November 23, 2014

Ten global health advancements I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving

Marissa Chmiola
Communications Officer
 Photo: Satya Murthy
We have many reasons to be thankful. Photo: Satya Murthy

As global health advocates, our work often requires us to focus on unmet needs—such as the number of people worldwide who still die from preventable diseases each year, or the lack of adequate resources and investment to tackle these diseases.

Yet with Thanksgiving just around the corner, there is much for which we, as global health advocates, can be grateful in terms of advancements achieved in the development and deployment of lifesaving global health technologies.

In the spirit of the holiday, here is my list of ten global health advancements I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving:

  1. After years of slow progress in the development of drugs, vaccines, and diagnostic tools to fight Ebola, efforts are now moving at hyper speed. Several experimental treatments and vaccines are now being tested in clinical trials in Ebola-endemic countries.
  2. Thanks to the development and widespread implementation of effective vaccines, this year the world moved one step closer to the eradication of polio. Scientists from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believe that the second of three forms of poliovirus has successfully been eradicated.
  3. The first vaccine against hookworm has been shown to be safe in early-stage clinical trials. An effective vaccine could protect the more than 600 million people infected with this dangerous parasite worldwide.
  4. Widespread access to and use of antiretroviral therapy (ART) is fueling incredible progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS. According to the UNAIDS 2014 report, 2013 saw the lowest level of new HIV infections this century and the lowest number of AIDS-related deaths since 2005. As of this summer, nearly 14 million people are accessing ART.
  5. The world could soon have an important new tool in the first against dengue fever. Results from the second Phase III trial of the first vaccine candidate against dengue fever showed the vaccine to decrease incidences of dengue fever by nearly 60 percent.
  6. Within a few years, women could have new, user-friendly options to protect themselves against HIV. Several new antimicrobial vaginal gels and antiretroviral-releasing contraceptive vaginal rings are currently undergoing clinical trials.
  7. Significant progress has been achieved this year towards the development of new tools to fight malaria. After receiving expedited regulatory approval from the US Food and Drug Administration last year, new malaria drug treatment candidate tafenoquine entered Phase III trials this year. Additionally, the malaria vaccine candidate RTS,S is now under regulatory review by the European Medicines Agency.
  8. New pediatric drug formulations to treat tuberculosis (TB) could be available as early as late next year, according to developers. This advancement is critical as there is currently no appropriately dosed, child-friendly TB treatment available.
  9. New vaccines, drugs, diagnostics, and other health innovations have led to 4.2 million fewer child deaths globally last year compared to 1990.
  10. There are 365 global health products in the research pipeline that have the potential to fuel incredible gains in health for people around the world.

With so much accomplished in 2014 and so many promising tools on the cusp of development and delivery, we have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. This Thursday, enjoy your Turkey and fixings with family and friends and give thanks for the incredible progress we’ve achieved this year. And then next week, when our turkey hangovers pass, we’ll get back to work.