Wednesday, May 7th, 2014
American mothers are more likely to die during childbirth than they were twenty years ago, data released by the World Health Organization shows–but globally, maternal death rates have fallen by almost half in the same period of time. Reuters has more:
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The WHO tracks maternal mortality as one of the “Millennium Development Goals” that the United Nations set for 2015. Death rates have fallen by 45 percent globally since 1990, to an estimated 289,000 women in 2013.
Giving birth in the United States remains far safer than in most countries, with only 28 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2013. But that is 136 percent higher than the 1990 mortality rate, when only 12 mothers died for every 100,000 births, the data showed.
No other country recorded such a large percentage increase, although a few other rich countries also failed to keep maternal mortality in check. In Canada, deaths rose from 6 to 11 per 100,000 births between 1990 and 2013. Many European countries and Japan have mortality rates in single figures.
China has cut its rate by two-thirds since 1990, with 32 women dying for every 100,000 live births in 2013.
WHO experts said the increase in the U.S. mortality rate may be a statistical blip. Or it might be due to increased risks from obesity, diabetes and older women giving birth.
Marleen Temmerman, the director of reproductive health and research at WHO, said more analysis was needed.
Tuesday, May 6th, 2014
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared polio to be an international health emergency, with ten countries affected by documented outbreak and spreading of the disease. More from Time.com:
Especially concerning was the fact that three countries—Pakistan, Syria, and Cameroon—showed higher rates of transmission of wild polio virus to other nations even during the disease’s more dormant period. That raises the possibility that when the virus becomes more active, from April into the summer, transmission rates will peak even more. “If the situation as of today and April 2014 is unchecked, it could result in the failure to eradicate globally one of the world’s most serious vaccine preventable diseases,” Dr. Bruce Ayleward, WHO’s assistant director general for polio, emergencies and country collaboration said during a conference call.
The emergency measures require that residents in the three countries actively exporting polio virus receive a dose of either of the two polio vaccines four weeks-to-12 months before traveling, and that they be provided with proof of their immunization. The remaining seven affected countries are encouraged, but not required, to do the same. The WHO recommended these measures remain in place until countries show no new transmission of polio for six months and evidence of eradication efforts, including immunization programs. While not legally binding, the cooperation of affected countries is expected, Ayleward said. The WHO’s action may also help governments to make polio immunization a priority; in 2009, a similar declaration during the H1N1 pandemic allowed nations to prioritize health care services to protect and treat patients affected by the flu.
Health officials have been getting closer to making polio the second disease, after smallpox, to be eradicated by vaccinating children in countries where the wild virus continues to circulate. But social unrest and political conflict have interrupted immunization programs—some health workers have become targets of violence in Pakistan, for example, while growing populations of displaced residents such as refugees who are without access to health care services also provide fertile conditions for the virus to spread. Seven of the 10 countries now reporting wild polio virus have been successful at eliminating the disease in the past, but have been reinfected in recent years.
Download our free pocket guide to keep track of your little one’s vaccination schedule.
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Monday, March 24th, 2014
The World Health Organization estimates nearly 1 million kids are affected with TB every year, and many cases go unreported. About 32,000 of those cases involve a “superbug,” or drug-resistant strain that is especially dangerous. The treatment of TB is easier in children, but harder to diagnose because kids present symptoms differently than in adults. More from Time.com:
Tuberculosis infects about 1 million children each year, much more than previously thought, and scientists estimate that about 32,000 of them are infected with an especially dangerous and drug-resistant type.
In a report published the journal the Lancet on World Tuberculosis Day, researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Division of Global Health Equity report what is the first clear picture of the number of children with tuberculosis (TB) worldwide.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that half a million people caught drug-resistant “superbug” strains of TB in 2012, and that about 2 million people could contract it by 2015. The researchers went through several databases to determine a more accurate number of children with TB, since the disease in kids is known to be underreported.
“What we found was that whereas previous estimates for the total number of TB cases in kids were about half a million, when you account for (underreporting) in your estimates, it’s more like 1 million children develop active TB disease every year,” study author Helen Jenkins of Brigham and Women’s Hospital told Reuters.
It’s important to diagnose TB and its drug-sensitive strain in kids because it’s easier to treat them than adults. But TB is especially hard to diagnose in kids because it presents itself differently in children than adults, Reuters reports. The disease is caused by bacteria that spreads through the air and attacks the lungs. Kids are more likely to have TB present in other parts of the body besides the lungs.
Is your child too sick to go to school? Take our quiz to find out!
Image: Open hand raised, Stop TB (Tuberculosis) sign painted via ShutterStock
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Friday, November 15th, 2013
An Argentine car mechanic has developed a device to help deliver babies who are trapped inside the birth canal–and the World Health Organization has taken notice and endorsed the product, and an American medical technology company has licensed it for production. More from The New York Times:
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Mr. [Jorge] Odón, 59, an Argentine car mechanic, built his first prototype in his kitchen, using a glass jar for a womb, his daughter’s doll for the trapped baby, and a fabric bag and sleeve sewn by his wife as his lifesaving device.
Unlikely as it seems, the idea that took shape on his counter has won the enthusiastic endorsement of the World Health Organization and major donors, and an American medical technology company has just licensed it for production.
With the Odón Device, an attendant slips a plastic bag inside a lubricated plastic sleeve around the head, inflates it to grip the head and pulls the bag until the baby emerges.
Doctors say it has enormous potential to save babies in poor countries, and perhaps to reduce cesarean section births in rich ones.
“This is very exciting,” said Dr. Mario Merialdi, the W.H.O.’s chief coordinator for improving maternal and perinatal health and an early champion of the Odón Device. “This critical moment of life is one in which there’s been very little advancement for years.”
Tuesday, October 16th, 2012
Nestle and General Mills, which are part of a parent company called Cereal Partners Worldwide and the second-largest cereal producers in the world, have announced a massive new plan to cut the amount of salt and sugar in their cereals…outside of the United States and Canada.
Twenty cereal brands popular with children and teenagers will be part of the initiative, as the companies pledge to cut 24 percent of the sugar and 12 percent of the salt in the products, Reuters reports. The move follows a 2003 program in which the companies increased the nutritional profile of their cereals, including making large cuts in salt and sugar. From Reuters:
CPW Chief Executive Jeffrey Harmening said the plan builds on efforts started in 2003 to improve the nutritional profile of cereals. The group has cut almost 900 tonnes of salt and more than 9,000 tonnes of sugar from its recipes since then.
“A certain number of moms don’t want their kids to have as much sugar as they do right now, so that is a barrier for some to purchasing breakfast cereal,” Harmening told Reuters at CPW’s new global innovation centre in the Swiss town of Orbe.
The move comes as food and beverage companies seek to preempt tougher regulation due to the global obesity epidemic by offering healthier products or smaller portions.
The World Health Organisation estimated there were over 42 million overweight children under the age of five in 2010. It says obesity in Europe is already responsible for up to 8 percent of health costs and up to 13 percent of deaths.
Image: Cereal, via Shutterstock
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