global health

"An epidemic is one of the few catastrophes that could set the world back drastically in the next few decades," Bill Gates warns in an essay he wrote for the March 18 edition of The New England Journal of Medicine.

In the article, titled "The Next Epidemic — Lessons From Ebola," he says the Ebola epidemic is a "wake-up call."

As the Ebola epidemic in West Africa slows and falls from the headlines, there is a temptation among many to view this outbreak as an isolated event. In fact, the opposite is true. Ebola is the tip of a global health crisis: a crisis in our collective ability to deliver the essentials of modern medicine to those who need help the most, in the most timely and efficient manner.

It started in December 2013. A 2-year-old boy in Guinea was running a fever. He was vomiting. There was blood in his stool.

He was most likely "patient zero" — the first case in the Ebola outbreak that swept across West Africa.

Malaria is one of the oldest scourges of mankind. Yet it's been a mystery how the deadliest form of the disease kills children.

One doctor in Michigan has dedicated her life to figuring that out. Now she and her team report their findings in this week's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. The key to solving the mystery was looking inside the brain.

KUOW Photo/Isolde Raftery

Marcie Sillman speaks with Patricia Coffey and Maggie Kilbourne-Brook, both of the Seattle-based global health nonprofit PATH, about the Caya countoured diaphragm, also known as the SILCS diaphragm, which was recently approved by the FDA.

A new study finds a disturbing trend in the battle against malaria. There are highly effective drugs called artemisinins — and now resistant malaria is turning up in parts of Myanmar, the reclusive country also known as Burma, where it hadn't been seen before.

Facebook Photo/Fight Fistula

Ross Reynolds interviews Carolyn Anderman, director of international programs for One By One, a Seattle-based group helping women in Africa recover from a devastating birth complication called obstetric fistula.  Affected women are often shunned in their communities for a condition that can be fixed with a $500 operation.

Courtesy Shana Greene

Jeannie Yandel talks with Village Volunteers founder Shana Greene about creating biodegradable sanitary pads out of water hyacinth for women who don't have reliable access to menstrual supplies.

One day in the summer of 2013, 25-year-old Seteng Horo found herself on a bus to the nearest public hospital, about four hours away from her remote village in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand. It's not a trip she can afford to take often — buses are infrequent, the journey is long and the cost of about a dollar roundtrip is not insignificant. But she had no choice. She was running a temperature and had been bleeding for days. The reason: an unsafe abortion performed by a village midwife.

NPR's Jason Beaubien is in Kailahun, Sierra Leone, covering the Ebola outbreak that began in March in Guinea and has spread to neighboring countries. This morning, he talked with us about a controversial burial, the impact of the "no touching" recommendation — and a sign of hope.

Flickr Photo/Jon Rawlinson (Cc-BY-NC-ND)

David Hyde talks with Mitchell Warren about the breakthroughs and challenges of HIV prevention over the last 30 years. Warren is the executive director of AVAC, an international non-governmental organization that works on HIV prevention.

Warren said that one of the greatest breakthroughs in HIV-AIDS prevention was the rise of the citizen activism that pushed for funding, creativity and urgency in research. "AIDS really changed how research happened," he said. "Science changed because communities ‘acted up.’"

As countries modernize around the world, they're increasingly being hit with one of the curses of wealth: cancer.

There are about 14 million new cancer cases globally each year, the World Health Organization reported Monday. And the trend is only getting worse.

The global burden of cancer will grow by 70 percent over the next two decades, the WHO predicts, with an estimated 22 million new cases and 13 million deaths each year by 2032.

Wiping out malaria is a top goal for many leaders in global health.

Fewer people are dying now from the mosquito-borne disease than at any other time in history. "And there's a very, very strong belief now that malaria can be eliminated," says Joy Phumaphi, who chairs the African Leaders Malaria Alliance.

But when you look at the overall numbers on malaria, eradication almost seems like a pipe dream.

Susan Desmond-Hellmann, the chancellor of the University of California, San Francisco, will be next chief executive officer of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the largest philanthropic organizations in the world with a $40 billion endowment.

The AP reports that the foundation has been looking for a CEO since Jeff Raikes announced his retirement in September.

Flickr Photo/Sanofi Pasteur

Ross Reynolds talks with Dr. Kathy Neuzil about a vaccine for the deadly brain disease Japanese encephalitis that has been recently approved by the World Health Organization. Neuzil is a professor in the University of Washington's Department of Global Health and the director of the Vaccine Access and Delivery Program at Seattle's PATH, where the vaccine was tested.

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