World Malaria Day 2012
In comparison to most other charitable events and health awareness days, World Malaria Day is definitely the new kid on the block. It was established in May 2007 by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a replacement to Africa Malaria Day and has been held on the 25th April every year since.
According to the WHO, the aim of World Malaria Day is to recognise the efforts that are being made across the world to effectively control malaria. The theme for this year’s event is ‘Sustain Gains, Save Lives: Invest in Malaria’ and the organisers believe it “marks a decisive juncture in the history of malaria control.”
They say: “Whether the malaria map will keep shrinking, as it has in the past decade, or be reclaimed by the malaria parasites, depends, to a great extent, on the resources that will be invested in control efforts over the next years.”
So far, such investment has been readily available and it has been incredibly successful; malaria mortality rates have been reduced by a third in Africa and out of the 53 countries outside of the continent where malaria is prevalent, 35 have seen malaria-related deaths fall by 50 percent.
“However,” the organisers say, “these gains are fragile and will be reversed unless malaria continues to be a priority for global, regional and national decision-makers and donors. Despite the current economic climate, development aid needs to continue flowing to national malaria control programs to ensure widespread population access to life-saving and cost-effective interventions. Long-term success will also depend on investments in on-going research and development to combat emerging threats such as parasite resistance.”
One of the companies at the forefront of that research, and one of World Malaria Day’s main global partners, is GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). The pharmaceutical company has been heavily involved in the fight against malaria for many years, particularly through its R&D programmes and GSK is committed to finding and developing affordable treatments and vaccines for the disease.
In 2001 GSK established its Tres Cantos research centre in Spain, a location dedicated to investigating potential vaccines for what it calls “diseases of the developing world.” Working in partnership with Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), a not-for-profit organisation, GSK is focusing on treating strains of malaria that are drug-resistant; mainly the Plasmodium falciparum parasite and Plasmodium vivax, which is most prominent in Asia and Latin America.
GlaxoSmithKline is also currently carrying out one of the largest trials of a malaria vaccine in the world to date, with over 15,000 participants. Its RTS,S vaccine is described as one of the world’s “most advanced malaria vaccine candidates” and following 20 years of research and development, a Phase III clinical trial launched in May 2009. The trial is still ongoing today and is being carried out in seven African countries across 11 different sites.
The company is hoping that by the end of the 2014 information will be available regarding the drug’s long-term effectiveness in children, enabling national and international health organisations to evaluate its potential for use. Meanwhile, there have been indications that the WHO could recommend RTS,S for use by the end of 2015.
An insight into the development of GSK's RTS,S vaccine:
ExxonMobil is the largest corporate donator to malaria efforts of a non-pharmaceutical nature, with a range of initiatives in place aimed at combating the disease, particularly in Africa. It is heavily involved in World Malaria Day and to mark this year’s event it has made a donation of $1 million. This means the company has now donated $150 million to various malaria efforts and community and social development projects in the region.
Providing mosquito nets to families and homes across Africa is one of ExxonMobil’s main focuses and since 2000, when it launched its ‘Africa Health Initiative’, the company has donated a total of 11 million bed nets to the continent.
Like GSK, medication and malaria treatments are also a priority for ExxonMobil and it works in close partnership with the MMV organisation. It was thanks to funding from Exxon that MMV was able to introduce Coartem Dispersible to the market in 2001, “a milestone in malaria drug discovery” and the first malaria medication in the world that was suitable for children.
ExxonMobil also builds upon its business expertise to offer support to countries that is more than just financial in nature. It works with governments and local health authorities to build on the business practices of malaria control projects. “We share our extensive experience with workforce training, project and supply chain management, data monitoring and evaluation and knowledge of economics and marketing,” the company states.
These are just two examples of the ways in which global companies are backing World Malaria Day and the organisers of the event are hoping that this type of support will allow for the 2015 Millennium Development Goalsto be met.
“Sustaining malaria control efforts is an investment in development,” the World Malaria Day organisers explain. “Continued investment in malaria control now will propel malaria-endemic countries along the path to achieving the 2015 Millennium Development Goals, especially those relating to improving child survival and maternal health, eradicating extreme poverty and expanding access to education.”
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How healthcare can safeguard itself against cyberthreats
One of the most fundamental lessons from the COVID crisis is that health should always be a priority. In a similar fashion to the human body that frequently fights off viruses and foreign invaders that intend to cause it harm, the sector itself is now a prime target for another type of external threat: cyberattacks.
The figures speak for themselves: between December and January this year, hospitals in the UK were at 89% capacity, with 7,000 fewer available beds than there usually are. As the pandemic increased pressure on hospitals, clinics, and research facilities to create a treatment for patients globally, it has left the sector exposed to hackers who, like a virus, have been targeting it relentlessly and evolving their tactics.
From patient records being held ransom, to fake emails claiming to originate from the UN WHO, the NHS, or vaccine centres, through to attacks on the cold supply chain to find out the secret formula of the COVID vaccine, the healthcare industry is facing constant cyberattacks and struggling to cope. This threat is unlikely to go away anytime soon – and as such, the industry needs to take a proactive, preventative stance to stay safe in a dynamic digital world.
The responsive nature of healthcare – particularly of hospitals – means that efficiency is crucial to the industry’s standard operations. To support this, the sector has been embracing technological advancements that can improve the quality of work, enabling staff to meet pressing deadlines, and enhancing patient care. For example, the industry has been digitising records and improving its ways of working through digital means over the past few years.
This shift is critical to offer high quality patient care; yet, it also means the sector has become more dependent on IT, which can come with a risk if cybersecurity processes employed are deemed as inadequate.
Without the correct security measures in place, the desired efficiency gains realised, can be easily lost in a heartbeat. Simply put, an elementary glitch in the system can have a tremendous ripple effect on many areas, from accessing patient records and conducting scans, to maintaining physical security and protecting the intellectual property of experimental treatment development.
To prevent this, healthcare organisations need to ensure they’re considering cybersecurity as part of their overall digital transformation strategy – and setting the right foundations to create a culture where safety goes hand in hand with patient care.
Before implementing cybersecurity process, healthcare organisations need to assess the potential risks they face. Depending on how much confidential data the trust has, where it is stored, who has access to it and via which means, the cybersecurity strategy and associated solutions will change.
It’s fair to say that a medical device start-up where all employees have a corporate-sanctioned laptop and access data via a VPN will have radically different needs to a large hospital with hundreds of frontline workers connecting to the hospital’s Wi-Fi using their personal device.
These requirements will pale by comparison to a global pharmaceutical giant with offices in multiple locations, a large R&D department researching new treatments for complex diseases and a fully integrated supply chain. Considering the existing setup and what the organisations is looking to achieve with its digital transformation strategy will therefore have an immediate impact on the cybersecurity strategy.
Despite this, there are fundamentals that any organisation should implement:
Review and test your back-up policy to ensure it is thorough and sufficient – By checking that the organisation’s back-up is running smoothly, IT teams can limit any risks of disruption in the midst of an incident and of losing data permanently.
In our recent State of Email Security report, we found that six out of ten organisations have been victims of ransomware in 2020. As a result, afflicted organisations have lost an average of six days to downtime. One third of organisations even admitted that they failed to get their data back, despite paying the ransom. In the healthcare industry, this could mean losing valuable patient records or data related to new treatments – two areas the sector cannot afford to be cavalier about.
Conduct due diligence across the organisation’s supply chain – Healthcare organisations should review their ways of working with partners, providers and regulatory institutions they work with in order to prevent any weak link in their cybersecurity chain. Without this due diligence, organisations leave themselves exposed to the risks of third party-led incidents.
Roll out mandatory cybersecurity awareness training - Healthcare organisations shouldn’t neglect the training and awareness of their entire staff – including frontline workers who may not access the corporate network on a regular basis. According to our State of Email Security report, only one fifth of organisations carry out ongoing cyber awareness training.
This suggests it is not widely considered as a fundamental part of most organisations cyber-resilience strategy, despite the fact many employees rely on their organisation’s corporate network to work. By providing systematic training, healthcare organisations can help workers at all levels better understand the current cyberthreats they face, how they could impact their organisation, the role they play in defending the networks, and develop consistent, good cybersecurity hygiene habits to limit the risks of incidents.
Consider a degree of separation – Information and Operational Technology (IT and OT) networks should be separated.
Although mutually supported and reliance on each other, employees shouldn’t be accessing one via the other. This should be complemented by a considered tried and tested contingency and resiliency plan that allows crucial services to function unabated should there be a compromise. Similarly, admin terminals should not have internet access to afford a degree of hardening and protection for these critical accounts.
As the sector becomes a common target for fraudulent and malicious activity, putting cybersecurity at the core of the organisation’s operations is critical. It will help limit the risks of disruption due to cyberattacks, reduce time spent by the cybersecurity team to resolve easily avoidable errors, and ensure that institutions can deliver patient care, safe in the knowledge that their networks are safe.
Fighting future threats
With technology continuing to change the face of healthcare, the surface area and vectors available for attacks by malicious actors is constantly increasing. With the introduction of apps, networked monitoring devices, and a need for communication, the attack vector is ever expanding, a trend that needs to be monitored and secured against.
To prevent any damage to patients, staff, or the organisation they are responsible for, healthcare leaders must put security front and centre of their digital transformation strategy. Only then can the sector harness the full benefits of technology. Doing this should include implementing cybersecurity awareness training to challenge misconceptions around security, encourage conversation, and to ensure employee knowledge of the security basics and threats faced.
This ultimately allows healthcare organisations to do what they do best: provide the highest standard of patient care, safe in the knowledge that their operations, patients, and data are safe.