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The East African : March 31st 2014
36 The EastAfrican OUTLOOK MARCH 29 - APRIL 4, 2014 S CI E N C E WHO recommends birth control for teens Says family planning info≥mation should be easily accessible By CHRISTABEL LIGAMI Special Correspondent T he World Health Organisation has released new guidelines that could see adolescent girls and boys able to seek contraceptive services without having to obtain permission from parents or guardians. The guidelines also recommend that women get family planning services without having to obtain authorisation from their husbands. WHO emphasises the importance of respecting the privacy and confidentiality of individuals. WHO says everyone who wants contraception should be able to obtain detailed and accurate information, and a variety of services, such as counselling as well as contraceptive products. Other key recommendations are scientifically accurate sex education programmes for young people, including information on how to use and acquire contraceptives. “A lack of contraception puts six out of 10 women in low-income countries at risk of unintended pregnancies,” said Flavia Bustreo, WHO’s assistant director-general for Family, Women and Children’s Health. “Ensuring availability and accessibility to contraceptive information and services is crucial, not only to protect their rights, but also their health. These unintended pregnancies can pose a major threat to their own and their children’s health and lives,” said Ms Bustreo. It underlines the need for no dis- crimination, coercion or violence, with special attention given to ensuring access to those who are disadvantaged and marginalised. This will help countries ensure that human rights are respected by providing more girls, women, and couples with the information and services they need to avoid unwanted pregnancies. WHO suggests ways to improve supply chains and affordability; recommends additional training for health workers; and outlines a series of steps to improve access in crisis settings, in HIV clinics, and during pre-natal and post-natal care. The new guidelines complement existing WHO recommendations for sexual and reproductive health programmes, including ma- ternal and newborn health, sex education, prevention of unsafe abortions, and core competencies for primary health care. “It is vital for women and men to understand how contraception works, and be happy with the method they receive.” Marleen Temmerman, director WHO’s department of Reproductive Health and Research An estimated 222 million girls CONTRACEPTION AS A SOLUTION NO ACCESS: An estimated 222 million girls and women who do not want to get pregnant, or who want to delay their next pregnancy, are not using contraception. PREGNANCY COMPLICATIONS: In lowand middle-income countries, complications of pregnancy and childbirth are among the leading cause of death in young women aged 15–19 years. YOUNG MOTHERS: Stillbirths and deaths in the first week of life are 50 per cent higher among babies born to mothers younger than 20 years than among babies born to mothers 20-29 years old. and women who do not want to get pregnant, or who want to delay their next pregnancy, are not using contraception. Access to contraception information and services will allow better planning for families and improved health. In low- and middle-income coun- tries, complications of pregnancy and childbirth are among the leading cause of death in young women aged 15–19 years. Stillbirths and deaths in the first week of life are 50 per cent higher among babies born to mothers younger than 20 years than among babies born to mothers 20-29 years old. Access to contraception allows couples to space pregnancies and enables those who wish to limit the size of their families to do so. Evidence suggests that women who have more than four children are at increased risk of death from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Many people who cannot cur- rently access contraception services are young, poor, and live in rural areas and urban slums. Efforts are under way to address this need. The 2012 London Summit on Family Planning committed to extend family planning services to at least 120 million more people by 2020. “Global targets are stimulating much needed action to increase access to modern contraception,” said Marleen Temmerman, director of WHO’s department of Reproductive Health and Research. “But we have to be careful that our efforts to meet those targets do not lead to human rights infringements. It is not just about increasing numbers, it’s also about increasing knowledge. It is vital for women and men to understand how contraception works, be offered a choice of methods, and be happy with the method they receive,” said Ms Temmerman. E-health solutions must have end-use≥ as focal point By CHRISTABEL LIGAMI Special Correspondent AFRICA’S MOBILE health care market is estimated to reach $1.2 billion by 2017, according to a new survey by Excelsior Group. This estimated growth does not include other potential investment areas for e-health such as health management information systems. Kenya, whose mobile penetration is projected to have reached 77 per cent by 2017, is expected to be a significant part of this market. But, while the use of the mobile health care technology is widespread, the programs are not yet up to scale. “In Kenya, for example, out of the 183 innovative health care programs, only 44 per cent have been implemented and are working efficiently,” said Felix Olale, Excelsior group executive chairman. “Finding out what models work and catalysing their growth could place the goal of transforming the health of Africans firmly within reach,” he added. Dr Olale said that the problem with African countries is that e-health systems are not integrated and are instead run by different independent organisations. Among the countries A patient waits to be attended to at a clinic in Mombasa County, Kenya. E-Health solutions should make lives easier and reduce costs. Picture: FILE that have embraced e-health technology in Africa are Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Ghana. The survey indicates that East Africa is cur- rently the hub of e-health technologies in Africa with over 100 innovative programs currently in place. However very few of these systems are expected to scale up into sustainable enterprises with most remaining speculative pilots. Anurag Mairal the program lead for technol- ogy solutions at PATH, a global healthcare innovator, said that the e-health sector has had many interesting projects that have been taken to the field, but most are neither sustainable nor scalable. “A lot of solutions have come from technolo- gists and engineers who are excited by the technology, but at times, they are not starting with the true need. If you first start with the need, then consider the technologies to apply as well as the overall business model and ecosystem, the solution might be very different. End-users must be central to the design,” said Dr Mairal. He said that if the innovation does not make lives easier, or reduce costs substantially for the stakeholders, the product is not going to get adopted and that’s what is happening in most countries. “The massive spread of smart phones and health-related applications has accelerated the development of e-health,” said Jay Sanders, CEO of The Global Telemedicine Group adding that understanding what models work, and growing them to scale, will be the key to radically improving health outcomes for all Africans. A woman gets a HIV test. Pic: File Philips sets up Africa innovation hub in Nairobi Philips, the Dutch-based diversified health group, has established its Africa Innovation Hub in Nairobi. The centre will promote innovations for the continent’s healthcare, lighting and healthy living sectors. The Africa Innovation Hub will use application-focused scientific and user studies to address key challenges like improving access to lighting and affordable healthcare as well as developing innovations to meet the aspirational needs of the rising middle class in Africa. African banana variety given all clear for export A study by the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (Icipe) said that mature green Cavendish dwarf bananas are a nonhost stage of Bactrocera invadens (an invasive Asian fruit fly), meaning that it should not be subjected to quarantine. “Previously, banana, citrus and avocado from Africa were banned by several countries. Now countries like South Africa, Italy, Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands should remove their restrictions for produce from Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique, Tanzania, Senegal,” said Icipe scientist Sunday Ekesi. BRIEFS Rwanda urged to ensure timely cancer detection The government of Rwanda has been urged to urgently revise its national strategy against cancer to ensure more timely detection and treatment. The call by medical experts comes after a recent report by the World Health Organisation said that developing countries are expected to bear the brunt of a significant increase in new cancer cases over the next two decades. “There is a need to revise the national strategic plan against cancer to cater for new cases,” said Tharcisse Mpunga the Medical Director of Butaro Cancer Centre in Rwanda. Researchers develop HIV preventing vaginal gel US researchers have developed a new vaginal gel that could help protect women from HIV. The gel is applied three hours after intercourse and contains antiretroviral drugs, which are important for HIV prevention. Existing gels are designed for application before sex, which can limit their use, the researchers said in their Science Translational Medicine paper. They believed a gel that can be applied after sex would be more practical because it will give women more control and would require less preparation before sex.
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