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Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

U.S. HHS Secretary Burwell To Brief Senate On Zika Outbreak; House Bill Would Allow Ebola Research Funding To Be Used For Zika

ABC News: Senators Call for Federal Updates on Zika Virus Outbreak
“The chairman of the Senate committee with oversight over public health issues has sent a letter to the head of Health and Human Services asking her to keep him apprised of the agency’s efforts to stem the spread of the Zika virus in the United States…” (Weinberg, 2/3).

The Hill: Zika spreads into politics
“The Zika virus is creeping into politics, with Republicans beginning to question whether the Obama administration is doing enough to protect the public from an outbreak…” (Sullivan, 2/4).

The Hill: GOP lawmaker: Use Ebola funds to fight Zika
“Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) unveiled legislation on Wednesday to boost funding to research the Zika virus by giving federal agencies flexibility to use money originally allocated to combat Ebola…” (Marcos, 2/3).

The Hill: Burwell to brief lawmakers on Zika virus
“…Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Wednesday that Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell will brief leadership and relevant committees next week, after McConnell requested a meeting…” (Carney, 2/3).

Reuters: U.S. health secretary to brief lawmakers on efforts over Zika virus
“…McConnell, speaking on the Senate floor, said there was an increasing amount of concern about the virus as warmer months approach, and ‘I think we could all benefit from having a better understanding of what preparations are being made to protect Americans’…” (Cornwell, 2/3).

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South American Health Ministers Vow Cooperation To Control Zika; U.N. Urges European, LAC Nations To Take Preventive Measures

Agence France-Presse: S. America holds crisis meeting as Zika ‘nightmare’ spreads
“South American health ministers held an emergency meeting on slowing the spread of the Zika virus, dubbed a ‘nightmare’ by hard-hit Brazil, where it is blamed for brain damage in babies…” (Notargiovanni, 2/3).

Agence France-Presse: South America vows to wipe out Zika-spreading mosquito
“…The health ministers gathered in Montevideo signed a declaration vowing to ‘design and execute education campaigns to control the carriers’ of the virus…” (Notargiovanni, 2/3).

CNN: Brazil President on Zika: Victory depends on our determination
“Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff urged Brazilians on Wednesday to fight the spread of the Zika virus. Rousseff, in a taped national TV address, said the virus represents a real threat…” (Almasy/Laje, 2/3).

Deutsche Welle: World Health Organization warns Europe to be on guard as Zika fears spread
“Zsuzsanna Jakab, the European director of the World Health Organization (WHO), said European countries had to act quickly to protect themselves from the Zika virus, which is spread by mosquitoes and suspected of causing deformities and brain damage in infants in South America…” (2/3).

Reuters: Brazil urges Latin America to coordinate fight against Zika
“…Brazil’s top health official Marcelo Castro said the region needed to ‘exchange information, make alliances, and discuss what coordinated action we can take to control this epidemic’…” (Lough, 2/3).

U.N. News Centre: UN health agency urges action now in European countries to prevent Zika virus spread
“European countries were called on [Wednesday] by the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) to act early and in a coordinated way to protect the region from Zika virus, just one day after another case was confirmed in the United States…” (2/3).

VOA News: U.N. Urges Communities to Mobilize to Stop Zika Spread
“U.N. agencies are mobilizing communities in Latin America and the Caribbean to stop the spread of the Zika virus, which has infected tens of thousands of people in about 25 countries…” (Schlein, 2/3).

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Zika Virus Causing Brazilians To Reevaluate Abortion Laws; Latin American Women Weigh Options To Avoid Pregnancy As Access To Contraceptives Limited

New York Times: Surge of Zika Virus Has Brazilians Re-examining Strict Abortion Laws
“The surging medical reports of babies being born with unusually small heads during the Zika epidemic in Brazil are igniting a fierce debate over the country’s abortion laws, which make the procedure illegal under most circumstances…” (Romero, 2/3).

Washington Post: Why Zika is a ticking ‘time bomb’ for Latin America
“…Latin America is where [Zika] — suspected of causing babies to be born with a condition called microcephaly, which results in unusually small heads and brains — is most prevalent. It is also predominantly Roman Catholic, and getting access to modern birth control methods like condoms and pills can be a challenge. ‘There is a lot of fear about Zika and pregnancy, but women don’t have a lot of options even if they have a desire to comply with the advice’ [to delay pregnancy,] Joshua Michaud, associate director of global health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said in an interview…” (Cha, 2/3).

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More Pharmaceutical Companies Join Search For Zika Vaccines, Diagnostics; Researchers Say More Samples, Data Needed From Brazil

Associated Press: Health officials want more Zika samples, data from Brazil
“Brazil is not sharing enough samples and disease data to let researchers determine whether the Zika virus is, as feared, linked to the increased number of babies born with abnormally small heads in the South American country, U.N. and U.S. health officials say. … [I]t is technically illegal for Brazilian researchers and institutes to share genetic material, including blood samples containing Zika and other viruses…” (Cheng et al., 2/4).

International Business Times: Is There A Vaccine For The Zika Virus? Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Merck Are Exploring Developing One
“Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Merck & Co. have added their names to the growing list of pharmaceutical companies looking into developing a vaccine for the Zika virus, Reuters reported Wednesday. French drugmaker Sanofi said Tuesday that it has started working on creating a vaccine, while Japan-based Takeda Pharmaceuticals said it had a team investigating such a project…” (Whitman, 2/3).

International Business Times: As Zika Virus Spreads, Gaps In Diagnostic Testing Present Opportunities For Drug Companies
“… ‘It’s a good environment for generating the incentive needed to invest in diagnostics,’ Josh Michaud, an associate director on the global health policy team at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said of the Zika virus outbreak. ‘You have global attention focused on this. You have what appears to be rapid spread of the virus’ across both middle and high-income countries across the Americas, he pointed out. ‘That is a recipe for greater investments — and probably return on investments for research — into diagnostics’…” (Whitman, 2/3).

Quartz: An Indian biotech company has been developing Zika vaccines for over a year
“…Bharat Biotech … has become the first in the world to have two vaccine candidates against the rapidly spreading Zika virus, which has infected millions of people in Latin America and has the potential to spread worldwide…” (Karnik, 2/4).

Wall Street Journal: India and the Search for a Zika Virus Vaccine
“…Still, possible vaccines have to pass through rigorous screening for safety and efficacy. Soumya Swaminathan, director general of the Indian Council for Medical Research, which oversees clinical trials in India, said testing would take two to three years…” (Bhattacharya, 2/4).

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Questions Remain Over Association Between Zika, Microcephaly, Number Of Birth Defect Cases

GlobalPost: On Brazil’s Zika front lines, cases of microcephaly are actually dropping
“Brazilian doctors at the epicenter of the Zika virus crisis told GlobalPost that the number of suspected cases of microcephaly, a birth defect linked to the virus, peaked at their hospital weeks ago and has declined significantly since then…” (Carless, 2/3).

New York Times: Birth Defects in Brazil May Be Over-Reported Amid Zika Fears
“Brazil’s government is considering tightening the guidelines it currently gives doctors, hospitals, and health care providers for when to report infants born with abnormally small heads, a move intended to reduce the number of false alarms that it has received in wake of the Zika epidemic gripping Brazil…” (Sreeharsha, 2/3).

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Brazil Identifies 2 Zika Cases Contracted Through Blood Transfusions As Nations Take Steps To Protect Blood Supplies

New York Times: Blood Banks Use Caution With Travelers From Zika Zones
“Blood banks in the United States have begun asking potential donors not to give blood if within the last month they have visited a country in which the Zika virus is spreading…” (Saint Louis, 2/3).

Wall Street Journal: Brazil Identifies Two Cases of Zika Transmitted by Blood Transfusions
“Health officials in Brazil reported two cases of the Zika virus being transmitted through blood transfusions, the latest challenge in the global battle against the fast-spreading mosquito-borne epidemic. … A number of countries are tightening their rules on blood donations in response to the global Zika outbreak…” (Johnson/Magalhaes, 2/3).

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Environmental Changes, Human-Altered Landscapes Aiding Spread Of Mosquitoes, Related Diseases

Associated Press: Higher temperatures make Zika mosquito spread disease more
“…Although it is too early to say for [the Zika] outbreak, past outbreaks of similar diseases involved more than just biology. In the past, weather has played a key role, as have economics, human travel, air conditioning, and mosquito control. Even El Niño sneaks into the game. Scientists say you can’t just blame one thing for an outbreak and caution it is too early to link this one to climate change or any single weather event…” (Borenstein, 2/3).

Washington Post: The hidden environmental factors behind the spread of Zika and other devastating diseases
“The alarming spread of the Zika virus — caused in major part by the infamous Aedes aegypti mosquito, which can also carry dengue, yellow fever, and chikungunya virus — is looking more and more like a public health catastrophe. But it’s also, say experts, something else: The latest example of how human alterations to their environments, in the broadest sense, can empower disease-carrying organisms like Aedes and the viruses they bring with them…” (Mooney, 2/3).

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Cancer Survival Should Not Depend On Place Of Residence, U.N. SG Ban Says, Marking World Cancer Day

U.N. News Centre: With focus on cervical cancer, Ban says where people live should not determine chances of survival
“Marking World Cancer Day, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed that where a person lives should not determine if they develop a cancer or die from it, as he called to eliminate cervical cancer as a public health issue while also reducing the burden that millions face from all cancers…” (2/4).

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With 22 Cases Recorded In 2015, Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter Says Hope High For Guinea Worm Eradication

Associated Press: Jimmy Carter hopeful for Guinea worm eradication in Africa
“Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter says that Guinea worm disease may soon be eradicated, which would be the most exciting accomplishment of his career, although progress is hampered by ongoing conflict in Mali and South Sudan…” (Patinkin, 2/3).

BBC News: President Carter vs Guinea Worm
“…The Carter Center, which was set up by former President Jimmy Carter, said that [the 22 cases recorded in 2015] represented an 83 percent drop from the 126 cases reported [the previous year]…” (Mazumdar, 2/3).

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Carter Center, World Bank Working With Liberia To Improve Mental Health Care, Reduce Stigma

Thomson Reuters Foundation: Ebola and civil war trauma threaten Liberia’s economic growth
“…Trauma not only harms communities, but also hinders economic growth, according to the World Bank, which hopes a focus on mental health will kickstart Liberia’s struggling economy. It is working with the Carter Center on a $3 million project to train health staff in psychosocial treatment, set up support groups, lead community reconciliation efforts, and tackle stigma…” (Guilbert, 2/3).

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USAID's FEWSNET Helps Civil Society Groups, Governments Prepare For Food Insecurity

The Atlantic: How to See a Famine Before It Starts
“…For almost a year, U.S. officials have warned that food could become scarce in regions of the Horn of Africa. These warnings came in the form of the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, a USAID program usually shortened to FEWSNET. With rationalist clarity, FEWSNET classifies the food security situation in 36 of the world’s countries … FEWSNET’s current estimate is that about 40 million people will need emergency food assistance in 2016, a 30 percent increase from 2015 totals…” (Meyer, 2/3).

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Aid Agencies Work To Get Food, Humanitarian Aid To Syrians, But Supplies, Funding Continue To Run Short

Associated Press: Syrian refugees struggle to buy food as aid dwindles
“…As aid agencies struggle to keep pace with the worst refugee crisis since World War II, they have been forced to cut back on assistance, including food rations. With no end in sight to the Syrian war, and regional host countries increasingly overwhelmed, many refugees see the perilous crossing to Europe as their only option. Donors will be asked to provide nearly $9 billion to aid agencies and host countries in 2016 at an annual conference held Thursday in London — a record request. But donors have come up short in previous years…” (Szlanko/Rohan, 2/4).

U.N. News Centre: Crucial U.N. aid reaches Syrian town cut off by fighting for three years
“Working with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), the United Nations refugee agency has delivered crucial humanitarian aid to a rural town near Damascus that has been cut off by fighting for three years, stranding thousands of residents in dire conditions without clean water or fuel for warmth…” (2/3).

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Foreign Policy Explores Reported Increases In Incidence Of Rape, Teenage Pregnancy In West Africa During Ebola Epidemic

Foreign Policy: The Ebola Rape Epidemic No One’s Talking About
“…Only now are we learning that Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone saw a surge in teenage pregnancy likely caused by an increase in the incidence of rape during the [Ebola] epidemic. In parts of Sierra Leone, the teenage pregnancy rate increased 65 percent during the Ebola epidemic, according to a study by the United Nations Development Programme…” (Yasmin, 2/2).

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Editorials and Opinions

U.S. Cancer 'Moonshot' Needs 'Our Best Science, Imagination, Commitment, Focus'

Forbes: Cancer ‘Moonshot’ For Our Generation
Bill Frist, former U.S. senator from Tennessee and chair of Hope Through Healing Hands, and Saketh R. Guntupalli, assistant professor of gynecologic oncology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine

“The Obama administration announced on Monday that it hopes to spend a total of a $1 billion to fund a cancer ‘moonshot’ in search of cures. That amount is likely not sufficient, but it can establish the framework by which the goal can eventually be met. … It is critical that under this rallying cry we articulate a clear, cogent plan to achieve the goals articulated by our government leaders. First, we must ensure that the cancers that represent the core of cancer deaths and mortality in the U.S. — such as ovarian, lung, and pancreatic cancer — receive an appropriate and equitable amount of funding. … Second, we must encourage and support a new generation of physician-scientists to pursue careers in cancer research. … Third, we must encourage the participation of women and minorities in clinical investigation. … Finally, clinical trials must be streamlined in an efficient and safe way to appropriately protect patients and be available for immediate accrual. … Cancer cures can be the moonshot of this generation; it will call upon the best of our best science, our imagination, our commitment, and our focus” (2/3).

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Opinion Pieces Discuss Potential For Mosquito Elimination, Latin American Women's Access To Abortion, Contraceptives In Light Of Zika

USA TODAY: Mosquitoes, this time it is war
Alex Berezow, founding editor of RealClearScience and a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors

“…It is time to launch a global initiative to eradicate [mosquitoes]. … Malaria, West Nile, dengue, chikungunya, yellow fever, and various types of encephalitis are all transmitted by these tiny bloodsuckers. … It should be noted, however, that not all mosquitoes are bad (to humans, anyway). … Even so, that means at least several dozen species act as human disease vectors. … Eradication will not be a trivial undertaking. … Yet, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. In fact, efforts are already underway to eliminate the most noxious mosquito offenders. … [A]ny reduction in the number of mosquito-borne infections is a gigantic win for humanity. We should use every tool we have to wipe them out” (2/3).

The Guardian: Zika’s spread in Brazil is a crisis of inequality as much as health
Nicole Froio, freelance journalist and political blogger based in Brazil

“…[I]t’s no coincidence that most Zika-related microcephaly cases were found in the north-east of the country: of course, the weather there is hot, which is prime breeding ground for the Aedis aegypti, but it is also where most of Brazil’s poverty is concentrated. … So, although Zika appears to be a health crisis, it’s more a crisis about extreme inequality and underfunded public services. … I am hopeful that a solution for the Zika virus will be found, but if these inequalities are not addressed it’s only a matter of time until a similar crisis re-emerges and makes the most vulnerable suffer yet again” (2/3).

The Conversation: Why don’t we wipe mosquitoes off the face of the Earth?
Mike Jeffries, teaching fellow in ecology at Northumbria University

“…Mosquitoes are credited with causing more misery and loss to humanity than any other organism (with the obvious exception of ourselves). … Which begs the question: what good do they do — and if we could wipe them from the face of the Earth should we? … Arguments in favor of mosquitoes fall into two broad categories. First that their sheer numbers are an essential link in some food webs … The second argument is that mosquitoes have a more general role providing ecosystem services such as pollination by adults or driving the release of nutrients as their young feed on organic detritus. … [However, t]here are plenty of other midges and mites, black flies and fleas out there just waiting for the opportunity to step in. Be careful what you wish for” (2/2).

The Guardian: If women with Zika risk shouldn’t get pregnant, they need abortion access
Jessica Valenti, columnist and staff writer for Guardian U.S.

“As the Zika virus continues to spread, in what is now an official public health emergency causing severe neurological birth defects across multiple countries, some governments are calling on women to delay pregnancy — even though birth control is hard to access and abortion is illegal in [many Latin American nations]. … The concern from international women’s health organizations is not only that women lack reproductive care options, but that the lack of options could lead to an increase of illegal and unsafe abortions. … The recommendations as they stand are not just unrealistic, they’re dangerous. Because if there’s one thing that public health experts know, it’s this: women who don’t want to be pregnant will find some way not to be, including illegal and unsafe abortions” (2/3).

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International Community Must Find Solution For Peace In Syria

The Guardian: Syria’s plight puts the world to shame — leaders must unite to find a solution
Yacoub El Hillo, U.N. resident/humanitarian coordinator in Syria, and Kevin Kennedy, U.N. regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syria crisis

“…In 2016, 13.5 million people in Syria need humanitarian assistance — the highest number to date. … The world is now confronted with how to fulfill our collective humanitarian responsibility to meet immediate needs and find a path to peace so Syrians can live in safety and dignity and begin rebuilding. … Every day, humanitarian partners on the ground tirelessly deliver life-saving assistance to millions of people in need, unarmed and undeterred. But their efforts, increasingly thwarted by violence and restrictions on access, are never enough. We look to the Geneva talks to achieve agreement on lifting sieges and opening up all areas to assistance as a critical first step on the road to peace…” (2/3).

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Market Models Can Create 'New Paradigm' To Improve Global Nutrition, Food Security

Huffington Post: Innovative Partnerships Models to Advance Nutrition and Security
Marc Van Ameringen, executive director of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN)

“…The food system is essential to not only maintain healthy lives, but also for global health security. … [M]ultidimensional challenges require us to strengthen the existing food system and change the way it is currently configured. We need to start thinking about a new paradigm for the food system that has at its core the provision of sustainable nutritious diets accessible to everyone. There are many pathways to building this paradigm, but I would like to focus on one, which I think is one of the most critical: making markets work better for the poor, so that they can have access to an affordable nutritious diet. In particular, there are four different market models that we have been implementing with our partners. … Catalyzing small and middle-sized enterprises (SMEs) in East Africa … Fortifying staple foods and condiments with essential vitamins and micronutrients … Investing in nutrition all along supply chains of large companies … [and l]everaging market players around research and development in nutrition…” (2/4).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

'Let Girls Learn' Initiative Can Help Improve Health, Lives Of People Worldwide, U.S. First Lady Says

U.S. Department of State’s “DipNote”: First Lady Michelle Obama Inspires Action To Help Let #62MillionGirls Learn
The blog post summarizes First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech at the recent American Magazine Media Conference, where she discussed the “Let Girls Learn” initiative. “First Lady Obama underscored the devastating consequences faced by 62 million girls who are not in school today noting, ‘Girls who aren’t educated have higher rates of HIV. They have higher rates of infant mortality. They have lower wages. This impacts not just the individual girls, but their families, their communities, and an entire nation'” (2/3).

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Podcast Explores Gates Foundation's Role In Global Health, Development Initiatives

Council on Foreign Relations’ “The Internationalist”: Delivering on Global Health and Development: A View from the Gates Foundation
In a podcast, Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, discusses the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s involvement in global health and development initiatives with Mark Suzman, president of Global Policy, Advocacy, and Country Programs at the Gates Foundation (2/1).

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Maternal, Newborn Health Roadmap Provides '10 Critical Actions' For Post-2015 Agenda

PLOS Collections Blog: The Global Development Framework in Transition: Where are Mothers and Newborns in the Post-2015 Era?
Koki Agarwal, director of USAID’s Maternal and Child Survival Program (MCSP); Ana Langer, a professor at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health and director of the Women and Health Initiative and Maternal Health Task Force; and Joy Riggs-Perla, director of SNL 3 at Save the Children, discuss maternal and newborn health under the Sustainable Development Goals, including “10 critical actions” outlined in a roadmap designed by “[r]esearchers, implementers, advocates, and representatives from the development and donor communities” at a meeting in October 2015 (2/4).

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New Guttmacher Institute Fact Sheet Examines Adolescent Sexual, Reproductive Health Needs, Access To Abortion In Developing Countries

Guttmacher Institute: Adolescents’ Need for and Use of Abortion Services In Developing Countries
This new fact sheet released by the Guttmacher Institute “incorporates data from three recent studies of adolescent sexual and reproductive health needs and services in developing countries. It includes information about unsafe abortion incidence in specific countries and in the developing world in general, abortion service provision, access to postabortion care, and barriers that adolescents face in accessing safe abortion services” (2/3).

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