KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

As Zika Spread Slows In Some Latin American Nations, Puerto Rico Prepares For Peak Of Viral Outbreak

Reuters: In war on Zika mosquitoes, Puerto Rico starting at ‘square one’
“The United States faces its first real challenge with the Zika virus on the island territory of Puerto Rico, a part of the nation that is perhaps least prepared to cope with what is expected to be its worst outbreak. Zika is spreading rapidly in Puerto Rico and is expected to peak in late summer and early fall…” (Steenhuysen, 4/1).

Washington Post: Spread of Zika virus appears to be slowing in parts of Latin America
“In several Latin American nations hit hard by the Zika epidemic, the transmission of the virus appears to have peaked, with the number of infections declining in recent weeks, according to governments in the region and the latest World Health Organization data. The slowdown has prompted some countries, including Colombia, to significantly scale back their projections of the impact of the virus…” (Miroff, 3/31).

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Evidence Points To Zika As Probable Cause Of Neurological Conditions, Including Microcephaly, Guillain-Barré Syndrome, WHO Says

Reuters: WHO sees scientific consensus on Zika as cause for disorders
“Researchers around the world are now convinced the Zika virus can cause the birth defect microcephaly as well as Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that can result in paralysis, the World Health Organization said on Thursday. The statement represented the U.N. health agency’s strongest language to date on the connection between the mosquito-borne virus and the two maladies…” (Nebehay/Steenhuysen, 3/31).

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Scientists Discover Molecular Structure Of Zika Virus, Providing Information To Aid Vaccine, Antiviral Development

News outlets report on a study published Thursday in Science showing the molecular structure of the Zika virus, information that could help researchers develop a vaccine or antiviral.

The Guardian: Zika structure discovered, raising hopes for new ways to combat virus (Davis, 3/31).

Reuters: U.S. study may point the way on how to beat the Zika virus (Steenhuysen, 3/31).

Wall Street Journal: Scientists Identify the Structure of Zika Virus (Long, 3/31).

Washington Post: Zika’s structure has been revealed, bringing scientists closer to a vaccine (Feltman, 3/31).

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Hundreds In Guinea Receive Experimental Ebola Vaccine; Wellcome Trust-CIDRAP Report Warns Against Complacency In Vaccine Research

Reuters: Hundreds in Guinea get Ebola vaccine in fight against flare-up
“Hundreds of possible contacts of eight people infected with Ebola in Guinea have been vaccinated with an experimental Merck vaccine to try and halt a flare-up of the deadly disease, the World Health Organization said on Friday…” (Kelland, 4/1).

Reuters: Experts warn complacency on Ebola may leave vaccine work unfinished
“…Great progress has been made in Ebola vaccine development in the last two years, according to a report by an international panel of infectious disease experts, but this ‘could grind to a halt as memories of the outbreak in West Africa begin to fade.’ ‘The job is still not done,’ said Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust global health charity which co-led a report on the world’s progress towards Ebola immunization…” (Kelland, 3/31).

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USAID Deploys Disaster Assistance Response Team To Ethiopia To Curtail Drought Impacts

Devex: Can USAID’s disaster team avert catastrophe in Ethiopia?
“The U.S. Agency for International Development has deployed a disaster response team to Ethiopia, where there is a ‘crucial window of time’ to avert the worst impacts of a drought, according to the agency’s disaster chief. The disaster assistance response team — or DART — traveled to Ethiopia on March 3…” (Igoe, 3/31).

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GlaxoSmithKline Taking Steps To Help Reduce Drug Prices In Lower-Income Countries

The Guardian: GlaxoSmithKline to lower drug prices in poorer countries
“GlaxoSmithKline is taking action to make medicines more affordable in developing countries, including waiving patent protection for new drugs in the world’s poorest nations. … The measures will affect 85 countries, helping more than two billion people, and benefit Africa most, according to GSK. Any GSK medicines on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines will be automatically included…” (Kollewe, 3/31).

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Health Inequities Remain Problem In World's Growing Urban Areas, U.N. Report Says

U.N. News Centre: U.N. report aims to equalize health conditions amidst exploding metro populations
“…The ‘Global Report on Urban Health: Equitable, healthier cities for sustainable development,’ jointly released by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.N. Human Settlements Programme (U.N.-Habitat), compares data on health from urbanites in almost 100 countries. The criteria vary from clean water access to HIV knowledge, obesity, and air pollution. The report shows that ‘in cities, progress in health depends not only on the strength of health systems, but also on shaping urban environments,’ Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO assistant director general for Health Systems and Innovation, and Joan Clos, executive director of U.N.-Habitat said in the foreword…” (3/31).

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More Overweight Than Underweight People Worldwide, Study Shows

Reuters: World’s obese population hits 641 million, global study finds
“More than 640 million people globally now weigh in as obese and the world has more overweight than underweight people, according to an analysis of global trends in body mass index (BMI). … The study, published on Thursday in The Lancet medical journal, involved the World Health Organization and more than 700 researchers worldwide. It analyzed data on weight and height from nearly 20 million adults from 186 countries…” (Kelland, 3/31).

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3.4M Women Of Reproductive Age At Risk In War-Torn Yemen, UNFPA Says

U.N. News Centre: Yemen: year of conflict puts 3.4 million women of reproductive age at risk, U.N. reports
“A year of conflict in Yemen has left an estimated 3.4 million women of reproductive age between 15 and 49 years in need of humanitarian assistance, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has reported, expressing growing concern about the situation. Of them, nearly 500,000 are pregnant and will give birth within the next nine months…” (3/31).

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Chronic Kidney Disease Of Unknown Origin Affecting Men From Asian, Latin American Nations

Science: Mysterious kidney disease goes global
“…This region in coastal Andhra Pradesh is at the heart of what local doctors and media are calling a [chronic kidney disease of unknown etiology (CKDu)] epidemic. … A rash of similar outbreaks in other countries has underscored that it is a global problem. Some rice-growing regions of Sri Lanka have their own epidemic, and the disease is rampant in sugar-producing regions of Mexico and Central America…” (Chatterjee, 3/31).

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Women In Nepal Banished During Menstruation Despite Law Banning Practice

The Guardian: Nepal’s bleeding shame: menstruating women banished to cattle sheds
“…Sofalta is one of thousands of girls and women in Nepal who practice Chhaupadi — banishment to a cattle shed or makeshift hut — because of so-called ‘impurity’ during menstruation or just after childbirth. … Although Chhaupadi was outlawed by Nepal’s supreme court in 2005, the practice is still widely observed in the western parts of the country, where low development rates, gender inequality, community tradition, and high illiteracy all contribute to its continuation, say activists…” (Hodal, 4/1).

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Libya's Health System Devastated By Violence, Medication Shortages

The Lancet: Libya’s health crisis looks set to worsen
“…Health workers largely fled the country after the violence escalated in 2014. The international community regards Libya as a high-risk state. Médecins Sans Frontières works in some places, including the ravaged city of Benghazi, but most charities dare not enter. U.N. agencies undertake their operations from neighboring Tunisia. The population has scant access to basic care and there are severe shortages of essential medications, including insulin, tuberculosis drugs, and antiretrovirals…” (Burki, 4/2).

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Editorials and Opinions

U.N., Governments, Health Professionals Must Mobilize To Reform International Drug Policy

The Lancet: Reforming international drug policy
Editorial Board

“…For the first time in two decades, the U.N. General Assembly’s Special Session (UNGASS; April 19-21, 2016) will be about the world drug problem. It will be a crucial moment for revisiting and reforming international drug policy. … [The Johns Hopkins-Lancet Commission on Drug Policy and Health] concludes that drug policies intended to protect people, but based on prohibition and criminalization, have had detrimental effects on public health in multiple ways and have undermined people’s right to health. … The Commission urges UNGASS 2016 to bring public health evidence to bear on the forthcoming debates, and help the world move away from a war on drugs that is essentially a war on people who use drugs. … In addition to the main U.N. stakeholders and governments, health professionals too must mobilize and join the debates on drug policy. They should help build a strong evidence base to understand the health issues arising from future drug-control policies, to identify and emulate best practices for public health and safety, and to protect the health and wellbeing of future generations” (4/2).

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U.K. Health Alliance On Climate Change To 'Lead By Example' To Influence Environmental Health Policies

The Lancet: The perfect storm: climate change and its health consequences
Editorial Board

“March 30 saw the launch of the U.K. Health Alliance on Climate Change — a coalition of major U.K. health institutions and The Lancet, who have come together to raise awareness in the U.K. of the health risks posed by climate change. … Climate change is at the root of many health risks, from the increased spread of disease vectors, such as mosquitoes in warmer temperatures, to increased air pollution that increases respiratory diseases, coronary heart disease, and stroke. Heath professionals need to come together and work on these issues, using science to influence and change policy — the Alliance will seek to lead by example” (4/2).

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Adherence To International Health Regulations For Yellow Fever Immunization Critical To Prevent Further Spread Of Angolan Outbreak

The Lancet: Yellow fever: a global reckoning
Editorial Board

“Angola is currently facing its worst outbreak of yellow fever in 30 years. … International Health Regulations (IHR) require that all travelers to yellow fever endemic regions carry a yellow fever certificate. Successful IHR implementation depends of course on national capacity to manage outbreaks. Urgent scrutiny of all aspects of the coordination of the current yellow fever outbreak — including epidemiological surveillance, clinical care and diagnosis, and vaccine supply — is critical to reduce mortality both within and outside Angola’s borders” (4/2).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

Kaiser Family Foundation Releases Infographic On Zika Outbreak

Kaiser Family Foundation: The 2015-2016 Zika Outbreak
A new Kaiser Family Foundation infographic offers key facts about the Zika virus, tracks the increasing number of countries reporting local transmission of the virus from January 2015-March 2016, and examines how U.S. government agencies are responding to Zika (3/31).

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Blog Post Examines Importance Of Knowledge Management In Fighting Zika

Woodrow Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program’s “New Security Beat”: To Fight Zika, Coordinating Agencies Must Prioritize Effective Knowledge Management
Anne Kott, communications director at the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs, and Rupali J. Limaye, research director for the Knowledge for Health (K4Health) project, write, “As the global community considers responses to Zika, let’s not lose sight of … [a] critical and more immediately addressed area of response: meeting knowledge needs through effective, strategic communication.” They discuss the importance of utilizing existing knowledge management systems and approaches (3/31).

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New CSIS Report Examines Polio Outbreak In Ukraine

Center for Strategic & International Studies: Polio in Ukraine
In this report, Judyth Twigg, director of the Eurasia Health Project and senior associate (non-resident) in the Russia and Eurasia Program at CSIS, discusses the August 2015 polio outbreak in Ukraine. The summary states that the outbreak “laid bare the degree to which Ukraine’s immunization and overall health system are broken, well beyond what had been commonly understood, crippled by deep corruption, inadequate financing, and widespread popular mistrust. … An intensified reaction from the United States, European Union, and broader international community is imperative” (3/30).

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New Study Examines Abortion Incidence, Safety In Tanzania

Guttmacher Institute: Unsafe Abortion Is Common In Tanzania and Is A Major Cause of Maternal Death
“In the first nationally representative study of the incidence of abortion and the provision of postabortion care in Tanzania, researchers found that clandestine abortion is common and is a major contributor to maternal death and injury. The study, conducted by researchers at the U.S.-based Guttmacher Institute and Tanzania’s National Institute for Medical Research and Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, found that an estimated 405,000 abortions were performed in the country in 2013, the vast majority of which were clandestine procedures that put women’s well-being at risk…” (3/31).

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April 2016 Issue Of WHO Bulletin Available Online

WHO: Bulletin of the World Health Organization
The April 2016 WHO Bulletin includes editorials, news, research, and policy articles on various topics, including an editorial on knowledge sharing during public health emergencies, a research paper on the sexual and reproductive health and human rights of women living with HIV, and a perspectives piece on health policy and systems research (April 2016).

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