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Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

Japan, Britain Donate Funds To Help U.N. Provide Polio Vaccinations In Somalia, Kenya

“An emergency contribution from Japan will enable the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and its partners to tackle a polio outbreak in Somalia that has already paralyzed nearly 100 children and threatens hundreds of thousands more who are not vaccinated,” the U.N. News Centre reports (8/5). “With a growing number of unvaccinated children now facing an explosive outbreak of polio cases in the country, Japan’s generous contribution will help UNICEF and partners conduct additional vaccination campaigns and prevent further spread of the virus across Somalia and into neighboring countries,” according to a UNICEF press release (8/5). Britain will provide £10 million ($15.3 million) to the campaign, which “will allow the [WHO] to immunize 6.1 million people most at risk from the disease in Somalia, northern Kenya and other countries in the region, the Department for International Development (DfID) said,” the Daily Express writes, adding, “The U.N. has warned that without further support the disease could quickly develop into an epidemic across East Africa and put countless lives and livelihoods at risk” (8/5). “‘Until polio transmission is interrupted in the endemic countries, outbreaks such as the one in Somalia are to be expected,’ explains Dr. Hamid Jafari, director of polio research and operations at the [WHO],” according to an article on the Global Polio Eradication Initiative webpage (7/31).

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World Bank Report Says Africa Needs To Address Road Traffic Injuries, NCDs

A new report from the World Bank shows that an increasing number of road traffic injuries (RTIs) and rising rates of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) “both represent largely hidden epidemics in Africa,” according to the paper’s authors, The Guardian reports (Balch, 8/5). The report’s summary states “[t]he data show that action against NCDs and RTIs in sub-Saharan Africa is needed, together with continued efforts to address communicable diseases and maternal and child health as well as to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)” (6/1). Most public health spending and donor aid is going to infectious diseases, specifically malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, creating “vertical” systems, The Guardian notes, adding, “The authors of the World Bank report argue that this silo approach is often counterproductive and coordinated health programs are needed” (8/5). “[T]he report argues that proven, cost-effective, prevention interventions are needed, many of which (such as tobacco and alcohol taxes, road safety measures, and fuel-efficient ventilated cookstoves) require action beyond the health sector,” according to a post in the World Bank’s “Investing in Health” blog. “These can deliver broader development benefits in addition to their benefits for health,” the blog adds (Marquez, 7/22).

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BBC News Magazine Examines Proposed U.S. Food Aid Reform

The BBC News magazine on Monday examined the debate over proposed food aid reforms in the U.S. “President Barack Obama’s 2013 budget proposed to change the law so that [up to] 45 percent of food for aid could be bought outside the U.S., or the hungry could be given cash [vouchers] instead,” the news agency writes. “But opposition is proving hard to overcome. Instead Congress appears set on voting for a decrease in the aid budget, as foreign aid programs are increasingly unpopular at a time of budget austerity at home,” BBC notes, adding, “If the reform fails, then the U.S. would be the only major donor still delivering aid in this way.” The article quotes an official from CARE, Kenyan and Afghan farmers, a food security expert from Cornell University, and an official from the American Farm Bureau Federation (Loyn, 8/5).

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New Regulatory Agency In Africa Aims To Facilitate Approval Of CD4 Diagnostic Tests

Noting the WHO has called for 15 million people living with HIV to be receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) by 2015 and new WHO HIV treatment guidelines say ART should be prescribed when patients’ CD4 cell counts reach 500 cells/mm3, a higher threshold than previously recommended, The Guardian’s “Global Development Professionals Network” writes, “CD4 counts are therefore pivotal to reach the UNAIDS target, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa where HIV prevalence is high, but the test [to determine CD4 count] isn’t widely available in countries with poor health care.” While “[t]he introduction of decentralized point-of-care tests, which can be used in resource-constrained settings by low-skilled health workers, could significantly increase coverage … [t]he trouble is that such point-of-care diagnostics are something of a blind spot when it comes to regulation,” the newspaper adds. “In a bid to fill that gap, UNITAID decided to grant $5 million to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to create a harmonized regulatory framework for diagnostics in Africa,” The Guardian writes, describing the development of the Pan-African Harmonisation Working Party (PAHWP) (Filou, 8/6).

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China Continues To Deliberate Changes To One-Child Policy

“China is still deliberating whether to further relax the country’s one-child policy by allowing a couple in which only one party is an only child to have two children, a spokesman for the country’s health and family planning authority said Friday,” Xinhua reports (8/2). “Beijing is under pressure to ease its grip on child birth in response to calls for more personal freedom in an increasingly affluent society,” the Wall Street Journal writes, adding, “Such a move is also aimed at offsetting the financial effects of an aging society and addressing potential labor shortages in the years ahead” (Qi, 8/5). “According to the 21st Century Business Herald, the updated family planning policy could come as early as later this year,” the Huffington Post notes (Davis, 8/5).

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WFP Begins Distribution Of Maize To North Korea Flood Victims

“The U.N.’s World Food Programme [WFP] said on Tuesday it had begun distributing 460 tons of maize to victims of major floods in North Korea that have killed more than 30 people,” Agence France-Presse reports. “The aid is aimed at addressing the ‘immediate food needs’ of around 38,000 people living in areas of serious crop devastation, the WFP said in a statement,” noting, “Each person will receive 400 grams of maize per day for a month,” the news service writes. While “[t]he North Korean authorities have so far reported 33 deaths, with 18 people missing,” the International Federation of the Red Cross Crescent Societies (IFRC), “which is carrying out relief work in the affected areas, says up to 50,000 people have been displaced by the floodwaters, which have destroyed more than 13,000 hectares of farmland,” AFP notes. “Exceptionally heavy seasonal rain in mid-July resulted in flooding in many parts of North Korea, with some areas recording twice the average monthly rainfall in just three days,” the news service adds (8/6).

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IPS Profiles Malawi President Joyce Banda

Inter Press Service profiles Malawi’s President Joyce Banda, the first female southern African head of state, briefly recounting her work since “taking over from her predecessor Bingu wa Mutharika who died in office on Apr. 5, 2012.” The news service provides excerpts from an interview with Banda about women’s empowerment. “‘The message I am trying to send is ‘Nothing for us without us’ — nothing for women without their involvement and inclusion. We need to make deliberate efforts and policies that will aim at eliminating the structural barriers posed by poverty and gender inequality in economic empowerment of women because such efforts will have long-lasting improvements on the welfare of a woman,’ Banda told IPS,” according to the news service (Banda, 8/3).

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The Atlantic Examines Indian Company's Efforts To Produce Sanitary Napkins, Educate Women On Use

The Atlantic examines how a company called Jayashree Industries, based in Singanallur, Coimbatore — “the textile hub in the southern state of Tamil Nadu in India” — “is working to both help women understand how to use sanitary pads and to employ locals in the napkins’ production.” According to the magazine, “Jayashree Industries has created some 700 brands of napkins in 30 of India’s states, with names like Mother Care, Softex, Relax, Touch Free, Be Free, Rosy, and Real Free,” and “[d]ozens of sanitary napkins have regional names, printed in local languages so they can be accessed by customers who cannot read English.” According to owner Arunachalam Muruganantham, “7,000 people have been employed so far, and more than three million women have shifted from using rags to using pads,” The Atlantic notes (Shariff, 8/2).

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Editorials and Opinions

Polio Eradication Plan Is Working, But Continued Support Necessary

“Just as we were seeing record-low cases of polio worldwide and coming closer than ever to eradication, 105 new cases of wild polio have been identified in Kenya and Somalia, raising new concerns about low coverage and inaccessible populations in that area,” Helen Rees, executive director of the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, writes in an AllAfrica.com guest column. “While the outbreaks are undoubtedly a setback, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) had anticipated that sporadic cases would occur in vulnerable settings during the final push for polio eradication, and it’s noteworthy that the situation has been met with one of the quickest and most effective emergency responses to date,” she states, adding, “Fortunately, containing outbreaks, such as those in the Horn of Africa, is a crucial part of the GPEI’s Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan 2013-2018.” She notes, “Over the past 10 years, the GPEI has improved its outbreak response by systematically learning lessons from the more than 100 polio outbreaks that have occurred worldwide,” and she describes these efforts.

“But responding to outbreaks is only one element of the GPEI’s multifaceted eradication plan, which outlines a comprehensive series of steps all countries should take to achieve eradication by 2018” and “includes significant resources for the rapid fortification of routine immunization systems,” Rees continues, providing additional details of the plan. “A fully funded plan ensures that tradeoffs are not made in emergency situations by using a meticulous modeling process to budget for future outbreaks,” she writes. “Eradicating polio is a daunting challenge, but new knowledge and innovations are leading the way,” she notes, adding, “Applying these lessons to routine health programs will pave the way for the delivery of measles and rubella vaccines, as well as new vaccines and other health interventions, to previously unreached children.” Rees states, “It’s a tall order to reduce costs and increase vaccine uptake — especially in communities that have low motivation to prevent diseases they do not even see and where fear and social disruption hamper progress — but this will be the challenge of the future.” She concludes, “The world has a plan to end polio. It’s working, and we must stand behind it” (8/5).

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Pharmaceutical Industry, International Community Must Place Drug-Resistant TB On Agenda

Writing in The Guardian’s “Global Development Professionals Network” blog, Emily Wise, a doctor volunteering with Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Karakalpakstan, Uzbekistan, an area where drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) is endemic, examines the conflict surrounding the treatment of the disease with a drug that can cause depression and suicidal thoughts. “It’s not underlying mental illness that causes people on TB drugs to become depressed. It’s a chemical effect resulting from the ingestion of cycloserine, one of the cocktail of drugs we must use to treat drug-resistant TB,” she writes, noting, “Though cycloserine is primarily to blame, there can be no denying that other things contribute to episodes,” such as “[t]he stigma of being a TB patient, a patient’s pill burden (the number of drugs they have to take on a daily basis) and the duration of the treatment.” She continues, “I’m forced to acknowledge that the tools we currently have against drug-resistant TB are, at best, just a holding measure and not a solution,” concluding, “We need the pharmaceutical industry and the international community to put this disease on their agenda and give doctors and patients what they so desperately need: new compounds against drug-resistant TB” (8/2).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

USAID Blog Profiles Birth Attendant Working In South Sudan Since 1997

In a post in USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” Victor Lugala, development outreach and communications specialist in South Sudan, reports from the field about 38-year-old Mary Konyo, a mother of nine and a traditional birth attendant since 1997, noting Konyo “has helped 23 women deliver children safely women in the last 16 years.” Lugala writes, “In recognition of her community work, Konyo was among a few women nominated from her community to attend a USAID-funded workshop on reducing [postpartum hemorrhage (PPH)].” At the workshop, “participants gained knowledge and skills to help them talk with their communities about the importance of using misoprostol — a medicine that can prevent severe bleeding — to prevent PPH,” Lugala notes (8/5).

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How Push For Aid Organizations To Be More 'Business-Like' Is Changing Foreign Assistance

In this edition of KUOW 94.9’s “The Conversation,” correspondent Ross Reynolds talks with Tom Paulson, the founder and editor of the news blog Humanosphere, about how a push led by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for foreign aid organizations to become more “business-like” is changing the world of aid, development and philanthropy. However, some “critics say that when it comes to helping poor people, a return on investment can’t be the only measure of success,” according to the program description (8/2).

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Gates Foundation Begins 'Reinvent A Better World' Social Media Series

In a post on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, foundation Co-Chair Melinda Gates introduces a new social media series, titled “Reinvent a Better World,” “about reinvention in several core areas of our work.” She continues, “Reinvention requires innovation, and innovation is one of those words that can mean so many things that it almost means nothing. But it is such an important concept that it’s worth trying to reclaim.” Gates writes, “Sometimes innovation involves technology, as it did when we were at Microsoft. In the area of contraceptives — which we’ll be focusing on the first week of our Reinvent series — we must invent new products that work in different ways and have fewer side effects so that all women can get what they need.” She concludes, “[Reinvention] is not a single solution. It is a process. It is a frame of mind, a way of constantly looking at problems from new angles so that you can see more and more powerful solutions, try them out, and keep improving on them” (8/5).

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Aidspan Publishes New Issue Of ‘Global Fund Observer’

Aidspan, an independent watchdog of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, has published Issue 224 of its “Global Fund Observer.” The issue includes an interview with Alvaro Bermejo, executive director of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, who “recently stepped down (at the end of his two-year term) as a member of the Global Fund Board representing Developed Country [non-governmental organizations (NGOs)]”; an article examining how “[c]hanges in World Bank income classification levels may affect applicants”; and an article highlighting “a new initiative that hopes to promote discussion on the collection, interpretation and the use of in-country data that is vital to planning programs to address HIV, TB and malaria,” among others (8/6).

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