KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

Bipartisan Group Of U.S. Congress Members Urges Trump Administration To Increase U.S. Contribution To Global Fund

Devex: Bipartisan group in Congress urges U.S. to increase Global Fund contribution
“A bipartisan group of members of Congress sent a letter to the Trump administration Thursday asking for an increase in the U.S. contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The Global Fund announced earlier this month that it needs to raise $14 billion in its sixth replenishment, happening this year. The letter … was signed by 137 members of Congress and addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. It said that the Global Fund has had broad bipartisan support in the House and Senate, which has been consistent because it has ‘demonstrated concrete progress in saving lives’…” (Saldinger, 1/25).

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Global Health, Development Leaders Work To Make Deals, Raise Funds At World Economic Forum

Devex: For global development leaders, Davos is about making deals
“The World Economic Forum annual meetings drew more than 3,000 stakeholders from across sectors, and while development was not always top of an agenda that focused on ‘making globalization 4.0 work for all,’ some significant commitments were made, including on aid issues such as mental health, disability, and refugees. … Here are some of the major deals that are likely to emerge from this year’s forum. … Leaders from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative were in Davos to make the pitch to donors; each need to raise funds over the next 18 months…” (Cheney/Edwards, 1/26).

Public Finance International: Call for countries to donate billions of dollars to fight infectious diseases
“…The Swiss-based not-for-profit World Economic Forum issued a press release after a session on health, at the international conference in Davos … The statement said the international financing organization the Global Fund needs at least $14bn to $16bn to fund its next three years of work, including $1bn from the private sector…” (Rensch, 1/25).

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Health Policy Watch Reports On Issues Discussed At WHO Executive Board Meeting

Health Policy Watch: WHO Director Lays Out Vision Of Transformation To ‘Agile,’ Transparent Agency
“World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (Dr. Tedros) [Thursday] explained details of fundamental changes being set in motion at the U.N. agency, including greater impact, increased staff work and training at the country level, producing ‘world class’ work, more transparency, and digital health and innovation…” (New, 1/24).

Health Policy Watch: More Funds for Non-Communicable Diseases Needed Say WHO EB Members
“A proposed request by World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Gheyebresus for an eight percent budget hike for the 2020-2021 budget period received a rocky initial reception from leading member states at the WHO’s Executive Board meeting that began [Thursday]…” (Fletcher, 1/24).

Health Policy Watch: Next On Stage: WHO Academy & Foundation
“A WHO Academy where millions around the world can be trained in the health policy guidelines, methods, and practical tools that WHO develops and promotes is one of the big new dreams of WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Gheyebresus — wrapped into WHO’s strategic planning for coming years…” (Fletcher, 1/25).

Health Policy Watch: Board Debates WHO Plans For Efficiencies At Headquarters & Funding Shifts To Countries
“A massive restructuring of WHO’s 2020-2021 budget should see a shift away from siloed disease control programs to a more integrated approach, focused on building health systems and strengthening country operations…” (Fletcher, 1/25).

Health Policy Watch: WHO Names Directors For Western Pacific, Southeast Asia
“…WHO veteran Takeshi Kasai of Japan was appointed regional director for WHO’s Western Pacific Region, and Poonam Khetrapal Singh of India was re-appointed for a second term as regional director for WHO’s Southeast Asia Region…” (New, 1/26).

Health Policy Watch: WHO Director Tedros: World Must Redouble Efforts On Health-Related SDGs
“Health-related Sustainable Development Goals won’t be met unless global, regional and country efforts are intensified, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Gheyebresus declared [Saturday]…” (Fletcher, 1/27).

Health Policy Watch: WHO Board Looks Into Means To Reach Polio-Free World
“Poliomyelitis, a highly infectious and sometimes debilitating viral disease, is about to be eradicated from the world. However, the last mile is the hardest, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last week at a member state discussion on polio eradication…” (Saez, 1/28).

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Global Fund Must Be More Rigorous, Transparent In Reporting Impact, Experts Write

The Telegraph: Global Fund must copper-bottom claims it has saved 27 million lives, say experts
“One of the world’s largest development funds risks ‘overstating’ the number of lives it has saved and must improve transparency, experts have warned. … [A]ccording to experts writing in The Lancet journal, the claim is based on ‘obscure’ methodology, which risks overstating the fund’s role in reducing deaths from HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria and taking credit for other people’s work. ‘There is no doubt organizations like the Global Fund do great work but to ensure continuous donor investment they need to be more open and honest with their reporting,’ said Dr. Rocco Friebel, lead author and assistant professor of Health Policy at LSE…” (Newey, 1/25).

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Lancet Commission Report Calls For International Action On Syndemic Of Obesity, Malnutrition, Climate Change

The Guardian: Take on food industry to beat malnutrition and obesity, says report
“The influence of ‘big food’ must be curbed around the world if obesity, malnutrition, and climate change are to be effectively tackled, according to a report. Overconsumption of junk food and not having enough to eat are two sides of the malnutrition coin, said a commission of experts brought together by The Lancet medical journal. A third major global problem is interlinked — climate change that is worsened by food production, waste, and transportation. The commission said political leaders and civil society must step up to counter the commercial interests and lobbying of the food industry. It called for a U.N. treaty along the lines of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control to support countries in drawing up sustainable and healthy food policies…” (Boseley, 1/27).

Vox: Want to fix obesity and climate change at the same time? Make Big Food companies pay.
“…Some governments have been trying to address health and environmental problems in a holistic manner. For example, Sweden, Germany, Qatar, and Brazil have all developed national food guidelines ‘that promote environmentally sustainable diets and eating patterns that ensure food security,’ according to the report. Mexico and Britain (and local governments across the U.S.) are experimenting with sugary drinks taxes, and Chile is leading the world with warning labels on packaged foods. But progress is patchy and too slow, the report authors warn. In the U.S., for example, obesity is on the rise, and the same is true for many low- and middle-income countries. We’re also hurtling toward an environmental catastrophe as temperatures continue to increase…” (Belluz, 1/28).

Additional coverage of The Lancet report is available from Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg, CNN, Financial Times, and Reuters.

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DRC Ebola Death Toll Rises To 459; Violence Continues To Hinder Response Efforts

Agence France-Presse: Ebola death toll surges in DR Congo
“The number of people killed in an Ebola outbreak in eastern DR Congo has risen to [459], health authorities have announced, as new President Felix Tshisekedi began his first full day in office on Friday. The rising death toll … emphasizes the challenge of controlling the epidemic in the strife-torn east and is just one of a host of complex issues facing Tshisekedi…” (1/25).

PBS NewsHour: Ebola patients stranded by violence in Democratic Republic of Congo
“…On Friday, the World Health Organization released a new report showing that the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo is growing. Stacey Mearns, the Ebola response program director for the International Rescue Committee joins us now via Skype from the Democratic Republic of Congo…” (Sreenivasan, 1/27).

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U.K. DFID Chief Mordaunt Says Agency 'Not An Independent Department,' Declines Firm Answer About Future Existence

Devex: DFID ‘not an independent department,’ says Mordaunt
“United Kingdom aid chief Penny Mordaunt raised eyebrows last week after declining to give a firm answer about whether her department would still exist in five years’ time. … Asked by Financial Times reporters last week whether her department would definitely exist in five years’ time, Mordaunt refrained from giving a categorical answer and added that it was ‘not an independent department’ because of cross-government spending and cooperation. The government is currently pursuing a strategy that will see 30 percent of U.K. aid spent outside DFID by 2020…” (Abrahams, 1/28).

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Experts Warn Antimicrobial Resistance Spreading Quickly After Researchers Discover Drug-Resistant Gene From India In Arctic Environment

The Guardian: Bacteria and viruses are fighting back, but will big pharma save us?
“An apocalypse is looming, warn the public health experts. The specter of a benighted world where humankind again falls prey to bacterial plagues, wiping out the frail and the young, has been hanging over us for many years now. Infections we have conquered, such as pneumonia and typhoid, will return to kill us. Surgery and chemotherapy for cancer will carry huge risks. It’s a distant scenario as yet, but it cannot be dismissed as alarmist rhetoric…” (Boseley, 1/25).

The Telegraph: The superbugs that could be ‘bigger than cancer’ by 2050
“…[E]xperts believe such a vision could be reality as soon as 2050, with more than 10 million people dying each year due to antimicrobial resistance (AMR). To put that into context, that’s more than the amount of people who are estimated to die from cancer annually…” (Lambert, 1/26).

Wall Street Journal: Superbug From India Spread Far and Fast, Study Finds
“An antibiotic-resistant gene originally discovered in bacteria from India was found 8,000 miles away in a remote Arctic environment, according to a new study. Researchers believe the gene, found in bacteria in the soil of a Norwegian archipelago, made the trek in less than three years, highlighting the speed with which antibiotic resistance can spread on a global scale…” (Abbott, 1/27).

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University Of Global Health Equity In Rwanda Serves As Model For Other Nations

POLITICO: What a medical school on a Rwandan hilltop can teach the United States
“Three hours along a bumpy dirt road from the capital of Rwanda, a new medical school is emerging from the unlikeliest of places — a small hilltop in the poor farming village of Butaro. The school’s name reveals its ambitious mission: The University of Global Health Equity. It aims to transform both medical education and medical care for the rural poor in central Africa and to serve as a model for more equitable health care around the globe. … [I]ts emphasis on equity, fairness, and the social and economic factors that influence health holds more lessons than one might think for the United States — which spends $3.5 trillion a year on health care and still has one of the most unequal health systems in the world…” (Karlin-Smith, 1/27).

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Venezuela's Infant Mortality Rate Rises, Likely To Worsen, Researcher Says

CNN: Infant deaths are on the rise in Venezuela, reversing years of improvements, study says
“More babies are dying before their first birthdays in Venezuela as the country is mired [in] a severe economic and political crisis, according to a study published Thursday in The Lancet Global Health..” (Bracho-Sanchez, 1/24).

Thomson Reuters Foundation: More babies dying in Venezuela as crisis worsens — researchers
“…The new research, published in The Lancet Global Health journal, said that Venezuela is the only country in South America with infant mortality rates that have risen back to 1990s levels. Estimates using new data suggest that Venezuela’s infant mortality rate — defined as the number of deaths under one year of age — was 21.1 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2016 — up by 1.4 times the rate in 2008…” (Moloney, 1/24).

Washington Post: ‘It’s going to be worse’: As Venezuela’s crisis grew, more babies died
“… ‘We lost 18 years of progress,’ Jenny García, the lead researcher on the study, told the Washington Post in a phone call. She also said her statistical model is conservative and that she is ‘confident that it’s going to be worse than what we are showing’…” (O’Grady, 1/25).

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Documentary Revives HIV/AIDS Conspiracy Theory Experts Say Could Harm Prevention Efforts In South Africa

The Guardian: Ex-mercenary claims South African group tried to spread AIDS
“A South Africa-based mercenary group has been accused by one of its former members of trying to intentionally spread [HIV] in southern Africa in the 1980s and 1990s. The claims are made by Alexander Jones in a documentary that premieres this weekend at the Sundance film festival. He says he spent years as an intelligence officer with the South African Institute for Maritime Research (SAIMR), three decades ago, when it was masterminding coups and other violence across Africa. The film also explores the unexplained murder of a young SAIMR recruit in 1990, whose family believe was killed because of her work on an AIDS-related project run by the group in South Africa and Mozambique. And it also claims the group’s then leader had a racist, apocalyptic obsession with HIV/AIDS…” (Graham-Harrison et al., 1/27).

New York Times: Quest to Solve Assassination Mystery Revives an AIDS Conspiracy Theory
“…AIDS experts said the film’s claim — which arose in interviews with the former militia member, who described its activities over decades — unnecessarily gave currency to conspiracy theories. They warned that the claim could cause serious harm in South Africa, which has one of the world’s highest HIV infection rates. … Though the filmmakers present Mr. Jones as a self-assured whistle-blower, their notes from several interviews they conducted with him before the final taping reflect that he repeatedly denied that his group was involved in an AIDS project. … When asked about the discrepancies in Mr. Jones’s story, the filmmakers acknowledged that they could not corroborate the account and that the plan Mr. Jones had described might not have been medically possible. They encouraged journalists to investigate further…”

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More News In Global Health

Axios: A good news story from Davos (Snyder, 1/26).

Devex: Elissa Golberg on Canada’s development finance efforts (Saldinger, 1/28).

Devex: Leprosy community asks if their magic bullet really is magic (Root, 1/28).

Forbes: WHO Suggests Cancer Drug Prices Are Too High (Reisinger, 1/25).

Fox News: Ebola virus found in bat in West Africa for the first time, scientists say (Farber, 1/26).

The Guardian: Revealed: ‘dozens’ of girls subjected to breast-ironing in U.K. (Lazareva, 1/26).

International Business Times: Does India have enough funds for its next polio vaccination drive? (Malik, 1/26).

U.N. News: U.N. chief welcomes announcement by Emir of Qatar to allocate $50 million to support Syrian refugees, displaced persons (1/25).

Wall Street Journal: Mexico’s New Focus to Stem Violent Culture: Children (Whelan/Forero, 1/26).

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Editorials and Opinions

Private Sector Must Step Up, Engage In Efforts To End AIDS, TB, Malaria Epidemics

STAT: The private sector is working to fight climate change. Why isn’t it doing the same to improve global health?
Peter Sands, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria

“…I’m calling on business leaders — not just those in the health sector, but across the corporate landscape — to play a role in tackling some of the world’s biggest health burdens and risks. … To step up the fight against [the AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria epidemics], we need more innovation in diagnostics, prevention, treatment, and delivery models; more effective collaboration; and a relentless focus on improving how we carry out projects, using more granular and timely data. We also need more money. To make all of this happen, we need the private sector to step up, too. It’s time for leaders in the global health community to ask themselves how to get private sector companies as engaged in the global health agenda as they are in climate change and the broader environmental agenda. … It is possible to end the three biggest infectious disease epidemics affecting humanity and save millions of lives. We can turbocharge progress toward health and well-being for all. But to do this, we must challenge established perspectives, create new partnerships, especially with the private sector, and break down the barriers to doing more together” (1/25).

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Brazil's Leadership Must Continue To Commit To Health, Equity

The Lancet Global Health: Brazil enters the Bolsonaro zone
Editorial Board

“The first day of 2019 saw Brazil inaugurate its new president, Jair Bolsonaro. … Bolsonaro did little in his inauguration speech to encourage those of us concerned with health and equity. … Many working in the public health field in Brazil are thus extremely worried. … Now is not the time for Brazil to be wavering in its commitment to equality. Already the poverty statistics are beginning to creep up…, Ministry of Health figures show that infant mortality has increased slightly for the first time since 1990, and the rights of minorities are under threat. In times of wider economic uncertainty, the [Sistema Único de Saúde (SUS), Brazil’s publicly funded unified health system,] and programs such as [Bolsa Familia, a conditional cash transfer program,] should be seen as precious resources in need of nurture, and the needs of the most vulnerable and out-of-reach should remain an utmost priority, regardless of politics” (2/1).

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Taiwan's Participation In World Health Assembly Essential For Global Health

Times of India: Plug The Gap: Leaving Taiwan out of global health framework is unacceptable
Rudroneel Ghosh, journalist at the Times of India

“…[S]tonewalling Taiwan’s participation in the [World Health Assembly (WHA)] is not a Chinese issue — it is an international issue. What’s at stake is the international health system of which every country and territory is a part. After all, diseases and epidemics do not recognize borders. Leaving Taiwan out of the WHA leaves a gaping hole in the global response health mechanism. Besides, Taiwan has been a net contributor to global health. … It has made significant contributions towards raising health standards in countries such as Paraguay and Belize. And Taiwan’s expertise in things like medical data systems can truly benefit developing nations. For all these reasons and more, Taiwan needs to be part of the formal global health architecture. … [I]f China is keen on establishing itself as a premier power and influencing global architecture, then it needs to earn the trust of the international community. And trust is something that can’t solely be earned through making investments in [developing] countries. Beijing has to demonstrate that it can be a responsible, accommodative, and reasonable power. Sacrificing global health at the altar of politics is not the way to go” (1/25).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

Unitaid Launches $20M Initiative To Avert Preventable Deaths Among People With Advanced HIV

Unitaid: Unitaid launches initiative to avert deaths from advanced HIV
“Unitaid is investing US$ 20 million in measures to avert hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths among people with advanced HIV. The initiative seeks to forge a more effective global response to diagnosing and treating people whose immune systems are so weakened by HIV that they are at risk of infection by other life-threatening diseases. The grant, to be implemented by Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), will help make new, WHO-recommended medicines and testing tools affordable and available in lower-income countries…” (1/25).

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Wilson Center Event Explores Guttmacher-Lancet Commission's Recommendations On Rights-Based Approach To Sexual, Reproductive Health

Woodrow Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program’s “New Security Beat”: Patricia Da Silva: ‘The Time is Now’ to Accelerate Progress for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights
Isabel Griffith, intern with the Maternal Health Initiative at the Wilson Center, highlights remarks from Patricia Da Silva, associate director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation United Nations Liaison Office, at a Wilson Center event “showcasing recommendations from the Guttmacher-Lancet Commission report … on how to advance sexual and reproductive health from a human rights perspective” (1/25).

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Africa Experts Discuss Opportunities For Economic, Development Progress On Continent

Brookings Institution’s “Africa in Focus”: Africa is an opportunity for the world: Overlooked progress in governance and human development
Landry Signé, David M. Rubenstein fellow for global economy and development at the Africa Growth Initiative, and Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, former president of the Republic of Mauritius and distinguished adviser at the Global Network for Africa’s Prosperity, discuss the political, health, economic, and social progress Africa has made in recent decades, writing, “By recognizing Africa as an opportunity, rather than a threat, governments, citizens, and organizations on the continent and around the world will be better positioned to face challenges and further boost positive trends. … Africa is an opportunity, one that is being shaped by and for the African people” (1/25).

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FT Health Discusses R&D In Health, Features Interview With Head Of European Network Of Rare Disease Organizations

FT Health: Boost for neglected disease funding
The latest issue of the Financial Times’ weekly global health newsletter discusses data from the G-Finder report on funding for neglected diseases research and development (R&D) and highlights an FT report on the future of R&D in health. The newsletter also features an interview with Yann Le Cam, head of Eurordis, the European network of rare disease organizations, who discusses a new report on improving access to medicines, as well as provides a round-up of global health-related news stories (Dodd/Jack, 1/25).

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From KFF

KFF Fact Sheet Provides Overview Of WHO, U.S. Engagement With Organization

Kaiser Family Foundation: The U.S. Government and the World Health Organization
This updated fact sheet provides information about the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. government’s engagement with the organization (1/24).

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