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Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

U.S. Officials Work To Calm Fears Over Zika Virus, Move Vaccine Research Forward

CQ News: Zika Seen as Limited in U.S., but Officials Warn Against Travel
“Federal health officials expect only limited outbreaks within the United States of the mosquito-spread Zika virus that is thought to be linked to birth defects but cautioned pregnant travelers to avoid more than 20 countries in South and Central America where cases have been confirmed…” (Attias, 1/28).

The Hill: Senators want answers on Zika threat
“Senators are pushing the Obama administration for details on what it’s doing to prepare for a potential outbreak of the Zika virus. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) on Thursday sent a letter to Anthony Fauci, the director for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), asking that he ‘prioritize research’ for a potential vaccine to the virus…” (Carney, 1/28).

The Hill: CDC: Big Zika virus outbreak unlikely in U.S.
“U.S. health officials on Thursday sought to reassure the public that a large outbreak of Zika virus in the United States is unlikely…” (Sullivan, 1/28).

The Hill: Fears grow over Olympics in Brazil, epicenter of Zika virus
“Democratic lawmakers are raising concerns about this summer’s Olympic Games held in Brazil amid the rapid spread of the Zika virus. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Thursday urged the Obama administration to address the ‘ever-growing spread’ of the disease — especially as thousands of people plan to gather this summer near its epicenter…” (Ferris, 1/28).

NPR: U.S. Health Agencies Intensify Fight Against Zika Virus
“A human study of Zika virus vaccine could begin as early as this year, U.S. health officials told reporters Thursday. But the officials cautioned that it could be years before the vaccine is available for wide use…” (Stein, 1/29).

POLITICO: Is Zika the new Ebola?
“…Zika is all but certain to crop up as a political issue — potentially complicating efforts to educate the public about a risk that for most Americans is far smaller and less risky than from Ebola…” (Kenen/Haberkorn, 1/28).

Reuters: U.S. official sees Zika vaccine trials starting by end of 2016
“The United States has two potential candidates for a vaccine for the Zika virus and may begin clinical trials in people by the end of this year, but there will not be a widely available vaccine for several years, U.S. officials said on Thursday…” (Steenhuysen, 1/28).

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Zika's Spread In Americas 'Alarming,' WHO DG Chan Says, Calls Emergency Meeting On Issue

News outlets report on comments by WHO Director-General Margaret Chan regarding the Zika virus’s spread throughout the Americas and an upcoming WHO emergency meeting on the issue.

New York Times: Zika Virus ‘Spreading Explosively’ in Americas, WHO Says
“The World Health Organization rang a global alarm over the Zika virus on Thursday, saying that the disease was ‘spreading explosively’ in the Americas and that as many as four million people could be infected by the end of the year…” (Tavernise, 1/28).

NPR: WHO Warns Of Zika Virus’s ‘Alarming’ And ‘Explosive’ Spread
“In her first major address on the Zika outbreak, the head of the World Health Organization, Dr. Margaret Chan, said the mosquito-borne virus has gone from being ‘a mild threat to one of alarming proportions’…” (Beaubien, 1/28).

Reuters: WHO says Zika virus spreads explosively, four million cases forecast
“The Zika virus, linked to severe birth defects in thousands of babies in Brazil, is ‘spreading explosively’ and could infect as many as four million people in the Americas, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday…” (Miles/Nebehay, 1/29).

U.N. News Centre: U.N. health agency convenes emergency meeting to address ‘dramatic’ spread of Zika virus
“…Dr. Chan noted that there is a high level of uncertainty. ‘Questions abound,’ she said. ‘We need to get some answers quickly. I am asking the Committee for advice on the appropriate level of international concern and for recommended measures that should be undertaken in affected countries and elsewhere. I will also ask the Committee to prioritize areas where research is most urgently needed’…” (1/28).

Washington Post: WHO: Zika virus ‘spreading explosively,’ level of alarm ‘extremely high’
“…The WHO said the pathogen, which was virtually unheard of in the region a year ago, is spreading so fast that it could infect as many as three million to four million people within 12 months…” (Cha/Sun, 1/28).

Wall Street Journal: Zika Virus Is Spreading ‘Explosively,’ WHO Chief Says
“…WHO’s announcement underscores the speed with which a virus that began as an obscure tropical malady afflicting Africa and then several remote Western Pacific islands has transformed into a major international health concern, particularly in the Americas…” (Johnson et al., 1/28).

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Zika Virus Poses Challenges for Maternal Health Care, Complicates Latin American Nations' Positions On Birth Control, Abortion

Reuters: Pregnant women in scarcity-hit Venezuela battle to dodge Zika
“…Zika is the latest worry for pregnant Venezuelans, who already search high and low for scarce folic acids, medical equipment and medicines, and even diapers to have in stock for when they give birth…” (Ulmer, 1/28).

Wired: Zika Virus May Push South America to Loosen Abortion Bans
“…Don’t get pregnant. So say official guidelines from Brazil, Colombia, and Honduras. El Salvador has gone so far as to recommend women do not get pregnant until 2018. But most of these Latin American countries are also Catholic, so access to birth control is often poor and abortion is flat-out banned…” (Zhang, 1/28).

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Near Universal Breastfeeding Could Prevent 800K Child Deaths Annually, Lancet Series Says

The Guardian: Breastfeeding could prevent 800,000 child deaths, Lancet says
“If almost every mother breastfed her children it could prevent more than 800,000 child deaths a year, yet governments are failing to promote and support breastfeeding, with rates remaining far below international targets, new research has found. Poor government policies, lack of community support, and an aggressive formula milk industry mean breastfeeding is not as widespread as it could be, according to a two-part Lancet breastfeeding series published on Thursday…”

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International Conference On Family Planning Concludes In Indonesia

Global Health NOW: ICFP Closes with Renewed Energy and Hope
“Officially, the fourth International Conference on Family Planning concluded Thursday, ending one of the largest gatherings in ICFP history. But really, the conversations and commitments it inspired have just begun. As more than 3,000 attendees from 70-plus counties head home after the four-day event, they take with them renewed energy — and hope…” (Desmon/Yakutchik, 1/28).

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New Report Examines Causes Of, Data On Child Mortality

NPR: Why You Shouldn’t Be Totally Depressed By A Report On Child Mortality
“Every year, millions of kids and teenagers die around the world, often from preventable and treatable conditions. It is a troubling statistic. But if you look beneath the surface numbers, you’ll find signs of hope, says Theo Vos, a professor of global health at the University of Washington in Seattle. Although progress is slow in some countries, he says, the data show rapid improvements in many others…” (Sohn, 1/28).

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Middle East Conflicts Causing Widespread Hunger, Medical Supply, Fuel Shortages

Associated Press: In Mideast wars, hunger grips millions across the region
“In a Middle East torn apart by war and conflict, fighters are increasingly using food as a weapon of war. Millions of people across countries like Syria, Yemen, and Iraq are gripped by hunger, struggling to survive with little help from the outside world. Children suffer from severe malnutrition, their parents often having to beg or sell possessions to get basic commodities including water, medicine, and fuel…” (Karam, 1/29).

U.N. News Centre: More than half Yemen’s population face hunger amid ongoing strife, U.N. agency warns
“Some 14.4 million Yemenis, more than half of the population of Yemen, are food insecure, an increase of 12 percent in just the last eight months, as ongoing conflict and import restrictions reduce availability and send prices soaring, the United Nations agricultural agency warned [Thursday]…” (1/28).

Wall Street Journal: Starvation Spreads Before Syria Peace Talks
“In the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Moadhamiya, residents say a renewed Syrian government siege there and bombardment of the neighboring town of Daraya have cut off the last food-smuggling routes, forcing many to subsist on one meal a day. Similar humanitarian crises are playing out around Syria…” (Malas, 1/28).

Washington Post: In a besieged Syrian town: ‘We’re still starving, and it’s getting colder’
“Snow has blanketed the Syrian town of Madaya, and the bone-chilling temperatures have compounded the suffering of thousands of people at risk of starvation there because of a months-long government siege, residents and aid workers say…” (Naylor/Haidamous, 1/28).

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Nearly 2M Libyans Need Humanitarian, Medical Assistance, WHO Warns

U.N. News Centre: Dire health situation of 2 million Libyans ‘cannot wait for political solution’ to conflict — U.N. agency official
“With a political deal among Libya’s numerous factions in flux, some $50 million is urgently needed to meet the life-saving needs of nearly two million people in the crisis-torn country, as the conflict lingers and the yearlong peace process has again hit stumbling blocks, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned…” (1/28).

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Cambodian Officials Discuss Funding Of New 5-Year Malaria Elimination Campaign

Phnom Penh Post: Next step in malaria strategy: paying for it
“Following Wednesday’s announcement of an ambitious new five-year plan to eliminate malaria in Cambodia, National Centre for Malaria (CNM) officials and donors met again [Thursday], this time to discuss patching up a $22.8 million budget gap to fund the strategy’s first two years…” (Sassoon, 1/29).

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The Lancet Examines Mozambique's Efforts To Increase Number Of People With HIV On Antiretroviral Therapy

The Lancet: HIV in Mozambique: starting, and staying on, treatment
“Mozambique is fighting to gain control of its HIV epidemic, leading with a plan to strategically enroll substantial numbers of people with HIV in treatment programs in an effort to end transmission of the virus. … Enrollment on treatment is only the first step, though, for a country with one of the 10 highest HIV prevalence rates in the world. For Mozambique to succeed in ending its epidemic, it is going to need to figure out how to keep those patients on [antiretroviral therapy (ART)]…” (Green, 1/30).

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E.U. To Provide $4.5M To Zimbabwe For Drought Assistance

VOA News: European Union Unveils $4.5 Million for Tackling Severe Drought in Zimbabwe
“The European Union is set to give Zimbabwe an additional $4.5 million with a view of raising more funds to ease a drought caused by the El Niño weather phenomenon and a crumbling economy. E.U. ambassador to Zimbabwe, Phillepe Van Demme, told journalists in Harare on Thursday that the regional body confirmed the funding Wednesday…” (Chifera, 1/28).

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Editorials and Opinions

'Moonshot' To End Cancer Requires Combined Effort Of Federal Agencies, Scientific Advances

Medium: The Cancer Moonshot Task Force: Removing Bureaucratic Hurdles and Supporting Scientific Advances
Joe Biden, vice president of the United States

“[Thursday], President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum establishing a first-of-its-kind federal task force to carry out our call for a moonshot to end cancer as we know it. … When it comes to speeding the pace of progress, we’ll clear out the bureaucratic hurdles —  and, quite frankly, let science happen. … We’ll build around a few key areas where there seems to be consensus from the cancer community: First, we’re at an inflection point – and the science is ready. … Second, we have the potential to take advantage of big data and advances in supercomputing with greater data sharing. … Third, we need to increase access to game-changing treatments. … We’re not trying to make incremental change here. We’re trying to get to a quantum leap on the path to a cure. That’s the goal of this moonshot. To make a decade worth of advances in five years – and, eventually, end cancer as we know it…” (1/28).

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Opinion Pieces, Letter To Editor Address Zika Virus Response

New York Times: Room for Debate: How to Stop the Spread of Zika
Multiple authors

“The World Health Organization is warning that the Zika virus, believed to cause brain abnormalities in infants, is ‘spreading explosively’ in the Americas, and that four million people could become infected by the end of the year. Brazil, where the mosquito-borne disease is most prevalent, has reported more than 4,000 cases of microcephaly, in which infants are born with small heads and damaged brains. What might halt the spread of the Zika virus in the Americas, and around the globe?” Multiple authors answer this question and others in several opinion pieces published as part of this New York Times “Room for Debate” (1/29).

Forbes: Combating Zika And Malaria Will Require Real Leadership And Rational Regulation
John J. Cohrssen, attorney, and Henry I. Miller, physician, molecular biologist, and fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution

“…The Oxitec and gene drive approaches [to eliminating mosquito vectors] could be the breakthroughs that spell the beginning of the end for malaria, dengue, Zika, and other mosquito-borne diseases and relegate them to the history books, as medical science has done for polio and smallpox. … Without leadership and policies that unleash the ingenuity of American scientists and companies, public health and innovation in the United States will suffer, and the nation will become at best a late adopter, having to import other countries’ innovations. Presidential oratory, even accompanied by additional research funding, is not enough. To win the war on malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases, Mr. Obama must implement policies and take actions that mobilize a spectrum of state-of-the-art strategies and technologies…” (1/29).

Wall Street Journal: Letter to the Editor: Fast Diagnosis Is a Key to Stop Zika and Other Viruses
Mark Kessel, chair of the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics

“…Without rapid diagnostics during an outbreak, the world health community lacks the ability to make a timely and accurate diagnosis to identify the etiology of the illness and to provide appropriate treatment. … Until effective vaccines are developed, it is in all our best interests to ensure that there are new diagnostics in the development pipeline that meet the needs in developed and developing countries to identify, treat, and track the outbreaks to minimize the deaths and costs to the world economy associated with outbreaks like Ebola, SARS, and MERS” (1/28).

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Global Health Diplomacy Provides Vehicle For Advancing International Relations, Global Health Goals Simultaneously

The Lancet Global Health: New roles for global health: diplomatic, security, and foreign policy responsiveness
Sebastian Kevany, international policy specialist at the University of California, San Francisco

“…With the ascendancy of the global health diplomacy paradigm, both bilateral and multilateral donors now have a powerful and unique opportunity to pursue and support noble humanitarian and international relations goals that are closely linked to the high ideals of global health. The development of diplomatic, political, and security, and foreign policy liaison offices — in the manner of the U.S. Office of Global Health Diplomacy — would help to ensure that criteria for positive diplomatic and foreign policy effects are advanced in tandem with world health. By elaborating and making explicit to donors the benign collateral effects of health programs, global health diplomacy approaches also present an important message to funders: that their investments, as well as pursuing altruistic ideals, also achieve even more ‘enlightened self-interest’ ends such as national security, international relations, conflict resolution, world peace, and the prevention or mitigation of armed conflict … At a time when arguments against the augmentation of hard power budgets have become increasingly compelling, if the same aims can be achieved through soft or smart power, we stand on the brink of an era in which global health will become firmly established in the high political pantheon” (February 2016).

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Ebola Outbreak Highlights U.K.'s, WHO's Needs For Emergency Response Reform

The Lancet: Ebola’s legacy: U.K. deficits and their global lessons
Editorial Board

“[A] report on the U.K.’s lessons from Ebola … published this week by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee … found surprising weaknesses in the U.K.’s application of science to global health emergencies. It makes important recommendations for corrective action. Although targeted towards the U.K., the committee’s findings will also likely apply to other high-income countries involved in the response to Ebola. … The timing of the report could not be better. In March, France will host a conference on global health security in Lyon. That meeting will provide the opportunity to re-calibrate the world’s preparedness for future health emergencies…” (1/30).

BMJ: World Health Organization and emergency health: if not now, when?
Francesco Checchi, senior humanitarian health lead in the humanitarian technical unit at Save the Children U.K. and faculty of public health and policy at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and colleagues

“…The Ebola response has highlighted the need for many agencies and governments to urgently upgrade their capability to intervene in all types of crises. However, such improvements will struggle to attain their potential if the world’s coordinating and technical leadership body remains unchanged. Indeed, if WHO cannot be reformed to allow it to occupy this pre-eminent position, some other multilateral entity must be allowed to assume it. We believe that an effective, empowered WHO is a far better solution for global health governance, and for public health coordination and leadership in emergencies, than a multiplicity of partly overlapping entities, not all recognized by governments and at greater risk of becoming subservient to the most powerful governments and donors. … A radical reform of WHO cannot be delayed any further” (1/28).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

U.N. High-Level Panel To Examine How IP, Trade Rules, Human Rights Law Affect Access To Medicines

Global Health Technologies Coalitions’ “Breakthroughs”: Setting the stage: U.N. High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines to consider IP, trade, human rights, and access to medicine
Courtney Carson, GHTC’s senior policy and advocacy associate, discusses the work surrounding the U.N. High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines, which is “designed to consider ways in which intellectual property (IP) protections, trade rules, and international human rights law might affect global access to medicine and the ability of the international community to achieve [Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)] three by 2030” (1/28).

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Zimbabwe's Anti-Gay Sentiment Posed Challenges To Nation Hosting ICASA

Pulitzer Center of Crisis Reporting: Gay-Unfriendly Zimbabwe Hosts International AIDS Conference
As part of a collaborative project for Science, the PBS NewsHour, BuzzFeed, and UCTV, Jon Cohen, a reporter for Science and Pulitzer Center grantee, reports on the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA), which was held in Zimbabwe this year, and discusses issues and challenges around LGBT rights in the country and at the conference (1/28).

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