KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

Disease Outbreaks Threaten Global Economy, WEF/Harvard Paper Says, As Health, Medicine Experts Join Economists, Leaders In Davos

PTI/Livemint: Pandemics could cause $570 billion annual loss to global economy: WEF
“Global businesses face huge risks from a new era of epidemics and pandemics that may cause an average annual economic loss of $570 billion to the global GDP, posing a threat similar to that from climate change, says a report. In the report on ‘Outbreak Readiness and Business Impact,’ Geneva-based World Economic Forum (WEF) Friday said the number and kind of infectious disease outbreaks have increased significantly over the past 30 years…” (1/20).

STAT: Top names in health and medicine gather in Davos for World Economic Forum
“Some of the biggest names in science and medicine are in the Swiss ski resort town of Davos this week to rub elbows with world leaders and one-percenters — and talk about the future of health care. The annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, which gets underway Tuesday, draws in health, medicine, and biopharma leaders from across the globe…” (Thielking, 1/21).

Xinhua News: New era of epidemics rival climate change in risks to global businesses: WEF
“The World Economic Forum (WEF), along with the Harvard Global Health Institute, released on Friday a white paper detailing why and how businesses should contribute more to manage the threat and impact of infectious disease on societies. … Outbreak Readiness and Business Impact: Protecting Lives and Livelihoods across the Global Economy describes the business risk posed by a new era of epidemics…” (1/18).

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Growing Gap Between Rich, Poor Fueling Global Anger, Harming Access To Basic Services, Oxfam Report Shows

Reuters: Gap between rich and poor growing, fueling global anger: Oxfam
“Tax systems that put a high burden on the poor mean public services are underfunded, stretching the gap between rich and poor and fueling global public anger, Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International, said on Monday. … The report, released [by Oxfam] on Monday as political and business leaders gather for the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, said governments are increasingly underfunding public services and failing to clamp down on tax dodging. ‘Poor people suffer twice from being deprived of basic services and also paying a higher burden of taxation,’ Byanyima said in an interview…” (Holland, 1/20).

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Migrants At Increased Risk Of Becoming Ill In Transit, In Host Nations, WHO Report Says

The Guardian: Western lifestyles pose risk to migrants’ health, says WHO report
“Western culture and society pose more health risks to migrants and refugees than they do to host nations, according to a World Health Organization study. The first report on refugee and migrant health in the west by WHO Europe suggests new arrivals are at risk of falling ill while in transit to another country, but face further dangers when they arrive in a host nation because of unhealthy living conditions, poor diet, and the obesity epidemic…” (Topping, 1/21).

The Telegraph: Migrants pose no disease risk to settled population, report highlights
“…The WHO European region’s first ever report on the health of migrants and refugees seeks to dispel myths about refugees and migrants and stresses that they are unlikely to pass on disease to the host population in their new country. However, a breakdown in health systems in migrants’ country of origin and poor living conditions and sanitation on arrival or during their journey may increase their risk of contracting infectious diseases, a report says…” (Gulland, 1/21).

U.N. News: Migrants and refugees face higher risk of developing ill-health, says U.N. report on displaced people in Europe
“…Providing rights-based health care systems that are sensitive to the needs of migrants and refugees is included in the 2030 Agenda, which covers 17 Sustainable Development Goals, known as the SDGs, and targets, including universal health coverage…” (1/21).

VOA News: WHO: Migrants Do Not Bring Diseases Into Europe
“…The report is based on evidence from more than 13,000 documents. It provides a snapshot of the health of refugees and migrants who comprise about 10 percent of the nearly one billion population in 53 European countries. … WHO considers it critically important that European countries provide quality and affordable health care for all refugees and migrants, regardless of their legal status. Providing universal health coverage, it says, would significantly improve the well-being of both the displaced and host populations” (Schlein, 1/21).

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Mexico City Policy Impacting Access To Family Planning, HIV Services In Rural Zambia

The Guardian: ‘People will end up dying’: Trump’s cuts devastate clinics in Zambia
“…Until November 2017, a project run by Planned Parenthood Association of Zambia (PPAZ) would offer HIV testing in homes, distribute condoms in the community, and give family planning information to teenagers in schools. Such work was halted by the Mexico City policy, or ‘global gag rule,’ signed two years ago by Trump, which blocked U.S. [global health] funds to any [foreign] organizations involved in abortion advice and care overseas. … Women’s rights groups and health experts warned that progress on family planning, population growth, and reproductive rights would be swept away…” (Ratcliffe, 1/21).

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DRC Ebola Outbreak Moves Closer To Larger Cities; Experimental Vaccine Supplies Expected To Last, WHO Says

STAT: A spot of good news in an Ebola crisis: Vaccine supplies are expected to last
“There’s some good news related to an Ebola crisis that has offered very little up until now. The World Health Organization now predicts there are adequate supplies of an experimental Ebola vaccine to control the outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo…” (Branswell, 1/22).

Washington Times: Congo struggles to contain Ebola outbreak
“Ebola infections have slowed inside the initial center of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s outbreak, but the disease is marching south toward major cites, opening a critical new stage in the epidemic that’s already the second worst on record…” (Howell, 1/22).

Additional coverage of the DRC Ebola outbreak is available from Breitbart (2) and Vox.

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WHO Executive Board To Address Wide Range Of Topics At 144th Session, From Agency's Budget To Access To Medicines

Intellectual Property Watch: Special Report: Guide To This Week’s WHO Board Meeting — Budget, Medicines Access, Antimicrobial Resistance, NCDs, More
“The World Health Organization Executive Board this month will consider an eight percent WHO budget increase for 2020-2021, discuss environment health risks, the high price of cancer drugs, and how to facilitate access to medicines and vaccines. Also on the agenda is the fight against antimicrobial resistance, rising noncommunicable diseases, and tuberculosis. In another area, the Board is also expected to discuss its pandemic influenza framework … The 144th session of the WHO Executive Board (EB) is taking place from 24 January-1 February…” (Saez, 1/18).

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WHO DG Orders Investigation Into Allegations Of Racism, Sexism, Misspending At Agency

The Hill: World Health Organization orders internal investigation into alleged racism, misconduct
“The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has ordered an internal investigation into allegations of racism, sexism, and misconduct at the United Nations agency…” (Birnbaum, 1/17).

The Guardian: Senior WHO official accused of using Ebola cash to pay for girlfriend’s flight
“Claims that a senior employee at the World Health Organization misused Ebola funds to fly his girlfriend to West Africa are among a tide of allegations under investigation by the agency. … The WHO’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, a former health minister of Ethiopia, has instructed the agency’s office of internal oversight to investigate the claims. The allegations, some of which were reported by the Associated Press on Thursday, were raised in a series emails, the first of which was sent in April…” (Ratcliffe, 1/18).

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Number Of Births In China Drop To Lowest Level In 60 Years; Maternal, Infant, Child Mortality Rates Also Decline

Bloomberg: China Sees Fewest Births in 2018 Since Mao’s Great Famine
“Births in China dropped to the lowest level in almost 60 years in 2018, signaling the country’s looser two-child policy has done little to reverse its slowing birthrate, and worsening the outlook for growth in the world’s second-largest economy…” (Li et al., 1/20).

Xinhua News: China’s maternal, infant mortality rates drop in 2018
“China’s maternal and infant mortality rates declined in 2018 thanks to improved health care conditions, Health News Daily reported. The maternal mortality rate contracted to 18.3 per 100,000 in 2018 from 19.6 per 100,000 the previous year, while the infant mortality rate dropped from 6.8 per 1,000 to 6.1, said the newspaper citing figures released by the National Health Commission. Moreover, the mortality rate of children under the age of five declined to 8.4 per 1,000 last year, compared with 9.1 per 1,000 for 2017…” (1/21).

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China Confirms Scientist Created Gene-Edited Infants Against Regulations, Says Legal Action To Be Taken

Newsweek: China Confirms He Jiankui Gene-Edited Babies, Says Scientists Involved Will Be ‘Dealt With Seriously’
“An investigation by authorities in China has concluded that a scientist in the country did create the world’s first gene-edited babies. According to a report in China’s Xinhua news agency, He Jiankui performed human embryo gene-editing activities despite them being ‘officially banned in the country.’ The report said He, along with the other researchers involved, would be punished in accordance with the law. The case has now been handed over to the Ministry of Public Security…” (Osborne, 1/21).

Wall Street Journal: China Takes Steps Against Scientist Who Engineered Gene-Edited Babies
“…A spokesman for Dr. He didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The comments marked the first time Chinese authorities alluded to the possible fate of the scientist. It was also the first time China acknowledged the controversial births. Dr. He stunned the world in November with the announcement he had engineered twin girls — offspring of a healthy mother and an HIV-positive father — to be resistant to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, using a nascent gene-editing technology called Crispr-Cas9…” (Rana/Wang, 1/21).

Additional coverage of this story is available from the Associated Press, The Guardian, The Hill, New York Times, Reuters, SciDev.Net, and Science.

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More News In Global Health

Al Jazeera: The forgotten: Living with HIV in war-ravaged Yemen (Shaker/Edroos, 1/21).

Associated Press: Pakistan kicks off year’s first polio campaign in 2019 (1/21).

Associated Press: U.N.: 2 polio cases in Mozambique caused by virus from vaccine (1/22).

BBC News: Why are so many people still dying from snake bites? (Casewell/Ainsworth, 1/21).

CIDRAP News: New one-dose drug prevents malaria relapse, studies show (Soucheray, 1/18).

CNN: A two-child policy in overpopulated India? It won’t work, say experts (Gupta, 1/21).

CNN: Superbugs and anti-vaxxers make WHO’s list of 10 global health threats (Yan, 1/21).

Devex: Life in the shadows: Living with disabilities in a conflict zone (Mednick, 1/21).

Forbes: Measles Outbreaks Show Why Anti Vaxxers Made WHO’s 10 Global Health Threats (Lee, 1/20).

Global Citizen: There’s a ‘Deliveroo’ for Tampons and Contraceptives in East Africa (Hitchings-Hales, 1/17).

Health Policy Watch: As Waistlines Increase, Diabetes Sets In In Tanzania (Makoye, 1/15).

Homeland Preparedness News: Mosquito sparks malaria fears in Ethiopia (Galford, 1/18).

The Telegraph: Harnessing Africa’s baby boom: Women seize power over their fertility — and future (Newey, 1/18).

VOA News: Guinea Worm Disease Could Soon be Wiped Out, Experts Say (1/17).

Xinhua News: Afghanistan launches polio vaccination in high-risk districts (1/21).

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Editorials and Opinions

U.S. Congress Should Repeal Mexico City Policy, Says L.A. Times Editorial

Los Angeles Times: Ditch the global gag rule once and for all
Editorial Board

“…[I]n recent weeks, there have been signs that Congress may be ready to roll back the global gag rule[, also known as the Mexico City policy,] through its power over the federal purse. Earlier this month, the newly Democratic-controlled House passed a package of spending bills, including one on foreign operations that sought to rein in the policy. That bill went nowhere, caught in the crossfire between President Trump and congressional Democrats over the border wall Trump covets. Notably, however, the House bill copied the language in the foreign operations spending bill that the Senate Committee on Appropriations unanimously approved last June, including a provision explicitly allowing abortion counseling by aid recipients. Opponents of the gag rule contend that there is more bipartisan agreement than ever across the House and the Senate on repealing it. … Unfortunately, Trump is unlikely to sign any measure containing a repeal of the global gag rule. Still, a bipartisan effort to repeal this harmful and unnecessary policy is worth pursuing. … The global gag rule should be repealed once and for all” (1/18).

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NYT Columnist Nicholas Kristof Compares Cuban, U.S. Health Care Systems

New York Times: Why Infants May Be More Likely to Die in America Than Cuba
Nicholas Kristof, columnist for the New York Times

“…Cuba is poor and repressive with a dysfunctional economy, but in health care it does an impressive job that the United States could learn from. According to official statistics (about which … there is some debate), the infant mortality rate in Cuba is only 4.0 deaths per 1,000 live births. In the United States, it’s 5.9. … [T]here’s no doubt that a major strength of the Cuban system is that it assures universal access. Cuba has the Medicare for All that many Americans dream about. … In many ways, the Cuban and United States health care systems are mirror opposites. Cuban health care is dilapidated, low-tech, and free, and it is very good at ensuring that no one slips through the cracks. American medicine is high-tech and expensive, achieving some extraordinary results while stumbling at the basics … While we should call on Cuba to grant people … meaningful political rights, we should likewise push for American babies born in low-income families to have the same opportunity for attentive health care as [Cuban children] will have” (1/18).

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'Bold,' 'Aggressive' Campaign Vital To Addressing Vaccine Hesitancy

New York Times: How to Inoculate Against Anti-Vaxxers
Editorial Board

“The World Health Organization has ranked vaccine hesitancy — the growing resistance to widely available lifesaving vaccines — as one of the top 10 health threats in the world for 2019. … It’s no mystery how we got here. On the internet, anti-vaccine propaganda has outpaced pro-vaccine public health information. … The consequences of this disparity are substantial: a surge in outbreaks of measles, mumps, pertussis, and other diseases; an increase in influenza deaths; and dismal rates of HPV vaccination, which doctors say could effectively wipe out cervical cancer if it were better utilized. But infectious disease experts warn that things could get much worse. Trust in vaccines is being so thoroughly eroded, they say, that these prevention tools are in danger of becoming useless. … Thwarting this danger will require a campaign as bold and aggressive as the one being waged by the anti-vaccination contingent. And to launch such a campaign would require overcoming strong inertia: a waning public health apparatus, countervailing politics, and a collective amnesia over the havoc the diseases in question once wrought. But to succeed would be to rescue from oblivion one of the greatest triumphs of human ingenuity over disease — and to save countless lives…” (1/19).

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Global Partnership, Action Required To Eradicate Childhood Pneumonia

The Guardian: Action not words needed over biggest public health failure of our time: pneumonia
Larry Elliott, economic editor at The Guardian

“…Why is there no outrage at the idea that somewhere in the world a child is dying every two minutes from something that could be easily and cheaply treated? Where are the international initiatives? Where is the coalition of rock stars, billionaire philanthropists, and politicians announcing at Davos a major drive to eradicate pneumonia? … In part, the painfully slow progress in eradicating childhood pneumonia reflects the failure to make tackling inequality central to achieving the [Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)]. … [W]hat is required is action at all levels: higher spending on health in developing countries; specific action plans to tackle pneumonia; and international initiatives to increase supplies of cheap drugs. Doubtless, there will be much hand-wringing this week [at Davos] about the importance of international cooperation in creating a new and better globalization. The willingness to tackle pneumonia is a test of that commitment because it requires a global partnership, the transfer of resources, and an eagerness to put the interests of the poorest and most vulnerable first. Above all, it requires a willingness to act, not only talk” (1/20).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

Latest Issue Of FT Health Guest-Curated By Global Fund Executive Director Peter Sands

FT Health: Fighting humanity’s three biggest infectious diseases
The latest issue of the Financial Times’ weekly global health newsletter was guest-curated by Peter Sands, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and includes commentary by Sands on the need to step up efforts to address HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria. The newsletter also features an interview by Sands with Amina Mohammed, deputy secretary general of the U.N., who discusses global health in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the role of the Global Fund in achieving the SDGs, and the importance of the Global Fund’s replenishment (Sands, 1/18).

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Research Explores Impact Of Financial Incentives To Prevent Mother-To-Child HIV Transmission In Nigeria

University of California, San Francisco’s Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health: The impact of financial incentives on preventing HIV in newborns
“…New research explores the impact of providing financial incentives for pregnant women in Akwa Ibom, Nigeria, to complete steps to prevent transmitting HIV to their children. … This is one of only two studies so far to look specifically at cash incentives for preventing transmission of HIV from mothers to children. It contributes to the growing evidence on the effectiveness of conditional cash transfers to encourage healthy behaviors. [While] the study suggests that these incentives can increase retention in this part of Nigeria, a large number of women still did not opt to deliver at a facility or have their child tested for HIV. Financial incentives may be a promising strategy for reducing HIV infections in newborns, but it is not a panacea and additional strategies are needed to improve adherence to care” (1/18).

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From the U.S. Government

HHS Release Discusses Trump Administration's Actions On Domestic, International Family Planning, Abortion-Related Policies

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: Trump Administration Actions to Protect Life and Conscience
This release discusses the Trump administration’s actions on domestic and international family planning and abortion-related policies. The release states, “The Trump administration does not recognize abortion as a method of family planning and refuses to fund abortion in global health assistance” and “HHS worked with the Department of State to implement President Trump’s restored and expanded Mexico City Policy, now known as ‘Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance,’ to ensure that, consistent with applicable law, global health assistance administered by HHS is not provided to foreign non-governmental organizations that provide or promote abortion as a method of family planning” (1/18).

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From KFF

KFF Releases Issue Brief Examining Ebola Outbreak Amid Conflict In DRC, Including International, U.S. Response

Kaiser Family Foundation: Ebola Spreads amid Violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and U.S. Role Remains Limited
Josh Michaud, associate director of global health policy at KFF, and Jen Kates, vice president and director of global health & HIV policy at KFF, examine the international and U.S. response to the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), now the second largest ever recorded, as authorities struggle to contain the virus’s spread amid violence in an active combat zone. The brief notes the limited U.S. role with restricted deployment of key personnel due to safety concerns (Michaud/Kates, 1/18).

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