November 15, 2013 | The Editors

Data and delivering vaccines

Girl receiving an injection in her upper arm.
Immunization program managers need timely data to guide their work. Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

It’s hard to see where you’re going with your eyes glued to the rearview mirror. That’s how Dr. Orin Levine, director of vaccine delivery at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, describes the plight of hardworking health workers who have long operated without timely information on everything from vaccine supplies to number of children not yet immunized. Last week, a new effort coordinated by PATH launched with a goal of improving immunization data systems at scale. Writing in the Huffington Post, Dr. Levine says the initiative “will put the countries squarely in the driver’s seat, allowing them to navigate with accurate, timely data instead of driving blind.”

Driving blind

Huffington Post, November 8, 2013

Last week in Nairobi, ten African countries came together to launch the Better Immunization Data (BID) Initiative. This effort, coordinated by the international nongovernmental organization PATH and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will support countries to improve immunization system performance by holistically improving multiple aspects of their data systems at scale.

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The cancer vaccine

The Atlantic, November 13, 2013

Only one in three American girls is vaccinated against HPV. That will mean thousands of gratuitous cancer deaths. Young people in the South are especially unlikely to get the vaccine, according to a new study. Why?

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The human element: Paul Farmer and Melinda Gates on designing global health

Wired, November 12, 2013

Paul Farmer and Melinda Gates have a lot in common. They’re both Duke University alums, and they’re both devoted to improving health around the world, especially in places with few resources. As cochair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Gates is particularly dedicated to empowering women and girls, which in turn benefits the health and prosperity of entire communities. Farmer splits his time between Boston (where he runs the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School), Haiti, and Rwanda. He’s founding director of Partners in Health, an international nonprofit that delivers health services to the rural and urban poor in a dozen countries. Gates and Farmer don’t often work together, but their work certainly unites them. In New York City for UN meetings, the two friends talked to Wired about the best ways to improve health all over the world.

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Diagnostics for global health

Project Syndicate, November 7, 2013

In developed countries, most people take for granted that when they are sick, they will have access to timely diagnosis and treatment. Indeed, while the diagnostic process—which typically involves sending a sample of blood, urine, or tissue to a laboratory for analysis—may be cumbersome and expensive, health care providers and sophisticated laboratories remain widely available. As a result, the disease burden in the developed world has declined substantially.

By contrast, in the developing world, millions of people die each year from treatable diseases like malaria, owing to the lack of sophisticated laboratories and alternative diagnostic tests. But there is reason for hope: advances in the field of microfluidics have the potential to transform health care by allowing “gold standard” laboratory-based testing to be transferred to the point of care.

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