global health

Imagine a town crier walking down the street outside shouting through his bullhorn: "All of the young people should go get the new meningitis A vaccine." And adding that it's free.

That's one of the ways that health practitioners are combating what they call "vaccine hesitancy" — refusing a vaccine when it is offered or available.

It's a topic that has made headlines this year, when an outbreak of measles focused attention on U.S. parents who'd not vaccinated their kids, fearing unproven side effects.

When an email arrived the other day promoting an "Interfaith Service Focused on Below the Belt Cancers," I was intrigued.

It turns out Thursday, June 18, is the start of the third "Globe-athon to End Women's Cancers." To kickoff this continuing campaign, there will be two days of events in New York City dedicated to making people more aware of the cancers that strike more than 1 million women a year and figuring out the best strategies for diagnosis and treatment.

In September, the U.N. will vote to adopt 17 Sustainable Development Goals (aka SDGs). They cover issues like poverty, health and climate change. The idea is to encourage the 192 U.N. member states to establish policies that will make the world a better place over the next 15 years.

At least one SDG is turning out to be a bit controversial.

This particular goal calls for a reduction in "premature mortality" from non-communicable diseases like cancer, stroke and dementia by half in people younger than 50 and by a third among people from 50 to 69.

So what does it mean to be hungry?

That's a question that occurred to us as we read some encouraging news: The world isn't as hungry as it used to be.

A U.N. report has noted that 795 million people were hungry in the year 2014. That's a mind-boggling number. But in fact it's 200 million lower than the estimated 1 billion hungry people in 1990.

The improvement is especially impressive because the world population has gone up by around 2 billion since the '90s.

"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.’"

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