Gavi partners with Philips to improve quality of immunisation data

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and leading health technology company Royal Philips have signed a letter of intent to jointly develop scalable digital transformation plans aimed at improving the quality of immunisation data and its collection in primary and community healthcare. Their joint goal is to help Gavi supported countries improve the planning, coverage and impact of immunisation programmes. The partnership was announced at the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data event in New York in September.

Routine immunisation has played a key role in more than halving the annual number of child deaths since 1990. Nevertheless, around 1.5 million children under the age of five still die every year from vaccinepreventable diseases. Gavi and Philips have a shared vision that robust health IT infrastructures and the digital transformation of immunisation data are key to more resilient health systems. Using new health IT solutions for the development of improved data collection, and new models for better planning, Gavi and Philips will offer interested countries their complementary expertise to help maximise immunisation coverage and effectiveness by identifying children who are missing out on vaccination programmes.

“By working with Philips we plan to protect more children by improving the quality of immunisation data,” said Gavi CEO Dr Seth Berkley. “Weak data leads to poor planning, often meaning that children, whether they live in urban slums or remote rural outposts, miss out on vaccines multiple times because health workers simply don’t know where to find them. I am pleased that Philips will bring its experience in connected healthcare informatics to help us tackle this problem.”

“We are convinced that partnerships, such as this one with Gavi, are paramount to realising the goal of universal health coverage for all, especially among children,” said Jeroen Tas, CEO, Connected Care and Health Informatics at Philips. “Thanks to the digital revolution, we can now start doing what was previously unthinkable: enable access to care, improve patient outcomes and lower healthcare costs. Our vision for the partnership is that we will put our strengths in connected health, data analytics and population health management to further good use, by helping Gavi and the countries it supports to confidently identify and effectively immunise children, no matter where they live.”

Working in partnership with interested Ministries of Health, Gavi and Philips will bring together a multidisciplinary team of clinicians, researchers, designers and digital experts to collaborate on developing a shared vision and plan, tailored to local needs. Philips will leverage its HealthSuite Labs methodology to co-design, prototype and apply new technologies to improve service outreach and enable accurate bottom-up forecasting of immunisation needs. In addition, Philips and Gavi aim to develop data-driven feedback mechanisms to help improve decision making and identify the children that would benefit from vaccination.

Americas region first in world to eliminate measles

The Region of the Americas is the first in the world to have eliminated measles, a viral disease that can cause severe health problems, including pneumonia, blindness, brain swelling and even death. This achievement culminates a 22-year effort involving mass vaccination against measles, mumps and rubella throughout the Americas.

The declaration of measles’ elimination was made by the International Expert Committee for Documenting and Verifying Measles, Rubella, and Congenital Rubella Syndrome Elimination in the Americas. The announcement came during the 55th Directing Council of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO).

Measles is the fifth vaccine-preventable disease to be eliminated from the Americas, after the regional eradication of smallpox in 1971, poliomyelitis in 1994, and rubella and congenital rubella syndrome in 2015.

“This is a historic day for our region and indeed the world,” said PAHO/WHO Director Carissa F. Etienne. “It is proof of the remarkable success that can be achieved when countries work together in solidarity towards a common goal. It is the result of a commitment made more than two decades ago, in 1994, when the countries of the Americas pledged to end measles circulation by the turn of the 21st century.”

Before mass vaccination was initiated in 1980, measles caused nearly 2.6 million annual deaths worldwide. In the Americas, 101,800 deaths were attributable to measles between 1971 and 1979. A costeffectiveness study on measles elimination in Latin America and the Caribbean has estimated that with vaccination, 3.2 million measles cases will have been prevented in the Region and 16,000 deaths between 2000 and 2020.

“This historic milestone would never have been possible without the strong political commitment of our Member States in ensuring that all children have access to life-saving vaccines,” Etienne continued. “It would not have been possible without the generosity and commitment of health workers and volunteers who have worked so hard to take the benefits of vaccines to all people, including those in vulnerable and hard-to-reach communities. Indeed it would not have been possible without the strong leadership and coordination pro-vided by PAHO, Regional Office for the Americas of WHO.”

As a result of global measles elimination efforts, only 244,704 measles cases were reported worldwide in 2015, representing a significant decline from earlier years. However, more than a half of these reported cases were notified in Africa and Asia.


World leaders commit to tackling antimicrobial resistance

For the first time, world leaders at the Unite Nations have committed to taking a broad, coordinated approach to address the root causes of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) across multiple sectors, especially human health, animal health and agriculture. This commitment signals an unprecedented level of attention to curb the spread of infections that are resistant to antimicrobial medicines.

This is only the fourth time a health issue has been taken up by the UN General Assembly (the others were HIV, noncommunicable diseases, and Ebola). The highlevel meeting was convened by the President of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly, H.E. Peter Thomson.

“Antimicrobial resistance threatens the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and requires a global response,” Thomson said. “Member States have agreed upon a strong political declaration that provides a good basis for the international community to move forward. No one country, sector or organisation can address this issue alone.”

Countries reaffirmed their commitment to develop national action plans on AMR, based on the Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance — the blueprint for tackling AMR developed in 2015 by the World Health Organization (WHO) in coordination with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). Such plans are needed to understand the full scale of the problem and stop the misuse of antimicrobial medicines in human health, animal health and agriculture. Leaders recognized the need for stronger systems to monitor drug-resistant infections and the volume of antimicrobials used in humans, animals and crops, as well as increased international cooperation and funding.

They pledged to strengthen regulation of antimicrobials, improve knowledge and awareness, and promote best practices — as well as to foster innovative approaches using alternatives to antimicrobials and new technologies for diagnosis and vaccines.

Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO, said: “Antimicrobial resistance poses a fundamental threat to human health, development, and security. The commitments made must now be translated into swift, effective, lifesaving actions across the human, animal and environmental health sectors. We are running out of time.”

Common and life-threatening infections like pneumonia, gonorrhoea, and post-operative infections, as well as HIV, tuberculosis and malaria are increasingly becoming untreatable because of AMR. Left unchecked, AMR is predicted to have significant social, health security, and economic repercussions that will seriously undermine the development of countries.

The high levels of AMR already seen in the world today are the result of overuse and misuse of antibiotics and other antimicrobials in humans, animals (including farmed fish), and crops, as well as the spread of residues of these medicines in soil, crops and water. Within the broader context of AMR, resistance to antibiotics is considered the greatest and most urgent global risk requiring international and national attention.

Breakthrough in analytical sciences
could lead to medical revolution

Pharmaceutical research could be quicker and more precise, thanks to an innovative breakthrough in the analytical sciences from the University of Warwick.

Professor Peter O’Connor and Dr Maria van Agthoven in the Department of Chemistry have invented a device which makes 2D mass spectrometry – an effective process for analysing and sequencing proteins – widely accessible for the first time.

This could lead to a revolution in the pharmaceutical and biomedical communities, enabling researchers and companies to produce data-driven results on how protein molecules function, more easily and cheaply.

2D mass spectrometry allows chemists to explore the elemental composition and structure of a molecule by breaking it apart, and analysing its fragmented pieces – measuring mass, and gathering data on how the whole molecule functions and interacts with its environment.

High numbers of molecules can be experimented on at the same time in this way, as the various fragments of different broken molecules can be modulated at the same frequencies as the molecule from which they originated.

Professor O’Connor and Dr van Agthoven have patented an instrument with which 2D Mass spectrometry can be performed using a linear ion trap – this is a cheaper, smaller, and much more accessible option than was previously available.

The device can be added onto existing MS instruments as well as being bought with new instruments.

The process is currently undertaken using large, expensive machinery, which makes it a relatively exclusive scientific activity. However, the new invention is opening up the technique to a much wider market.

Mass spectrometry produces precise results during protein sequencing, and this type of data-driven biology will produce quicker, better results than are currently obtained in pharmaceutical and biomedical research.

Dr van Agthoven comments that the breakthrough could have numerous and varied applications: “Two-dimensional mass spectrometry has the potential to exponentially increase our knowledge in all areas, from biochemistry to food safety and environmental chemistry.”

Vital bowel cancer treatment
technology secures funding

A project to develop a revolutionary new bowel cancer surgery tool that will enable surgeons to carry out operations with far greater precision than ever before has received £628,000 (about US$783,000) in funding. Once developed, the new technology will significantly outperform conventional, electric-based tools that are currently being used in bowel surgery.

Heriot-Watt University and a consortium of academic and industry organisations received the three-year grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) through the Healthcare Impact Partnership scheme.

The aim of the grant is to allow the team to develop a working prototype of a device that combines optical fibres, which have a diameter like that of a human hair, with laser technology and a new optical imaging agent (EMI-137) that detects and images cancerous cells within the bowel.

At present, surgeons are hindered by a lack of access and visibility in the complex folds within the bowel, and which can lead to damage to surrounding tissue and create serious complications such as bowel perforation during an operation.

Currently, the most commonly used surgical method is electro-cautery which uses an electric current to essentially heat the tissue. This is much less precise than the latest technology being developed because it will be highly flexible and open new routes for minimally invasive surgery, overcoming many of the risks typically associated with electro-cautery.

To exploit these technological and clinical advances, the consortium has established a Healthcare Partnership. The ability to realise the full potential of these flexible fibres, and create a novel steerable surgical tool guided by fluorescent optical imaging agents, is only possible by bringing together a unique combination of expertise. This highlights the support of such a focussed EPSRC funding scheme, which is critical in the development of new, lifesaving, surgical technologies.

The consortium, led by Dr Jon Shephard of Heriot-Watt University, an expert in the use of lasers in medicine, includes Edinburgh Molecular Imaging Ltd, experts in the discovery and development of optical imaging agents, with clinical expertise provided by Professor David Jayne from the NIHR Healthcare Technologies Cooperative based at the University of Leeds.

Commenting on the development Dr Jon Shephard said: “In its present state, the surgical tools and medical technology available to perform bowel cancer operations make it hard for physicians to navigate around the organ and identify tumours. This EPSRC funding will allow us to create a steerable surgical tool guided by fluorescent molecular probes, improving the likelihood patients will be treated successfully and minimising the risks of the operation.

“We have formed an excellent partnership working across the project, including experts in high-power laser applications, surgical technologies and molecular imaging. I am confident that we will be able to further develop the technology and improve the life-saving colorectal surgical procedure, which in turn will become transferable to other life-threatening conditions.”

Call to invest in creation of health sector jobs

The Presidents of France and South Africa have called for urgent investments globally to create new jobs in the health sector in order to prevent a projected shortfall of 18 million health workers primarily in low- and lowermiddle- income countries, and help countries to maximize the social and economic benefits of increased health employment.

The High-Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth, chaired by François Hollande, President of France, and Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa, delivered its final report and recommendations to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

The Commission concluded that investing in the health workforce is needed to make progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, including gains in health, global security and inclusive economic growth. The commission made 10 recommendations for realising those gains, through appropriate investments in health employment that can power economies, move countries closer to universal health coverage and act as a bulwark against outbreaks such as Ebola.

Ageing populations and increasing rates of non-communicable diseases are projected to generate demand for 40 million new health workers worldwide by 2030, which would represent a doubling of the current global health workforce. But most of those jobs will be created in the wealthiest countries. Without action there will be a shortfall, primarily in low- and lowermiddle- income countries, of 18 million health workers needed to achieve and sustain universal health coverage.

Mounting evidence shows that investments in the health sector pay handsome dividends. The returns on investment in health are estimated to be 9 to 1, and around one quarter of growth between 2000 and 2011 in low-income and middle-income countries is estimated to have resulted from improvements to health. Investing in skills and expanding health employment will also contribute to the economic empowerment of women and youth.

“For too long countries have seen health workers as just another cost to be managed, instead of an investment with a triple return for health, economic growth and global health security,” said Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization.

The need for action is urgent. The Commission calls for immediate actions by March 2018 to secure commitments and accountability for accelerated health workforce investments. In response to the Commission’s request, the Vice-Chairs of the Commission from WHO, ILO and OECD will convene all relevant stakeholders by the end of 2016 to develop a five-year implementation plan for the 10 recommendations.

“The report provides solid evidence that investing in the health economy and progressing towards universal health coverage can strengthen economic growth and make it more inclusive by generating decent jobs in a wide range of occupations,” said Guy Ryder, Director-General of the International Labour Organization. “It offers practical proposals for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, particularly Sustainable Development Goal 3 on healthy lives and well-being for all at all ages, and goal 8 on inclusive growth and decent work.”

Health is a major and growing source of jobs. Across the OECD, employment in health and social work grew by 48 per cent between 2000 and 2014, while jobs in industry and agriculture declined.

New global initiative will engage 30 cities by 2030 to close mental health gap

King’s College London is joining a major new initiative aiming to reduce the mental health gap by engaging global and community leaders across private, public and philanthropic organisations.

Launched in September at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting in New York, “mental health now” or “mh- NOW” is an unprecedented challenge to cities around the world to close the global mental health treatment gap by catalysing and networking collective actions among leaders in every sector.

The group of over 30 organisations includes King’s College London, BasicNeeds, Grand Challenges Canada, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, International Medical Corps, Johnson & Johnson, National Institute of Mental Health, Orygen Center of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, StrongMinds, Verily Alphabet, the World Bank, and the World Psychiatric Association, among others.

The mental health gap is one of the world’s most devastating and under-resourced problems, affecting more than 450 million people worldwide and stretching far beyond the narrow boundaries of health. Mental illness will make up more than half of the economic burden of disease over the next two decades – more than cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases combined – and the global cost of all mental disorders combined is estimated to reach $6 trillion by 2030. Additionally, mental disorders are a challenge for youth – suicide is a top-three cause of death among youth worldwide, and 90% of children who die by suicide have a mental illness.

Because the effects of mental illness touch livelihoods, productivity, and even whole economies, mhNOW is taking a cross-sector and city-driven approach to close the mental health gap. Cities – with their inherent networks, density, creativity and entrepreneurial capacity – bear the highest burden of mental health but also have the highest potential to achieve meaningful mental health impact.

mhNOW will engage 30 cities by 2030, mobilising and channelling support to exceptional city projects that address mental health by providing resources, recognition, and technical assistance for outstanding initiatives in three target areas: (1) scaling local evidence- based innovative programs; (2) mobilising youth leadership; and (3) improving the evidence base for the return on investment in mental health using city-level and global data indicators.

Professor Graham Thornicroft from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) is leading the King’s College London group which is evaluation partner for the mhNOW consortium. He said: “mhNOW is a bold new partnership going well beyond previous initiatives in this fi eld. We aim to achieve transformational change by bringing together groups which have not previously been active in the mental health fi eld, working together to increase access to treatment for people with mental illness in many of the world’s greatest cities, by mobilising young people as agents of change. King’s will play a vital role by assessing the impact of this ambitious global programme.”

“Mental illness is humanity’s largest burden – one in four of us will experience mental illness sometime in our lives, and in developing countries, over 90% of people with mental illness receive no treatment,” said Chris Underhill, co-lead of mhNOW and founder of BasicNeeds. “The good news is that proven strategies for costeffective and high-quality mental health treatment exist – we just need to activate them. This new initiative will empower cities to spark that action on mental health to close the gap.”




Date of upload: 20th Nov 2016

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