)

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Maternal & Reproductive Health

South Africa: Breast Is Best -- Health Minister

(Health-e, South Africa, August 22, 2011)
"Public health experts have for a long time warned that many gains at birth, including the prevention of HIV transmission from mother to child, were being reversed by the lack of a proper national policy on infant feeding…South Africa, is one of the countries with low prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding at 8% according to the 2003 Demographic and Health Survey. A dramatic drop in exclusive breastfeeding rates was reported in the age group four to six months, where only 1,5% of infants were exclusively breastfed. This is one of the lowest rates of exclusive breastfeeding in the world. Data from the Human Sciences Research Council national survey suggested that among infants 0 to 6 months, 25,7% were reported to be exclusively breastfed whilst 51,3% were mixed fed, with solids and formula being introduced far too early in life. Breastfeeding has profound impact on child's survival, health, nutrition and development with these benefits lost when formula feeding is given."

Empty Cradles: Knowledge Is the Key to a Healthy Pregnancy
(Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 20, 2011)
"Knowledge gaps…can be life-threatening...'health literacy'...[is] the ability to obtain and understand accurate health information, to manage one's behavior and to navigate the health care system…Research shows a strong link between health literacy, health outcomes and medical expenditures…A pregnant woman who understands how to care for herself, gets regular prenatal checkups and has support to navigate the health care system has the best chance of delivering a healthy baby…Literacy skills are the strongest predictor of health…according to the Partnership for Clear Health Communication. Older patients, recent immigrants, people with chronic diseases and those living in poverty are especially vulnerable to low health literacy…To address behavior, changes are necessary on both sides of the doctor-patient relationship…Health care providers are homing in on how to better help women have healthy babies."

Related graphic:
Stopping Smoking Can Be Critical to Healthy Pregnancy
(Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Empty Cradles Series
(Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

State of the World's Midwifery Report 2011 Launched
(The Daily Observer, The Gambia, August 19, 2011)
"The State of the World's Midwifery Report 2011…is the first of its kind with a view to provide deep analysis of the situation of midwives, thus, addressing issues essential to the reduction of maternal and newborn morbidity and mortality…Bunmi Makinwa, UNFPA regional director for Africa revealed that the State of the World's Midwifery 2011 Report was as a result of the collaborated efforts of 30 partners with a common goal to strengthen midwifery in order to promote maternal and newborn health. He informed the gathering that the decision to write the report was premised on the concern of partners that some 350,000 women die while pregnant or giving birth each year and that also two million newborns die within the first 24 hours of life. He said most of these lives could have been saved with the availability and access to adequate numbers of trained midwives and skilled birth attendants in functional health facilities."

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HIV/AIDS

Domestic Abuse -- a Risk Factor for HIV Transmission
(The Daily Nation On the Web, Kenya, August 19, 2011)
"For years HIV/ Aids experts have grappled with the reasons behind women's high susceptibility to HIV infection. A 2008/09 study put women's prevalence rates as twice as high as that for men…This disparity is even greater amongst women aged 15-24 who are four times more likely to become infected with HIV than men of the same age. Does this mean that women are more promiscuous? Nothing could be more misleading. The truth is that the 'Abstinence, Being Faithful and using Condoms' rule rarely works for women. The ABC's, experts say, oversimplify what should be ongoing approaches in reducing the incidences that make women more vulnerable to the disease…Largely intertwined and only recently identified as a risk element in HIV prevalence among women is violence…Recent studies from Tanzania, Rwanda and South Africa indicate that women who have experienced violence are up to three times more likely to contract HIV than those who have not."

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Nutrition, Obesity & Prevention

World's Getting Fitter, Mumbai Fatter
(The Times of India, August 24, 2011)
"In addition to the Mumbaikars' penchant for putting on weight-National Family Health Surveys say city-bred Indians are three times more likely to be overweight than rural folk-there is also the particularly Indian problem of accumulating fat against muscle mass. This, doctors say, is a genetic propensity. In fact, the medical fraternity along with the Indian Council for Medical Research [ICMR] has redrawn the guidelines for diagnosing an Indian as overweight and obese. WHO guidelines state that people with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 and above are overweight, while those with a BMI of 30 and more are obese. BMI is a calculation based on a person's weight and height. New Indian guidelines are much stricter, pegging a BMI of 23 and above for overweight and 25 and above for obese. The new guidelines were drawn up at a consensus meeting at ICMR in Delhi last year. So, an Indian of the same weight as a Caucasian or African American would have a higher fat content than others."

Call to Measure Duration of Obesity
(BBC News, online, August 22, 2011)
"Experts say the health hazards of obesity may have been grossly underestimated because we are not measuring the condition adequately. Risk calculations have focused on severity of weight gain alone and not how long it persists…[while new] research suggests every additional decade of being obese more than doubles death risk…Similar to the 'pack-year' used for smoking…[the 'obese-year'] gives a further quantification that can be used to help estimate the associated health risks…Dr Asnawi Abdullah, from Monash University in Australia, and colleagues believe…that duration of obesity or 'obese-year' has a direct effect on death risk, independent of other factors like age or how severely overweight a person is…The researchers say this needs to be taken into consideration when assessing overweight patients."

Preaching a Healthy Diet in the Deep-Fried Delta
(The New York Times, August 21, 2011)
"Mississippi finds itself on the wrong end of just about every list of health indicators. It is first among states in percentage of children who are obese, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. It is first in rates of heart disease, second in the number of adults with diabetes, second in adult obesity, near last in the percentage of adults who participate in physical activity, near last in fruit and vegetable consumption and dead last in life expectancy. On almost all these scales, the Delta is the worst part of Mississippi. The state has fought this by putting healthier meals in schools, working with mayors to create parks and farmers’ markets and paying for public awareness campaigns. But the solution is not just a matter of telling people to live healthier, said Victor D. Sutton, director of preventive health for the Mississippi State Department of Health. The Delta is one of the poorest areas of the country, and its problems are deep and varied. The church is part of that whole equation."
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Human Trafficking & Sex Trade

UN Urges Asia to Enforce Human Trafficking Laws
(VOA News, online, August 19, 2011)
"[C]ountries of the Greater Mekong Sub-region including Thailand, Cambodia and Laos are failing to apply existing laws aimed at combating human trafficking. The conclusions come as a U.N. [United Nations] envoy on human trafficking concluded a 10-day assessment of Thailand's efforts to curb labor migration abuses. The U.N.'s Special Rapporteur on Human Trafficking, Joy Ezeilo, says countries need to adopt a comprehensive approach to combat trafficking and implement laws that are already on the books. Ezeilo said in Thailand, authorities have made 'significant progress' but officials are still not doing enough to protect irregular migrants and overcome corruption…After assessing Thailand's efforts to curb abuses, Ezeilo said the country remains a source, transit and destination country for trafficking."

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Malaria & Mosquito-Borne Disease

Scientists Target Mosquito-Borne Illnesses
(VOA News, online, August 24, 2011)
"Of all the disease-spreading insects in the world, the mosquito poses the greatest menace, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). As if to underscore that threat, two mosquito-borne viral diseases have begun to spread well beyond their points of origin. One is dengue fever, a potentially deadly illness, and the other is chikungunya, a debilitating and painful disease from which most people can recover. There are no vaccines to prevent these diseases. But researchers are working hard to develop vaccines against dengue fever and chikungunya, and to control the mosquitoes that spread them. Scientists have identified at least 3,000 different species of mosquitoes throughout the world. The Asian tiger mosquito is one that bites during the day."

Cameroon: SMS, Singers and Nets Against Malaria
(IRIN, United Nations, August 19, 2011)
"'It's 9pm. Are you and your family sleeping under a mosquito net?' That message -- delivered by government officials, artists and other personalities in Cameroon -- will run on private and state-run media each evening…as part of a nationwide media blitz accompanying the distribution of long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets. It will be welcome news to many Cameroonians who say they have seen the benefit of nets in preventing malaria but cannot afford them. In private pharmacies nets cost between 7,000 and 10,000 CFA francs (US$15-$20), depending on the size…Financed by The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria -- with additional support by the UN Foundation -- the programme is to supply one net per 2.2 people throughout Cameroon (population 19.4 million)…In preparation for the nationwide distribution, Cameroon's Health Ministry and partner organizations did a pilot delivery in three northern districts in 2010."

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Heart Health

Proper Diet Best Defence Against Bad Cholesterol: Study
(The Globe and Mail, Toronto, August 24, 2011)
"Eating less saturated fat -- found in meat, poultry and high fat dairy products – helps to lower LDL cholesterol. But according to a new Canadian study, you need to do more than slash saturated fat to control blood cholesterol. People whose diets included a combination of certain cholesterol-lowering foods saw their LDL cholesterol drop considerably more than those who followed a conventional low saturated fat diet. In fact, the low fat diet had little impact on blood cholesterol. Health professionals have always stressed the importance of diet as the primary way to improve cholesterol levels. However the introduction of statin drugs in the late 1980s highlighted the relative ineffectiveness of standard diet advice. As a result, researchers have been busy studying other foods and food components that could boost the cholesterol-lowering power of a low saturated fat diet."

Blood Pressure Guidelines Revised in England and Wales
(BBC News, online, August 24, 2011)
"Patients thought to have high blood pressure should have the diagnosis confirmed at home, according to new guidelines. Patients in England and Wales will be offered extra checks using a mobile device that records blood pressure over 24 hours…A quarter of patients may find visiting a GP stressful, leading to misdiagnosis and being given drugs they do not need…Research suggests, however, that about a quarter of patients actually have 'white coat' hypertension -- where blood pressure is raised temporarily due to stress. Now, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has advised doctors in England and Wales to move towards 'ambulatory' monitoring of patients at home, using a device that automatically takes blood pressure readings every 30 minutes day and night. Around one in 10 GPs are already offering ambulatory monitoring, either directly or by referring patients to a hospital specialist."

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Vaccination Initiatives

Back-to-School Can Mean Vaccines for Tweens, Teens
(The Associated Press, August 23, 2011)
"Older kids need a few new immunizations…Many slip through the cracks…[since] Schools don't require adolescents to comply with a list of national vaccine recommendations like they do kindergarteners…But when it comes to whooping cough, a growing number of states are requiring updated shots as students enter middle school and beyond. A new California law requires a staggering 3 million students to show proof they're protected as they head back to class…Young children get vaccinated before kindergarten but that protection wears off, and pertussis outbreaks in middle or high school no longer are rare…Last year was especially bad for whooping cough, with more than 21,000 U.S. cases…California was hard hit…The new California law aims to ensure everyone entering seventh through 12th grade got a booster at some point. Before the law, about half those students were estimated to be unprotected, says Dr. John Talarico of the California Department of Public Health."

Measles Epidemic Continues to Spread in Horn of Africa
(VOA News, online, August 19, 2011)
"United Nations [U.N.] aid agencies report measles is continuing to spread at an alarming rate throughout drought-stricken Horn of Africa. Aid agencies are conducting vaccination campaigns in drought-affected countries to immunize millions of children against this killer disease and to try to contain its spread. More than 12 million people…are affected by the worst drought to hit the Horn of Africa in 60 years. Somalia, which is struggling with both drought and famine, is…bearing the brunt of the measles epidemic…WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic says the number of cases this year is several times higher than during the same period over the last two years. 'The major factors for a measles outbreak in Somalia are low coverage, malnutrition, population movements, and overcrowded internally displaced camps,' he said…As a response to the measles outbreak, WHO, the U.N. Children’s Fund and partners have started an emergency vaccination campaign in all accessible areas of South and Central Somalia, which is under the control of…militants."

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Food & Consumer Safety

On Food Safety, a Long List but Little Money
(The New York Times, August 22, 2011)
"The landmark food safety law passed by Congress last December is supposed to reduce the frequency and severity of food safety problems, but the roll call of recent cases underlines the magnitude of the task…The agency is taking on the expanded mission at a time when Washington budget-slashing means that regulators have little hope of getting additional money and may instead have their budgets cut by Congress…The agency is now in the process of writing the food safety rules called for by the law, with the goal of preventing outbreaks like those this summer. (The nation’s meat and poultry supply was already regulated by the Agriculture Department and is unaffected by the new law.) One of the most complex jobs involves setting standards for farmers to grow and harvest fruits and vegetables safely."
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How Safe Is Tobacco That Melts In Your Mouth?
(TIME.com, August 19, 2011)
"Big name tobacco brands are ramping up their presence in the dissolvable tobacco game…In early 2011, in Colorado and North Carolina, R.J. Reynolds began test-marketing…tobacco compressed into toothpicks, mints and strips that dissolve in your mouth. Unlike cigarettes, they produce no smoke, and unlike smokeless tobacco, you don't have to spit when you use them. Aimed at adult smokers who want a nicotine kick in cigarette-free zones…the Colorado Department of Public Health held a hearing to discuss the problem of who might want them: namely, kids and teens...However, R.J. Reynolds says the products are made for and marketed to adults and will be sold in convenience stores and smoke shops right alongside other tobacco products, with the same age restrictions and health warnings…Some advocates for 'harm reduction'…typically view such products as a lesser evil -- better, at least, than smoking."

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Mental Health & Well-Being

U.K.: One in 10 Suicides Linked to Chronic Illness, Study Finds
(The Guardian, London, August 23, 2011)
"At least one person takes their life every day while suffering from a chronic or terminal illness, and the government is neglecting this hidden trend, the thinktank Demos has said…the study marked the first attempt to estimate the scale of suicides related to illness, wanted to challenge the notion that taking one's own life is largely about a patient's mental health rather than physical state…The figures come from a mixture of sources, including data from freedom of information requests to 147 primary care trusts, which are supposed to conduct annual suicide audits…The researchers said patients with such conditions 'should be considered a high- risk group for suicide within national policy, and much greater attention should be given to providing better medical, practical and psychological support.' The issue has become a fixture in public debate as growing numbers of UK citizens with chronic or terminal conditions have travelled to…Switzerland to be helped to end their lives."
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Philosophical Counselors Rely on Eternal Wisdom of Great Thinkers

(The Washington Post, August 22, 2011)
"Philosophical counselors are becoming increasingly popular at a time when Americans are taking more antidepressants than ever before. According to a [recent] study…non-psychiatrists are increasingly prescribing drugs for patients who haven’t even gotten a diagnosis of mental illness…Unlike a visit to a conventional psychologist or psychotherapist…The therapy is not covered by health insurance…Philosophical counselors say they immediately refer any client with clinical depression or suicidal thoughts to psychiatrists, fearing lawsuits if they make a mistake by prescribing Kierkegaard to a client who really needs Klonopin. The field is still in its early stages. There are about 300 philosophical counselors...are certified by the American Philosophical Practitioners Association, along with another 600 who practice but are not certified."
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Cancer

Australia: Cancer Patients in Denial Over Poor Lifestyle Choices
(The Sydney Morning Herald, August 22, 2011)
"Cancer patients are in collective denial, attributing to stress, genetics or other factors beyond their control diseases more likely to be triggered by lifestyle choices such as obesity or smoking, the first Australian study into the question has found. Smoking was mentioned less than half as often as stress among possible causes, even though there is little evidence linking psychological stress with cancer. The Cancer Council NSW surveyed nearly 3000 people in the state, all of whom had received a cancer diagnosis at some time within the previous 18 months…Smoking was mentioned by only 6 per cent of people, and poor diet by 5 per cent, while lack of exercise was nominated by fewer than 2 per cent of the respondents -- in contrast with Australian Institute of Health and Welfare analysis which suggests lifestyle factors account for 33 per cent of cancer cases."

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Substance Abuse & Policy

U.K.: 'Disaster' Looms Over Addiction to Painkillers
(The Independent, London, August 25, 2011)
"They are the most powerful painkillers that family doctors have at their disposal, and as the queue of patients suffering from chronic pain grows longer doctors have been handing them out in greater numbers. A review by the National Treatment Agency for Substance Abuse…found a six-fold increase in the prescribing of opioid analgesics by GPs from 228 million items in 1991 to 1.38bn items in 2009…Chronic pain caused by injury or disease has been poorly treated in the past and specialists acknowledge the growing use of powerful painkillers is a sign of a more compassionate society, prepared to dispense comfort to those in need. But there is a risk, as doses rise and dependence grows, that the dangers outweigh the benefits."

Related graphic:
Comparing the Painkillers
(The Independent, London)

Related opinion:
Leading Article: The Dark Side of Prescription Drugs
(The Independent, London, August 25, 2011)

Florida: Pharmacies Prepare for New Prescription Drug Database
(St. Petersburg Times, Florida, August 23, 2011)
"Less than two weeks before the launch of the state's much-anticipated prescription drug monitoring program, pharmacists and others are scrambling to get ready to meet the requirements of the law…On Sept. 1…medical practitioners…will be required to report information about the controlled substances they dispense into a statewide database. They'll have to report who received the drug, how much they received, how they paid for it and who prescribed it, among other things. The database is intended to help doctors spot the drug abusers, and help law enforcement officers catch them. Much is riding on its success. Lawmakers, doctors and police see the database as a key tool in the state's fight against a prescription drug abuse epidemic that kills an average of seven people a day, and is getting worse. Data [recently] released…showed a 9 percent increase in prescription drug deaths from 2009 to 2010."

U.S.: College Drinking Is Liberating, and a Good Excuse
(USA Today, August 22, 2011)
"Colleges trying to stem the tide of student drinking have focused on the evils of intoxication and all the trouble that can ensue when students drink too much. But new psychological research suggests that the downsides of excessive drinking aren't bad enough to make students stop. 'They intend to get intoxicated,' says psychologist E. Scott Geller, director of the Center for Applied Behavior Systems at Virginia Tech…[adding] 'If they intend to get drunk, it's difficult to stop that'…Researchers even tried using Breathalyzers at parties and bars to show students their blood alcohol content. 'It actually encouraged them to drink more,' says Geller, whose research team presented findings earlier this month at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in Washington, D.C."
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Big Pharma

NIH Finalizes Financial Conflict of Interest Rules
(The Washington Post, August 23, 2011)
"The National Institutes of Health [NIH] has finalized rules to reduce financial conflicts of interests among federally funded researchers who also receive payments or stock from drug and medical device companies. The rules, which will affect more than 40,000 researchers, come after a string of high profile cases in which federally funded researchers failed to disclose millions of dollars from companies with a financial interest in the outcome of their work. Researchers who receive more than $5,000 in income from drug or device companies must disclose the payments. Universities or other institutions employing the researchers must collect the data and provide for public access to it…As before, violations may be punished by suspension or termination of research funding."
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Injury Risk & Occupational Health

U.S.: 5,000 Kids Injured in Falls from Windows Each Year
(The Associated Press, August 22, 2011)
"More than 5,000 U.S. children and teens are injured each year in falls from windows, according to a study that suggests the problem stretches beyond urban high-rises…The study…is the first nationally representative study of such injuries. Researchers analyzed data from emergency departments from 1990 through 2008. An estimated 98,415 children were hurt during that time. Fewer than 1 percent of the cases led to deaths, but the researchers said the tally likely underestimated fatalities because not all children who die from their injuries are brought to the hospital."

China: Records to Be Kept for Workers in Risky Jobs
(China Daily, August 19, 2011)
"Chinese employers are being required to keep health records for employees who are exposed to health hazards at their workplaces, according to a directive issued by the State Administration of Work Safety. The health records will contain the results of physical examinations workers will undergo at the beginning of a job, during the terms of their contracts and after those contracts expire. They will play an important role in settling disputes pertaining to occupational dangers. The directive…also called on work safety authorities to investigate all serious accidents that are caused by workplace dangers…Local governments will shut down manufacturers of wood furniture, asbestos products and quartz sand, as well as asbestos mines, if those operations fail to meet the health requirements."

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Aid & Development

How Ghana Improved Maternal Health Care With International Aid
(Ghana Business News, August 25, 2011)
"In 2009, Ghana’s Minister of Health…said the government [spent]…almost the entire budget for the health sector [on treating malaria]…The British government intervened [in 2008] by providing funds…to provide free maternal health care for women…aimed at reducing the country’s maternal mortality ratio…the World Bank funded the National Health Insurance programme in 2006…More than half of Ghana’s population is now covered…[and] 70 percent of the insured, including children and pregnant women, are exempt from paying premiums. The 2009 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) shows at least 90 percent of pregnant women use antenatal care services, and births attended by skilled health staff rose…data shows that Ghana has made tremendous strides in curtailing maternal and child mortality…These achievements couldn’t have been possible without international assistance, looking at the fact that other areas within the health sector are competing for scarce resources."

Nepal: Resource Gap of Rs 451B Threatens MDGs Achievement
(Republica, Nepal, August 24, 2011)
"Even though the government has long been boasting that Nepal is on track of achieving most targets set under Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a latest study says Nepal is likely to miss the targets, particularly related to hunger, employment, gender balance, environment and reproductive health. Worse still…the country suffers from a resource gap…over the last 5 years of the MDGs period. This further slims the country´s chances of achieving the goals by 2015. Nepal is on track to achieve goals like universal primary education, rise in household income, improvement in child health and maternal health…The report also urges the government to improve aid effectiveness to garner more support from the global funds for implementing necessary policy intervention. Presenting the report, Dr Govinda Nepal, leader of the team that prepared the report, stressed on the need to focus on small farmers, food security, employment creation, nutrition, maternal health and environment."

Global Fund Lifts China Grant Freeze
(The Associated Press, August 23, 2011)
"The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria…is lifting the freeze on funding to China to ensure AIDS work in the country continues while it works with government officials, representatives from United Nations' agencies and private groups to resolve the dispute…Critics have said that by competing with poorer developing countries for Global Fund grants, China is effectively robbing the poor. Since 2003, the Global Fund has disbursed $570 million in grants to China. The Global Fund did not provide details about what the Chinese government has done to meet the demands of the fund before the decision to lift the freeze was made. But in the months since the freeze, China's Health Ministry has issued statements acknowledging the contributions of China's independent health groups."

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Research Round-Up

Climate Cycles Linked to Civil War, Analysis Shows

(The Guardian, London, online, August 23, 2011)
"Cyclical climatic changes double the risk of civil wars, with analysis showing that 50 of 250 conflicts between 1950 and 2004 were triggered by the El Niño cycle, according to scientists. Researchers connected the climate phenomenon known as El Niño, which brings hot and dry conditions to tropical nations and cuts food production, to outbreaks of violence in countries from southern Sudan to Indonesia and Peru. Solomon Hsiang, who led the research at Columbia University, New York…said that pre-emptive action could prevent bloodshed because El Niño events could be predicted up to two years ahead…The scientists are beginning work to discover the factors involved in the climate-conflict link. Food is likely to be key as crop yields and incomes from agriculture are known to fall heavily in El Niño years…Other factors could include rises in unemployment and natural disasters, such as hurricanes."
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Cause of ALS Is Found, Northwestern Team Says
(Chicago Tribune, August 22, 2011)
"Researchers at Northwestern University say they have discovered a common cause behind the mysterious and deadly affliction of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease…Dr. Teepu Siddique, a neuroscientist with Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine whose pioneering work…fueled the research team's work, said the key to the breakthrough is the discovery of an underlying disease process for all types of ALS. The discovery provides an opening to finding treatments for ALS and could also pay dividends by showing the way to treatments for other, more common neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, dementia and Parkinson's, Siddique said…'This is the first time we could connect (ALS) to a clear-cut biomedical mechanism…We can now test for drugs that would regulate this protein pathway or optimize it, so it functions as it should in a normal state.'"
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Australia

Indigenous Population Still Falling Through Gap
(The Sydney Morning Herald, August 25, 2011)
"Incidences of indigenous imprisonment, child abuse and chronic disease continue to rise…The latest trend data assembled in a report…The indigenous imprisonment rate for men rose 35 per cent in the decade to 2010; the rate for women jumped 59 per cent…The rate of substantiated child abuse in indigenous families more than doubled over the decade to 2009-10, a period which saw such abuse among other Australians climb 25 per cent…Aborigines remain twice as likely as others to suffer a severe disability, a gap that remained unchanged over the six years to 2008. The gap in hospitalisation rates for most chronic diseases was also unchanged, except for heart disease, diabetes and end-stage renal disease, where the gap grew."

North America

Canadians Want Health Charter to Guarantee Quality and Timeliness
(The Globe and Mail, Toronto, August 21, 2011)
"The time has come for a 'patient health charter' that clearly spells out the state’s obligation to deliver timely, quality health care -- one with a complaint mechanism that provides redress when medicare fails to live up to expectations. That is the message that emerges from a new public-opinion survey commissioned by the Canadian Medical Association…Sholom Glouberman, president of the Patients’ Association of Canada, cautioned, however, that the idea of a patient charter has been around for a long time and it’s just a stop-gap measure, 'Everyone who has been in the health system recognizes there needs to be change...But we need more than care guarantees. We need a fundamental shift from our current acute-care system to a chronic-care system'…The poll, conducted in early July by Ipsos Reid, surveyed 3,052 adults by phone and online."
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U.S.: An e-Ripoff of the U.S.
(Los Angeles Times, August 21, 2011)
"Around the country, a never-ending stream of Medicare and Medicaid rip-off stories suggest many people now use these programs as personal tills…What makes these healthcare programs so vulnerable to fake billings and at such a scale? It's not so much the healthcare policy itself, nor the program design; the vulnerability stems from the payment mechanism the government has chosen to use. Most Medicare and Medicaid funds are paid out electronically and automatically, in response to electronic claims received from a vast spectrum of providers. Most claims are adjudicated by computers using rule-based systems, with no human intervention at all."
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