Global Health Ideas

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Archive for the ‘Malaria’ Category

R&D Funding for Global Health Diseases

1. HIV/AIDS, TB, Malaria Account for 80% of Disease Funding in Developing Countries, Report Says
2. More funds needed for lesser known tropical diseases, Link

The above two headlines on global health funding flows and allocation caught my attention. The original study was published in PLoS Medicine. The article has some great figures (some of which I have reproduced below). A few things immediately stick out – the amount concentrated on HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria is astounding. Second the US is providing 70% of the funding and on the surface one could argue that other countries really could be pitching in more. On that note, the Gates Foundation by itself is out funding the European Commission almost 4 to 1 – if that isn’t embarrassing I don’t know what is. Finally, the US Department of Defense is high on the list (surpassing USAID). Interesting stuff:

“HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria initiatives accounted for about 80% of the $2.5 billion that was spent on research and drug development for developing countries in 2007… However, pneumonia and diarrheal illness, which are two major causes of mortality in developing countries, received less than 6% of funding.”


Original Sources:

  • PLoS Medicine – Neglected Disease Research and Development: How Much Are We Really Spending? Link
  • WHO Top 10 Causes of Death, Link

Google Flu Trends for developing countries?

A few days back Aman wrote a post about Google Flu Trends.  Thought I’d add a few thoughts here after reading the draft manuscript that the Google-CDC team posted in advance of its publication in Nature.

By the way, here’s what Nature says:  Because of the immediate public-health implications of this paper, Nature supports the Google and the CDC decision to release this information to the public in advance of a formal publication date for the research. The paper has been subjected to the usual rigor of peer review and is accepted in principle. Nature feels the public-health consideration here makes it appropriate to relax our embargo rule

Ginsberg J, Mohebbi MH, Patel RS, Brammer L, Smolinski MS, Brilliant L. Detecting influenza epidemics using search engine query data. Draft manuscript for Nature. Retrieved 14 Nov 2008.

Assuming that few folks will read the manuscript or the article, here’s some highlights.  I should say I appreciated that the article was clearly written.  If you need more context, check out Google Flu Trends How does this work?

  • Targets health-seeking behavior of Internet users, particularly Google users [not sure those are different anymore], in the United States for ILI (influenza-like illness)
  • Compared to previous work attempting to link online activity to disease prevalence, benefits from volume: hundreds of billions of searches over 5 years
  • Key result – reduced reporting lag to one day compared to CDC’s surveillance system of 1-2 weeks
  • Spatial resolution based on IP address goes to nearest big city [for example my current IP maps to Oakland, California right now], but the system is right now only looking to the level of states – this is more detailed CDC’s reporting, which is based on 9 U.S. regions
  • CDC data was used for model-building (linear logistic regression) as well as comparison [for stats nerds – the comparison was made with held-out data]
  • Not all states publish ILI data, but they were still able to achieve a correlation of 0.85 in Utah without training the model on that state’s data
  • There have attempted to look at disease outbreaks of enterics and arboviruses, but without success.
  • For those familiar with GPHIN and Healthmap, two other online , the major difference is in the data being examined – Flu Trends looks at search terms while the other systems rely on news sources, website, official alerts, and the such
  • There is a possibility that this will not model a flu pandemic well since the search behavior used for modeling is based on non-pandemic variety of flu 
  • The modeling effort was immense – “450 million different models to test each of the candidate queries”

So what does this mean for developing world applications?

Here’s what the authors say: “Though it may be possible for this approach to be applied to any country with a large population of web search users, we cannot currently provide accurate estimates for large parts of the developing world. Even within the developed world, small countries and less common languages may be challenging to accurately survey.”

The key is whether there are detectable changes in search in response to disease outbreaks.  This is dependent on Internet volume, health-seeking search behavior, and language.  And if there is no baseline data, like with CDC surveillance data, then what is the best strategy for model-building?  How valid will models be from one country to another?  That probably depends on the countries.  Is it perhaps possible to have a less refined output, something like a multi-level warning system for decision makers to followup with on-the-ground resources?  Or should we be focusing on news+ like GPHIN and Healthmap?

Another thought is that we could mine SMS traffic for detecting disease outbreaks.  The problem becomes more complicated, since we’re now looking at data that is much more complex than search queries.  And there is often segmentation due to the presence of multiple phone providers in one area.  Even if the data were anonymized, this raises huge privacy concerns.   Still it could be a way to tap in to areas with low Internet penetration and to provide detection based on very real-time data.

Beijing Olympic Cause Marketing & Global Health Ads

We previously mentioned the malaria ad sponsored by ExxonMobil during the Olympics. I have seen this several times now during coverage and said in the original post:

“with regard to ExxonMobil’s commercial on Malaria during prime time, when over 1 Billion people were watching, this might have been the largest audience ever for a global health ad.”

I realized after I said this that I probably made a major miscalculation. The NBC channel broadcast I have been watching is only produced for an American audience. The top estimates I have seen for viewership at a given time hit 66 million people. So while Exxon may have had their ad broadcast across countries and major national networks, it is likely that somewhere between tens and hundreds of millions of people saw their commercial – which is still an impressive number. Thanks to Responsible China I found the youtube version of this ad, which is below. In addition I have also seen GE’s portable re-designed low cost EKG machine advertised several times as well. Despite what you may think about these companies it is better than nothing to see MNC’s promoting social causes. We blogged about the EKG machine previously and the commercial is the first one below, followed by the malaria ad. For another check, definitely check out ResponsibleChina.

Written by Aman

August 23, 2008 at 7:23 am

Mosquirix – Promising New Vaccine for Global Health?

More than 12 years (let that time horizon sink in) after the first indications of success,  there will be a large scale trial for a new malaria vaccine. The potential global health implications of this are obvious, read the full news article, it has some good tidbits in it:

“With the exception of Mosquirix, there’s no possibility of one coming on the market within five or six years…It took eight more years of development and testing before scientists were ready to conduct a large-scale trial of the vaccine. London-based Glaxo and its partners will begin a $100 million study of Mosquirix later this year, vaccinating 16,000 children in seven African countries. If the results are positive, the drug could be on the market as soon as 2011, making it the first vaccine against the deadly disease. “

Full article at Bloomberg (here).  Hat tip to  Families USA.

Written by Aman

July 16, 2008 at 9:20 pm

One Net One Pill One Life

These were the words of Forest Whitaker (academy award winner for his leading role in The Last King of Scotland) on tonight’s inspired 2nd annual two and half hour Idol Gives Back show which raised funds for six causes. Forest was the ambassador for Malaria No More, and definitely gave an emotional appeal for people to call in and donate money.

Earlier today I was lucky enough to be on a conference call with the medical director (Steven Phillips) for ExxonMobil’s foundation which is a major supporter and funder of the malaria component of tonight’s American Idol show. Phillips traveled to Angola twice this year, once with American Idol contestants and winners and the second time with Forest Whitaker to get them involved in combating malaria. I was joined on the call by Bill Brieger, professor at Hopkins and an expert in malaria, definitely check out his blog – Malaria Matters. Rob Katz of NextBillion and the Acumen Fund fame was the other “blogger” on the call.

According to Phillips, ExxonMobil teamed up with American Idol because they are the most watched TV show with over 30 million viewers and because their first experimental show last year was a huge hit. Exxon is reaching out to of course let their work be known and also because he feels that “one of major issues with malaria is that it (malaria) had historically been among one of most neglected diseases.” Their funding breakdown is: 25% for advocacy, 10% for R&D (e.g partnerships with MVI, MMV, others), and 65% for disease control (goes to African NGOs or iNGOs).

The Idol show had a blockbuster lineup, some of the celebs included: Bono, Alicia Keys, Heart, Brad Pitt, Robin Williams (who was beyond awful), Gloria Estefan, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion and many others. One of the highlights was Gordon Brown, prime minister of the UK, making an appearance to announce the equivalent of $200 million in funding for bednets. The three presidential candidates were also supposed to make an appearance, but perhaps this got cut. For a great recap of the show check out Kristin’s post.

Last year the show raised $76 million, it will be interesting to see what happens after tonight. Despite various criticisms and those much more cynical than I, credit has to be given to all the corporate sponsors for reaching out… I’ll post more on this if I get a chance this weekend.

Written by Aman

April 9, 2008 at 8:31 pm

Back in the Saddle – Happy New Year Link Drop

After a holiday hiatus I should be back to blogging much more frequently. I did some desk clearing from emails that had gathered over the past month and naturally many of them were year end Top 10 lists. I thought it would be appropriate to capture some of these below. In addition to starting off with a couple of miscellaneous links, I included a section on business and global health. Once again I do this because I strongly believe it is important to understand the impact the business community/private sector is having on the issues we care about. In my opinion folks in the public health world are almost completely incognizant of what is happening with respect to this (and to be fair the opposite is also true). Enjoy the links below, I probably will have some more desk clearing to do as the week goes on. In particular the first link under the business and global health section below on Melinda Gates is quite interesting if you care to know more about her.

Global Health Photo Contest, link
The Global Health Council’s Photography Contest is dedicated to drawing attention to health issues that have a global impact. Deadline is Feb 15, 2008.

What can $611 Billion buy? Try this – feeding the world’s poor for 7 years. Link
via Good Magazine.

Top 10 Lists
*Top 20 Global Health Priorities, link
In one of the world’s largest public-health collaborations, 155 experts from 50 countries have a plan to tackle the world’s deadliest diseases. The result is a list, published in the journal Nature, of the top 20 research and policy priorities in chronic non-communicable diseases – which account for 60% of all deaths worldwide. It’s “a road-map” for action, says lead researcher Abdallah Daar at the McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health in Toronto.

*A Year of Worldchanging Ideas, link
Exec editor Alex Steffen of Worldchanging has compiled their best of list in several categories. The full list is below, I have selected a few that I liked: “Over the last year we ran more than 2,000 stories, including a number of pieces that I think are pretty much the best stuff we’ve ever done… here is my list of the top Worldchanging posts of 2007. It’s very subjective, though many of these stories have also been among our most popular (judged by visits) and provocative (judged by media coverage and blog links) posts.

  • Tools for Understanding Poverty, link
  • The Open Architecture Network and the Future of Design, link
  • Transforming Philanthropy, link

*10 Highly Consequential Implications of Climate Change, link
A new report called The Age of Consequences, forecasts climate change in the coming century. It makes for fascinating if frightening reading. See table for impact on global health. via.

*Top 7 Social Entrepreneurship Blogs via Riches for Good
Finding and funding sustainable, scalable solutions to end global poverty

*Top 10 Wins For Women’s Health in 2007, link
Women’s health was a priority concern in 2007, as global donors, international agencies, and influential private foundations realized that investing in women’s health is investing in the world (hat tip – Pump Handle).

*The Independent announces its top 6 social entrepreneurs, link
Last year, The Independent – in collaboration with The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship and the Boston Consulting Group – began a quest to find the UK’s most successful social entrepreneurs. (hat tip)

*10 Videos to change how you view the world (all TED videos), link

*10 top global health issues according to WHO, link (via)

*10 Universities With the Best Free Online Courses, link (via)

Business and Development/Global Health

*Who is Melinda Gates?, link
Interesting read: “Years before Melinda French met and married Bill Gates, she had a love affair – with an Apple computer…Of all the tricks that life can play, it’s hard to imagine any stranger than what befell Melinda French. Today she is married to the richest man in America – and giving billions of dollars away…”

*Global pharma firms take a tropical dose, link
Multinationals focus on diseases in developing countries as they lose protection by patents at home. The big multinational drug makers are increasingly focusing their research on diseases that no longer afflict their home countries. As many as nine companies are developing medicine for tuberculosis, which claims two million lives every year. At least seven are focusing on malaria, another killer.

*IFC betting 1 Billion on Africa’s private sector to improve health, link
The IFC plans to set up an equity investment fund, ultimately worth up to $500m, including money from other donors, to invest in small and medium-sized enterprises in the health-care industry. It also wants to create a $400m-500m debt vehicle that will fund local banks that lend to such entrepreneurs. See also –

*On Malaria: Charity vs. Capitalism in Africa, link
Africa’s best hope to fight malaria is the wide distribution of mosquito-repelling bed nets. But who best serves that need: the public sector or private interests?

*2 Young Hedge-Fund Veterans Stir Up the World of Philanthropy, link
As hedge-fund analysts, Holden Karnofsky and Elie Hassenfeld made six-figure incomes deciding which companies to invest in. Now they are doing the same thing with charities…Their efforts are shaking up the field of philanthropy.

*Oprah effect brings microlending to Main Street, link
Kiva hit the publicity jackpot in September when Oprah Winfrey featured the organization on her daytime television program, attracting a tidal wave of interest from Middle America. Demand was so high the day the episode aired, every loan on the site was fulfilled.

*Heinz Pledges to Provide Free Micronutrient Assistance to 10 Million Children by 2010, link
The H. J. Heinz Company is working to develop solutions to reduce global malnutrition, a commitment underscored in the Company’s 2007 CSR report. The report lays out the Company’s plans to provide free micronutrient assistance to 10 million children at risk of iron-deficiency anemia by 2010.

Global Business Coalition Awards


More on the business and global health front, in case you missed it: NEW YORK, June 13, 2007 — Eight leading businesses received awards recognizing their outstanding contributions in the fight against AIDS, TB and malaria… GBC honors six companies that conceived and executed effective HIV/AIDS workplace, community, core competency, national action, testing and counseling, and advocacy and leadership programs, as well as two companies with superlative TB and malaria programs.  Full story; Video and full coverage on the website.

Chevron (workplace)
Coca-Cola China Beverages Ltd., (community)
Standard Chartered PLC (core competency)
Abbott and Abbott Fund (national action)
Eskom Holdings Ltd. (testing and counseling)
HBO (advocacy & leadership)
Eli Lilly (tuberculosis award)
Marathon Oil Corporation (malaria award)

Written by Aman

July 7, 2007 at 8:32 pm

World Malaria Day: Innovation and the role of Nets

Insecticide Treated Nets (ITN) are currently a key intervention against malarial mosquitos and have been shown to reduce all cause mortality in children under five by 20%. (Lengeler C, Cochrane Review, 2002.) Pregnant women are also vulnerable to severe complications of malaria and recommended interventions are ITNs and intermittent preventative treatment with SP (sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine).

Despite the proven successes of ITNs in preventing malaria, the distribution of bed-nets is not universal. Baseline levels of ITN measured between 1997 and 2001 were as low as 2-3% in most African countries. It was decided that improving ITN distribution could be a quick win for the Roll Back Malaria initiative. Key barriers to distribution included: a lack of funding for ITNs, inadequate distribution channels, and the cost of nets. In addition, ITNs need to be retreated with insecticide to maintain effectiveness, so insecticide must also be supplied. Several countries consider ITNs textiles, and not essential medical supplies, so they are subject to import taxes, which further increases their price.

One promising innovation in ITNs is led by a group from the University of Leeds, who are developing a non-insecticide bednet that will kill mosquitos based on the material structure. They have received significant funding from the Gates Foundation. If successful, this will help with the loss of effectiveness of existing nets, where insecticides wash out after about 20 washes, as well as the increasing resistance to insecticides that mosquitos are developing.

Here are some news reports on the progress of ITN Distribution, but I wasn’t able to find a comprehensive report on distribution.

Simple Bed Nets Key to Preventing Malaria: CTV

Africa Marks Day for Deadly Malaria: Mail and Guardian, South Africa

Another reason for the inadequate coverage of ITNs has been a lack in funding. This is primarily an international health investment issue, but civil society has been getting into the act and a new grassroots initiative Malaria No More caught my eye.  Malaria No More personalizes your role in the effort against malaria – Donate $10 and buy a bed-net! This is a small and do-able effort for most people, who want to see a tangible benefit from their donation.  Malaria No More is sponsoring a wide range of fundraisers including Music to End Malaria which was created to get college students involved in the fight against the disease. More than 50 colleges and universities around the country have signed on to raise money and in the lead up to the first US Malaria Awareness Day, campuses will organize bed net demonstrations, T-shirt sales, BBsQuito cookouts, film screenings, festivals, informational sessions with public health experts, and more. Joining with major recording artists, Music to End Malaria will culminate with awareness-raising concerts on campuses in Atlanta (April 25), Geneva, NY (April 28), and New York City (April 30).

Ashley Judd has weighed in with commentary on Malaria No More and PSI’s initiative Five & Alive on CNN.

Written by farzaneh

April 25, 2007 at 9:15 am

Africa Malaria Day 2007


On Monday I was lucky enough to be on a conference call with the heads of the four organizations below. In a nutshell, the organizations seemed to be truly interested in a collaborative effort and are willing to do what it takes to get the message out and get more people involved. In short, I was impressed, the call was very interesting and I will put up a digest of the conversation later this week. Today is Africa Malaria Day, please spread the word to your networks. Additionally, April 25th is the first ever US Malaria Awareness Day. Some basic facts about a treatable disease:

350,000,000 new cases/yr (think the entire US & UK population)
1-2 Million children dead annually
3000 African children die every day
$1 to treat children under five

Malaria No More
Engages individuals, organizations, and corporations in the private sector to provide life-saving bed nets and other critical interventions to families in need. Check out their involvement page.

Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV)
A nonprofit organization created to discover, develop and deliver new antimalarial drugs through effective public-private partnerships. MMV is managing over 30 projects (pipeline-PDF), the largest portfolio of antimalarial drugs in history. Four new artemisinin combination therapies could be approved for use within the next two years.

ExxonMobil-Africa Health Initiative
The ExxonMobil Foundation established the Africa Health Initiative in 2000 to fund and support activities related to the prevention, control and treatment of malaria in Africa. The Foundation has donated approximately $40 million to help fund programs at an individual community level, to promote the research and development of new drugs, and projects to advocate for awareness and support internationally.

President’s Malaria Initiative
In June 2005, President Bush launched PMI. He pledged to increase U.S. malaria funding to $1.2 billion over five years to reduce deaths due to malaria by 50% in 15 African countries. PMI is a collaborative effort led by USAID, in conjunction with the CDC, the Department of State, the White House, and others.The PMI goal will be achieved by reaching 85 percent of the most vulnerable groups with proven prevention and treatment measures. See also White House Summit on Malaria.

Here Sachs talks at the Norte Dame Forum on Malaria and tries a different approach to getting people involved. He argues that people in the US should care about malaria because one day it could impact everyone. I like his use of different tactics here, but it is also a bit on the scare tactic side.

Other sources:
Idol Gives Back – Ryan Seacrest advocating for bednets
Malaria Matters – Malaria Day Advocacy (fantastic blog btw)

Written by Aman

April 25, 2007 at 8:50 am

GMOs Created to Battle Malaria

It has just been announced that a research group at Johns Hopkins has created a genetically engineered mosquito (genetically modified organism) that is malaria resistant. This is a significant achievement that is not without some major concerns and challenges ahead. There have been several groups that for over two decades have been trying to create transgenic mosquitoes, or mosquitoes that can be genetically modified. I happened to work in one of these labs as an undergrad and it was one of my first formal introductions to public health. At the time we would inject mosquito eggs with altered genes that would hopefully confer insecticide resistance. It might seem funny to try to create a super mosquito that could not be killed by insecticide, but it was a way to tell unambiguously if the newly introduced gene actually was engineered into the DNA of the new generation of mosquitoes. The idea was that if we could introduce a new gene into a mosquito that was inherited from generation to generation in a stable fashion that did not weaken reproductive capacity and longevity, eventually we could use this transgenic technology to introduce a malaria resistant gene. Then of course someone would have to figure out how to release this altered “animal species” into wild. It was not until 2000 that a group was successful at creating a GM/transgenic mosquito. From the group that was the first to do this:

“After 15 years of trying to create a transgenic mosquito we have taken a major step forward. This is not a cure for malaria, but we now have the key missing tool – our holy grail. The development of this technique is crucial for scientists studying the biology of the mosquito and its interactions with the malaria-causing parasite.” From: European scientists have created the world’s first transgenic malaria mosquito, June 2000.

Now the next step has been taken, a GM mosquito that also is malaria resistant (to non-human malaria) through 9 generations:

March, 19, 2007 “Working with the mouse form of malaria — not the human type — Rasgon’s team was able to genetically engineer mosquitoes that were resistant to malaria. Starting with the same number of resistant and nonresistant mosquitoes, they found that after nine generations the resistant type made up 70 percent of the population — raising the possibility of replacing regular mosquitoes with resistant ones that don’t spread disease. We’re not anywhere near a field release. Now we need to turn their attention to working with human malaria and trying to engineer a mosquito resistant to that.” Full Story.

Just as with GMOs there probably will be significant controversy of releasing populations of genetically engineered mosquitoes into the wild, however it is still worthwhile producing this technology because a multi-pronged approach against malaria is certainly needed and this research may yield other clues about neutralizing malarial parasites.

Written by Aman

March 20, 2007 at 5:50 am

Malaria TV: Low Cost, Collaborative Diagnostics

A couple of researchers at the University of Toronto have come up with remote diagnostic tool – Malaria TV – that they funded out of their own pocket. It seems a fair amount of infrastructure is needed, but this set up allows for remote diagnosing for various diseases which I am guessing will be restricted to mostly urban areas in developing countries. I am curious what the bandwidth requirement is on the either end. One positive is that this is another tool that can be utilized and can hopefully slightly mitigate the healthcare worker shortage in developing regions:

“Malaria TV, designed by three researchers at the University of Toronto’s Laboratory for Collaborative Diagnostics (LCD), can be cobbled together from a bunch of everyday tech tools. The Malaria TV project is an example of how public health tools can be designed, developed and delivered using: 1) collaboration technologies like Access Grid; 2) commodity or cheap computation gear and 3) generic public health lab microscopes and CCD cameras.”

“The newly developed system can enable remote detection of HIV and tuberculosis and more importantly will allow a diagnostician to view in real time the blood sample of a patient in another part of the country or the world. Using cheap, readily available components and open source software, West Suhanic, executive director and an IT consultant, and Peter Pennefather, a professor of pharmaceutical science and the lab’s academic director, have built a prototype diagnosis tool. The equipment is basically a jury-rigged piece of hardware consisting of a PC that can capture images from any medical microscope using a TV tuner card and broadcast them over an Internet connection. A doctor in one city who isn’t sure if the sample he or she is looking at is actually malaria can consult with someone like Crandall for an expert diagnosis.”

“Suhanic added that “we’re just trying to develop all of our tools around open source” in order to keep costs down and allow anyone in the world to use it without having to worry about using proprietary technology or software licensing issues. He says Malaria TV is an example of commodity engineering, in that specific components used to create the system are accessible pretty much anywhere: a generic PC, some form of network connectivity, a microscope and a digital camera.” Full Story.


Written by Aman

March 12, 2007 at 9:12 pm


First congrats to the folks at “Little Devices that Could”, their organization, Aerovax, was nominated for the prestigious Tech Museum Awards. You should definitely check out their site. I am under water right now and would love to post in more depth about several of the following links, but that is not going to happen, so a link drop will have to suffice. Enjoy:

  • What a U.N. Partnership with Big Business Could Accomplish“, HBS, Link
    • For a review of the recent UN Silicon Valley meeting check out NextBillion, Link
    • And related to the high tech/ICT industry, Amartya Sen on ICT for good, Link
  • New book out on foundations: “How Private Wealth is Changing the WorldLink
  • Tactile Philanthropy has an interesting post on the impact of the Private/For-Profit sector on Non-Profits, quote “Market based solutions are great when they are appropriate, but they aren’t always appropriate.” Link
  • Purdue to show low-cost AIDS-testing technology to African officials, Link…”The current cost for CD4 tests per patient in Africa is about $10…We can build a device that will reduce the cost for CD4 tests to 50 or 25 cents.”
  • A list of new technologies for the developing world (via LittleDevices), Link
  • Technology from the U of Delaware removes viruses from water, significant because viruses are the “smallest of pathogens”, Link
  • GlobaLab on the new “revolutionary product to treat malaria” – the launch of ASAQ, a $1 drug Link
  • Social enterprise podcasts and downloads, Link
  • Italy : ‘Go-India’ Fund for SMEs – $600 Million Fund, Link
  • Female Entrepreneurship in Developing Countries, purchase req’d, Link
  • CDC and Second Life: There is a debate on the internal CDC message boards on CDC and SL, Link… For those who don’t believe in Second Life, the Amercian Cancer Society raised $40,000 (real money). More detail on CDC in SL, check out the pictures here and check out the Social Marketing blog.
  • On the media front, “The Blood of Yingzhou District”, a Chinese AIDS film won the Academy Awards for best documentary, Link
  • “Forget Davos, I am booked for TED”, Business Week, Link
    Michael Schrage, co-director of the MIT Media, no longer attends TED because he is worried about bumping into Angelina Jolie there, she and TED are apparently not good enough for him, read the article.
  • Setting up a “low” cost health information system in Spain, Microsoft Blog, Link
  • Low tech solution for preventing airborne disease– open the window! Link
  • Building Capacity – S.African Scientists Train In Latest Drug Discovery Techniques At Emory University, Link
  • Netherlands provides health insurance for 115,000 Nigerians, via Sociolingo
  • Final, random link of the day – Want to see what 60,000 plastic bags looks like? That is the number used in the US every five seconds. Link

Written by Aman

March 6, 2007 at 7:07 am

“Meet the World” Flag Art a Hoax?


A couple of days ago I posted on the “flags as social art” exhibit. I did say in that post that I was unable to verify the numbers or sources of data, even though the official website for the art states “We used real data taken from the websites of Amnesty International and the UNO.

I apologize for being in a rush with that post because I did go back and take a look at the stats for one flag which seemed a bit far off. Somemone may also want to let WorldChanging know that some of these representations seem inaccurate (see their post from Jan 5, 2007 which I just spotted).

The Angolan flag indicates that half the people in Angola are infected with HIV and half with malaria. Two separate sources indicate this is not true:

1) Malaria in Angola – 1.2 Million (USAID report of malaria in 2002 – Link)
2) HIV in Angola – roughly 240,000 (CDC – Link, KFF report)

When looking specficially at Somalia, the flag may be accurate – UNICEF says that in the country – “Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has a prevalence of about 95 per cent” (Link). So I am not sure what data was used to make the flags or how the artist arrived at these conclusions. I have not had time to check stats on the other flags and there may be something I mis-interpreted, but perhaps the artist should be more transparent. This concept is a very interesting way of getting across ideas, its a shame that some of the flags may be inaccurate.

Written by Aman

February 23, 2007 at 7:06 am

Visual Demographics – Meet the World

UPDATE – There is something a bit funny about the use of stats in these flags, see latest post. What a shame because it is an interesting idea.

An artist friend just sent me this site of flags. Apparently these flags as social art made their debut a couple of years ago, but now they are making the rounds again. The flags use real data to “populate” the colors, however I was unable to verify this. It is never-the-less a very interesting concept, enjoy:

Icaro Doria, Brazilian author/artist: “We started to research relevant, global, and current facts and, thus, came up with the idea to put new meanings to the colours of the flags. We used real data taken from the websites of Amnesty International and the UNO. The idea was to bring across the concept that the magazine offers profound journalism about topics of real importance to the world of today.” More flags here.


  Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Aman

February 19, 2007 at 6:17 pm

Call for Private Sector Involvement in Malaria Efforts

Public-private partnerships have been all the rage, here are two recent articles on that front. The first is an opinion piece calling for more private sector involvement and the second is a demonstration of using private businesses to distribute insecticide resistant mosquito nets.

Increased innovation needed in the fight against epidemics , Jan 11, 2007

In a Jan. 1 editorial, the P-I rightly pointed to the need for partnerships to address global health challenges and meet goals to reduce disease and death. However, the editorial overlooked the integral role of the private sector in developing new solutions to fight epidemics… “The only way to win the war against malaria is to find new and even more effective ways to prevent infection and treat those who are sick. That includes the development of new drugs and diagnostics, as well as a malaria vaccine that has the potential to offer widespread protection against the disease… While the research that will fuel new tools is often found in academia and in the government sector, we need the involvement of industry — namely pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies — to turn research into life-saving products.”

Public-Private Cooperation Helps Fight Malaria, Jan 18, 2007

Dr. David McGuire is the director of USAID’s NetMark Project, which promotes the use of bed nets and helps African businesses distribute them.  He says NetMark is partnered with nearly 40 companies in eight countries (Ghana, Nigeria, Mali, Senegal, Zambia, Uganda, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe), which in turn sell more than 15 brands of ITNs…Health experts say there are many advantages to such private-public partnerships; donors are able to stretch their dollars by taking advantage of the private sector’s efficient distribution network, stimulate the local business community in high unemployment areas, and create competition among venders to keep prices low…The involvement of the private sector has also led to the creation of Africa-based factories, including several in Tanzania, that can manufacture the nets, rather than relying on imports.

Written by Aman

January 23, 2007 at 8:16 am

Desk Clearing: Social Capitalist Awards, Gates Foundation, Mobile Phones as a Human Right and more…

It’s time to do some housekeeping, there are several interesting stories this week that you will find below. Also do not forget to vote for the 59smartestorgs online.


  • Fast Company has another issue devoted to the Social Capitalist Awards with several articles. Link
  • More on the Gates Foundation story, it looks like they have decided to stick to their guns. WorldChanging haswritten extensively on this, check it out (Transforming Philanthropy) and Philanthropy 2173 is asking you to vote on this issue. For the LA Times article see the link below:
  • Gates Foundation to keep its investment approach. Link
  • Are mobile phones a human right? Link
  • RH Reality Check has a posting about the US lack of support for UNFPA, an issue taken up by an impressive grass roots campaign, known as 34 Million Friends. You can view a video here.

Pharmaceutical & Device Developments/Breakthroughs

  • A Real-World AIDS Vaccine? Link
  • Researchers Discover Drug That Blocks Malaria Parasites. Link
  • Nigeria to enact law to back malaria, HIV drugs. Link
  • Roche Diagnostics Submits West Nile Virus Blood Screening Test to FDA. Link
  • This is a very cool story about the discovery of forgotten “cures”.
    Ancient Book of Herbs Used in the War on Bacteria. NY Times link, via MedGadget.
  • For another take on the “Ethical Pharmaceuticals” Model, check out this lengthy piece.

Written by Aman

January 19, 2007 at 7:10 am

Success Stories from Africa, Part 2

Following up Aman’s November 21st post [“Success Stories from Africa“] with my less than imaginative “Part 2”, I bring you a photo essay that accompanies the World Health Organization’s African Regional Health Report. True to purpose, the photos have an everyday feel to them – photos taken in hospitals and patients’ homes and farmers’ fields, with subjects going about the day-to-day of saving lives by keeping electronic medical records, educating patients, and planting Artemisia annua.

The upbeat tone of the report and the focus on success is reminiscent of other development success stories: ICT, Youth, Poverty and Gender published last May and the Center for Global Development’s book Millions Saved published in 2004.

Written by Ben

January 17, 2007 at 2:44 am

The New Global Health Argonauts (Entrepreneurs)

As I like to contend, non-public health people from various disciplines are starting to have dramatic impact on public health, unlike never before … and folks in public health are far behind the curve in many respects. One of which is keeping up with others who are jumping in and changing the face of global health. The following story in today’s Wall St. Journal is a great example of how industry/private sector immigrants in the US are going to eventually make big strides overseas in the health arena. This particular case has been already well documented in the IT services sector and even though not many are talking about it, I do not see why the same will not hold true for the health care sector, to a more limited extent. Professor Anno Lee Saxenian just released a book about succesful immigrants in the high tech/IT arena going back to their home countries to start up ventures. The book, “The New Argonauts”, is well worth checking out. In my opinion, a similar potential exists for the pharmaceutical and medical device sectors. Admittedly, the process will be much harder with pharmaceuticals, but stories like the one below in the WSJ are promising for developing regions. The team over at the Canadian Center for Genomics and Global Health have begun to study this pheonomena in the biosciences, check out their article for a discussion on the potential and limitations faced – Scientific Diasporas.

If you don’t believe the capacity of regions across the world is growing, click on the map below to see biotech clusters around the world. It is a bit strange that they do not highlight Cuba’s well known biotechnology capacity. To be fair, there are challenges, for another take on the limitations of R&D in places like India see this article on Innovators without Borders.


Many thanks to Katie for passing the WSJ article along!

WSJ 12/14/06 Patent Remedy: Indian Scientists Return Home

wsj_indiarx.gifPUNE, India — For more than 20 years, Rashmi Barbhaiya lived a comfortable life in New Jersey…Now, in a move that hints at a big shift in the global pharmaceutical business, Dr. Barbhaiya is back home in India. He’s still trying to discover new drugs, but he’s doing so with an all-Indian-born research team at a company he founded in this center of Indian high technology. Dr. Barbhaiya runs Advinus Therapeutics, a company whose new-drug research would be powered by Indian scientists returning from the U.S. and other countries.

As big drug companies shut down some research facilities in the U.S. and other rich countries, labs in India and China are increasingly picking up the slack…Eli Lilly & Co., Wyeth and GlaxoSmithKline PLC all have outsourced chemistry work to Indian firms…Now Indian companies are increasingly conducting clinical trials, performing contract chemistry work and, as Dr. Barbhaiya’s journey shows, carrying out original research aimed at discovering new drugs.

One of Dr. Barbhaiya’s passions is discovering drugs for diseases that are prominent in poorer countries but rarely get attention from Western drug makers…Dr. Barbhaiya steered Ranbaxy into a pact in 2003 to develop an antimalaria drug with the Geneva-based Medicines for Malaria Venture. The drug is now in midstage clinical trials.

Full story at WSJ.

Written by Aman

December 15, 2006 at 12:33 am

Whitehouse Malaria Summit: LIVE

UPDATE: Both the Center for Global Development and Owen Barder have added there thoughts about the Summit.  

I wanted to highlight the LIVE webcast (via KFF) of the Whitehouse Malaria Summit tomorrow.


Written by Aman

December 13, 2006 at 7:07 am

In the News: Diagnostics for Global Health; White House Malaria Summit

Several different news items worthwhile reporting plus one unrelated video I found very interesting:

improveddxggh.jpg1) Improved Diagnostic Technologies for the Developing World

A Great series of articles published in NATURE – Description from “Improving people’s access to tests for the major diseases of the developing world and making the tests more accurate could save hundreds of thousands of lives, say researchers. Millions of people in developing countries die each year from illnesses that are preventable or treatable because the diagnostic tests are too expensive, complex or inefficient to use. A series of papers published in Nature (7 December) calls on scientists, policymakers, and global health organisations to work towards making these tests appropriate for use in poor countries.”

2) Whitehouse Malara Summit – LIVE WEBCAST, 12/14 (8:45am EST)

The WSJ (via Brown Global Health Blog) has an interview with Melinda Gates. “She is stepping into the limelight as an outspoken advocate for closing the global health gap. On Thursday, she plans to announce an expanded initiative with President Bush and first lady Laura Bush’s summit on fighting malaria, a mosquito-borne disease that kills one million people a year, mostly children under five.” The White House Summit on Malaria to bring together international experts, corporations and foundations, African civic leaders, and faith-based organizations to raise awareness of the issue of malaria. will provide a LIVE webcast of the summit.

3) Health Affairs Blogging about Health Insurance – Private Insurance For Developing Countries

4) The Dove Campaign – this is unrelated but I found this short clip fascinating, which I originally saw over at From Tribeca to Tanzania.

Written by Aman

December 12, 2006 at 8:41 pm

Malaria Atlas Map & Malaria March Madness


Dec. 5, 2006 Malaria map aims to tackle killer disease

LONDON (Reuters) – Researchers are creating a global malaria map to tackle the killer disease by pinpointing the areas where it strikes most often. The map, the first in 40 years, is designed to spot mosquitoes carrying the malaria parasite and determine where they are likely to infect people so the best control and treatment strategies can be implemented.

The map is based on malaria data from surveys that have been done, population censuses and satellite information. The first version, which will be freely accessible on the Internet, should be available in 12-18 months. You can read the full story via Reuters…

The MAP project has taken a fun approach to knocking out Malaria, they using the US college basketball tournament, March Madness, as a way to energize teams – check it out – malaria march madness. See Pienso for another cool sports/basketball story on tackling Malaria – Sports Illustrated on Malaria Nets.

malariascientist.jpgUPDATE: The cover story of The Scientist this month is – Beating Malaria. Its an okay aritcle with interesting tidbits of information.  The article covers a whole range of issues surrounding the malaria fight – problems with biology, supply chain issues, private market for Coartem, pharamceutical care, provider and patient education, public-private partnerships, poor quality manufacturing, and the role of the private sector. The story is centered around a pioneer in anti-malaria drug reserach and how he shifted the paradigm in malaria treatment to combo therapy which was a breakthrough in the field. This fellow is described as such – “Nosten, who founded SMRU 20 years ago after several years as a young volunteer for Medicine Without Frontiers,  built it into one of the most innovative and productive malaria research outposts in the world.” FULL STORY.

Written by Aman

December 6, 2006 at 7:12 am

Pharmaceuticals for Global Health, 15 Minutes with Victoria Hale

The “News of the Week” from the latest issue of Science (December 1, 2006) has to do with drug research for developing regions and the IP protection system (SEE — DRUG RESEARCH: WHO Panel Weighs Radical Ideas).

globalrxmarketv1.gifAs you can see from the Science figure, the drug market is heavily focused on the US, Japan and Europe (although I think this will change significantly in the next 15-20 years). There is a clear lack of drug development for neglected diseases because there is no market and the current global patent regime prohibits generic knock offs/cheaper alternatives to treat people with diseases such as HIV/AIDS at an affordable price. There is contentious debate over this issue. From the Science article – the Medicines for Malaria Venture president Chris Hentschel says: “If people spent less time thinking about IP and more about other things, we would make more progress.”

So what do you do? Victoria Hale decided to do something. Dr. Hale, who has training in academia, with the FDA and with industry decided to start her own non-profit pharma company, the first in the US. She was interviewed for the most recent issue of Stanford Social Innovation and Review. The interview discusses her mission, how she has brought her first drug to market for visceral leishmaniasis, the cost of drug development ($17 million in this case), drug pricing and some discussion on patent issues. Well worth reading.

Finally I encourage you to check out SSIR, they have some good articles on social innovation and also a several podcasts from leading social entrepreneurs (unfortunately there is no text for the podcasts).

UPDATE: Somewhat related to pharmaceuticals/drug companies, on the technology development front there are two recent news items about vaccine technology. First, the NY Times features a story on pneumonia which the the largest global killer of children, I saw this via the CGD health policy blog. Second, Dr. Buttery discusses the malaria vaccine roadmap, a goal Dr. Buttery has heard about for the past 40 years.

Written by Aman

December 5, 2006 at 9:04 am

Anti-Malarial Chemical Company Wins 2006 Tech Award

In a post earlier this week we mentioned that the Tech Awards for technology benefiting humanity were being given out tonight. The 2006 Health Award goes to Sumitomo Chemical for their development of Olyset® technology which is used in bed nets. “This is an insecticidal active ingredient which is directly incorporated within the polyethylene fibers of the net. The technology enables a very slow release of this insecticide onto the surface of the fibers, where it repels and kills malaria-carrying Anopheles mosquitoes for at least five years. The slow release of the insecticide over a period solves the issue of reapplication of the chemicals, and the highly robust polyethylene fibers provide a product that is sturdy, effective and able to last up to seven or eight years in rugged rural African conditions.”

This is a great technology coupled with celebrity based population education. The company has enlisted footballers/soccer players to spread the message:”Sumitomo Chemical has partnered with the Roll Back Malaria Partnership and the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria to help communicate the risks of malaria to Africans, along with the benefits of proper prevention.”

“Twelve international footballers with African origins have recorded a total of 18 public service announcements in French, English and ethnic languages Ingala, Yoruba and Fan.The clips feature the footballers’ personal testimony about suffering from malaria themselves and are interspersed with footage from professional football matches.”

Written by Aman

November 16, 2006 at 8:24 pm

Are on-site doctors necessary for simple eye test to diagnose severe malaria?

The Science and Development Network ( carried a story today about new diagnostic method to detect cerebral malaria (“Simple eye test can diagnose severe malaria”). Although cerebral malaria is not the most prevalent form of the disease, it is the most lethal.

Diagnosing cerebral malaria — a severe complication of malaria in which the Plasmodium falciparum parasite infects capillaries that flow through the tissues of the brain — can be difficult, as patients can be unconscious and have a number of other illnesses.

Now researchers have found that certain changes on the retina, the light sensitive tissue at the back of the eye, are unique to severe forms of malaria.

This will enable doctors to determine whether a child is suffering from cerebral malaria or some other, unrelated illness, and prescribe immediate treatment accordingly…

The diagnosis only requires an instrument called an ophthalmoscope, which is commonly used in Africa for studying eye disease. “Diagnosis requires special training in eye examination, but is relatively straightforward and cost effective, which is essential in resource-poor settings such as Africa,” says Dr. Beare.

Although a larger study is underway in an attempt to scientifically replicate the preliminary findings, it is a promising diagnostic. My first thought reading this was ‘great! if the second study comes back with similar findings, all we’ll have to do is train docs to conduct the test’. But the continued brain drain of African healthcare professionals (see also the UN report on International Migration and Development) may require fresh thinking if the intervention is to be scaled. Research at the University of California, Berkeley on remote imaging may offer one option to bring distant patients within the reach of skilled healthcare workers. A June 2006 UC Berkeley press release (“New wireless networking system brings eye care to thousands in India”) describes a remote imaging pilot program in India:

Thousands of residents of rural villages in India are receiving quality eye care thanks to a collaborative effort between an Indian hospital network and the researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and at Intel Corporation who have developed a new technology for low-cost rural connectivity.

This new technology, based on “Wi-Fi” wireless networks, allows eye specialists at Aravind Eye Hospital at Theni in the southern India state of Tamil Nadu to interview and examine patients in five remote clinics via a high-quality video conference.

Just 17 months old, the pilot project has proved so successful that the partners are announcing this week that it will be expanded in the state to include five hospitals that will be linked to 50 clinics that are expected to serve half a million patients each year.

In rural India, the scale of the health return justifies the initial system investment. In many rural African communities, the relatively few number of cerebral malaria cases may not pull sufficient resources on their own. But taking into consideration the likely high burden of undiagnosed ocular diseases, we can see the added value of detecting and treating time-sensitive malarial cases only underscores the urgency in scaling not only healthcare worker capacity but also the infrastructure for cost-effective healthcare management.

Written by Ben

November 15, 2006 at 1:57 am

Private Sector & Public Health

At last week’s APHA (American Public Health Association) Annual Meeting, I attended a session titled “The Role and Contribution of the Private Sector in Realizing Health Sector Reform”. With all the current emphasis on public-private partnerships, I was disappointed to see only 20 attendees at a conference with 14,000 participants (to put this in perspective, attendees were seated on the floor at 4 other sessions I attended – seating capacity was typically 75-100).

The 3 panelists – Barbara Addy (USAID, Global Development Alliance), Romano Fernandes (Senior Advisor, Constella Futures/AFFORD, Uganda), and Dr. Greg Allgood (Procter & Gamble) – each spoke about different efforts to develop partnerships between the private sector and government/NGOs in order to improve public health in developing countries.

In discussing USAID’s partnerships with firms as diverse as Kraft Foods, Bayer, and ExxonMobil, Ms. Addy spoke of similar activities at other development agencies, including DFID (UK), JICA (Japan), and AFD (France).

Mr. Fernandes presented AFFORD as a health marketing initiative. They partner with domestic producers of health-related products (e.g. 4-6 Kampala-based pharmaceutical manufacturers of ACTs – artemisinin-based combination therapy for malaria) in order to brand and distribute the products. Currently, they work in HIV/AIDS, malaria, family planning, and child survival. The most interesting point Mr. Fernandes made was that it is necessary to phase out ineffective drugs to create new opportunities in the markteplace for the private sector. As long as the ineffective drugs are stocked by small drug shops and community-based distributors, there is a barrier to entry.

Dr. Allgood presented Procter & Gamble’s (P&G) work on PUR, a point-of-use water treatment system (PUR was dicussed in an earlier post). As a flocculant-disinfectant, PUR is able to clean even heavily sedimented (turbid) water – the flocculant causes the sediment to coagulate, while the disinfectant kills harmful organisms. This project has led to 2 siginificantly new business practices for P&G: (1) considering emergency relief as a market, and (2) letting an NGO manage a P&G brand. As a consumer products company, Dr. Allgood indicated a key strength of P&G is understanding people and their relation to products such as PUR. As an example, inside the household, they have observed “water segmentation” – their product is used primarily for the most vulnerable, young children, the elderly, and PLWHA (People Living With HIV/AIDS).

Here is the session abstract:

Because of reduced donor support to developing countries and due to a decrease in development-focused funds from within countries’ own ministries, the private sector is being recognized as an important contributor to realizing reform goals that would achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness in healthcare delivery. The objective of this panel is to demonstrate the validity of engaging the private sector in the strategic planning and implementation of health sector reform and to further demonstrate the effective contribution that the private sector has made to-date in realizing health reform goals in developing countries. Panelists will discuss various perspectives regarding the politics and protocols for involving the private sector in the delivery of health services. Illustrative examples will include: Global Development Alliances (GDA) in health; Foundation investments in health; Commercial Sector Investments in health; and Motivating and engaging host country private sector counterparts. The outcome of these discussions should further encourage greater private sector involvement in health sector reform.

Written by Jaspal

November 13, 2006 at 1:42 pm