KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

WHO/World Bank Report Shows 400M People Lack Access To Essential Health Services

News outlets highlight findings from a new WHO/World Bank Group joint report, titled Tracking universal health coverage: First global monitoring report.

International Business Times: Sub-Saharan Africa Lags Other Regions In Health Care: World Bank, World Health Organization Report
“More than 400 million people around the world don’t have access to essential health services, and many of them are in sub-Saharan Africa, where the resources are most needed, according to data from the World Bank and World Health Organization…” (Caulderwood, 6/12).

New York Times: 400 Million Lack Basic Health Services, Report Finds
“…The report also said that at least six percent of people in 37 low-and-middle-income countries are living in poverty because of the money they must spend on health. That finding alone suggested that the poorest could be left further behind by rising global health costs…” (Gladstone, 6/12).

Reuters: Some 400 million lack health care worldwide: WHO and World Bank
“…At the same time, more people have access to essential health services than ever before, the report said, though coverage gaps remain…” (Cassella, 6/12).

U.N. News Centre: New U.N.-World Bank report shows world ‘a long way from achieving universal health coverage’
“…The joint WHO/World Bank report, Tracking universal health coverage: First global monitoring report, is the first of its kind to measure health service coverage and financial protection to assess countries’ progress towards universal health coverage…” (6/12).

WHO: New report shows that 400 million do not have access to essential health services
“… ‘This report is a wake-up call: It shows that we’re a long way from achieving universal health coverage. We must expand access to health and protect the poorest from health expenses that are causing them severe financial hardship,’ says Dr. Tim Evans, senior director of health, nutrition and population at the World Bank Group…” (6/12).

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South Korea Reports 150 MERS Cases, 16 Deaths; WHO Calls Emergency Meeting On Outbreak

Agence France-Presse: ‘Excessive’ public alarm as S. Korea reports 16th MERS death
“South Korea Monday reported its 16th death in an expanding MERS outbreak, as President Park Geun-hye called for efforts to shore up the economy against what she called ‘excessive’ public alarm. Seoul also declared five new patients — bringing the total number of cases including the deaths to 150 — as fears grew over the impact of the outbreak on Asia’s fourth-largest economy…” (Ha-Won, 6/15).

New York Times: Experts Fault South Korean Response to MERS Outbreak
“The South Korean government’s failure to share information quickly with the public and establish an efficient disease control system contributed to worsening the outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome in the country, a joint panel of experts from the World Health Organization and South Korea said Saturday…” (Sang-Hun, 6/13).

New York Times: MERS Tarnishes Korean President’s Image as Leader
“…With [South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s] approval rating plunging [during the MERS outbreak], critics and political analysts alike are questioning her leadership as the country faces pressing issues like a slowing economy, a national pension system awaiting an overhaul, and nuclear and missile threats from North Korea…” (Sang-Hun, 6/12).

NPR: Why MERS Will Likely Crop Up Outside The Middle East Again
“…Until scientists figure out exactly how camels pass MERS to people, [Mark Pallansch, director of viral diseases at the CDC,] says, more outbreaks will pop up. ‘As long as there is continual exposure to whatever animal source for MERS exists in the Arabian Peninsula, we will always continue to have sporadic cases,’ Pallansch says. And those cases could turn up anywhere on the globe…” (Beaubien, 6/14).

Reuters: WHO calls emergency meeting on ‘large, complex’ South Korea MERS outbreak
“The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Saturday it would hold an emergency meeting on Tuesday to consider South Korea’s outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which it described as ‘large and complex.’ The U.N. health agency said more cases should be anticipated, but that the disease was confined to hospitals, with no sign it was spreading in the community…” (Kim, 6/13).

Reuters: Hospital at center of South Korea’s MERS suspends services; seven new cases
“…The Samsung Medical Center, a prominent hospital in the capital, said it was suspending all non-emergency surgery and would take no new patients to focus on stopping MERS after more than 70 cases were traced to it. Its tally has surpassed the number at a hospital in Pyeongtaek, where the first patient sought treatment…” (Kim, 6/14).

ScienceInsider: MERS outbreak in Korea may be past its peak, panel says
“…[A] joint mission of international and local health experts expressed cautious optimism that the country may be turning the corner on the outbreak, although its members emphasized the need for continued surveillance and attention to infection control…” (Normille, 6/13).

VOA News: MERS Forces Limited Operations at Seoul Hospital
“…Samsung Hospital President Song Jae-hoon told a televised news conference on Sunday that the hospital would suspend all non-emergency surgeries and not accept new patients. He said no visitors will be allowed, and added that he would decide on June 24 whether to continue the suspension…” (6/14).

WHO Western Pacific Region: WHO recommends continuation of strong disease control measures to bring MERS-CoV outbreak in Republic of Korea to an end
“A joint mission by the World Health Organization and the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Health and Welfare to review the outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in the Republic of Korea has recommended that continuing strengthening of contact tracing, monitoring, and quarantine, as well as expanded laboratory testing, will prevent further spread of the virus…” (6/13).

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Disease-Specific Advocacy Groups Appeal To Congress For R&D Funding

CQ Weekly: Dueling Diseases: The Race for Cure Dollars
“…As Congress assembles its budgets and spending bills, patient advocacy groups for specific diseases issue public pleas for more money for medical research — nothing as unseemly as earmarks or carve-outs, but general support for the National Institutes of Health and other politically popular health causes that tend to foment bipartisan comity. … Behind the scenes, however, the veneer of collegiality that these groups display during their rounds on Capitol Hill is cracking. Groups are jockeying to prioritize their particular diseases and stay on offense, anticipating that tight budgets brought about by the budget sequester could force lawmakers to choose between spending on Alzheimer’s and HIV/AIDS or squelch funding for some promising line of cures…” (Attias, 6/15).

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HHS Announces Contract To Develop Faster Ebola Test; Testing Experimental Vaccines Presents Challenges

The Hill: Obama administration pushes for faster Ebola test
“The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Friday announced a contract to develop a faster test for Ebola, as well as grants for nine regional treatment centers…” (Sullivan, 6/12).

PBS NewsHour: Why testing an Ebola vaccine isn’t so easy
“In Sierra Leone and Liberia, where the Ebola epidemic has been a nightmare, the promise of a vaccine offers hope. Science correspondent Miles O’Brien reports on the challenges of conducting experimental drug trials there and the desperate need to find a fix…” (6/12).

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MSF Head Warns World Not Yet Prepared To Control Possible Ebola Resurgence; Sierra Leone Imposes New Curfews As Cases Rise In Nation, Guinea

Reuters: Ebola could hit again and we would hardly do better: MSF
“The Ebola epidemic could flare up again in West Africa and health authorities are no better equipped to control it than they were a year ago, the head of medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières said on Saturday. ‘The reality today is if Ebola were to hit on scale it did in August and September, we would hardly do much better than we did the last time around,’ Joanne Liu said on the sidelines of a meeting on Ebola in Dakar…” (Farge, 6/13).

Reuters: Sierra Leone imposes Ebola curfew for northern districts
“Sierra Leone is introducing new curfews for two northern districts after a spike in new Ebola cases to the highest level in months, President Ernest Bai Koroma said on Friday. … Sierra Leone and Guinea … are still regularly reporting several new cases daily, prompting both to extend emergency measures…” (Cham et al., 6/12).

Washington Post: Rise in new cases shows Ebola has not released its deadly grip
“…There was a time in May when the number of new cases in [Sierra Leone and Guinea] was tantalizingly close to zero. Then, suddenly, came an alarming spike in the two countries, which were ravaged by the virus during the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history. Now, week after week, up to a few dozen new people are appearing on the World Health Organization’s weekly report on the situation in West Africa. And public health officials are racing to find out what’s driving these pockets of Ebola transmission…” (Phillip, 6/12).

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Nigerian Donates $10M To Carter Center For Efforts Against River Blindness In His Nation

Wall Street Journal: Carter Center Gets $10 Million Gift to Fight River Blindness
“Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has a new ally in his long-standing fight against river blindness, one of multiple debilitating tropical diseases he has spent decades trying to tame or wipe off the planet. Sir Emeka Offor, a Nigerian businessman and philanthropist, donated $10 million to the Carter Center to help end river blindness in his country by 2020. Nigeria is the country worst affected by river blindness, with about 40 percent of the world’s cases…” (McKay, 6/14).

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Pakistan Official Warns Foreign Aid Groups They Face Scrutiny, Possible Expulsion

New York Times: Pakistan Warns Aid Groups to Follow Unspecified Rules
“After the police shut down the offices of a major Western aid group, Pakistan’s interior minister warned Friday that other foreign organizations operating in Pakistan faced greater scrutiny and the possibility of expulsion if they failed to adhere to unspecified rules and laws…” (Masood, 6/12).

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South African AIDS Conference Addresses Nation's Reported Antiretroviral Drug Shortages

Health-e News: Drug stock outs case long shadow over AIDS conference
“…Research into medicine shortages by the civil society coalition Stop the Stock Outs Project cast a long shadow over this year’s [South African] AIDS conference. Conducted among about 60 percent of the country’s health facilities and released this week at the conference, the project’s second annual survey found that a quarter of facilities had faced stock outs in the three months prior to the survey and almost 20 percent were currently experiencing outages on the day they were interviewed…” (Gonzalez, 6/15).

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Indians Living Longer But With More Disabilities, Study Says

Wall Street Journal: Study: Longer, But Not Healthier, Life in India
“Indians, on average, now live almost eight years longer than they did in 1990, but the extra years are giving more time for ailments that reduce quality of life to develop. That’s the finding of a study published [last] week that public health experts said should serve as a warning to policymakers about the burden of non-fatal illnesses on a country’s productivity. The number of years lived with disabilities in India — where disability ranges from a common cold to quadriplegia — had increased by 45 percent since 1990, the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013, published in the ‘The Lancet,’ showed…” (Malhotra, 6/12).

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Editorials and Opinions

Health Systems Strengthening To Prevent Disease Outbreaks Requires Global Investment

Washington Post: Letter to the Editor: Don’t let disease spread
Marie Paule Kieny, assistant director general for health systems and innovation at the WHO

“Ron Klain’s June 7 Sunday opinion commentary, ‘Preventing the next pandemic,’ correctly pointed to the urgent need for a better world response to outbreaks. The first line of defense should be strengthening the health care systems in vulnerable countries so each has capacity to deal with infectious disease threats. … Our next major opportunity to address the Ebola aftermath and show we’ve learned from the mayhem of the initial response lies with the International Ebola Recovery Conference on July 10. Let’s ensure we put our investments in the right places, with country health sectors at the top of the list” (6/14).

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International Community Must Step Up Understanding, Surveillance, Control Of Infectious Diseases To Prevent Further Outbreaks

Washington Post: Fighting MERS, again
Editorial Board

“…After the World Health Organization was slow to respond on Ebola, a debate is underway about how to strengthen global rapid response to disease outbreaks. In today’s world, a virus or bacterium for which there is no cure or treatment can be spread across continents by one patient on an airplane. There is no fail-safe way to prevent this, but it is clear that surveillance, diagnostics, transparency, infection control, and determined efforts to understand how and why a disease spreads are absolutely essential. Unfortunately, in one way or another, these have been missing far too often, and the pathogens are on the march” (6/12).

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Congress Should Permanently End 'Global Gag Rule'

The Hill: Let’s finally end the global gag rule
Dana Singiser, vice president for public policy and government relations at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Latanya Mapp Frett, executive director of Planned Parenthood Global

“The good news is that recent efforts to expand family planning access globally have been going exceedingly well. One example is Family Planning 2020 … The bad news is that this important work saving and improving lives could be severely undermined by Congress — specifically by the House which is moving an FY16 spending bill forward that includes dramatic cuts to international family planning funding and an attempt to make the ‘global gag rule’ permanent. … Congress has the power to cease the absurd, needless, and cruel back-and-forth maneuvering by defeating the measures included in the House FY16 funding bill for the State Department and also permanently ending the global gag rule by passing the Global Democracy Promotion Act. Through these dual efforts, Congress can protect women’s health and democracy to ensure that women abroad get the family planning assistance they desperately need and deserve” (6/12).

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Trade Agreements Should Focus On Medical R&D, Not Intellectual Property Rights

The Hill: TPP should protect patients, not patents
James Love, director of Knowledge Ecology International

“…Among the controversial provisions [of the Trans-Pacific Partnership] are proposals to mandate extended patent terms, require a 12-year monopoly on the evidence used to register pricy biologic drugs, ramp up the enforcement of rights, make it more risky and costly to register generic drugs, and limit the scope of exceptions to patent rights. … Focusing trade agreements on [biologic drug] R&D, rather than [intellectual property rights], would give governments the flexibility to lower drug prices, while ensuring robust and sustainable sources of R&D, and targeting R&D funding where it does the most good. We need trade agreements that allow innovation in the way we fund innovation, including approaches that completely de-link R&D costs from drug prices, so patients are no longer at risk to be the hostages in cost control efforts” (6/12).

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Chinese Government 'Should Not Regulate Birth'

New York Times: Relaxing China’s One-Child Policy
Dai Qing, Beijing-based investigative journalist

“…Regardless of whether birth control laws prohibit or encourage procreation, if such laws are based simply on the whims of a dictator or on statistics, they are bound to run into problems. We may not want to have more children, but we should have the right to do so, if we please. Controlling the population is not a solution to the country’s demographic imbalances. The [Chinese] government should not regulate birth, period. Education is a means to broaden a girl’s perspective, to give her confidence, to help her appreciate her creativity and quality of life, and to make her realize the importance of dignity and social responsibility. This is what an effective population control policy looks like. … It’s time to restore that right to all Chinese women” (6/12).

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Community-, National-, Regional-Level Actions Can Help Address Child Marriage In Africa

Huffington Post: Speaking Up for Girls’ Rights on the Day of the African Child
Graça Machel, chair of the Graça Machel Trust, and Leila Pakkala, regional director for Eastern and Southern Africa, UNICEF

“Today, as Africa simultaneously commemorates the Day of the African Child and the 25th anniversary of the [African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child], we have a rare opportunity to reflect on both progress and challenges in responding to child marriages in Africa. We would suggest five attainable actions: First, a crucial entry point to responding to child marriage is being alive to the cultural nuances that drive it. … Second, closely linked to community-based efforts will be addressing the structural causes of child marriage. … Third, at national level, it is vital that proven efforts are strengthened. … Fourth, decisive leadership and increased political will at community, national, and regional levels are paramount. … And finally, a continued honest and frank peer review system at the African Union level will be paramount…” (6/14).

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TB Diagnostic Technology Advances But Unattainable In Low-Income Settings

New York Times: Advancing TB Test Technology, Where It Matters Most
Jens Erik Gould, correspondent

“…Hailed as the most significant advance in TB research in decades, [an] automated molecular technology called GeneXpert is more accurate and yields much faster results than traditional diagnosis methods, like smear microscopy, a basic test invented a century ago. … The problem is that not everyone has access to it. Not long after the rollout, health care workers began realizing that GeneXpert wasn’t designed for the people who needed it most: the poor in the developing world. … The overwhelming excitement about GeneXpert among health officials and the substantial investments made by donors quelled doubts that there was demand for new TB technology and that it could be profitable. As a result, more companies have entered the TB market and are competing to develop diagnostic technologies that would provide the benefits of GeneXpert, without the drawbacks…” (6/12).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

G7 Declaration Includes Call For Economic Empowerment Of Women

Council on Foreign Relations’ “Development Channel”: Gender Equality at the G7 Summit
Rachel B. Vogelstein, director and senior fellow for women and foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, discusses the call to promote women’s economic empowerment and entrepreneurship in the declaration resulting from the G7 summit (6/13).

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