RotaFlash, April 2016
Our work on rotavirus vaccines has brought PATH’s Vaccine Development team to India countless times over the past several years. But rather than research or prepping for clinical studies, this week’s trip brings us to India for a related, yet different undertaking: joining fellow scientists, advocates, and other partners to celebrate progress and share experiences.
Through most of the International Rotavirus Symposium’s 20-plus-years history, the focus has been on the vital potential of rotavirus vaccines. But recent installments, including this year’s event which opens today in New Delhi, are increasingly celebrating the vaccines’ real-world impact. With rotavirus vaccines now introduced in more than 20 of the world’s hardest-hit countries (and counting), families are realizing the benefit of protection against the leading cause of severe and fatal diarrhea. Rotavirus vaccines are truly changing—and saving—lives.
India will soon join this illustrious collection of countries with its pending introduction of ROTAVAC®, an indigenous new vaccine developed through a social innovation partnership that combined the expertise of Indian scientists and international organizations, including PATH. ROTAVAC® holds exciting potential—if scaled to current immunization rates in India, the vaccine could prevent 20,000 child deaths each year and dramatically slash hospitalizations and clinic visits. Not only a lifesaving solution for child health, rotavirus vaccination can also spare the costs associated with illness—a critical boost as low-income, high-burden communities strive to rise above poverty.
The progress highlighted at the International Rotavirus Symposium is made possible only through partnerships and key collaborations. The foundation of PATH’s rotavirus projects—and a pivotal element of successful research and delivery—is our close collaboration with emerging-country governments, advocates, and manufacturers, and we look forward to highlighting these at the symposium. My colleagues in PATH’s Vaccine Development program will present the latest data from our collaborative efforts to develop non-replicating rotavirus vaccine candidates—administered intramuscularly to potentially overcome limitations of oral vaccines in high-burden populations. PATH’s Vaccine Access and Delivery Program will present exciting updates on research to optimize the performance of the current rotavirus vaccines in global use, including alternate administration schedules. Partnerships both within and beyond PATH allow us to contribute to the complete spectrum in developing, evaluating, and delivering safe, effective, and affordable rotavirus vaccines worldwide.
Along this development and delivery continuum, the translation of evidence to advocacy also plays a key role. The ROTA Council, a distinguished group of technical experts, will host an interactive session to highlight the crucial connections between researchers and advocates that ultimately inspire and advance lifesaving change. Evidence delivered through such advocacy can foster national policies that integrate rotavirus vaccines into a comprehensive strategy, giving communities the best possible chance and all tools available to defeat childhood diarrhea.
I extend my congratulations to all involved in unveiling the intricacies of rotavirus vaccines’ performance, discovering and improving new formulations, bringing vaccination to vulnerable families, and incorporating rotavirus vaccines into comprehensive national strategies. To be sure, there is further research on the horizon—from studying new candidates to evaluating the long-term impact of current vaccines—and far more advocacy to undertake. But today is a good reminder that there also is so much to celebrate.
Photo credit: PATH.Read more
Each year, on October 15, over two hundred million people gather together in countries around the world and celebrate Global Handwashing Day. This international day of advocacy and action shines a spotlight on the state of handwashing in each country or community where it is celebrated and helps to raise awareness about the benefits of handwashing. Why such a big focus on handwashing? This simple action, when practiced regularly can significantly reduce the risk of illness and death from diarrheal disease and pneumonia. With 1.7 million children dying from these causes each year, we certainly think that is a reason to celebrate!
To help individuals and organizations plan Global Handwashing Day celebrations in their community, region, or country, the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing has developed a Planner’s Guide. This year, the Planner’s Guide was updated to reflect the changing nature of Global Handwashing Day celebrations and the corresponding needs of planners.
Based on consultations with partners and others who have utilized the guide, we have attempted to create an updated guide that is action-oriented and provides planners with resources and inspiration to help as they implement a successful Global Handwashing Day celebration, and to encourage handwashing promotion throughout the year.
Those who have used the Planner’s Guide in years past will be familiar with the overall structure of the document; indeed, some sections such as the Five Facts about Handwashing are still very much the same. The biggest changes are found in the hands-on portion of the Guide. Here planners will find a step-by-step guide to planning an event, which is supplemented by fact boxes, event ideas, and tips for success. The annexes feature ideas for celebrations depending on the audience, an event planning checklist, facts about handwashing, and more.
Whether you’ve celebrated Global Handwashing Day for years, or this is your first, we hope that the Planner’s Guide will have provide you with the tools and ideas necessary to make your event a success. Let us know how it goes by uploading pictures and stories to our interactive, online map. And don’t forget, always wash your hands with soap!
Photo credit: Shahbaz Fawbush, MDRead more
You’ve probably heard the expression…give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you will feed him for a lifetime.
Now, if you apply this principle to health advocacy, you’ll get a pretty good sense of how some of my colleagues are helping local stakeholders promote better health policies and health outcomes at the local, regional, and national levels around the world. And I think it’s pretty cool. PATH is helping partners and allies learn how to create policy change in their own backyards – one step at a time.
This week, PATH launched a new online portal that outlines exciting work in this arena, built around an accessible ten-part framework informed by previous work – including work focused on combating diarrheal disease. This new framework provides a deliberate method for advocacy success by building the skills and knowledge that foster the positive change advocates can replicate time and again for long-term success.
As with any skill, learning how to do it takes practice. To date, our facilitators and mentors have supported health advocates in over 50 countries, primarily within Africa and Asia, to influence policy changes that support specific health objectives. The progress in Cambodia and Vietnam are two good examples of this work in action.
For years, outdated national policies in these two countries kept proven and readily available medicines – like zinc and oral rehydration solution (ORS) – from reaching caretakers and children who in turn needlessly suffered and died from diarrhea.
Starting in 2008, PATH helped convene in-country health advocates to join together to assemble needed evidence, identify key health decision makers, and convince the Ministries of Health in Cambodia and Vietnam to prioritize policy changes to improve access to medicines – including zinc and ORS – that could reduce the toll of diarrhea.
Breakthrough changes were realized in both countries in 2011 when new diarrheal disease policies including the use of zinc and ORS were announced by the countries health ministries. These new policies paved the way to make zinc and ORS readily available and allowed health care workers to learn how to administer them.
Because change takes time, our local health stakeholders worked strategically to maintain momentum to update their countries’ diarrheal disease control policies. Their story is just one of many successes that have improved health outcomes. See how our tools can help you have greater health impact.Read more
I grew up in an educated middle class Bangladeshi family in Dhaka, the capital of the country. I grew up with the idea that immunization is not important, that vaccines could have an adverse effect on vital organs of your body. Having a strong immune system without intervention was more desired. My siblings and I never could tell if we had received routine vaccines during our childhood or not. My elder siblings could confirm receiving the vaccine against tuberculosis from school, because it left marks on their body. I remember my father not being so happy about it.
Almost thirty years after, when my nephews were born, I saw a big change in my father’s attitude. I observed a growing awareness among young and elder mums in my family and neighborhood, too, irrespective of socioeconomic background. I observed my sister-in-law taking my nephews to receive polio vaccines on National Immunization Day (NID). In one instance, my cousin’s wife took my six-month old nephew to the nearest NID camp since his mother was at work. Most surprisingly, my father didn’t oppose it; he was more at ease, which was certainly a big change of attitude.
A final result of this massive change in attitude came when the World Health Organization declared Bangladesh as polio-free, along with ten other countries in WHO’s South East Asia region, on 3 May 2014.
A study published in the journal of Health Policy and Planning (1997) assessed the impact of the first two National Immunization Days in terms of immunization coverage and change in knowledge among women living Dhaka city. NIDs educated women, both slum and non-slum dwellers, about the prevention of polio through vaccination.
The drive to eradicate polio from Bangladesh required participation from the civil society, media, development partners, and the Government of Bangladesh. One of the key players of this joint effort is the International Centre for Diarrheal Disease, Bangladesh (icddr,b), an international organization based in Dhaka and known globally for its excellence in public health research. In 2013, icddr,b joined forces with scientists and health experts from 80 countries around the world to ratify a comprehensive new strategy to secure a lasting polio-free world by 2018.
icddr,b was established as a cholera research laboratory in 1960. icddr,b’s journey in the world of cholera and enteric diseases is commanding, as it gave the world the simplest solution to treat diarrheal disease: Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS). Till today, the discovery has saved an estimated 50 million lives worldwide, the majority of whom are children under five.
icddr,b’s fight against cholera and diarrhea continued and yielded another groundbreaking discovery that zinc, when taken with ORS, further reduces fatality rates from diarrhea. It also reduces duration, severity, and the likelihood of hospitalization during diarrheal episodes. As with ORS, Bangladesh was the first country to implement a national scale-up programme for ORS-zinc combination therapy.
Achievements as such these have earned icddr,b national and international recognition. While icddr,b is based in Dhaka, it addresses many urban and rural health challenges that affect not only Bangladesh but many other low-income countries in the world. Over time, icddr,b has expanded its initial research on diarrheal and enteric diseases to include other developing priorities to address health challenges worldwide—with a focus on children. The fight against polio in the region, for example, has been significantly boosted through the commitment of iccdr,b’s highly qualified and diverse group of researchers and scientists.
In addition to its research expertise, Bangladesh deploys one of the largest cohort of female health care volunteers in the world. icddr,b is one of the leading organizations who started recruiting female volunteers, starting in the 1970s. These volunteers are trusted members of the community who have been providing primary care and services regarding immunization, family planning, and maternal and child care. Many of the volunteers have been working for more than two decades. These volunteers are providing immunization support through icddr,b’s hospital and sub-centres located in Matlab.
Through important research at icddr,b, the education of communities by health care volunteers, and the commitment of many partners including national government, attitudes about immunization among skeptics like my father have made a lifesaving turnaround in my country.
Photo credit: M.DorgabekovaRead more
The first week in August, African Leaders – including about 50 heads of state, CEOs of multinational corporations and others – will meet in Washington, DC for the first (potentially annual) US-Africa Leaders Summit. The general focus of the summit is about fostering stronger ties between the US and African Nations, with an emphasis on the next generation.
Many topics will be addressed – trade, security, environment – and I will be watching closely to see how the Administration addresses global health , and specifically how the US government intends to use this platform to address shared goals of ending preventable maternal and child death in a generation.
There is no more important investment in the future health and stability of African than saving the lives of mothers and children.
In June of 2012, the United States Government, in partnership with leaders from around the world, committed to ending preventable maternal and child death in a generation. President Obama has since echoed this message through two consecutive State of the Union Addresses – the primary platform where the US President shares his policy priorities. On June 25th of this year, USAID released a new report, Acting on the Call, which outlines what progress is needed to save 15 million children and nearly 600,000 women by 2020. At the same time, USAID made several announcements on realigning resources and developing new partnerships toward reaching this goal.
USAID is making great strides, but with existing resources and commitments, we will not reach our targets. Action is needed by the President to truly accelerate the rate of progress – putting the weight of multiple agencies behind this goal and catalyzing financial resources to truly realize the full potential of American partnerships with African Nations in maternal and child health.
August 6th is a pivotal day. During this time, President Obama will stand on the stage with other heads of State and carve out his legacy for partnership with African nations. Will he use this platform to drive forward a White House driven agenda on maternal and child health? Will this be a key moment for turning the President’s words into transformative action? Only time can tell.
I encourage my fellow advocates out there to be watching on social media and preparing to respond to any concrete actions laid forth.
Official Moments to Watch:
· August 4th: [Signature Side Event] Investing in Health: Investing in Africa's Future
o Chaired by USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah and HHS Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell, this official event will celebrate the global health successes Africa has already achieved and the progress still needed.
o Look for announcements made by Administrator Shah and participating heads of state.
· August 6th: [Official Heads of State Meeting]– Investing in Africa’s Future
· The opening session will discuss inclusive, sustainable development, economic growth, and trade and investment.
· Look for announcements by President Obama and other heads of state
Hashtags to follow:
Photo credit: David Jacobs/PATH.Read more