Swat out Malaria on World Malaria Day

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April 25 marks the annual celebration of World Malaria Day when malaria organizations and the public join together to increase awareness about this deadly but preventable disease. The theme for this year’s event is Sustain Gains, Save Lives: Invest in Malaria which speaks to the need to invest resources to reach the goal of near-zero malaria deaths by 2015.

Roll Back Malaria estimates that 3.3 billion people, or half of the world’s population, are at risk for contracting malaria. Children under age 5 make up 86% of malaria deaths. According to Malaria No More, every minute a child dies from the disease.

Malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes infected with the parasite Plasmonium. Once inside the human body, the parasite multiplies and begins to affect the red blood cells. If not treated, malaria can disrupt blood flow to vital organs, which becomes life-threatening.

Although according to WHO 655,000 people died of malaria in 2010, the disease is both preventable and treatable. Since 2000 when the global community seriously began combating malaria, mortality rates have fallen 25% worldwide and 33% in the WHO African Region. The most common prevention measure for malaria is an insecticide-treated mosquito net that protects people at night when most transmissions occur.

Early diagnosis and treatment of malaria reduces its symptoms and prevents death. The best available treatment is artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT). Both the diagnostic tests and the medicine given need to be used strategically to reduce malaria deaths and the risk of the parasite becoming resistant to the medication.

The battle to end malaria has come a long way in recent years, but it is important to still spread the word about the disease so it can be fully eradicated. On World Malaria Day, raise awareness of malaria in your community and participate in the global conversation through the Facebook and Twitter pages of Roll Back Malaria and Malaria No More. Together we can help make malaria a disease of the past.

It’s European Immunization Week!

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The week of April 21-27 is the 7th European Immunization Week which promotes the immunization of children as a crucial way to stop the spread of disease. It is estimated that 650,000 people are still not fully immunized so the goal of the week is to make vaccination coverage in Europe more widespread through an increased awareness of the importance of immunization.

This year marks the first World Immunization Week where each WHO region recognizes the importance of vaccination. Additionally, every country in the WHO European Region will participate in this year’s awareness week which highlights Europe’s commitment to ending the outbreak of infectious diseases.

Immunization is used to control and eliminate life-threatening diseases and is one of the most successful health measures one can take. According to the WHO, 2-3 million deaths are saved through immunization each year.

Due to the fact that vaccine-preventable diseases are almost eliminated in Europe, some parents and health professionals do not find it necessary to vaccinate children. However, immunization is still very important because gaps in vaccination coverage can cause nearly eradicated diseases to return.

In April 2011, the WHO reported that 33 countries in Europe had reported more than 6,500 measles cases, marking a measles outbreak. Despite the near eradication of most communicable diseases in Europe and a 74% decline in the amount of measles deaths from 2000 to 2010, there are still 382 deaths from measles every day, all of which can be avoided through vaccination.

In order to discuss the importance of immunization, on Thursday 26 April from 16:00-17:00 CEST/Paris time, experts from WHO/Europe will be hosting a live question and answer session on Twitter. To join the conversation, send your questions to @WHO_Europe, using the hashtag #immunizeEurope. Additionally, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control is holding a “Free thinkers for measles elimination” meeting this week followed by an event focusing on eliminating measles through childhood vaccination in early May.

During European Immunization Week 2012, spread the word about the individual and societal benefits of immunization. Simple and routine vaccinations can make an enormous amount of difference in eliminating debilitating diseases in Europe and worldwide

Celebrate World Hemophilia Day!

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Every year on April 17, World Hemophilia Day, sponsored by the World Federation of Hemophilia (WFH) is celebrated to raise awareness for hemophilia and other inherited blood disorders. The message of this year’s World Hemophilia Day is “Close the Gap” which focuses on eliminating the disparity in available treatment for blood disorders around the world.

Hemophilia is an inherited disorder in which the blood does not clot properly. Hemophiliacs do not have enough functioning clotting factor, a protein that controls bleeding. The main signs of hemophilia are excessive or spontaneous bleeding, easy bruising, and bleeding in the muscles and joints. Hemophilia can also lead to bleeding into the brain and other major organs which is especially dangerous.

Untreated hemophilia can lead to death but there are successful treatment options available. The most common form of treatment is replacement therapy in which the missing clotting factor is injected into the bloodstream. However, such an advanced form of treatment is expensive, making it only available in resource-rich countries.

According to the WFH, it is estimated that 1 in 1000 men and women have a bleeding disorder, yet 75% still receive inadequate or no treatment due to lack of accessibility and affordability of care. It is the WHF’s goal to make treatment globally available to all people.

In order to help spread the message to “Close the Gap” of care, the WFH is running a World Hemophilia Day campaign. The organization asks people to wear red to support the cause and then post photos and stories of their involvement on the WFH Facebook page.

Later this year both the World Federation of Hemophilia’s Congress and the European Hemophilia Consortium’s conference will be held to further discuss blood disorder innovations and methods to widen the availability of treatment.

Help spread the word about blood disorders this World Hemophilia Day. Remember to post pictures to Facebook sporting your red to support the cause! Together, we will “close the gap” in blood disorder treatment.

World Parkinson’s Day- Raising Awareness for a Degenerative Disease

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Today, April 11, is World Parkinson’s Disease Day 2012. This international event, supported by the European Parkinson’s Disease Association (EPDA) aims to raise awareness about the reality of Parkinson’s disease.

The EPDA estimates that there are more than 1.2 million people with Parkinson’s disease in the EU. Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological condition that is considered a motor system disorder. A fully functioning brain produces dopamine which helps produce fluid muscle movement. For people with Parkinson’s, nearly 80 percent of the cells that produce dopamine are dead or damaged.

People with Parkinson’s experience both motor and non-motor symptoms. The disease affects an individual’s ability to control bodily movements which results in tremors, impaired balance, stiffness of the limbs, or slowness of movement. Non-motor effects include difficulty achieving REM sleep, depression, attention deficit, and the inability to carry out ordinary tasks.

There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s disease. Additionally, according to the Mayo Clinic for Medical Education and Research, medication for the treatment of the disorder can lead to impulse control problems, such as compulsive overeating or gambling. People with Parkinson’s make the difficult decision to either endure loss of motor control or medicate and be at risk for developing psychological problems.

For this year’s World Parkinson’s Disease Day, the EPDA, UCB, and other Parkinson’s organizations  will be introducing the Parkinson’s Well-Being Map, a tool to help patients easily monitor and track their symptoms over time.

For World Parkinson’s Disease Day, Parkinson’s Voices, a subset of UCB, is leading the ‘Today I Will’ movement on their website. Taking the pledge gives people the opportunity to both showcase their support for people with Parkinson’s and make the most out of today and the future.

So on World Parkinson’s Disease Day, make your pledge as part of the ‘Today I Will’ campaign and spread the word about this degenerative disease.

Healthy Ageing- World Health Day 2012

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Each year World Health Day is celebrated on April 7 to commemorate the founding of the World Health Organization. The WHO selects a topic every year that represents an important public health issue affecting the international community. The 2012 World Health Day theme is Ageing and health: Good health adds life to years.

In the past century, life expectancies have increased largely due to an improvement in public health practices and policies. According to the WHO, it is estimated that between 2000 and 2050, the proportion of the world’s population over 60 years will double.

An increased number of older people bring both benefits and challenges to the global community. The WHO indicates the importance of older people in families, workplaces, and communities in its brief for World Health Day 2012. On the other hand, an increase in the number of older people means a greater need for care, placing pressure on pension and social security systems.

As part of World Health Day 2012, the WHO promotes living a healthy lifestyle throughout all stages in life, making cities and communities age-friendly, and ensuring that basic healthcare is available at any age.

The discussion of healthy aging continued at this week’s European Innovation Partnership (EIP) on Active and Healthy Ageing conference, which was a directive of the European Commission. The event brought together stakeholders to discuss action steps necessary to meet the Partnership’s goal of increasing the healthy lifespan of an EU citizen by 2 years. The EIP aims to improve the quality of life for older people, support the long-term efficiency of Europe’s health systems, and expand EU industry in the field of healthy ageing.

The EU also recognized the need to address the issue of ageing by declaring 2012 the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations.

Celebrate World Health Day 2012 by making healthy life choices and embracing the presence of older people in your community and the world.