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Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

Central American Countries Mobilizing Against Widespread Dengue Outbreak

“Central America is on track to have one of its worst years ever for the painful, sometimes fatal disease of dengue, prompting governments across the region to mobilize against the mosquito-borne virus,” the Associated Press reports in an article examining efforts by several countries. “There have been 120,000 suspected cases of dengue reported across Central America so far in the season, which is roughly June to November, when the rains make it optimal for mosquito breeding,” and “[a]t least 39 people have died so far, more than the 32 for all of 2012,” according to the AP. “Honduras and El Salvador have declared health emergencies to channel extra funds and efforts to prevent the spread of the disease,” the news agency writes, adding, “Other nations [such as Nicaragua] are also sending teams of workers across villages and cities to squirt bursts of insecticide at puddles and to lecture citizens against leaving standing water where mosquitoes can breed” (Corcoran, 8/9).

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Montevideo Conference To Examine Gender-Related Issues In LAC

“When the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) hosts a regional review conference in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo [this] week, it will take stock of the successes and failures of a wide range of gender-related issues, including reproductive health, sexual violence, women’s rights, maternal mortality, and the spread of HIV/AIDS — all of them relating to Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC),” Inter Press Service reports, noting the Montevideo Conference is scheduled to take place from Aug. 12-15. According to the news service, “the question lingering in the minds of most delegates will be how LAC has fared in implementing the landmark Programme of Action (PoA) adopted at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo,” as “a high-level meeting of the General Assembly is due to take place in 2014 to review ICPD achievements — and shortcomings — over the last 20 years.” IPS spoke with Maria Jose Alcala, director of the Secretariat of the High-Level Task Force for ICPD, ahead of the conference, who, according to the news service “insists the international community must build on the Cairo commitments.” In addition, the news service provides quotes from UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin on the relationship between women and development (Deen, 8/9).

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TIME Examines Rise Of Alcoholism In Africa

TIME examines a rise in alcoholism rates in Africa, which boasts “the highest proportion of binge drinkers in the world,” writing, “The continent has the perfect emerging-market conditions: a relatively small amount of commercial alcohol is being consumed; there is a rising middle class with disposable income; a huge market of young people is about to come of age; and there is an informal moonshine sector, up to four times the size of the commercial market, that governments would like to control,” the magazine writes. “But Africa is in no shape to cope with an influx of alcohol,” the magazine notes, adding, “Primary health care providers aren’t equipped to deal with the health effects. There is little or no recourse for irresponsible acts like driving while intoxicated. Chronic corruption means every new control measure is an opportunity for police to solicit bribes.” However, “[g]overnments are starting to address the issue, not least because it could damage their growing economies,” TIME writes. The magazine focuses on Kenya, where “12 percent of those ages between 15 and 24 are hooked on alcohol, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta announced at the country’s second alcohol-and-drug-abuse conference in June” (Hatcher, 8/9).

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Israel To Expand Polio Vaccination Drive To Entire Country

Israeli Health Minister Yael German on Friday said a meeting of experts has decided to expand to the entire country a polio vaccination campaign that began last week in the nation’s southern region, Agence France-Presse reports. German said “thousands” of people in southern Israel were found to be carriers of the virus, and she noted that “children were the target group as they made up over 95 percent of those carrying the virus,” according to the news agency. “The ministry says 20,000 children have so far been vaccinated under the initial program, which will be expanded from August 18,” AFP writes, adding, “German said nobody in Israel had been taken ill with polio since 1988 ‘and we are doing everything’ to stop its return” (8/11).

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Former President Clinton, Daughter Wrap Up Trip To Sub-Saharan Africa

Former President Bill Clinton and his daughter, Chelsea Clinton, on Wednesday “visited the Ramotse Clinic in South Africa, which works together with the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHIA) to provide patient services to between 2,000 and 2,500 patients each month, according to the organization,” the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog reports. “To get the world involved in the conversation on how to make effective change in places that are struggling most in Africa, Clinton, her father and the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory co-hosted a panel that was livestreamed on Facebook on Thursday,” the blog writes, adding, “The father-and-daughter duo have also committed their trip to raising malaria awareness and to bringing clean drinking water to people in need” (Goldberg, 8/9). Daily recaps of the Clintons’ trip are available online from the Clinton Foundation (8/9).

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China To Make Research-Based Changes To Family Planning Policy, Spokesperson Says

“China will gradually improve the country’s population policy in accordance with its actual conditions, a spokesman for the country’s family planning authority said Friday” during a regular press conference, Xinhua reports. Deng Haihua, spokesperson for the National Health and Family Planning Commission, said the commission will release any adjustments to the family planning policy “at an appropriate time,” and changes would be research-based and made in order to adapt to “economic and social development as well as long-term and balanced population development,” according to the news service. He “reaffirmed that China must adhere to the basic state policy of family planning,” Xinhua writes (8/9).

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GlobalPost Blog Features Last Post In Series Examining Child Health In India

In the fifth in a series of posts in GlobalPost’s “Pulse” blog, health reporting fellow Harman Boparai reflects on a recent trip to the country, “where he once practiced as a physician, to take a deeper look at child health.” Highlighting the issue of malnutrition in the country, where “one in every three malnourished children in the world lives,” Boparai recounts a visit to the pediatric ward at Panna District Hospital, where he “was humbled by the hardship that people went through on a daily basis and the grave risk that the children were facing because their families were entangled in a web of socioeconomic stagnation and extreme poverty.” He notes he then “traveled to the capital of the country, New Delhi, to ask people who had been working on these issues what they thought,” and highlights the efforts of Save the Children India, “which works in 13 Indian states to improve maternal and child health.” Lastly, he discusses a visit to his home state of Punjab, where he attended a conference commemorating World Breastfeeding Week, noting “Surat Kaur, a gynecologist who has been practicing in Amritsar for the last three decades, spoke of the importance of extensive nutrition counseling of women” (8/9).

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Forbes Interviews President, CEO Of GE Healthcare Life Care Solutions

In partnership with the Skoll World Forum, Forbes features an interview with Thierry Leclercq, president and CEO of GE Healthcare Life Care Solutions, the last in a series examining “key trends, challenges and opportunities to realizing health care access and treatment around the world.” According to the interview transcript, Leclercq discusses the projects and initiatives that fall under his leadership at GE Healthcare, provides “examples of the most significant or innovative health care projects [he’s] currently leading in the developing world,” and examines the “areas — geographically but also technically — [that he is] seeing the most opportunity to get involved,” among other topics (Kanani, 8/9).

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Editorials and Opinions

U.N. Must Bear Responsibility For Haiti's Cholera Epidemic

“It is now all but certain that Haiti’s cholera epidemic, which has killed more than 8,000 people and sickened more than 600,000, is directly traceable to a battalion of U.N. peacekeepers who arrived in the country after the 2010 earthquake,” a Washington Post editorial states, highlighting a report (.pdf) from researchers at the Yale School of Public Health and Yale Law School that it says “details the convincing epidemiological evidence, as well as the United Nations’ stubborn disavowal of responsibility.” The newspaper writes, “The United Nations and its peacekeepers have done immeasurable good in Haiti and elsewhere, but in this instance they bear responsibility for unleashing one of the world’s most devastating recent epidemics.”

“Until now, the United Nations has asserted and enjoyed what amounts to blanket immunity from claims arising from its peacekeepers’ actions,” the newspaper notes, adding, “Given the range of nations, conflicts, disasters and chaotic environments in which U.N. personnel are deployed, the institution needs some protection from lawsuits and other claims for damages arising from its operations.” However, the editorial states, “immunity in the courts, which the United Nations has enjoyed, does not justify a policy of institutional indifference.” The newspaper continues, “That obligation goes beyond the legally tangled question of paying reparations to thousands of potential claimants in Haiti and the obvious need to ensure that U.N. installations and contractors meet higher standards of hygiene and sanitation. It involves the United Nations and its major donors, including the United States, adding resources to help Haiti build lasting improvements to its feeble public health system” (8/11).

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Communicating Uncertainty About, Researching Emerging Disease Threats Important For Preparedness

“For more than 17 years, I have worked in Vietnam on the front line of emerging infectious diseases,” and “[m]y experience makes me convinced that H7N9 is a cause for concern,” Jeremy Farrar, director of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Vietnam, who will become director of the Wellcome Trust in October, writes in a Financial Times opinion piece. However, “[t]here is a real danger that, as many threats fail to pan out, the public and politicians will start to suffer from risk fatigue. As unknown unknowns become known unknowns, we must learn how to communicate and be honest about our uncertainty” over new infectious agents’ potential to cause pandemics, he continues. “We must also work harder to understand the warning signs of truly dangerous viruses,” including performing gain-of-function research, Farrar states. “It is uncertain that any given new infection will trigger a pandemic, but it is certain that one or another will trigger one eventually. The more we know, and the better we handle the uncertainty, the better prepared we will be,” he concludes (8/11).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

Study Examines Potential Impact Of PEPFAR Funding On TB Incidence, Mortality

The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports on a study published last week in the Journal of Infectious Diseases that compared data from 12 PEPFAR focus countries with data from 29 control countries to examine the potential impact of PEPFAR funding on the tuberculosis (TB) epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. The researchers compared TB incidence and mortality rates from periods before and after PEPFAR implementation, and they found both have fallen significantly and to a higher degree in PEPFAR focus countries, the blog notes. “The results, [the researchers] say, point to the need for in-country scrutiny of access to antiretroviral medicines, the ‘three I’s’ of intensified case finding, isoniazid preventive therapy, and infection control of TB-HIV responses, as well as other efforts,” the blog notes (Barton, 8/9).

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Examining Impact Of 'Feed The Future' Program In Cambodia

“Working with USAID over the past three years, I have had the opportunity to see tremendous growth and change in many countries, and that impact has been particularly felt in Cambodia as part of Feed the Future,” Greg Beck, USAID’s deputy assistant administrator for Asia, writes in the agency’s “IMPACTblog.” Noting a recent visit to Cambodia, where he “was able to see these changes taking place first-hand,” Beck writes, “The Feed the Future HARVEST program works in four provinces around the Tonle Sap Lake, Pursat, Battambang, Siem Reap and Kampong Thom areas of Cambodia with some of the highest rates of poor and food insecure families but some of the best opportunities to address these issues through improved agricultural practices. Together with the help of 22 Cambodian [non-governmental organizations (NGOs)], USAID has worked with and assisted over 47,000 households and beneficiaries including 102 schools and health centers in more than 461 villages” (8/9).

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Examining Sri Lanka's Malaria Response

Writing in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Deborah Derrick, president of Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, highlights efforts against malaria in Sri Lanka. She notes a renewed national focus on the disease through the Ministry of Health’s Anti-Malaria Campaign as well as “the arrival of support from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.” Writing about progress against the disease in the country, she states, “This success is even more impressive given that a nearly three-decades-long civil war continued to rage.” However, she writes, “Sri Lanka knows all too well that even brief interruptions in malaria programs can lead to rapid and dramatic resurgence.” She adds, “A successful Global Fund replenishment this fall — a time when the organization invites donors to invest in fighting malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS worldwide — will help more communities and countries make and sustain these kinds of gains in health” (8/11).

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Examining GAVI Alliance Policy For Gender Equality In Global Vaccination Programs

Writing in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Dagfinn Høybråten, chair of the GAVI Alliance Board, examines the issue of gender equality in global vaccination programs. “The GAVI Board approved a gender policy in 2008 with the goal of promoting increased coverage, effectiveness and efficiency of immunization and related health services by ensuring that all girls and boys, women and men, receive equal access to these services,” a “vital part of the on-going discussion about equality of access to immunization and health services,” he notes. “As part of our commitment to gender equality, GAVI has reviewed and is now publicly requesting feedback on the revised policy from our partners and other interested parties,” he continues and provides a link to GAVI’s draft revised gender policy where readers can contribute ideas and feedback (8/9).

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'Innovation' Will Help Alleviate Poverty

“One of the things I’ve learned working in global health and development for the past 25 years is that innovation comes in many forms,” Christopher Elias, president of global development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, writes in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog as part of its “Reinvent A Better World” series. Though “[s]cientific breakthroughs tend to get the most attention … [i]nnovation is also about taking a fresh perspective,” he says and discusses the impacts of access to contraceptive, education, and agricultural resources on women. “No matter what you call it — innovation, reinvention, or simply progress — bringing new things like this to the table are important to creating a cycle of good health and prosperity that can feed families and help lift communities and nations out of poverty,” Elias concludes (8/9).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.