101 e-Letters

  • Under-5 mortality in sub-Saharan Africa has decreased, not increased, from 1990-2018

    I write a quick note to correct what is probably an editing error. Both the abstract and the text state that under-five mortality has increased in sub-Saharan Africa 1990-2018, while decreasing in the rest of the world. In fact, the Unicef data referenced in the paper (https://data.unicef.org/topic/child-survival/under-five-mortality/) indicate that under five mortality has decreased from 178 per 1000 live births in 1990 to 78 per 1000 in 2018, a reduction of 100 per 1000 or 56%. The UN inter-agency group for child mortality estimation (IGME) has similar estimates (https://childmortality.org/data/SDG%20Regions%20%3E%20Sub-Saharan%20Africa).

  • Need to generate data to make health politically relevant

    Arnab and colleagues reported the findings from their research study in India, UK, and the USA that politicians are unlikely to be punished or rewarded for their failures or successes in managing COVID-19 in the next election. (1) By early September, India came only next to the US in terms of COVID 19 burden. Officially, India collects and reports data in terms of geographical variations, disaggregated by age and sex. India also reports the count of deaths among patients with and without comorbidities. However, none of the States report COVID 19 data disaggregated by social determinants, primarily castes and wealth quintiles, which are the most important determinants from an Indian perspective.

    The caste system in India is a ‘disabling myth’ which contributes to preventable and inequitable mortality in women and children.(2) Globally, COVID 19 has once again exposed the vulnerability of disadvantaged groups due to ongoing social discrimination and economic deprivation.(3) Emerging data shows that the racial minorities in the US are disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Data shows that Non-Hispanic Blacks have five times the risk of hospitalization compared to non-Hispanic Whites (age-adjusted) and Hispanic and Latinos have 4 times the risk compared to non-Hispanic Whites.(4,5) However, realizing the importance of having more accurate data to understand the impact of COVID 19, foundations and agencies came forward to support and set-up mechanisms to track rac...

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  • Tranexamic acid in patients with moderate or severe traumatic brain injury

    Williams et al. examined the cost-effectiveness of tranexamic acid treatment for traumatic brain injury (TBI) (1). Tranexamic acid was highly cost-effective for patients with mild TBI and intracranial bleeding or patients with moderate TBI. In addition, tranexamic acid was even more cost-effective with earlier treatment administration. In contrast, the cost-effectiveness for those with severe TBI could not be clarified. I feel that cost-effectiveness viewpoint is very important for distributing medial resources effectively, and I present recent inconsistent results for the safety and effectiveness of tranexamic acid in TBI patients with special reference to disease severity.

    Rowell et al. conducted a double-blinded, randomized clinical trial to determine whether tranexamic acid treatment initiated in the out-of-hospital setting within 2 hours of injury improves neurologic outcome in patients with moderate or severe TBI (2). They concluded that tranexamic acid administration did not improve 6-month neurologic outcome as measured by the Glasgow Outcome Scale-Extended. A large effectiveness trial with optimized dosing protocols, a mortality end point, and specific focus on the TBI severity cohorts might be needed to verify the existence of benefits (3).

    There have been some meta-analyses on the efficacy of tranexamic acid for TBI, and I recently presented a comment regarding inconsistent results of the association (4). Based on the report by Williams et al., the...

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  • Human rights based approach for addressing structural violence

    To the editor
    We read with interest the article by Büyüm AM, Kenney C, Koris A, et al. (Decolonising
    global health: if not now, when? BMJ Global Health 2020;5:e003394. doi:10.1136/
    bmjgh-2020-003394) Although it is not contested that Black, Indigenous and People of Color are most disadvantaged by structural oppression, we would argue that a human rights-based approach is a more inclusive approach to global health inequity than decolonising global health.

    The economic impacts of COVID mediated by the structural determinants will see recent gains in poverty reduction lost (1). Structural determinants within key service institutions such as the police service, prison system as well as those affecting gender will result in widespread suboptimal health. For example, black people are 40 times more likely to be stopped and searched in the UK under powers that allow officers to search people if serious violence is anticipated (2). In the US, a study examining all fatalities resulting from the use of lethal force by on-duty law enforcement officers between 2009 to 2012 across 17 U.S. states found that while whites were killed more frequently, the fatality rate was 2.8 times higher among blacks than whites (3). In the US, the First Step Act prison reforms have resulted in some benefits for prisoners, but ironically, highlighted the disproportionate incarceration of blacks (38%) who comprises 13% of the US population (4). There is evidence COVID disproportio...

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  • A need for better understanding old-age mortality dynamics

    A need for better understanding old-age mortality dynamics
    Sergi Trias-Llimós* & Iñaki Permanyer
    Centre d’Estudis Demogràfics, Carrer de Ca n’Altayó, Edifici E2, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193 Bellaterra, Spain
    * Corresponding author. Email: strias@ced.uab.cat

    Correspondence letter in response to:
    Bergeron-Boucher M-P, Aburto JM, Raalte A van. Diversification in causes of death in low-mortality countries: emerging patterns and implications. BMJ Glob Health. 2020;5(7):e002414.

    Word count: 492

    The recent paper by Bergeron-Boucher et al. published in this journal reports an increasing diversity of cause-of-death mortality in low-mortality populations during the last 20 years [1]. Bergeron-Boucher et al. found that the preponderance of mortality from cardiovascular diseases in the countries under analysis has gradually declined in favour of a wide range of causes of death, including mental and behavioural disorders, nervous system or ill-defined causes. The increasing variability of causes of death is an important matter of potential concern because (a) fragmentation in cause of death might hinder further improvements in life expectancy, (b) preventive health policies have to cope with a more variegated set of causes, which imply more costly and less efficient health policies.
    Despite their enormous interest, these findings should be interpreted with caution. As the authors...

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    We read with interest your Editorial on Global health and human rights for a postpandemic world and offering our comments on this important issue.1

    COVID 19 has rampaged an unprepared world. With its high infectiousness, low virulence and asymptomatic transmission, it has crossed boundaries rapidly and affected millions. The mode of transmission of the disease, whether by large droplet (>5µm) as fomites through surface, short distance aerosol borne or long distance airborne by small particles (<5µm) is still being debated Containment and lock down strategies adopted by all affected countries to control the spread have shown mixed results but has devastated the economy and caused major societal disruptions. The policy makers aggressively contained densely populated urban areas, quarantined ships, care homes and jails but the disease has continued to spread rapidly. High fatality rates in hospitals with sophisticated infrastructures and health workers getting infected have exposed gaps in basic understanding of control of airborne diseases and their management in health care settings. The defence forces, specially the naval ships got affected all over the world. With history of pandemic diseases repeating at regular intervals, it is now amply evident that viral diseases will re-emerge in times to come, either in another novel form or as a bioweapon and effective and holistic mitigation measures will be crucial.2

    Airborne or droplet borne. The infectious...

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  • Equity and Access to Global Health Education: Focusing on the Fundamental Problem

    Svadzian et al. [1] noted that most universities in high-income countries (HICs) demand higher tuition fees from low- and middle-income country (LMIC) students for masters-level global health degrees – a problem potentially further exacerbated by COVID-19, with many HIC universities increasing international tuition fees to make up a resultant funding deficit. [2] While the paper only focuses on masters-level global health degrees, it should be noted that some HIC universities, such as York University in Toronto, have long-standing undergraduate-level global health degree programs. Taking significantly longer to complete than masters degrees, these problems are felt to a greater extent for LMIC students who want to study global health as their first degree.

    The fundamental premise in their paper is that if HIC universities were serious about equity then they would be offering lower tuition fees (and scholarships to support living/travel costs) to students from LMICs. This presumes that merely lowering tuition or offering more scholarships would eliminate the primary access barrier for LMIC students, especially those from less privileged backgrounds. Unfortunately, this is sadly not the case. Even students with tuition waivers/scholarships can have difficulty obtaining visas to study at HIC universities.

    Student visas are a regressive tax on LMIC [3] – the requirements to obtain numerous documents that require certification, additional fee payments to an HIC-af...

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  • COVID-19, NCDs and emergency care: a plea from Africa's front-lines

    The COVID-19 pandemic has taken the world by storm, Low- and Middle- Income Countries (LMICs) not withstanding. Cabore et al modelled best estimates for peak prevalence of the virus on the African continent to be projected at more than 37 million symptomatic cases, requiring 4.6 million hospitaliations. Current estimates by Africa CDC show over 1 million cases as of August 6th, 2020, and more than 22,000 deaths [1]. South Africa has the highest prevalence with more than half a million reported cases, followed by Egypt and Nigeria, respectively. While the actual incidence and mortality rates may be evasive given limited access to testing globally [2], it is clear that the disease has not been forgiving on African soil either.

    Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) constitute the backdrop for worse outcomes among those infected with COVID-19 [3], and those with poorer access to care fare worse. While NCDs have gained increasing attention in the last decade, the current pandemic illuminates the alarming gap in data on the double burden of disease that is threatened by a continued lag in focus on NCDs – an improved understanding of which would have been critical in effectively addressing our current plight.

    A prime example of this is in the case of research addressing NCDs in the emergency care setting, an area of research in global health that is virtually non-existent in many resource-variable settings like Kenya, which has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Ea...

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  • Co-linearity between pre-symptomatic and post-symptomatic mask wearing

    The effectiveness of masks in the household is a critically important topic for control of SARS-CoV-2 transmission. I am concerned the multivariate regression performed in this analysis incorrectly attributed all of the effect of post-symptomatic mask-wearing to the pre-symptomatic mask-wearing variable. It is highly likely that these 2 variables are highly co-linear, and looking at Table 2, it appears likely that those families that wore masks pre-symptoms (n=27 without transmission, n=4 with transmission) were largely the same families where all members of the household wore masks post-symptoms (n=31 without transmission, n=5 with transmission). It's likely there are not enough numbers to further disentangle whether pre-symptom or post-symptom mask-wearing truly was the benefit - most likely it's some of both.

    The message that post-symptomatic mask-wearing has no effect appears to lack sufficient support, so I would caution anyone jumping to use that conclusion here.

  • Preventing viral transmissions in communities and households: strategies from a multidisciplinary view highly needed

    Rapid response

    Preventing viral transmissions in communities and households: strategies from a multidisciplinary view highly needed

    Re: Reduction of secondary transmission of SARS-COV-2 in households by facemask use, disinfection and social distancing: a cohort study in Beijing, China. Yu Wang. BMJ Global Health 2020; 5: e002794, doi: 10.1136/bmjgh-2020-002794

    Dear Editor,

    In their original research in BMJ Global Health Wang et al. (1) claim that their study provides the first evidence for the effectiveness of face mask use and social distancing in preventing COVID-19 transmission, not just in public spaces but inside the household with members at risk of getting infected. They argue that these non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPI) reduce risk for families living with someone in quarantine or isolation and families of healthcare workers who may face ongoing risk and that NPI are effective at preventing transmission even in homes that are crowded and small.

    More specific, Wang et al. (1) conclude that face mask use 2 days prior to symptom onset could be preventing secondary transmission while starting to wear facemasks after the onset of symptoms did not have any effect on a secondary transmission. Almost a quarter of family members became infected in the families with a second transmission ( total of 77 persons with 13 children with a mean age of 3 years with mild symptoms and one child with asymptomatic symptoms, 64 adult cases; 3 as...

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