AS/COA Online | LatAm in Focus: Giving Women the "Right Space to Thrive"

In Mexico, men have an average of 10 or more hours of time for sleep and leisure per day. For women, it’s six hours or less.

“So, a working woman who also has unpaid duties and caregiving in the home doesn’t even have enough time to make it to six hours of sleep every night,” explains Dr. Felicia Knaul, director of the Institute for Advanced Studies of the Americas and a professor of public health at the University of Miami. She talked with AS/COA Online’s Carin Zissis about a report she co-authored for The Lancet about women’s outsized role in healthcare and the fact that, despite the scope of service they provide, they face obstacles to making it into leadership positions in the global health sector.

The international health expert also spoke about her experience getting breast cancer treatment in Mexico and why she founded breast cancer awareness organization Tómatelo a Pecho. Giving a human face to the disease, she charts a before and after in how Mexico’s public health insurance program Seguro Popular makes a difference in the lives of women. As a woman from Jalisco state named Guillermina, who experienced a recurrence of breast cancer, told her, “Round one: my kids went bankrupt and they had to sell their business. Round two: I have health insurance and I can take care of myself.”

But first, AS/COA President and CEO Susan Segal talks with Luisa Leme about why 2018 is the year of the woman, what inspired her to start our Women’s Hemispheric Network (WHN) six years ago, and why we need to bring men into the conversation on building women’s leadership. “If we limit women’s mentors and networks to only women, we’re not going very far,” says Segal, who talks about mentors and obstacles during her finance career, during which she was actively involved in restructuring of the Latin American debt crisis of the 1980s and early 1990s.

Chile’s Michelle Bachelet helped launch WHN. Next month she steps down from office, leaving Latin America without a sitting woman president. But Segal explains that women’s empowerment is about more than having a female head of state. “When you can fill in the ranks so you have a lot of women engaged and participating—that’s when you’ve really created change,” she says.

Both interviewees talk about the #MeToo movement and how it’s created a space for dialogue about women in the workforce, from being what Knaul calls “passionate professionals” to giving women, particularly in Latin America, “the right space to thrive,” says Segal.

Luisa Leme produced this podcast episode. | Bird Flu Season Again

In late January came another reminder of the sturdiness of avian flu. Britain was hit by its first major outbreak in domestic poultry when 2,600 turkeys died (Times of London) at a farm run by one the country’s biggest producers. Roughly 160,000 birds were gassed to contain the disease while authorities sought answers about the source. Although the spread of bird flu can often be traced to migrating wild waterfowl, the British outbreak is likely linked to a poultry plant in Hungary owned by the same company, according to the UK’s Department for Food, Environment, and Rural Affairs.

Read full text. | Probing U.S. Global AIDS Policy

Four years after President Bush launched an ambitious plan to address the global HIV/AIDS crisis, the program’s policies will now face ideological scrutiny. The five-year, $15 billion President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), supports prevention, treatment, and care for the dying and for orphans. The plan requires spending at least a third of prevention funds on abstinence-until-marriage programs—a stipulation that set off a policy debate (PBS). But November’s Democratic congressional victory could spell changes in PEPFAR’s abstinence-until-marriage policy by elevating the chances for passage of the Pathway Bill, sponsored by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA). The bill would revise current practice by focusing more on preventing the spread of AIDS among women and girls, and would remove the abstinence-only spending limitations (BosGlobe). AVERT, an international AIDS prevention agency, offers this statistical analysis of PEPFAR policies.

Read the full text | Measuring the Bird Flu Threat

Almost a decade after the first outbreak of H5N1 (PDF), a highly pathogenic form of avian influenza, researchers and international health organizations continue monitoring the disease as a global health threat. As this new Backgrounder explains, the disease commonly known as “bird flu” already has wreaked economic and animal health havoc, killing hundreds of millions of chickens and spreading beyond its origins in Southeast Asia to the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. The human case count remains relatively low at 258, although 2006 has been the deadliest year on record thus far with seventy-five deaths. Scientists and policymakers remain concerned that the virus, capable of spreading from infected birds to humans, could become a lethal pandemic if it evolves to allow for easy human-to-human transmission. 

Read full text. | Garrett: Progress and Problems With Bird Flu Policy

Laurie Garrett, CFR senior fellow for global health, says global commitments to end bird flu mean the world is in a better position to handle a potential avian flu pandemic than it was two years ago. But she warns that we still don't have "a toolkit that can stop this virus from circulating" if the virus evolves to allow easier human-to-human transmission. "Flu is by far the most contagious probability in our near horizon, and there are no fools left who think you can confine it to one country," says Garrett.

Access the podcast at | Remembering 'Forgotten' Diseases

New epidemics such as avian flu and Severe Acute Respiratory System have captured media attention in recent years, but more familiar infectious diseases continue to persevere and, in some cases, resurge. Take the case of polio, targeted for eradication by the largest public health initiative in history. When the campaign began in 1988, more than a thousand children a day were infected by the disease. By 2003 the case count had dropped to fewer than 800 a year. But the incidence of polio has been slowly increasing, with over 1,000 cases reported so far this year. More than 200 cases have been reported in India, up from sixty-six last year, and there are concerns the disease may go global after the Indian strain showed up in Nepal, Bangladesh, Angola, Namibia, and Congo (IHT). 

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