By: Lani S. Chun
Global Health – Malaria
Malaria nets used instead as fishing nets in poor countries.
Mosquito nets have been long heralded as one of the most effective, low cost prophylactics for malaria. Usually free, these nets have small holes designed to prevent mosquito entry when draped around the area a person sleeps. However, local fishermen in malaria-affected areas are re-purposing these nets to catch fish. The small holes in mosquito nets make them much better at catching smaller fish than typical fishing nets with larger holes. The use of mosquito nets as fishing nets has had several negative consequences in these areas. First, because the nets are not being used to prevent mosquito bites, malaria prevention efforts are being stymied. Second, the nets dredge the bottom of the water body, leading to rapid destruction of the environment. Additionally, the nets are often treated with insecticide, which can lead to water contamination. Finally, misuse of these nets is causing conflict between the people in malaria-affected communities who are against using malaria nets for fishing and those who point out that without the nets, they would go hungry. It is uncertain what can be done to counteract this activity, but policy makers, government officials, and healthcare workers are trying to formulate a set of viable solutions. (Jeffrey Gettleman, NY Times; CDC)
Energy Policy – Nuclear Power
India and the USA develop nuclear power agreement.
In a show of policy fostering friendship between two global powers, President Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India have announced an agreement to bring the United States into India’s nuclear power economy. Previously hindered by issues regarding the logistics of establishing and maintaining power plants in India, the agreement facilitates US investment in Indian plants. This is expected to help India, one of the largest consumers of fossil fuel, move the energy pendulum over to using clean energy sources for the majority of their needs. Although the trip was cut short by the death of King Abdullah, President Obama and PM Modi were also able to come to agreement in the areas of defense and climate change policies. (Dana Farrington, NPR; White House OPS)
Regulatory Policy – FDA
Blood-glucose monitoring mobile app for diabetics approved by the FDA.
Although it is not the first app to target the healthcare segment, Dexacom Inc.’s app is the first that can take blood-glucose measurements in real-time and share readings with user designated “followers.” The FDA began regulating healthcare apps in 2013 with the stated goal of regulating only the apps that are “medical devices and whose functionality could pose a risk to a patient’s safety if the mobile app were to not function as intended.” This development potentially signals a new era of medicine where every heartbeat and health anomaly can be tracked by a patient’s doctor. This may help revolutionize what, when, and how treatments are administered, and is expected to create a mass of data that can be mined for information to inform research aiming to produce new treatments. However, this does not come without serious concerns about privacy and a the production of a “data deluge,” and regulators are working hard to find the happy medium between optimal healthcare and optimal privacy levels. (Brady Dennis, Washington Post; FDA.gov; Eric J. Topol, Wall Street Journal)
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