n/a World Health Day: focus on making hospitals safe in emergencies
7 APRIL 2009 | GENEVA/BEIJING -- WHO is today celebrating World Health Day by focusing attention on the large numbers of lives that can be saved during earthquakes, floods, conflicts and other emergencies through better design and construction of health facilities and by preparing and training health staff.
WHO is recommending six core actions that governments, public health authorities and hospital managers can undertake to make their health facilities safe during emergencies. These include training health workers, designing and building safe hospitals, retrofitting existing health facilities to make them more resilient and ensuring staff and supplies are secure.
"With our world threatened by the harmful effects of climate change, more frequent extreme weather events and armed conflicts, it is crucial that we all do more to ensure that health care is available at all times to our citizens, before, during, or after a disaster," said WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan.
The six steps that governments, public health authorities and others who operate hospitals and health care facilities can take are to:
assess the safety of hospitals;
protect and train health workers for emergencies;
plan for emergency response;
design and build resilient hospitals;
adopt national policies and programmes for safe hospitals; and
protect equipment, medicines and supplies.
Too often, health facilities are the first casualties of emergencies. This means that health workers are killed and wounded, that services are not available to treat survivors and that large investments of valuable health funding in health facility construction and equipment are squandered.
World Health Day is being launched in China this year, where an earthquake in May 2008 killed over 87 000 people and destroyed more than 11 000 health care facilities.
Relatively inexpensive investments in infrastructure can save lives during disasters. Some countries have taken action to improve safety of health facility, and their preparedness and response to emergencies.
In earthquake-prone countries such as Japan, Pakistan and Peru, hospitals have been built using efficient building standards that cause little additional costs and can withstand earthquakes.
In Mexico, a Hospital Safety Index has been applied to over 100 health facilities, enabling authorities to determine which facilities are safe and which require improvements.
In Bangladesh, which regularly is battered by strong cyclones, the government has invested in safely-built facilities for health, education, and other services that shelter and protect communities. These can withstand flooding, and save thousands of lives, as when Cyclone Sidr struck in November 2007.
In areas affected by conflicts, hospitals and clinics should be allowed to function by all parties in line with international humanitarian law.
Infectious disease outbreaks are another form of public health emergency that staff should be trained for.
WHO is urging all ministries of health to review the safety of existing health facilities and to ensure that any new facilities are built with safety in mind. Practical and effective low-cost measures such as protecting equipment, developing emergency preparedness plans and training staff can help make health facilities safer, better prepared and more functional in emergencies
Dr Eric Laroche, WHO Assistant Director-General for Health Action in Crises, said untold lives can be saved if health systems were better protected from emergencies. "The most expensive health facility is the one that fails, both in human and financial terms," Dr Laroche said. "We know we can do more to prevent our hospitals and clinics falling victim to emergencies. The time has come for action."
For more information please contact:
Communication Officer, Health Action in Crises
Mobile: +41 79 475 5546
Coordinator, Health Action in Crises
Mobile: +41 79 61 98 528
Telephone: +41 22 791 4473
Mobile: +41 79 516 4756
Telephone: +41 22 791 5412
Telephone: +41 22 791 32 28
24/03/2009 World TB Day
24 March 2009
World TB Day raises awareness about the global epidemic of tuberculosis (TB) and efforts to eliminate the disease. One-third of the world's population is currently infected with TB. The Stop TB Partnership, a network of organizations and countries fighting TB, organizes the Day to highlight the scope of the disease and how to prevent and cure it.
The annual event on 24 March marks the day in 1882 when Dr Robert Koch detected the cause of tuberculosis, the TB bacillus. This was a first step towards diagnosing and curing tuberculosis. WHO is working to cut TB prevalence rates and deaths by half by 2015.
13/03/2009 Access to medicines
WHO considers equitable access to safe and affordable medicines as vital to the attainment of the highest possible standard of health by all. WHO Member States reaffirmed their commitment to these principles in May 2008, with the adoption of a resolution on the "Global strategy and plan of action on public health, innovation and intellectual property" (WHA61.21). Among other important objectives, the resolution expressed Member States' commitment to improving the delivery of and access to all health products and medical devices by effectively overcoming barriers to access.
In this context, the recent events related to the handling of medicines in transit and the potential consequences for the supply of medicines in developing countries are of major concern to the organization. This issue has been raised in the meeting of the WHO Executive Board in January 2009 and was a subject of discussion in the recent WTO TRIPS Council.
In relation to this issue, WHO is continuing to follow developments and consulting with Member States and relevant international intergovernmental organizations. WHO also understands that there is ongoing dialogue among the parties concerned to resolve the matter. Given the public health impact of this issue, WHO remains ready to provide, upon request, technical and policy support to Member States.
Ensuring that the interests of trade and health are appropriately managed, also means that the flow of legitimate medicines, including generic medicines, is not impeded.
25/02/2009 Drug resistance could set back malaria control success
US$ 22.5 million grant from Gates Foundation to contain malaria parasites resistant to artemisinin
25 FEBRUARY 2009 | GENEVA -- WHO today said that the emergence of parasites resistant to artemisinin at the Thai-Cambodia border could seriously undermine the success of the global malaria control efforts.
Surveillance systems and research studies supported by WHO to monitor antimalarial drug efficacy in countries are providing new evidence that parasites resistant to artemisinin have emerged along the border between Cambodia and Thailand. If local people, who walk for miles every day to clear forests, were infected with a drug-resistant form of malaria, it could set back recent successes to control the disease.
Huge strides have been made in the past 10 years to reduce the burden of malaria, one of the world's major killer diseases. Strong malaria control programmes have helped to lower infection rates in several countries. The recent shift from failing drugs to the highly effective artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) has been a breakthrough. Appropriate treatment with ACTs succeeds in more than 90% of cases. But malaria drug resistance now emerging along the Thai-Cambodia border threatens these gains.
With a US$ 22.5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, WHO will endeavour to contain artemisinin-resistant malaria parasites before they spread. WHO will work in collaboration with several key partners including the National Center for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control of the Cambodian Ministry of Health, Bureau of Vector-Borne Disease of the Thai Ministry of Public Health, Faculty of Tropical Medicine of Mahidol University Bangkok, Institut Pasteur Cambodia, Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit, Bangkok and the Malaria Consortium.
"If we do not put a stop to the drug-resistant malaria situation that has been documented in the Thai-Cambodia border, it could spread rapidly to neighbouring countries and threaten our efforts to control this deadly disease," said Dr Hiroki Nakatani, Assistant Director-General of WHO.
Resistance along the Thai-Cambodia border started with chloroquine, followed by resistance to sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine and mefloquine, drugs used in malaria control several years ago.
Malaria poses a risk to half of the world's population and more than one million people die of the disease each year. The malaria map, or the area where it is prevalent, has been reduced considerably over the past 50 years, but the disease has defied elimination in areas of intense transmission.
Obstacles to malaria control include drug resistance in the parasite that causes the disease, as well as resistance of the vector mosquito to insecticides, environmental factors and counterfeit medicines. The likelihood of drug resistance is increased with the use of single-drug therapies for malaria, especially monotherapies of artemisinin and its derivatives. Monotherapy fosters resistance because it is easier for the parasite to adapt and eventually overcome the obstacles presented by a single drug than a combination of drugs delivered together. This makes it crucial for monotherapies to be removed from the market. WHO's treatment policy is to treat all cases of uncomplicated falciparum malaria with artemisinin combination therapy (ACTs).
"We know that malaria can be treated and prevented," said Dr Regina Rabinovich, Director of Infectious Diseases Development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, "and if we lose the key treatment available at this time, it's like living in a house with a half a roof."
The grant will be used to meet the following key objectives:
eliminate artemisinin-tolerant parasites by detecting all malaria cases in target areas and ensuring effective treatment;
reduce exposure of the parasites to artemisinin to limit emergence of resistance;
prevent transmission of artemisinin-tolerant malaria parasites through mosquito control and personal protection;
limit the spread of artemisinin-tolerant malaria parasites by mobile populations;
support the containment and elimination of artemisinin-tolerant parasites through comprehensive behaviour change, communication, community mobilization and advocacy;
undertake basic and operational research to fill knowledge gaps and ensure that strategies applied are evidence-based; and
provide effective management, surveillance and coordination to enable a rapid and high-quality implementation of the strategy.
For more information please contact:
News Team Leader
Department of Communications
Telephone: +41 22 791 1492
Mobile: +41 79 475 5534
Global Malaria Programme
Telephone: +41 22 791 2339
Mobile: +41 79 500 6549
n/a World Cancer Day
4 February 2009
Cancer is a leading cause of death around the world. WHO estimates that 84 million people will die of cancer between 2005 and 2015 without intervention.
Each year on 4 February, WHO joins with the sponsoring International Union Against Cancer to promote ways to ease the global burden of cancer. Preventing cancer and raising quality of life for cancer patients are recurring themes.