Application Period Open for Department of State and Environmental Protection Agency Virtual Air Quality Fellowship

3 May

Office of the Spokesperson

In honor of Air Quality Awareness Week (May 3-7), applications are now being accepted for the U.S. Department of State (DOS) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Virtual Air Quality Fellowship program through May 21, 2021. This fellowship is a vital component of DOS and EPA’s collaborative efforts to improve access to, and application of, continuous air quality data worldwide.  The fellowship is open to air quality experts from universities, government agencies, or non-profit institutions.  Applicants must be U.S. citizens. For more information, see https://www.state.gov/global-air-quality-fellowship/.

The F  will volunteer 10-20 hours per month for one year providing technical and/or policy support for a U.S. embassy or consulate. While the fellowship is virtual, some posts have sponsored visits by their Fellows to their country to help advance management and diplomatic objectives.

In the first five years of the program, Fellows have performed a wide variety of activities, including: using models to estimate air levels of fine particles, or PM2.5; using satellite data in areas where monitoring data is unavailable to identify pollution trends; meeting with local government officials to discuss air quality reporting best practices; developing local air quality forecasting tools; helping U.S. diplomatic posts conduct maintenance on reference-grade air quality monitors; and assisting posts in understanding how to leverage data for decision-making.

Air quality data can help U.S. citizens and government personnel overseas make informed health decisions to mitigate health risks from air pollution, advance air quality policy-making, as well as enhance scientific capacity around the world.  For further information, please contact DOSAir@state.gov and visit https://www.state.gov/environmental-innovation/#airquality.

New WHO benchmarks help countries reduce salt intake and save lives

3 May

Most people consume double the WHO-recommended 5g of daily salt intake, putting themselves at greater risk of the heart diseases and strokes that kill an estimated 3 million people each year.

Today, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a new set of global benchmarks for sodium levels in more than 60 food categories that will help countries reduce sodium contents in foods to improve diets and save lives.

WHO Global Sodium Benchmarks for Different Food Categories” is a guide for countries and industry to reduce the sodium content in different categories of processed foods. Around the world, consumption of processed food is a rapidly increasing source of sodium.

Confusingly, similar processed food products often contain different amounts of sodium in different countries. WHO’s harmonized global benchmarks will show countries how they can progressively lower their targets, based on their local food environments, and encourage industry to lower the sodium content in processed foods accordingly and advance toward the WHO goal of 30% reduction in global salt/sodium intake by 2025.

“Most people don’t know how much sodium they consume, or the risks it poses,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “We need countries to establish policies to reduce salt intake and provide people with the information they need to make the right food choices. We also need the food and beverage industry to cut sodium levels in processed foods. WHO’s new benchmarks give countries and industry a starting point to review and establish policies to transform the food environment and save lives.”

The WHO Global Sodium Benchmarks target a wide range of categories of processed and packaged food products that significantly contribute to overly salty diets. Processed and packaged bread, savoury snacks, meat products and cheese are among the categories of high-sodium food products identified for the new global benchmarks.

Reducing sodium content by reformulating processed foods is a proven strategy to reduce population sodium intake, particularly in places where consumption of processed foods is high. It can also prevent processed foods from becoming a major source of sodium in countries where consumption of these manufactured foods may be rapidly increasing.

In the United Kingdom, voluntary targets for food manfacturers to reformulate products decreased adult salt intake approximately 15% between 2003 and 2011, indicating that target-setting across multiple food categories can achieve meaningful reductions in sodium consumption. 

“Access to affordable, healthy foods is critically important for all people in every country,” said Dr Tom Frieden, President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, an Initiative of Vital Strategies. “These global benchmarks are an important first step. As consumer tastes adjust and technology advances, country governments and the WHO can steadily reduce them over time until population sodium reduction goals have been met. When we reduce sodium gradually, our food will still taste great, and only our hearts will know the difference!”

These new benchmarks are launching during a decisive year for food and nutrition policy. The United Nations Food Systems Summit in September and the Nutrition for Growth Summit in December will convene a wide range of stakeholders to transform food systems by providing opportunities for national, regional and global efforts to improve the food environment and make commitments including to limit the sodium content in processed foods.

 

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About the World Health Organization

The World Health Organization provides global leadership in public health within the United Nations system. Founded in 1948, WHO works with 194 Member States, across six regions and from 149 offices, to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable. Our goal for 2019-2023 is to ensure that a billion more people have universal health coverage, to protect a billion more people from health emergencies, and provide a further billion people with better health and wellbeing.

For updates on COVID-19 and public health advice to protect yourself from coronavirus, visit www.who.int and follow WHO on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, Pinterest, Snapchat, YouTube, Twitch

About Resolve to Save Lives

Resolve to Save Lives is an initiative of the global health organization Vital Strategies focused on preventing 100 million deaths from heart disease and making the world safer from epidemics. It is led by Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To find out more visit: https://www.resolvetosavelives.org or Twitter @ResolveTSL

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. We work with governments and civil society in 73 countries to design and implement evidence-based strategies that tackle their most pressing public health problems. Our goal is to see governments adopt promising interventions at scale as rapidly as possible.

To find out more, please visit www.vitalstrategies.org or Twitter @VitalStrat.

 

New report sounds the alarm on global shortage of 900 000 midwives

3 May

Fully investing in midwives by 2035 would avert roughly two-thirds of maternal, newborn deaths and stillbirths, saving 4.3 million lives per year. 

Millions of lives of women and newborns are lost, and millions more experience ill health or injury, because the needs of pregnant women and skills of midwives are not recognized or prioritized.

The world is currently facing a shortage of 900 000 midwives, which represents a third of the required global midwifery workforce. The COVID-19 crisis has only exacerbated these problems, with the health needs of women and newborns being overshadowed, midwifery services being disrupted and midwives being deployed to other health services.

These are some of the key takeaways from the 2021 State of World’s Midwifery report by UNFPA (the UN sexual and reproductive health agency), WHO (World Health Organization), International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) and partners, which evaluates the midwifery workforce and related health resources in 194 countries.

The acute shortage of midwives is exacting a terrible global toll in the form of preventable deaths. An analysis conducted for this report, published in the Lancet last  December, showed that fully resourcing midwife-delivered care by 2035 could avert 67 per cent of maternal deaths, 64 per cent of newborn deaths and 65 per cent of stillbirths. It could save an estimated 4.3 million lives per year.

Despite alarms raised in the last State of the World’s Midwifery report in 2014, which also provided a roadmap on how to remedy this deficit, progress over the past eight years has been too slow. The analysis in this year’s report shows that, at current rates of progress, the situation will have improved only slightly by 2030.

Gender inequality is an unacknowledged driver in this massive shortage. The continued under-resourcing of the midwifery workforce is a symptom of health systems not prioritizing the  sexual and reproductive health needs of women and girls, and not recognizing the role of midwives – most of whom are women – to meet these needs. Women account for 93 per cent of midwives and 89 per cent of nurses.

Midwives do not just attend births. They also provide antenatal and postnatal care and a range of sexual and reproductive health services, including family planning, detecting and treating sexually transmitted infections, and sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents, all while ensuring respectful care and upholding women’s rights. As numbers of midwives increase, and they are able to provide care in an enabling environment, women’s and newborns’ health improves as a whole, benefitting all of society. 

For midwives to achieve their life-saving and life-changing potential, greater investment is needed in their education and training, midwife-led service delivery, and midwifery leadership. Governments must prioritise funding and support for midwifery and take concrete steps to include midwives in determining health policies.

Quotes from partners:

Dr Franka Cadée, President of the International Confederation of Midwives:

“As autonomous, primary care providers, midwives are continually overlooked and ignored. It's time for governments to acknowledge the evidence surrounding the life-promoting, life-saving impact of midwife-led care, and take action on the SoWMy report's recommendations. ICM is committed to leveraging the strength of our global midwife community to carry forward these powerful findings and inspire country-level change. However, this work is not possible without commitment from decision makers and those with the resources to invest in midwives and the quality care they provide to birthing women." 

Dr Natalia Kanem, UNFPA Executive Director:

“The State of the World’s Midwifery report sounds the alarm that currently the world urgently needs 1.1 million more essential health workers to deliver sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn and adolescent health care, and 80 per cent of these missing essential health workers are midwives. A capable, well-trained midwife can have an enormous impact on childbearing women and their families – an impact often passed on from one generation to the next. At UNFPA, we have spent more than a decade strengthening education, enhancing working conditions and supporting leadership roles for the midwifery profession. We have seen that these efforts work, but they need greater investment.”

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General:

“Midwives play a vital role in reducing the risks of childbirth for women all over the world, but many have themselves been exposed to risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. We must learn the lessons the pandemic is teaching us, by implementing policies and making investments that deliver better support and protection for midwives and other health workers. This report provides the data and evidence to support WHO’s longstanding call to strengthen the midwifery workforce, which will deliver a triple dividend in contributing to better health, gender equality and inclusive economic growth.”

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Notes to editors

The launch of the 2021 State of World’s Midwifery report includes policy recommendations to improve sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn and adolescent health service delivery and midwifery leadership and governance. These policy recommendations will be the subject of a meeting of health ministers on 18 May and a dialogue at the 74th World Health Assembly (24 May), where WHO Member States are anticipated to adopt the evidence-based Global Strategic Directions for Nursing and Midwifery 2021-2025 with a Resolution on nursing and midwifery. 

For interview requests and more information, please contact:

 

America Credits Biden for Reaching Across the Aisle, Republicans for Gridlock

3 May
As the Republican Party spent another weekend tearing itself apart and doubling down on opposition to popular parts of the American Jobs Plan, Americans recognize one thing: President Biden is taking the country in a positive direction, and he’s actually reaching across the aisle, despite Republicans’ best efforts to block him. 

ABC News: Country optimistic after Biden’s 1st 100 days: POLL

  • Nearly two-thirds of Americans (64%) are optimistic about the direction of the country in the poll, which was conducted by Ipsos in partnership with ABC News using Ipsos’ KnowledgePanel.
  • The last time the country came close to that level of optimism about the coming year was in December 2006, when 61% said they were optimistic about where the country was headed, according to previous ABC News/Washington Post polls.
  • In his address before a joint session of Congress this week, he outlined unprecedented investments for his core priorities, while standing undeterred by sharp Republican resistance. And the Democratic Party appears united behind him: 90% of Democrats approved of his job performance in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll.
  • A slim majority of Americans (51%) in the new survey think Biden is compromising about the right amount with congressional Republican leaders on the most pressing issues. 
  • Republican leaders are viewed more adversely, however. Two-thirds of Americans view GOP leaders in Congress as doing too little to compromise with Biden.
  • Biden, for his part, is outperforming his predecessor on this measure. More than half of the country (56%) thought Trump was doing too little to compromise with Democrats in an ABC News/Washington Post poll from September 2017. Meanwhile, current Republican leaders in Congress are slightly underperforming their Democratic counterparts in the Trump era, when 60% of Americans said the Democrats weren’t doing enough to compromise with Trump.
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The post America Credits Biden for Reaching Across the Aisle, Republicans for Gridlock appeared first on Democrats.

Secretary Antony J. Blinken with Bruneian Foreign Minister II Dato Erywan Yusof Before Their Meeting

3 May

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

London, United Kingdom

Grosvenor House Hotel

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, welcome.  Mr. Minister, it’s so good to see you.  I’m glad that having spoken on the phone, we now have an opportunity to connect face to face, or mask to mask.  And I’m so glad to see you both for the important work we get to do on a bilateral basis, but also based on your tenure now as the chair of ASEAN, the very important work that ASEAN is doing, including with regard to Myanmar and many other issues.  So I welcome the opportunity to spend some time.  Welcome.

FOREIGN MINISTER YUSOF:  Excellency, firstly, thank you for having this meeting with me.  First and foremost, I’d like to appreciate our close bilateral relation, and His Highness’s wish to convey his regards to the President.  Our relationship has been quite long, and it has been quite close, so we look forward to working closely on bilateral issues, and also on matters of regional and international concern.  Thank you very much.

WHO Director-General congratulates the Democratic Republic of the Congo as 12th Ebola outbreak is declared over; stresses need to maintain vigilance to prevent virus’s return

3 May

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus congratulated all involved in bringing an end to the 12th Ebola outbreak in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and stressed the need for continued vigilance to prevent a return of the disease and in containing other health challenges.

“Today’s declaration of an end to the latest Ebola outbreak in the in Democratic Republic of the Congo is a testament to the professionalism, sacrifices, and collaboration by hundreds of true health heroes, in particular the Congolese responders,” said Dr Tedros. “The World Health Organization is committed to helping national and local authorities, and the people of North Kivu, prevent the return of this deadly virus and to promote the overall health and well-being of all at-risk communities.”

This latest Ebola outbreak started in North Kivu in February, coming nine months after an earlier outbreak in the same province was declared over. It was the country’s fourth in under three years.

Dr Tedros said the return earlier this year of the virus underscored the persistent health threats that people in North Kivu face, and the need for all involved in promoting and protecting public health to remain vigilant in the face of Ebola, as well as COVID-19, measles, cholera and other challenges confronting communities, all within a difficult climate marked by violence.

In the latest outbreak, now declared over, 11 confirmed cases and one probable case, six deaths and six recoveries were recorded in four health zones since 7 February. Genome sequencing results found that the first case detected was linked to the earlier outbreak, but the infection’s source is yet to be determined.

The response was coordinated by the Provincial Department of Health in collaboration with WHO and partners. WHO had nearly 60 experts on the ground and as soon as the outbreak was declared helped local workers to trace contacts, provide treatment, engage communities and vaccinate nearly 2000 people at high risk, including over 500 frontline workers.

While this latest outbreak is over, there is a need for continued vigilance and maintaining a strong surveillance system as potential flare-ups are possible in coming months. It is equally important to keep improving infection prevention and control in health facilities to prevent all infectious diseases, and to keep supporting Ebola survivors through dedicated rehabilitation programmes. Such actions must be supported by dedicated efforts to improve the persistent challenges posed by insecurity and armed violence in the North Kivu region.

 

Secretary Blinken’s Meeting with Bruneian Foreign Minister II Erywan

3 May

Office of the Spokesperson

The below is attributable to Spokesperson Ned Price

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke today with Bruneian Foreign Minister II Dato Erywan Yusof on the margins of the G7 Foreign Ministerial in London. Secretary Blinken and Foreign Minister II Erywan reaffirmed our countries’ longstanding friendship and cooperation and discussed issues of shared concern and priority, including economic ties, regional security, and human rights. The Secretary noted the United States’ commitment to ASEAN centrality and ASEAN’s role in the regional architecture, adding that he looked forward to even greater U.S. engagement with ASEAN. Secretary Blinken and Foreign Minister II Erywan also discussed ASEAN’s role in resolving the crisis in Burma. The Secretary thanked Foreign Minister II Erywan for Brunei’s work as chair on this issue and urged ASEAN to hold the Burmese military junta accountable to the consensus plan.

WHO welcomes Sweden’s announcement to share COVID-19 vaccine doses with COVAX

3 May

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus welcomed the Government of Sweden’s announcement today to share 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine with the COVAX Facility to provide life-saving vaccines to people at risk from COVID-19 in low income countries.

“Sweden’s announcement that it will share 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines with COVAX is a superb gesture that must be replicated urgently, and repeatedly, by governments around the world to accelerate the equitable rollout of vaccines globally,” said Dr Tedros, who met today with Sweden’s Minister for Development Cooperation, Mr Per Olsson Fridh, during his visit to WHO’s headquarters in Geneva.

COVAX urgently needs 20 million doses during the second quarter of 2021 to cover interruptions in supply triggered by increased demands for vaccines in India where COVAX’s main supplier of the AstraZeneca product is based.

Dr Tedros added: “Such support will ensure that people in vulnerable countries, especially, in Africa, will be able to receive their second doses through the COVAX initiative. Sweden’s generous support is very timely as it comes at a time when the world needs it most.”

WHO and its partners are advocating for countries to make contributions, like Sweden’s, to donate doses from their stocks to boost vaccine supplies to COVAX to deepen vaccination coverage in low income countries and to ensure populations in such places receive needed second doses. Several other countries have made similar commitments recently, including New Zealand and France.

 

 

Secretary Blinken’s Meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Motegi

3 May

Office of the Spokesperson

The below is attributable to Spokesperson Ned Price:

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met today with Japanese Foreign Minister Motegi Toshimitsu in London. Secretary Blinken and Foreign Minister Motegi emphasized the importance of the U.S.-Japan Alliance for promoting peace, security, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and the world. The Secretary and the Foreign Minister also highlighted the importance of U.S.-Japan cooperation to address the global threats from COVID-19 and the climate crisis, while also advancing the free and open rules-based international order.  Additionally, Secretary Blinken and Minister Motegi shared their concerns about North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs and reaffirmed their commitment to address and resolve these issues through U.S.-Japan-Republic of Korea trilateral cooperation towards denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The Secretary also reiterated the U.S. commitment to the immediate resolution of the abductions issue, and they discussed the urgent need to put Burma on the path back towards democracy and to hold the military junta to account.

WHO lists Moderna vaccine for emergency use

3 May

Today, WHO listed the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine (mRNA 1273) for emergency use, making it the fifth vaccine to receive emergency validation from WHO.

WHO’s Emergency Use Listing (EUL) assesses the quality, safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines and is a prerequisite for COVAX Facility vaccine supply. It also allows countries to expedite their own regulatory approval to import and administer COVID-19 vaccines.

The vaccine has already been reviewed by WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE), which makes recommendations for vaccines’ use in populations (i.e. recommended age groups, intervals between shots, advice for specific groups such as pregnant and lactating women). The SAGE recommended the vaccine for all age groups 18 and above in its interim recommendations dated 25 January 2021. 

The US Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for the Moderna vaccine on 18 December 2020 and a marketing authorisation valid throughout the European Union was granted by the European Medicines Agency on 6 January 2021.

The WHO EUL process can be carried out quickly when vaccine developers submit the full data required by WHO in a timely manner. Once those data are submitted, WHO can rapidly assemble its evaluation team and regulators from around the world to assess the information and, when necessary, carry out inspections of manufacturing sites.

The Moderna vaccine is an mNRA-based vaccine. It was found by the SAGE to have an efficacy of efficacy of 94.1%, based on a median follow-up of two months. Although the vaccine is provided as a frozen suspension at –25 ºC to –15 ºC in a multidose vial, vials can be stored refrigerated at 2–8 °C for up to 30 days prior to withdrawal of the first dose, meaning that ultra-cold chain equipment may not always be necessary to deploy the vaccine.

WHO emergency use listing

The emergency use listing procedure assesses the suitability of novel health products during public health emergencies. The objective is to make medicines, vaccines and diagnostics available as rapidly as possible to address the emergency, while adhering to stringent criteria of safety, efficacy and quality. The assessment weighs the threat posed by the emergency as well as the benefit that would accrue from the use of the product against any potential risks.

The EUL pathway involves a rigorous assessment of late phase II and phase III clinical trial data as well as substantial additional data on safety, efficacy, quality and a risk management plan. These data are reviewed by independent experts and WHO teams who consider the current body of evidence on the vaccine under consideration, the plans for monitoring its use, and plans for further studies.

As part of the EUL process, the company producing the vaccine must commit to continue to generate data to enable full licensure and WHO prequalification of the vaccine. The WHO prequalification process will assess additional clinical data generated from vaccine trials and deployment on a rolling basis to ensure the vaccine meets the necessary standards of quality, safety and efficacy for broader availability.

WHO has also listed the Pfizer/BioNTech, Astrazeneca-SK Bio, Serum Institute of India and Janssen vaccines for emergency use.