Thursday, April 26, 2007

ProMED offers RSS Feed

(News) You can now get RSS feeds from ProMED, the e-mail alert system for outbreaks and emerging diseases. The International Society for Infectious Disease started offering an RSS feed earlier this month, according to an e-mail I just received from Dr. Larry Madoff, ProMED-Mail's editor. I completely missed the announcement, which came out while I was on vacation.

As an added feature, Madoff notes you can also filter the RSS feed for specific keywords like "measles" or "botulism."

Madoff hadn't heard about the counterfeit RSS site I wrote about earlier. He notes that ISID tries to make ProMED-mail reports available as widely as possible--with proper credit-- but they don't expect people to use it for commercial gain.

Here's what Madoff wrote (used with his permission):
"I wanted to let you know that we have, in fact, recently made our own RSS feed available. We announced it in an e-mail to subscribers but have not prominently displayed it on our website. (Ironically, our plan was to eventually make this a part of our 'premium subscription' package that costs $39 per year to help raise funds to support the operation.)

The address for the feed is:
The full announcement of our RSS feed is at:

I'll let you (and your blog readers if you wish) know of an unannounced feature of the RSS feed. You can filter the reports using any term you wish.

For example:
will provide feeds of just the selected topics. We plan to announce this feature soon."

ProMED-Mail Gets Screen-Scraped

(Analysis) First, counterfeit medicine. Now a counterfeit RSS feed threatens global health.

I have long wished that ProMED-mail, an incredibly valuable e-mail list for monitoring outbreaks and emerging diseases around the world, came with its own RSS feed. That way I could easily monitor it—along with lots of other global health news sources—with a feed reader instead of adding to my overburdened e-mail inbox or by clicking on ProMED’s homepage.

Now it looks as if someone—possibly Raquel Martín Iguacel of Spain—has beaten International Society for Infectious Disease (the originators of the Pro-MED e-list) to the punch by creating what is, in essence, a counterfeit RSS feed of ProMED reports.

Naturally, this being the Internet Age, in which everyone is trying to monetize everything, whoever has created the unofficial ProMED RSS feed is also running Google Ads next to it.

What’s wrong with this picture? Let’s start with the fact that the items in the feed don’t link back to the original ProMED posts, so how do you really know that what you’re getting comes from ProMED?

Counterfeit feeds—you usually see them referred to as “screen-scraped feeds”—are nothing new on the Internet, but they are a disturbing development in global health.

“Innovate or die,” as the old saying goes. But in this case, it’s “innovate or watch someone else take your idea and run with it.” Hey, folks at ISID—are you paying attention to this development?

The feed of ProMED-mail is hosted at the blogger site

It appears the site has been available since late December 2006.

Although there is no user profile on that page and no contact information (more red flags), the blog refers to, which contains a copyright notice (irony of ironies) by Raquel Martín Iguacel. A search for “Raquel Martín Iguacel” on Google reveals little more.

I’m going to contact Lawrence Madoff, editor of the real ProMED mail and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, for his reaction. Will let you know.

Update (4/27/07): Madoff wasn't aware of the bogus feed but, as luck would have, ProMED has just started offering an RSS feed. Read more of Madoff's reply here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Paying for People

(Analysis) We need to rethink the way we invest in global health. We spend too much time responding to immediate emergencies and not enough building for the future.

A new report from Oxfam, entitled “Paying for People,” tackles the issue by arguing that rich countries that are moved to help poor countries should spend more of their aid dollars investing in doctors, nurses and teachers—and lots of them—rather than concentrating primarily on clinics, medicines and school buildings.

Future Oxfam reports will have recommendations for what poor countries can do on their own to increase their investment in their people.

It’s always easier to donate money for things than for people. You know what you’re getting with things. And perhaps best of all, there’s only a finite commitment. After all, you’re not going to be building that clinic forever.

People are much more unpredictable. You give them a scholarship to medical school and they move to a different country after graduation. Or they change careers. Or, most annoyingly, they come up with their own ideas on how things should be done.

But without a larger investment in people, we will not make great strides in global health. Buildings and technology are necessary but without people, they are useless.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Bird Flu, Hunger, Water and Sex

(Headlines) News you might have missed . . .

A nice bit of enterprise reporting from Helen Branswell of The Canadian Press shows that China has not shared bird flu samples with the World Health Organization since early 2006 (The Candian Press)

Meeting UN goals on hunger in Africa will put more strain on sources of fresh water used in agriculture (

U.S. government report shows abstinence-only sex education does not work (Reuters)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Do Blogs Influence People in High Places?

And if so, can they work for positive change in social and government policy? Or are they just another echo chamber for scandal, gossip and rumor?

Those are some things I'll be talking about at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on April 24, 2007. The event is being sponsored by Forum One Communications, a tech-saavy communications-and-strategy firm in Alexandria, Virginia.

Here's the description from Forum One:

Titled "Blogging and Policy Organizations: Influential Channel for Social Change," speakers will include bloggers from the ONE Campaign, Education Sector, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and Time Magazine's "Global Health Update."

Session Summary
What: Blogging and Policy Organizations: Influential Channel for Social Change
When: Tuesday, April 24, 2007, 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Where: National Press Club, Washington, DC
Cost: $90 ($75 before April 16). Space is limited.

Learn more and Register:

Update: Relive the Glory! Forum One has published audio and slides from this session at their website.

CDC: Forget Cipro When Fighting Gonorrhea

(Headlines) Well that was fast. Doctors should no longer use fluoroquinolones (Cipro and the like) as the standard antibiotic treatment for gonorrhea because the number of cases of antibiotic resistance has soared over the past five years (MMWR).

The alternative is another class of antibiotics, the cephalosporins (Keflex and the like).

Larry Altman starkly sums up the situation in the New York Times:

No new antibiotics for gonorrhea are in the pipeline, officials of the centers told reporters by telephone. “Now we are down to one class of drugs,” said Dr. Gail Bolan, an expert in sexually transmitted diseases at the California Department of Health Services. “That’s a very perilous situation to be in.” (NYT)

But, of course, as Altman notes, it's not just drug-resistant VD we have to worry about. There's drug-resistant tuberculosis, drug-resistant staph infections and a host of other disease-causing germs that have become immune to the effects of powerful antibiotics.

Source: Update to CDC's Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2006: Fluoroquinolones No Longer Recommended for Treatment of Gonococcal Infections (MMWR, April 13, 2007 / 56(14);332-336)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Abbott Blinks in Price Dispute Over AIDS Drug

(Headlines) Abbott cuts price of key anti-AIDS drug by more than 50% (Chicago Sun-Times). The larger issue: more and more countries seem poised to follow Thailand's lead in using trade rules from the 1990s to threaten compulsory licensing (International Herald Tribune).

See also this brief background report from the Center for Global Development. For more-detailed background, check out this 2003 report on intellectual property rights and public health from the World Health Organization.

TB and Civil Rights, Pollution in China

(Headlines) News you might have missed . . .

Man with extremely drug resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) is jailed in Arizona for refusing treatment. So why did they take his phone and television away? (Arizona Republic)

Chinese bloggers rally locals to try to block placement of toxic chemical plant near residential zone (Global Voices)