In this New York Times opinion piece, W. Ian Lipkin, a professor of epidemiology and a professor of neurology and pathology at Columbia University and a paid technical consultant on the film “Contagion,” which opened this weekend, writes about the risks of an infectious disease outbreak as portrayed in the film, stating, “Those risks are very real — and are increasing drastically.”
“Cholera in Haiti is the worst epidemic that this hemisphere has seen in decades, yet it has received relatively little attention,” Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and president of Just Foreign Policy writes in this Al Jazeera opinion piece, adding, “The international community has failed Haiti in so many ways and for so many years that it is almost unimaginable.”
Though President Barack Obama signed an executive order on his third day in office to “lif[t] the odious ‘global gag rule’ that denied federal money for family planning work abroad to any group that performed abortions or counseled about the procedure, even with its own money,” he left standing a policy that is “an overly restrictive interpretation of the  Helms amendment.” The policy “imposes similar speech restrictions and bans using foreign aid money for abortions — even to save a woman’s life or in cases of rape in war zones like Congo, Sudan and Burma,” a New York Times editorial states.
In this Huffington Post opinion piece outlining many facts and statistics surrounding non-communicable diseases (NCDs) worldwide, Susan Blumenthal, public health editor of the Huffington Post and former assistant surgeon general, along with Katherine Warren and Lauren Macherelli, who previously worked at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, where Blumenthal is director of the health and medicine program, write, “The world is at a crossroads when it comes to the chronic disease epidemic and its enormous health and economic impacts.”
In this Sydney Morning Herald opinion piece, Boyd Swinburn, a professor and director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention at Deakin University in Australia, examines how “rich countries, … particularly the U.S. and European Union but also Australia, Canada and New Zealand, … are joining forces with tobacco, food, alcohol and pharmaceutical corporations to water down commitments that might flow from” this month’s U.N. High-level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in New York.
In anticipation of the September 2011 U.N. High-level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) “should not only look at the lessons learned in the control of NCDs in developed countries, but also those from other areas of public health, especially AIDS, which can inform the design of an effective and sustainable response to NCDs in developing countries,” Rebecca Dirks from FHI 360 and colleagues write in this PLoS Medicine Policy Forum editorial piece.
The U.N.’s Pan-American Health Organization, the United States and the international community “should be working with the Haitian Health Ministry to wage a more aggressive and effective effort” against the cholera epidemic that hit the country last year, and those efforts “should include not only clean water and sanitation systems but more antibiotics and cholera vaccinations,” a New York Times editorial says. “Ramping up manufacturing” of the cholera vaccine — of which there are less than 400,000 doses worldwide — “could be readily done and would have global benefits,” the editorial states.
“There is no doubt that” a 10 percent reduction in funding from donor governments for the AIDS response in low- and middle-income countries in 2010 from the previous year’s levels “is linked to economic strain felt by countries across the globe,” a VOA News editorial says. “UNAIDS estimates that an investment of at least $22 billion will be needed by 2015 in order to avert more than seven million deaths,” the editorial states, adding, “It is clear that continued support to HIV prevention and treatment is a necessary investment, even in these difficult times.”
In this New York Times’ “Opinionator” blog post, journalist and author Tina Rosenberg examines the contrasts between refugee situations in rural camps — such as Dadaab in Kenya, where tens of thousands have sought relief from drought and famine in Somalia — and more urban areas, such as cities in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, where approximately 1.6 million Iraqi refugees are living. “At Dadaab, [refugees] receive food, medical care, basic shelter — the emergency relief they need,” but “[t]he camp lacks the money to provide even subsistence rations” and “the refugees give up their rights to move freely and to work,” she writes. In urban areas, refugees “get help from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, with an ATM card that allows them to withdraw money every month. … They buy their own food and rent their own apartments. They use the local schools and health clinics,” Rosenberg says.
“Without attention to population, countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan stand a good chance of staying mired in poverty, conflict, and corrupt, repressive government. That is why sustained investment in family planning by the United States and other countries would do more to stabilize the political climate there than any other foreign-policy initiative,” Jennifer Dabbs Sciubba, former Defense Department consultant and the Mellon Environmental Fellow in the department of international studies at Rhodes College, writes in a Philadelphia Inquirer opinion piece.