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Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

U.S. Peace Corps Marks 50 Years In Malawi With Launch Of Global Health Service Partnership

The U.S. Peace Corps this week marked 50 years of work in Malawi with the launch of its Global Health Service Partnership program, “a three-year effort to increase human resource capacity for the country’s health sector,” VOA News reports. The program — a public-private collaboration of the Peace Corps, PEPFAR, and Seed Global Health — is “the first of its kind by U.S. Peace Corps in Malawi” and “will provide health experts to teach in public colleges and universities,” the news service writes (Masina, 8/27). “Eleven of the 30 volunteers sworn in at the White House in July as the first class of Peace Corps’ Global Health Service Partnership program will serve their one-year assignments at local health care institutions in Malawi, including the University of Malawi’s College of Medicine, Kamuzu College of Nursing, and Mzuzu University,” a Peace Corps press release notes, adding, “The new volunteers will serve as medical and nursing educators, working alongside local faculty to train the next generation of health care professionals” (8/23). In related news, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting examines the challenges of practicing medicine in rural Malawi (Messac, 8/27).

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Aid Advocates Working To Secure Foreign Assistance, Devex Reports

Devex examines how aid advocates are working behind-the-scenes to attempt to secure foreign aid, writing, “With less than two weeks until the end of the recess, the Washington, D.C., aid lobby is gearing up to ensure they can prevent the worst cuts to assistance programs, while laying the groundwork for food aid reform and other priorities as the fall negotiations begin to take shape.” According to the news service, “Negotiators from the House, Senate and the Obama administration may find common ground more abundant when it comes to health spending.” Devex notes that “PEPFAR … continues to enjoy broad bipartisan support,” as do “humanitarian accounts — bolstered by a united concern over Syria’s deteriorating refugee crisis, which just saw its one millionth child refugee.” However, “the fate of poverty-focused funding remains less certain, and one program in particular, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, is a surprising potential victim of the depleted assistance funding pool,” the news service notes (Igoe, 8/28).

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Debate Continues Over Causes Of, Solutions To Malnutrition In India

Noting “India’s lower house of parliament Monday approved an ambitious proposal to address child malnutrition that would provide food at a subsidized rate to nearly two-thirds of the country’s 1.2 billion people,” GlobalPost’s “Pulse” blog examines an ongoing “debate about the causes of India’s high malnutrition rate.” The blog reviews several opinion pieces published recently by researchers and economists discussing whether access to food will help alleviate malnutrition or whether other issues, such as poverty, genetics, or co-morbidities, play a role in childhood stunting, a sign of malnutrition (Stuart, 8/27). The Guardian notes India’s “upper house — the Rajya Sabha — must approve the [Food Security Bill] before it becomes law” (Burke, 8/27).

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MERS Cases Announced In Saudi Arabia, Qatar; Scientists Debate Suspected Bat Vector

“A Saudi man has died of the coronavirus MERS, bringing the kingdom’s death toll from the SARS-like virus to 42, health authorities said Wednesday, adding a new case was registered,” Agence France-Presse reports (8/28). And “[h]ealth authorities in Qatar announced the second confirmed case in a week of the MERS coronavirus in the Gulf state, with a 29-year-old man infected and in intensive care,” the news agency reports in a separate article (8/28). “Saudi Arabia is the country worst hit by MERS, which has killed 47 people globally,” AFP writes. “Experts are struggling to understand MERS — Middle East Respiratory Syndrome — for which there is still no vaccine and which has an extremely high fatality rate of more than 51 percent,” the news agency notes (8/28). The New York Times examines the recent findings showing MERS was isolated from one bat found in Saudi Arabia, writing, “Since scientists announced last week that they had tracked a dangerous new coronavirus to bats in Saudi Arabia, a debate has emerged among virologists as to whether there really is enough evidence to back up the claim.” The newspaper includes comments from several scientists (McNeil, 8/27).

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NPR Examines South Africa's AIDS Response

Noting “South Africa has more people with HIV than any other country in the world,” NPR’s “Shots” blog and “All Things Considered” program examine how, “after years of delay and mistakes, South Africa is transforming how it approaches the disease.” The blog writes, “The South African government is simplifying AIDS care, cutting treatment costs and providing antiviral drugs to almost two million people every day,” adding, “The country just rolled out a new treatment regimen, which involves just one pill a day and costs less than $120 a year per person.” According to “Shots,” “The delivery of antiviral drugs through the public health care system has been so successful and saved so many lives that the overall life expectancy in the country has increased by eight years since the crest of South Africa’s AIDS crisis in the mid-2000s.” Francois Venter, who leads the infectious disease department at Johannesburg General Hospital, “credits the change in large part to the new health minister, Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi,” the blog continues, noting, “He took over the position in 2009 as part of a Cabinet shuffle after President Thabo Mbeki was forced to resign.” The blog also profiles Sibongile Tshabalala, who was diagnosed with HIV in 2000 and has “benefited from a new government policy to make HIV services available at local health clinics” (Beaubien, 8/27).

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Dengue Epidemic Spreading In Central America, PAHO Reports

“A dengue epidemic is raging in Central America, from Honduras to Costa Rica,” The Guardian reports. According to the newspaper, “[t]he virus has already claimed 60 lives, with a total of 120,000 cases,” and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) “fears the figures may ‘explode,’ with this year looking ‘unusually bad.'” The Guardian writes that “[s]everal factors are likely to exacerbate the situation,” including heavy rain and heat during the rainy season, which “is set to continue until November.” The newspaper continues, “With the rising number of new cases, Honduras, El Salvador and Costa Rica announced a health emergency in July and launched campaigns to prevent the disease from spreading.”

“The poor suburbs of Central American capitals are the main targets for campaigns to raise public awareness,” as “[p]oor housing, the lack of a mains water supply and the accumulation of household waste make such neighborhoods an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes,” The Guardian writes. “Latin America is particularly exposed to dengue epidemics, which recur on a three- to five-year cycle,” the newspaper notes. Philippe Brémond, an epidemiologist at France’s Institute of Research for Development (IRD), “expects the epidemics to continue in Latin America until ‘herd immunity’ is achieved there, with a sufficient number of people immunized to stamp out the virus,” a process that “may be speeded up by a vaccine currently being developed by France’s Sanofi Pasteur,” according to The Guardian (Badia, 8/27).

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Cuba Reports 163 Cases In Cholera Outbreak

“Cuba has reported a cholera outbreak to international health monitors, with 163 new cases this year associated with three provinces,” the Associated Press reports. “According to a bulletin by the Pan American Health Organization, island authorities reported on Aug. 23 that the cases were linked to Havana, Santiago and Camaguey provinces,” and the “[p]atients who contracted the waterborne disease included 12 travelers from European and Latin American nations.” The news service notes “[t]here were no reported fatalities.” Though there had been “no word … about the disease in official media such as Communist Party newspaper Granma” since “Cuban state media announced last summer that cholera had sickened 417 people and killed three,” the U.S. last week issued a travel alert for Cuba due to the illness, according to the Associated Press (8/27).

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Editorials and Opinions

Progress In Africa Attributable In Part To U.S. Investment

“I recently returned from a conference hosted by the Aspen Institute in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with a number of scholars and members of Congress,” where “[o]ver a period of several days we did an in-depth exploration of the myriad issues encompassing U.S. relations with the 54 nations of Africa,” Dan Glickman, vice president of the Aspen Institute and senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center, writes in the Huffington Post’s “The Aspen Institute” blog. “One thing became clear: Africa is a land of opportunity and promise for its people and for the people of the United States,” he states, adding, “Some of that success is attributable to U.S. investments in health care from HIV/AIDS prevention, malaria and tuberculosis treatments as well as maternal health.”

“Particularly in HIV/AIDS, the establishment of PEPFAR, a bipartisan congressional accomplishment led and administered by President Bush, has saved literally millions of lives and changed the demography and future of numerous African nations,” Glickman continues, adding, “This story of bipartisanship and the federal government often goes overlooked outside of African development professional circles but the tremendously positive impact U.S. taxpayer dollars had on the lives of HIV-positive or at-risk Africans has been a resounding success.” He discusses “a visit to a Peace Corps site in Amboo, a town of some 80,000 about two hours from Addis Ababa,” and he concludes, “Seeing these volunteers’ commitment to service and to improving the lives of their fellow man was a refreshing reminder that, even though our system of government may be limping along and the mood in Washington is weary and bleak, out in the world the United States can still be a force for tremendous good” (8/27).

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Congress Should Continue Bipartisan Support For WASH Programs

“Almost 800 million people have no safe drinking water and an astounding 2.5 billion people lack basic sanitation worldwide. But unlike so many complex problems, sustainable solutions to the global water crisis really are within our reach. We have the technology. We need the leadership,” Rabbi Jack Bemporad, director of the Center for Interreligious Understanding and the John Paul II Center for Interreligious Dialogue, and six other religious leaders write in the Huffington Post’s “Religion” blog. “With bipartisan support, the Senate recently voted to increase [water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)] foreign aid funding,” they note, adding, “This increase would bring sustainable solutions to another million people.” In addition, “a bipartisan group of 15 House members [introduced] the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2013, a bill that focuses on increasing efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency in our current WASH programs without spending a penny more,” they state.

“Perhaps Congress is starting to understand that we can curtail malnutrition, prevent disease, and reduce poverty. We can support new methods of sustainable farming; promote girls’ education and gender equality. But it all depends on the foundation of one thing: access to safe water and sanitation,” the authors write. “If our much-maligned Congress is up to the task of expanding safe water and sanitation to more families around the world, then the religious community certainly should be there in support,” they state, adding, “There remains much good work to be done and right now we are seeing a rare moment in Congress in which to do it.” The authors conclude, “Tell Congress to keep up this good work by passing the Water for the World Act and the [Senate] FY14 funding recommendation of $405 million for global water projects” (8/27).

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China, African Countries Will Work Together To Improve Health Care

“Recently, while attending the Ministerial Forum on China-Africa Health Development, representing the GAVI Alliance, … I was struck by the common legacy that China and countries across Africa share in overcoming [obstacles to health care delivery], and the important gains that have been made,” Mercy Ahun, the special representative for GAVI-eligible countries, writes in an Observer opinion piece. She describes the meeting and its outcomes, including the Beijing Declaration of the Ministerial Forum on China-Africa Health Development. “By working together as partners, China and African countries can help develop sustainable, local solutions to health challenges,” she writes, adding, “Addressing shortages of doctors, nurses and health technicians and improving health facilities are just some of the ways that the partnership can drive greater health impacts across the continent.” She discusses GAVI’s work in China, and continues, “Chinese and African partners will work closely with multilateral and international organizations to help strengthen and scale-up joint efforts.” Ahun adds, “Health plays a key role in reducing poverty and helping the world’s poorest communities build self-sufficiency and accelerate their own development. When people are healthy, they can reach their fullest potential” (8/27).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

Essay Recommends Expanding Pediatric HIV Agenda

In an essay published in PLOS Medicine, Scott Kellerman, global technical lead for HIV at Management Sciences for Health, and Nandita Sugandhi, clinical adviser at the Clinton Health Access Initiative, examine the global plan to eliminate new HIV infections in children and keep their mothers alive, as well as pediatric HIV treatment. “The elimination of pediatric HIV agenda, or the Global Plan, calls for decreasing new pediatric infections by 90 percent and halving maternal deaths from HIV and AIDS by 2015,” they write, adding, “While high-level rhetoric is necessary to mobilize resources, the strategy to end mother-to-child transmission of HIV (eMTCT) has thus far focused primarily on the expansion of prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) with little attention focused on infected children or those missed by current programming.” The authors conclude, “A new and more expansive agenda must be articulated” to reach these children and “address challenges around reducing vertical transmission and ensuring access to appropriate HIV testing, care, and treatment for all affected children” (8/27).

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New Issue Of 'Global Fund News Flash' Available Online

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has published Issue 24 of its newsletter, the “Global Fund News Flash.” The issue highlights a study published this month in Science about an experimental malaria vaccine, discusses tuberculosis control efforts in India, and profiles a health facility in South Sudan (8/27).

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