KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

Empowering Women, Girls Is Most Effective Strategy To Fight Global Hunger, Report Says

“Focusing the lens of social and economic development on women and girls is the most inexpensive and effective tool in the fight against hunger and malnutrition, says a new study [.pdf] on gender and food security in the Asia Pacific region,” Thomson Reuters Foundation reports. “Women’s education alone resulted in a 43 percent reduction in hunger from 1970 to 1995, while women living longer led to an additional 12 percent decline in hunger levels, according to the report by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB),” the news service writes. “Gender equality is ‘the single most important determinant of food security,’ wrote Olivier De Schutter, the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food and author of the report, ‘Gender Equality and Food Security: Women’s Empowerment as a Tool against Hunger,’ released this week,” Reuters notes, adding, “He specifically noted a shift five years ago in the understanding of the causes of hunger and malnutrition: the 2008 global food crisis led to a realization that there was an underinvestment in agriculture, and especially in small-scale family farms, in which women play a key role as food producers.”

The report “details how three crises — the spike in food prices, the global economic downturn and climate change — disproportionately affect women and girls,” the news service writes, adding, “The removal and amendment of discriminatory land and labor laws would also help women farmers and food producers, said De Schutter and ADB food security and agriculture specialist Lourdes Adriano, who provided technical support for the report” (Tang, 7/26). “Worldwide, around 60 percent of undernourished people are women or girls, and data show that giving them access to education and employment opportunities has a strikingly large impact on reducing overall hunger and improving child health and education,” according to an ADB press release, which adds, “However, restrictions on female land ownership, limited access to credit and farm advisory services, and a lack of education hamper women’s ability to produce and access more food and earn decent incomes” (7/26). The report concludes “that while equality of treatment between women and men and food security are mutually supportive, gender equality remains an elusive goal in many regions, and a transformation of traditional gender roles is urgently needed,” De Schutter notes in his blog (7/25).

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Pfizer To Provide Vaccine Against Pneumonia, Meningitis At Reduced Price Through GAVI

“Drugmaker Pfizer Inc. has agreed to provide hundreds of millions of doses of its lucrative vaccine against pneumonia and meningitis at a fraction of the usual price for young children in poor countries,” the Associated Press reports. “The deal to provide 260 million shots of its Prevnar 13 vaccine for a few dollars each is Pfizer’s third agreement under” the GAVI Alliance, the news service writes, adding, “Prevnar 13, called Prevenar outside the U.S., protects against 13 strains of pneumococcal disease.” The AP notes, “One Prevnar dose costs nearly $130 in the U.S. — unaffordable in much of Africa, Asia and Latin America” (Johnson, 7/29). “Pfizer will provide the vaccine at $3.40 per dose with a further reduction to $3.30 per dose from 2014 onwards,” a GAVI press release states, adding, “The new prices will apply to all doses to be purchased from Pfizer under current contracts, including those awarded under two previous agreements.” The press release notes GlaxoSmithKline also “will lower the price GAVI pays for its pneumococcal vaccine to $3.40 per dose for this new contract covering the period 2014-2024” (7/29).

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Head Of U.N. Drug Office Calls For Stronger Prevention Efforts On World Hepatitis Day

“Marking World Hepatitis Day [on Sunday], the head of the United Nations drugs and crime agency … called for stronger prevention efforts to stop the spread of this major global health risk and urged authorities to ensure that all victims, including injecting drug users and prisoners, get the care and treatment they need,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “All people suffering from viral hepatitis deserve access to the same level of care and treatment available in the community. … If interventions are to be effective, they must be grounded in respect for the human rights and right to health of all sufferers,” Yury Fedotov, executive director of U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said in a statement marking the day, according to the news service. “The World Health Assembly — the decision-making body of WHO — designated July 28 as World Hepatitis Day … to promote greater understanding of hepatitis as a global public health problem and to stimulate the strengthening of preventive and control measures against infection in countries throughout the world,” the news service notes (7/28). The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports on World Hepatitis Day, highlighting a journal supplement, a petition and two protests (7/26).

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Food Aid Being Used As Weapon In Syria, NPR Reports

NPR’s “Morning Edition” examines how food aid is being used in Syria “as a weapon to control the population in both government and rebel territory.” “The civil war in Syria has left millions of people dependent on food aid,” but “delivering that aid to rebel-held areas is an enormous challenge,” NPR notes. “The ongoing conflict … means residents constantly move in search of security and basic necessities, and many groups, including radical Islamists, are winning over those communities by providing food,” NPR’s David Greene says in the report. The program details the current situation in the country and examines how food aid is delivered to the people, with a focus on the concept of “cross border aid” (Amos/Greene, 7/29).

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Cameroon Facing High Rates Of Malnutrition Among Children

“Prolonged drought in northern Cameroon, an aspect of the changing climate that is affecting the whole Sahel region, has reduced food output, pushed up prices and increased the severity and prevalence of malnutrition among children, experts say,” Thomson Reuters Foundation reports. “An estimated 330,600 children under five are at risk of severe and acute malnutrition in northern Cameroon, said [a UNICEF] survey report, which was issued in March,” the news service writes, noting, “Children are also expected to require specialist treatment in clinics in northern Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Mali and northern Senegal, [the survey] added.” According to the news service, “The Cameroon government has issued an alert saying that more than half the villages in the region are suffering from extreme food insecurity. The health ministry said almost 40 percent of children under five were at risk of vitamin A deficiency, rising to over 62 percent in the north.” Public Health Minister Andre Mama Fouda “told state radio that the government, UNICEF and the World Food Programme were providing food and vitamin supplements and de-worming medicine, and further action was planned,” the news service notes (Ngalame, 7/25).

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Editorials and Opinions

Global Food Security Act Would Create White House Coordinator For Food Position

“The Global Food Security Act (HR 2822), introduced Thursday by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), would appoint a White House Coordinator for Food, Nutrition, and Agricultural Development. It’s a ‘food ambassador’ of sorts,” author William Lambers writes in an opinion piece in The Hill’s “Congress Blog.” He continues, “It will be someone who would be in charge of the U.S. response against hunger which is currently spread out among a number of agencies.” He notes, “There are 33 humanitarian aid agencies that support this bill including the World Food Program USA, Catholic Relief Services, Church World Service, U.S. Fund for UNICEF and Save the Children.” Lambers quotes Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.), who said, “The Global Food Security Act is a comprehensive approach to tackling the food insecurity epidemic that plagues more than 870 million people worldwide by better coordinating U.S. assistance and making accountability a priority to assess progress and the efficient use of foreign aid funding.” Lambers concludes, “Hunger has traditionally been an area of bipartisan cooperation. In fact, Democrat George McGovern (S.D.) and Republican Bob Dole (Kansas) cooperated for years on fighting hunger both here at home and abroad. We should expect no less now from the current elected officials” (7/26).

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India's Government Working To Improve Newborn Survival

“Before you finish reading this, another baby in India will be born who does not live to see tomorrow,” Rajiv Tandon, a senior adviser for maternal, newborn, child health and nutrition at Save the Children India, writes in a Thomas Reuters Foundation opinion piece. “In fact, India today accounts for nearly one third of all newborn deaths worldwide,” he notes. “Clearly, saving newborn lives should be a national priority, and fortunately the national government of India agrees,” he writes, adding, “In recent months, the government has made key policy decisions that focus on several major causes of newborn death including babies with severe infections, babies born too soon (premature) and babies born at full term but at very low birth weight.” Tandon discusses recent changes to government regulations allowing Auxiliary Nurse Midwives (ANMs) to administer certain medications to infants and mothers. In addition, the government is “encouraging and supporting participation of pregnant mothers in rural communities in support groups” and “supporting Kangaroo Mother Care, a proven and cost-effective practice that encourages mothers to keep their babies warm through skin-to-skin contact,” he writes.

“Taken together, these decisions are directly supportive of recent events and commitments by the Government of India to accelerate progress towards Millennium Development Goals to reduce maternal and child mortality,” Tandon writes, describing the commitments. “Putting these policies into practice in a country as vast and complex as India is no easy task,” he states, noting, “Progress won’t be immediate, and many challenges remain as India seeks to save newborn lives.” He continues, “Still, the government’s renewed commitment to addressing newborn mortality, coupled with the strong support of health advocates across the broad spectrum of maternal, child, newborn and reproductive health, serve as an example to other countries faced with similar challenges. The government is offering every mother-to-be reason to hope that their baby won’t be part of India’s staggering daily death toll of newborns” (7/26).

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Focus On Management To Address Global Disparities In Health Care Delivery

Writing in the Huffington Post’s “Business” blog, Anjali Sastry, a senior lecturer in system dynamics at the MIT Sloan School of Management, examines “a stark contrast in health care delivery” between developing countries and the developed world. She highlights several obstacles one might face visiting a clinic in sub-Saharan Africa, including lack of transport to the clinic, unreliable electricity, medical supply shortages and incomplete medical records. “Medical research continues to advance, and with the growth of interest in global health we’re seeing spectacular technological innovations,” she writes, adding, “But what’s needed now is management innovation.” She continues, “Without management innovations, emerging markets still face the challenge of deploying new technologies, making sure health care workers’ knowledge is current, and that patients get the follow-up care they need.”

“For the past five years, I’ve taught a course at MIT Sloan called GlobalHealth Lab,” Sastry states, noting, “The course pairs teams of students with clinics, hospitals, and medical startups in the developing world to help them provide health care in more effective ways.” She writes, “Over the years, my students and I have generated practical ideas to improve health care delivery,” and she describes some of these ideas, including: improving the patient experience, better focusing data collection, making the most of human resources, and leveraging existing technology. Sastry concludes, “There’s much promise in these ideas, but they present new challenges, too. … We must also keep working to understand what is needed to enable next steps” (7/26).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

HHS Assistant Secretary For Global Affairs Recognizes World Hepatitis Day

World Hepatitis Day — observed annually on July 28 — is a day to remember the millions around the world, as well as those here in the U.S., who have lost their lives to or are suffering from viral hepatitis,” HHS Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs Nils Daulaire writes in the AIDS.gov blog. He notes viral hepatitis “is responsible for more than 1.4 million deaths annually, mostly in lower and middle-income countries, and is one of the most common causes of death due to infectious disease in the world.” Daulaire discusses global prevention efforts, writing, “Over the past three decades, more than one billion doses of hepatitis B vaccine have been administered to children worldwide, preventing millions of new infections and deaths.” Highlighting the issue of co-infection among people living with HIV, he notes “the work the U.S. government does to address one of these deadly viruses in turn affects efforts to respond to the other,” and Daulaire concludes, “I am proud of the U.S. partnerships in this global response to viral hepatitis and look forward to the progress we will make together in the years ahead” (7/26).

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CEDAW Panel Discusses HIV's Impact On Women, Girls

“The particular impact that HIV has on women and girls was discussed during a panel discussion organized in conjunction with the 55th Session of Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW),” a UNAIDS update notes. “Broad ranging discussion took place during the event on how gender inequality, poverty, harmful cultural practices, and unequal power relations exacerbates [women’s] vulnerability to HIV infection,” the update notes, adding, “The panelists agreed that all barriers hampering women’s access to sexual and reproductive health services must be removed, and they called on State Parties to CEDAW to make the necessary investments to facilitate access to SRH services. They also encouraged State Parties to enhance their reporting on human rights issues as it relates to women and HIV and to better use CEDAW to advance the rights of women and women living with HIV in particular” (7/26).

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Syrian Physician Discusses Medical Care In Conflict Zones

In a post on the Safeguarding Health in Conflict coalition blog, Sarah Dwyer, a communications manager at IntraHealth International, which is a member of the coalition, writes about Qasem al Zein, a Syrian physician who was head of the hospital at Al Qusair when the country’s revolution began. Qasem has spoken with several media outlets about treating patients in the conflict-ridden country, often in non-sterile environments and without the proper equipment and medicines, Dwyer notes and includes a video profile of Qasem (7/26).

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