The Global Health Challenge

Manila Bulletin, November 22, 2010 | Go to article overview

The Global Health Challenge


Access to healthcare has been one of the world's most pressing social challenges today. Each year, millions of people in developing countries die from curable infectious diseases because they do not have access to basic healthcare each day. More than two million children still die each year from vaccine-preventable diseases. It is a complex problem with no simple solution. Facing such difficulties, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) recently held its annual media day to discuss issues and its response to other health priority areas in the region.Present during the event were three keynote speakers headed by Christophe Weber, senior vice president and and regional director of GSK in Asia Pacific. Weber shared his views on access to medicines as a global health challenge and how GSK's innovative approach to access in the region has a vital role to play. On the other hand, a respiratory medicine specialist from Hong Kong, Dr. Roland Leung, presented the disease burden of asthma and treatment priorities while Dr. Michael Elliott, vice president and area medical director of GSK Australia and Asia Pacific shared news of GSK's efforts to combat malaria, tubercolosis (TB), and human immunodeficiency virus / acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV-AIDS) which have particular impact in Asia.Limited access"We know it's a challenge and we know that there are a lot to do," discloses Weber. He adds, "It is a complex and multifaceted problem with no simple solution, though poverty reduction is vital."Weber cites diversity and complexity of developing Asia, weak health infrastructure, medicine affordability to patients, and the pharma industry's research and development-based business model as key factors contributing to the global challenge. "We are also part of the problem but we are trained to find solutions and that's what we are doing."Access to medicine is about improving healthcare and it's a global dilemma marked by a few indicators. One of which is looking at the data provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) describing infant and maternal mortality ratio. As indicated, millions of children die from infectious diseases which could be prevented. While immunization coverage in Asia Pacific varies, Hib3 remains the least utilized vaccine with no coverage in the Western Pacific region and 36 percent globally. Meanwhile, utilization of DTP3, MCV, HepB3. and Hib3 are 80 to 90 percent for Southeast Asia."Basically, if you want to reach a good level of coverage, it should be at least 80 percent covered, otherwise, the population is at risk," Weber warns adding that, "That situation is not correlated with the economic development of the country, it is correlated to the vaccine-policy by the country. There is an access issue in medicines and that access issue is not always perceived by the population."Weber even went as far as using the country as an example. "If you look at vaccination policy, Asia Pacific is really behind, Philippines as well. It's extremely at the beginning... either they get old vaccines or inefficient vaccines."He further explains, "Some vaccines have individual benefits but also some population benefit. If you vaccinate everybody, you eradicate the disease but for that you need a high coverage. And for that, you need a policy to allow access to even the poorest of the population. If you have no policy and certain portion of the population cannot afford you will never eradicate the disease."Diseases of the developing worldMeanwhile, Dr. Michael Elliott discussed GSK's activities concerning diseases that predominate developing world such as TB, Malaria, and HIV-AIDS which kills 20,000 people each day. It has become a global health crisis especially for the poorest countries."The WHO identified the crisis with these three tropical diseases. That's a huge burden on patients, on healthcare systems, and on the economy of those countries. Without the infrastracture in health care or the access to medicine, no one will be able to succeed in addressing that great burden," says ElliottBy the numbers, there are 33 million people across the world living with HIV, 250 million cases of malaria, and 9. …

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