“Step up Zika fight for Mother’s Day 2017” by Ashish Jha

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This Mother’s Day, tens of thousands of expectant mothers across the globe are confronting the heartbreaking fear that their baby will be born with a severe, permanent disability because of the Zika virus.  Mothers and children are living with the tragic effects of the virus every day.

The link between the Zika virus and serious brain and other neurological defects in newborns is no longer in doubt. But the full extent of the Zika outbreak and all its causes is not known, and the response to date has been inadequate. This Mother’s Day is a time to call for action — to improve the prevention and response to global outbreaks such as Zika — so that next Mother’s day is marked by fewer cases, less despair, and more answers.

The number of Zika cases is growing rapidly.  What began in Brazil has spread across South America, the Caribbean and Latin America and now spread through much of the world. In the past year, 42 countries have detected Zika for the first time. What often starts as a simple mosquito bite to a pregnant woman leads to a mild, brief illness in the mother but can result in the birth of a child with serious brain defects. The developing brain is most susceptible to the ravages of Zika.

These issues will become paramount here in the United States, as we move into the warm, wet weather in which mosquitos breed, and bite. For women who are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant, this is an especially anxious time. Yet mosquitoes aren’t the only source. The latest evidence suggests that Zika can spread through sexual contact and blood transfusions.  But there is so much we don’t know about Zika: other modes of transmission, why it affects people differently, and how we might best keep moms and babies safe. Given that there is neither a vaccine nor treatment, these questions loom large.

So the bottom line is this: Zika is not a virus the U.S. can fight alone. Mosquitoes and viruses don’t respect national borders.  In our interconnected world, a disease outbreak anywhere is potentially a disease outbreak everywhere. So what can we do?

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via usatoday.com/

“Targeting the ills of climate change”

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Excerpt: The effects of climate change almost always have an element that harms human health, whether it’s heat waves, droughts, spreading disease, or other devastating events.

That’s why Secretary of State John Kerry stopped at Harvard Thursday to help launch a joint initiative between the Harvard Global Health Institute (HGHI) and the Harvard University Center for the Environment (HUCE) that he called “important in so many different ways.” The effort is focused on the global health impacts of climate change, which can sometimes be overshadowed by more immediate concerns.

By focusing on health and climate change, organizers hope to provide a research-based understanding of the issues involved, to inform both policies and practice in the future. HGHI Director Ashish Jha, K.T. Li Professor of International Health and a professor of medicine, said the spread of Zika is one example. Though the virus has been linked to climate change’s potential to spread disease, a rigorous examination of the evidence is necessary to determine if that’s truly the case, he said.

“We have to be scientifically thoughtful about this. If you start making connections where there are none, you will lose credibility,” Jha said. “We have to be thoughtful about … going only where the science and data allow us to go, but that said, the science and data allow us to go much further than I think we have made clear.”

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via news.harvard.edu

“The Costs of Inequality: More Money Equals Better Health Care and Longer Life”

Obamacare has helped many, but system’s holes limit gains, Harvard analysts say.

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Excerpt:  “If you’re having a heart attack, there are very standardized protocols. If you’re African-American, you’re less likely to get those, even with the same health insurance, even with the same presentation,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, the K.T. Li Professor of International Health, professor of medicine, and director of the Harvard Global Health Institute. “It’s things like that that trouble us.”

Disparities in health, Jha said, begin at birth for many African-Americans and persist through life.

“One thing we hoped is that the health care system would be part of the solution. What we find, over and over, is that not only does it not do that consistently, sometimes it makes things worse,” Jha said. “It’s obviously deeply disappointing.”

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via usnews.com

“New Risks at Rural Hospitals”

Financial incentives are leading small facilities to perform more surgeries

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Excerpt: The Journal’s analysis “suggests there is not just a financial cost but a huge clinical cost” to the rising number of surgeries, said Ashish Jha, a Harvard professor who has studied critical-access hospitals. “Patients are getting bad outcomes, probably because they are getting procedures at hospitals without the experience to do it well,” he said.

Dr. Jha and associates at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health reviewed the Journal’s findings using a statistical method that corrects for the effects of patients’ varying health conditions, ages and other factors. That analysis found the 30-day mortality rate for inpatient joint replacements was about 9 per 1,000 at critical-access hospitals in 2013, compared with around 5 in 1,000 at general hospitals.

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via wsj.com

“Ebola crisis ‘claimed needless lives’ because World Health Organisation failed to act quickly”

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Excerpt: Professor Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute in the US – who co-chaired the panel, said: “The most egregious failure was by WHO in the delay in sounding the alarm.

“People at WHO were aware that there was an Ebola outbreak that was getting out of control by spring .. and yet, it took until August to declare a public health emergency. The cost of the delay was enormous.”

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via telegraph.co.uk