|Summit covers health concerns from avian flu to TB|
Nov. 4, 2005
|A UMNS photo by John Goodwin
Bill Gates addresses the Global Health Summit in New York.
By Linda Bloom*
NEW YORK (UMNS) — Old diseases — malaria, tuberculosis and measles —
still account for significant death rates in some countries.
Newer diseases — HIV/AIDS and emerging threats like the avian flu — have an even larger global impact.
Issues surrounding such health crises were addressed during the Nov.
1-3 Global Health Summit in New York, sponsored by TIME magazine and the
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. United Methodists were among the
participants from medicine, government, business, nonprofits, public
policy and the arts.
United Methodist Bishop Joao Somane Machado of Mozambique was part of
a panel discussion on "How Can Malaria and TB Be Contained?" that was
moderated by Philip Elmer-Dewitt, TIME's sciences editor.
The bishop's experience with malaria has been sadly personal. Besides
suffering from repeated bouts of the disease since his birth — about 85
times, according to his estimate — Machado lost two nephews to malaria
about five years ago. "They died because of (drug) resistant malaria,"
he recalled. "They were gone in less than a week."
Paul Farmer, a doctor and board member of Partners in Health, wasn't
surprised by the bishop's continual re-infection or the drug-resistance
problem. "The bishop describes, I'm sorry to say, a very common scenario
in Africa," he said.
Charity Ngilu, Kenya's minister of health, added that malaria becomes
impossible to treat "when you do not have the drugs" or the ability to
hire health care workers. In her country, 20 million are at risk of
infection and each year about 3,400 children die and 6,000 women suffer
miscarriages due to the disease.
|A UMNS photo by John Goodwin
Methodist Bishop Joao Somane Machado of Mozambique (second from right)
participates in a panel discussion at the Global Health Summit in New
Machado noted that while 4,000 malaria deaths of children under five
were reported in Mozambique for 2004, the real toll is probably much
higher because so many families live far from hospitals.
Treatment for TB also is a problem in Mozambique because when
patients improve, they often stop taking the needed medicines. "After
one month, they feel a little better," Machado said. "They need to go
back to work because the family has no food to eat."
Farmer, who has done extensive work with multi-drug resistant TB,
explained that such resistance occurs when TB patients interrupt or
change the use of medicine. The only solution, he said, is to have
health workers assume complete responsibility for TB patients until
therapy is over. That responsibility includes providing supplemental
But disease resistance to various drugs continues to grow. And while a
handful of public-private partnerships are working on product
development, Farmer said, "Very little is known about drug development
In a Nov. 2 press conference, Bill Gates talked about the need to "pursue many approaches" to eradicate malaria.
Three days earlier, the Gates Foundation had announced the funding of
three new grants, totaling $258.3 million, for malaria control. A $107.6
million grant will allow the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative to work
with GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals and African investigators on testing
and licensure of an advanced malaria vaccine.
|A UMNS photo by John Goodwin
Richard Branson, chairman of the Virgin Group of Companies, addresses a
press conference during TIME’s Global Health Summit in New York.
Another $100 million will be used by Medicines for Malaria Venture to
accelerate development of promising new drugs. A $50.7 million grant
will allow fast-track development of improved insecticides and other
mosquito controls through the Innovative Vector Control Consortium, led
by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.
"In the long run, the ideal would be to have a vaccine you have early
in life" which would provide permanent protection against malaria,
Another long-time killer of children is being pursued by the Measles
Initiative, whose partners include the American Red Cross, United
Nations Foundation, World Health Organization, Centers for Disease
Control and UNICEF.
Despite the availability of an effective, inexpensive vaccine, more
than half a million people died of measles in 2003, most of them
children under 5. But the death rate is dropping, with more than 200
million children in Africa vaccinated and some 1 million lives saved
since 1999, largely due to support of the Measles Initiative and
commitment from African governments.
During a summit press conference, Ted Turner, chairman of the UN
Foundation, announced the organization was making a further commitment
of $20 million to the Measles Initiative over the next four years. The
foundation already had contributed $37 million to the project.
Turner called the commitment an effective use of funds. "This is a
disease that can be combated with a minimal amount of money in an
immunization project," he said.
The concern over a possible avian flu pandemic was addressed at
several points during the summit. President Bush announced Nov. 1 that
he would ask Congress for $7.1 billion to combat such a pandemic, mainly
through research and stockpiling vaccines and other drugs.
In a panel discussion on the "next plague," Irvin Redlener, M.D.,
director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness, declared the
Bush plan a "catch-up" effort. "This is the biological version of not
fixing the levees in New Orleans," he said.
Nils Daulaire, an internationally known public health physician and
president of the Global Health Council, was heartened by the emphasis on
research for new vaccines in the Bush plan. "We really do need a way to
rapidly produce new vaccines," he said during a press conference.
"These infections will not wait for the three to five years it takes us
currently to develop new vaccines."
He doesn't believe there will be bird flu pandemic next year, but
said it could happen sometime over the next decade. The fact that the
death rate from infection is far higher than other modern flus gives it
"the potential to become a real killer strain," Nils added.
In a speech to summit participants, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan
outlined seven key priorities to help the United Nations and the
international community prepare for the possibility of a pandemic.
Gates teamed with former President Bill Clinton in a Q&A session,
hosted by Jim Kelly, TIME's managing editor, on issues ranging from
President Bush's efforts on AIDS to public-private partnerships on
health initiatives to the idea of a "Medical Peace Corps."
Partnerships were on the mind of Sir Richard Branson, chairman of the
Virgin Group of Companies, who said in a press conference that the time
he has spent at hospitals in Africa has made him realize "these people
are dying unnecessarily."
His hope is that a type of "war room" can emerge from the Global
Health Summit "to make sure that best practices are put into action."
The Global Health Summit was held in association with "Rx for
Survival," co-produced by WGBH Nova and Vulcan Productions, which aired
Nov. 1-3 on PBS.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Africa Malaria Initiative
Learn About Giving Opportunities
Bishop Joao Somane Machado: "It is possible to end malaria"
Fight against malaria needs everyone's attention
United Methodists to launch malaria prevention program
The Bills Take on the Summit