We’re reading about monitoring infectious diseases around the world, and how irresponsible public health practices can mean having to say you’re sorry

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NewWWRFour steps to precision public health – What if when the first Zika cases in Miami broke out, the entire nation had been declared in a state of emergency? That probably wouldn’t have made for a very efficient response. But in resource-limited countries where speed and focus in responding to infectious disease outbreaks are all the more critical, the detailed data necessary to tackle public health crises efficiently are often missing. How, for example, the author of this commentary points out, do you know if a whooping cough vaccination program in Nigeria is saving children’s lives, if only 4 percent of deaths are registered? This piece by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation staff discusses the need, as well as its own work to support collection and use of comprehensive data in all settings — high- and low-income alike — to carry out better public health responses.

UN chief apologizes for Haiti cholera outbreak six years later  – The outbreak of cholera introduced into Haiti by United Nations responders in the wake of the 2010 earthquake laid catastrophe on top of disaster for a country under siege, but also illustrated how outbreaks anywhere mean risks everywhere. It took six years, this IRIN article by Samuel Oakford notes, but towards the end of his term UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed regret for the “role” played by the agency which he said “did not do enough.” The UN will fund sanitary and eradication projects, but passed on a chance to acknowledge how the outbreak that sickened more than 800,000 Haitians and killed 9,100 occurred.

Whistle-Blowing AIDS Doctor Reflects on Roots of Epidemic in China – Dr. Gao Yaojie is 88 years old now, retired, and living on limited income and in ill health on New York’s upper West Side. But 20 years ago, she uncovered a tragedy in her home country of China, and devoted the decade that followed to trying to remedy it after she cared for a patient with HIV, who, she discovered had become infected through a transfusion of blood from an unsanitary blood bank. The role of the plasma market in rural China is better known now, but in the late 90s it was largely up to Dr. Gao to try to let her government know that the HIV epidemic across provinces in China was not driven by “drug use and sex” and instead was largely “a man-made catastrophe.”

How Cubans Live as Long as Americans at a Tenth of the Cost – Mandatory health check ups and vaccines are part of why life spans in Cuba are roughly as long as in the neighboring U.S. at a fraction of the expense. A constitution that protects health as a human right, and a government that, through its investments in medical education, ensures an adequate number of doctors to supply the services necessary is another. This article by physician James Hamblin tells why Cuba’s health care system offers lessons to its wealthier neighbor.

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