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Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

WHO's Chan Warns 'Big Business' Poses Challenges To Fighting NCDs

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan “has warned that efforts to promote good health are more vital than ever given that non-communicable diseases have overtaken infectious diseases as the leading cause of death, but they face daunting challenges, including from ‘big business,'” RTT News reports. “‘Today, the tables are turned. Instead of diseases vanishing as living conditions improve, socio-economic progress is actually creating the conditions that favor the rise of non-communicable diseases,’ Chan said in her address to the 8th Global Conference on Health Promotion, held in Finnish capital Helsinki on Monday,” the news service writes (6/10).

“Chan told participants that today, getting people to lead healthy lifestyles and adopt healthy behaviors faces opposition from forces that are ‘not so friendly,'” the U.N. News Centre states. Chan said, “It is not just Big Tobacco anymore. Public health must also contend with Big Food, Big Soda, and Big Alcohol. All of these industries fear regulation, and protect themselves by using the same tactics,” such as “front groups, lobbies, promises of self-regulation, lawsuits, and industry-funded research that ‘confuses the evidence and keeps the public in doubt,'” according to the news service. “In the view of WHO, the formulation of health policies must be protected from distortion by commercial or vested interests,” Chan said, the news service notes (6/10).

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U.N. SG Ban Calls On Member States To Push For AIDS-Free World

“Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [on Monday] called on Member States to press ahead with efforts to realize the vision of a world free of AIDS, as the United Nations General Assembly met to consider progress in the global struggle against the epidemic,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “The HIV response can help to build stronger, integrated health care systems that respond to broad needs across society. … As the world shapes a post-2015 development agenda, we can draw important lessons from the global AIDS response. We can take inspiration from the activists, health workers, fundraisers, diplomats and ministers — the General Assembly and all of you,” he said, according to the news service (6/10).

A UNAIDS press release notes Ban released a report (.pdf) to the General Assembly, titled “Accelerating the AIDS response: achieving the targets of the 2011 Political Declaration,” which “takes stock of progress made in implementing the targets set out in the 2011 United Nations General Assembly Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS” and “provides an update on developments in the AIDS response, recommends key actions to accelerate progress and urges renewed commitment to achieve the agreed targets and commitments” (6/10). In his speech, Ban called for more funding, expanded treatment, and an end to “widespread stigma, discrimination, gender-based violence and punitive laws against people living with HIV — as well as those at high risk of infection,” the U.N. News Centre notes (6/10).

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Forbes, Skoll Foundation Interview USAID Assistant Administrator For Global Health

In partnership with the Skoll World Forum, Forbes features an interview with Ariel Pablos-Méndez, assistant administrator for global health at USAID. Rahim Kanani of the Skoll Foundation discusses child survival in the developing world with Pablos-Méndez. According to the interview transcript, Pablos-Méndez highlights “some of the key facts, figures and trends we should be aware of,” discusses how “child survival fit[s] into the larger USAID global health strategy,” and notes how “the idea of measurement and evidence [has] evolved in terms of addressing not only child mortality, but global health more broadly,” among other issues (6/10).

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The Guardian Examines Support For, Concerns Over New Alliance Initiative

Though non-governmental organizations (NGOs) “have expressed concern over the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, the G8 initiative that seeks to enlist the private sector in efforts to boost African agriculture,” Nigeria’s Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development Akinwumi Adesina “insists that the New Alliance can work for Nigeria, and for Africa,” The Guardian reports. “Nigeria, along with Benin and Malawi, are the latest countries to sign up to the New Alliance, joining the original six,” the newspaper writes, adding, “Under its ‘co-operation framework,’ Nigeria will receive hundreds of millions of dollars in funding — subject to availability — from donors including the U.S., France, Germany and the U.K. In addition, 28 companies have signed letters of intent to invest in a range of projects.” The Guardian discusses the first annual progress report (.pdf) for the New Alliance, voluntary guidelines on the responsible governance of tenure, and reaction from NGO and U.N. leaders (Tran, 6/10).

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WHO Urges Health Workers To Be On Alert For Symptoms Of MERS Virus, Warns Of Pandemic Potential

The WHO “on Monday urged health workers around the world to be on the alert for symptoms of the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS), which has the potential to circle the globe and cause a pandemic,” Reuters reports (Nebehay, 6/10). “Monday’s warning comes at the end of a six-day WHO investigation in Saudi Arabia, where 40 of the 55 cases of the respiratory disease have occurred,” NPR’s “Shots” reports, noting, “Sixty percent of those people with known infections died” (Knox, 6/10). “The United Nations agency is concerned that the MERS virus might spread among pilgrims expected to visit holy sites in Saudi Arabia next month during Ramadan, or the millions more expected in October for the annual Hajj to Mecca,” VOA News notes (6/10). However, “[t]here is no evidence of widespread person-to-person transmission of the [virus], the [WHO] said Monday,” according to Xinhua (6/10). A WHO news release outlines three main epidemiological patterns of the virus and discusses the global response to the virus so far (6/10).

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WHO Publishes New Plan On How To Alert The World About Possible Flu Pandemics

“The [WHO] on Monday published a new plan on how to alert the world to possible flu pandemics, following harsh criticism of its handling of the H1N1 swine flu pandemic in 2009,” Agence France-Presse/GlobalPost reports (6/10). “Following recommendations by a review committee on Pandemic (H1N1) 2009, the new influenza guidance simplifies the pandemic phases structure, emphasizes the risk assessment and risk-based approach, and increases the flexibility of Member States to take actions,” according to Xinhua, which adds, “As for the differences from previous editions, the 2013 guidance applies the principles of all-hazards emergency risk management for health to pandemic influenza risk management, aligning more closely with the disaster risk management structures already in place in many countries” (6/10).

“In the previous system, a pandemic was declared when a virus caused community level outbreaks in at least two different WHO-defined regions, and in at least two countries in one WHO region,” AFP notes, adding, “The definition of a pandemic has now been simplified to a ‘period of global spread of human influenza caused by a new subtype,’ WHO said” (6/10). “Another significant change in the new guidance is seen in the global phases setting, which falls into four — interpandemic, alert, pandemic and transition — from the previous six phases,” Xinhua writes, noting, “It also highlights the need for appropriate and timely risk assessment for evidence-based decision-making at national, sub-national and local levels, the WHO underscored” (6/10).

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E.U., Gates Foundation Pledge To Work To Fight Poverty-Related Diseases

“The European Union and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have pledged to work together to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other poverty-related diseases that together affect more than one billion people worldwide,” RTT News reports (6/10). “They hope to speed up the development of drugs, vaccines and diagnostics,” EurActiv.com writes (6/10). “The agreement, signed in Paris on Monday by foundation co-chair Bill Gates and European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, creates a new strategic partnership for research in the area,” according to RTT. “In addition to accelerating the development of much-needed drugs, vaccines and diagnostics, the two organizations will also seek to improve affordable and sustainable pathways to ensure that these products quickly reach those in greatest need,” the news service notes (6/10).

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Implementing 10 Nutrition-Related Interventions Could Save Nearly 1M Children Annually, Study Says

“By scaling up 10 existing interventions to reach 90 percent of people in the 34 countries with the highest malnutrition rates — primarily in Sub-Saharan Africa, South and South-East Asia — 900,000 deaths of children under five could be prevented each year,” according to a study on nutrition and investment published as part of a series in The Lancet last week, SciDev.Net reports. The plan would require an annual investment of $9.6 billion, according to the study, the news service notes (Chan, 6/10). According to IRIN, the study “recommends: universal salt iodization; the promotion of early and exclusive breastfeeding; micronutrient supplementation for all pregnant women; calcium supplements for pregnant women who need them; food supplements for pregnant women who need them; vitamin A supplements for children between six months and five years old; zinc supplements for children between one and five years old; education about appropriate complementary feeding, backed by supplements where needed; proper management moderate acute malnutrition; and proper management of severe acute malnutrition.”

“The lead author of the paper on interventions, Zulfiqar Bhutta of Pakistan’s Aga Khan University said, ‘We believe that these 10 nutrition-specific interventions have the potential to save lives. The cost is affordable for a world which spends close to a hundred times more than this on conflict,'” IRIN writes (6/10). “The researchers believe that more than half of the funds could be provided by India and Indonesia, with other smaller countries making financial contributions and the remaining $3-4 billion coming from external donors,” SciDev.Net reports, noting the recent Nutrition for Growth summit “secured commitments of up to $4.15 billion to tackle malnutrition.” The news service adds, “At the launch event for the series of papers, Lawrence Haddad, a study author based at the Institute of Development Studies, United Kingdom, said: ‘Let’s not wait for political will: let’s will our politicians to act” (6/10).

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Editorials and Opinions

Examining Debate Over Proposed Changes To U.S. Food Aid Program

“Should the U.S. pay its farmers and ship their food overseas, the traditional plan, or should it ship money overseas and pay poorer farmers abroad, as every other major food-producing nation does?” journalist Alan Bjerga asks in a Bloomberg News analysis examining the debate over changes to the U.S. food aid program proposed by the Obama administration. “The plan, like Bush’s less-ambitious attempts that ultimately stalled, has run into resistance in Congress, where legislators protecting farmers and shippers have balked at revamping programs that aid domestic exports,” he notes, adding, “The splits — which cross partisan boundaries and in the last decade ha[ve] pit lawmakers against presidents who share their party — arise over the question of who should the United States buy the food from?” He discusses the ongoing debate in Congress and concludes, “Boosting food aid bought from African farmers ‘helps create markets. The benefits for Africa are quite huge,’ [Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Akinwnumi Adesina] said” (6/10).

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(RED), Johnson & Johnson Team Up To Support Global Fund

“[T]hankfully, with the incredible advances in HIV/AIDS treatment, prevention of mother-to-child transmission is real today and is helping the world take giant steps towards achieving an AIDS-Free Generation. But still, 900 babies are born every day with HIV,” (RED) CEO Deborah Dugan writes in the Huffington Post’s “The Big Push” blog. “(RED) and the Global Fund [to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria] envision a world in which no baby is born with HIV, and every mother has the opportunity to help her child thrive,” she continues, adding, “But real impact requires action. And money.” She notes, “Starting today, a new partnership with Johnson & Johnson means every time someone ‘Likes’, ‘Tweets’ or ‘Pins’ a (RED) infographic, Johnson & Johnson will donate $1 to the Global Fund, up to $100,000. Every cent from that donation will help ensure that HIV+ mothers in Africa have the tools they need to deliver healthy babies.” Dugan concludes, “By acting now, and by acting collectively, our chances of helping deliver an AIDS-Free Generation are infinitely greater” (6/10).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

U.S., Ireland Recommit To Goals Of 1,000 Days Initiative

Writing in the State Department’s “DipNote” blog, Jonathan Shrier, acting special representative for global food security and deputy coordinator for diplomacy at Feed the Future, describes an event co-hosted on Monday by Bread for the World Institute and Concern Worldwide, during which USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah and Irish Minister of State for Trade and Development Joe Costello “renewed the U.S. and Irish governments’ commitment to the goals of the 1,000 Days partnership.” He continues, “Since its launch in 2010, the 1,000 Days initiative has made progress in mobilizing partners to support country-led nutrition strategies and increase action and investments designed to improve the nutritional status of women and children during the 1,000 day window.” Shrier adds, “You can read Dr. Shah’s full remarks here, and you can read the 1,000 Days partnership progress report of the first 1,000 Days of action here” (6/10).

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Global Community Must Tackle Stunting

Stunting, caused by chronic undernutrition in children, is “one of the least reported, least recognized, least understood issues facing humanity, yet tackling it should be seen as an opportunity both for personal health and national development,” Werner Schultink, associate director for nutrition at UNICEF, writes in USAID’s “IMPACTblog.” He continues, “Despite the challenges, we can and must win the battle against stunting and other forms of undernutrition — and investing in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life shapes the future of nations.” He highlights the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement and other partnerships, such as the Child Survival Call to Action. “We cannot stand by and allow a child to be condemned to a life of deprivation — especially when we know how to prevent it,” Schultink concludes (6/10).

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Blog, Video Discuss U.S. Efforts Against Global Hunger

In a Feed the Future video published on USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” actor Matt Damon, who narrates the film, “discusses efforts to turn the tide against global hunger and increase agricultural production around the world.” The blog notes “The video was shown at the ‘Feed the Future: Partnering With Civil Society’ event on September 27, 2012,” and writes, “[D]uring a global nutrition-focused event [on Monday,] co-hosted by Bread for the World Institute and Concern Worldwide, USAID announced its ongoing commitment to work with the U.S. government’s leadership to reduce undernutrition around the world. The event followed the Nutrition for Growth event in London” (6/10).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.