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Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

WHO Officials, Experts Prioritize R&D For Zika Diagnostics, Vaccines, Innovative Vector-Control Strategies; Brazil Records Additional Microcephaly Cases, Tightens Reporting Guidelines

News outlets report on the outcomes of a meeting of WHO officials and infectious disease experts, who prioritized the development of tests and vaccines for Zika and related viruses, as well as innovative vector-control methods.

Deutsche Welle: WHO warns of spraying limitations for dengue fever, Zika virus
“The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that widespread spraying to eliminate mosquitoes has failed to significantly stop the spread of dengue fever. The agency suggested it may be the same case for the Zika virus, which has been linked to neurological disorders, including microcephaly…” (3/9).

The Hill: U.N.: Efforts to fight Zika virus far ahead of Ebola
“Nearly 70 companies and institutions worldwide are currently developing tools to fight the Zika virus — a hefty investment that the World Health Organization (WHO) says is miles ahead of the research effort previously devoted to Ebola…” (Ferris, 3/9).

International Business Times: Zika Outbreak: Virus May Also Cause Brain Inflammation, Study Finds; No Vaccine Before 3 Years, Brazilian Expert Says
“A recent study has revealed that the Zika virus may also be associated with a deadly type of brain inflammation…” (Varandani, 3/10).

New York Times: Zika Vaccine Still Years Away, WHO Says
“More than 60 research institutes and companies are working on products to combat the spread of the Zika virus, the World Health Organization said Wednesday, but a vaccine is likely to take years to develop and may come too late for the outbreak now sweeping across Latin America and the Caribbean…” (Cumming-Bruce, 3/9).

New York Times: Brazil Adjusts Guidelines for Diagnosing Defect Linked to Zika
“Brazilian officials said on Wednesday that they had tightened the guidelines used to determine when babies have been born with abnormally small heads, a step taken in part to reduce the number of false positives for microcephaly, a condition that can lead to brain damage…” (Sreeharsha, 3/9).

Reuters: Brazil lowers limit of measure for microcephaly, but cases rising
“…The changes, the second revision made by Brazil to its parameters since the outbreak began last year, are an effort to bring the country’s guidelines into agreement with new figures recently announced by the WHO…” (Prada, 3/9).

Reuters: Mosquito spraying may not stop Zika, other methods needed: WHO
“…The emphasis [for mosquito control] should be put on enlisting families and communities to protect themselves and eliminate from their homes the mosquitoes that carry the disease, which has spread rapidly in Brazil and Latin America, it said…” (Miles/Nebehay, 3/9).

Wall Street Journal: Zika-Linked Nerve Disorder Unsettles Colombia
“…While Colombian officials are investigating a case of suspected microcephaly and fear more as pregnancies here come to term, this hotbed of Zika has already seen a sharp increase in the number of otherwise healthy people struck with Guillain-Barré syndrome, in which the immune system attacks nerves, causing temporary but potentially severe paralysis. Research published in the journal the Lancet on Feb. 29 confirmed a link between Zika and Guillain-Barré…” (Muñoz, 3/9).

Wall Street Journal: Brazil Releases New Figures in Zika Outbreak
“…Since Oct. 22, when reporting microcephaly became obligatory in Brazil, there have been a total of 745 confirmed microcephaly cases, the ministry said. Lab testing has confirmed the presence of the mosquito-borne Zika virus in 88 of those cases so far…” (Jelmayer/Johnson, 3/9).

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As USAID Administrator, Gayle Smith Aims To Strengthen Agency, Pass Global Food Security Act

Devex: Gayle Smith’s beginning of the end
“Gayle Smith will use her tenure as administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development to ‘lock in’ initiatives introduced by President Barack Obama and to build a strengthened agency, capable of holding its own in Washington’s perennial turf battles, she told a packed audience on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. Passing the Global Food Security Act is Smith’s top priority…” (Igoe, 3/9).

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U.S. Government Should Improve Ability To Engage With Private Sector, NGOs, CIA Director Says

Devex: CIA director: U.S. government will need to ‘overhaul’ how it engages with partners
“Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan used his appearance at Global Partnerships Week in Washington, D.C., on Monday to make the case for broader cooperation between security agencies and the aid and development community, both within government and among nongovernmental organizations and the private sector. Faced with unprecedented security challenges — from extremism to state failure — the United States may need to overhaul the government approach to engaging with outside groups and partners, he said. For the moment, Brennan noted that his ability to interact with the private sector and NGO community is limited. That’s something he’d like to change…” (Saldinger, 3/9).

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34 Nations, Including 27 In Africa, Need Food Assistance, FAO Report Says

U.N. News Centre: Hunger intensifies in areas suffering from drought, flooding, and conflict — U.N. report
“Thirty-four countries, including 27 in Africa, are currently in need of external assistance for food due to drought, flooding, and civil conflicts, according to a new United Nations report released [Wednesday]. The figure has grown from 33 last December, after the addition of Swaziland, says the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in its Crop Prospects and Food Situation report…” (3/9).

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Studies Evaluate Malaria Treatment, Prevention Combination Therapies Among Pregnant Women In Africa

News outlets report on the findings of two studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine looking at malaria treatment and prevention among pregnant women in Africa. One study evaluated four different anti-malaria drug combinations for treating pregnant women with malaria, and another study examined an artemisinin-based therapy for malaria prevention among pregnant women in Africa.

HealthDay News: Combo Treatment Protects Pregnant Women, Fetuses From Malaria in Study
“A combination drug therapy widely used to treat malaria in adults also protects pregnant women and their fetuses from the disease, according to a new study. Malaria is a leading cause of premature birth, low birth weight, and death among infants in Africa, the researchers said…” (Preidt, 3/9).

NPR: Studies Reinforce The Urgency Of Treating Pregnant Women With Malaria
“…[T]wo studies and an editorial in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine are reminders that malaria, a disease that killed about half a million people in 2015, also has profound consequences for pregnant women and their infants. The new studies provide much-needed guidance on how to prevent and treat malaria during pregnancy…” (Brink, 3/9).

VOA News: Study: New Treatment Cuts Malaria Infection Risk in Pregnant Women
“…Researchers have been experimenting with an artemisinin-based therapy, called dihydroartemisinin–piperaquine. In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dorsey and colleagues reported that treatment with the drug combination dramatically reduced the risk of malaria in a group of 300 Ugandan women, none of whom was infected when the study began…” (Berman, 3/9).

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Using Low-Cost TB Urine Test Among HIV Patients Could Save Lives, Research Shows

Thomson Reuters Foundation: Low-cost TB test for HIV patients can save thousands of lives: researcher
“A low-cost urine test that detects tuberculosis in people living with HIV can save thousands of lives, many of them in sub-Saharan Africa, a Cape Town University researcher said on Wednesday. Nearly 40 percent of adults with HIV/AIDS in Africa die of TB as almost half of TB cases remain undiagnosed and untreated, according to researcher Keertan Dheda, whose study was published in The Lancet medical journal…” (3/9).

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Uganda President Museveni Signs Law Restricting Work Of Many NGOs In Country

Inter Press Service: Repressive NGO Act
“Nearly two weeks after controversially winning a fifth term, it has emerged that Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has signed another repressive law which restricts the operations of thousands of NGOs working in the country…” (Fallon, 3/9).

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South Korea Considering Exceptions To North Korea Sanctions To Allow TB Medication Shipments

Reuters: South Korea considers approval of North Korea tuberculosis aid despite sanctions
“South Korea is considering allowing a shipment of tuberculosis medication to North Korea, a government official said on Thursday, despite newly imposed sanctions against the reclusive state for its recent nuclear test and rocket launch…” (Park/Pearson, 3/10).

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UNAIDS, Telecom Company Orange Test Mobile Phone Health Information Platform For People Living With HIV In Côte d'Ivoire

U.N. News Centre: UNAIDS piloting new mobile platform to better inform HIV patients, improve health care
“Starting this month, a thousand people living with HIV in Côte d’Ivoire will receive additional health information through their mobile phones, the United Nations agency leading the world’s HIV/AIDS response announced [Wednesday]. The four-month pilot project in Abidjan is part of a collaboration between the Joint U.N. Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the telecommunications operator Orange…” (3/9).

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Researchers Continue To Face Challenges Testing Ebola Vaccine In Sierra Leone

The Guardian: Ebola vaccine trial in Sierra Leone battles against fear and logistics
“…Dr. Augustine Jimmisa, [Sierra Leone’s Tonkolili district’s] medical officer, says the biggest challenge for the trial was overcoming negative perceptions. … Other obstacles relate to underdevelopment in a country that ranks 181st out of 188 countries in the U.N. Human Development Index…” (Holt, 3/10).

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Washington Post Examines Plague In Madagascar

Washington Post: The plague, alive and well in Madagascar
“…Although it is often thought of as a medieval disease, the plague — which caused what was known as the Black Death in the Middle Ages — strikes hundreds of people every year, with its highest concentrations currently in Africa. … Madagascar is the most severely affected country in the world. Since 2010 it has been the site of over half (and one year, 90 percent) of worldwide incidents of the plague. Last year, 63 people died in Madagascar, out of a total of 275 cases, according to the World Health Organization…” (Lam, 3/9).

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Editorials and Opinions

U.S. Foreign Assistance Advances U.S. National Security, Development Goals

Huffington Post: The Return on Investment of Foreign Assistance
Hari Sastry, director of the Office of U.S. Foreign Assistance Resources at the U.S. Department of State

“…Despite its small sliver of [the] U.S. federal budget pie, [the U.S. foreign assistance budget] has enormous effect on U.S. national security and development goals … [and] works on behalf of the American people to end the scourge of epidemic diseases like malaria; bolster democracies around the world; counter violent extremism; enhance nations’ law enforcement capacity; and much more. … America is at the forefront, a leader in addressing the various crises around the world that are producing more disasters, more refugees, and more global health pandemics than we have ever seen before. We step up because it’s the right thing to do, because our core American values dictate equality and freedom for all. We step up because when we lead, we promote U.S. national security goals and development objectives abroad. We step up because when our global community is thriving — healthy, at peace, and economically sound — we thrive” (3/8).

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U.S. Foreign Assistance Should 'Intentionally', 'Explicitly' Prioritize Women, Girls

Devex: Can women and girls be at the center of U.S. humanitarian assistance?
Lyric Thompson, senior policy manager at the International Center for Research on Women

“…[S]upport [from U.S. foreign assistance for women and girls] is critical, both because it is the just and right thing to do, and also because achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls have been shown to help advance other development priorities such as global health, economic growth, and democratic governance. … Intentionally and explicitly incorporating a focus on women and girls in American assistance abroad will help [USAID Administrator Gayle] Smith and USAID achieve their goals. … [C]ementing the agency’s department on women and girls is a win-win. It empowers at least half the population, whose needs for far too long have been overlooked, and it boosts agency priorities, from spurring economic growth, to educating the next generation, to finally tackling poverty at its roots” (3/9).

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Development Organizations Should Work With, Exercise Freedom To Criticize Private Sector

The Guardian: Development needs business but we must be free to criticize
Jonathan Glennie, visiting fellow at the International Development Institute at King’s College London and director of policy and research at Save the Children U.K.

“…Because working with the private sector is still relatively new for many, incoherent approaches are applied. The most problematic is the idea that if you work with a company, or take money from one, you should avoid criticizing it or activities it may be involved in. … Working with companies should no more imply support for its practices than working with a government implies support for its policies. … Development organizations should be as quick and bold to speak out against business partners as they are with governments — their right and duty to do so should be agreed at the beginning of any relationship and considered standard. … It is time to get over kneejerk anti-private sector attitudes and get round the table. But it is equally important not to be gagged — the right to criticize should remain sacrosanct” (3/9).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

TPP Provisions Could Threaten Access To Affordable Medicines

PLOS Medicine: Trans-Pacific Partnership Provisions in Intellectual Property, Transparency, and Investment Chapters Threaten Access to Medicines in the U.S. and Elsewhere
Brook K. Baker, professor at Northeastern University School of Law, discusses the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s (TPP) potential impact on access to affordable medicines if its provisions are ratified, writing, “[Intellectual property (IP)] maximization in the TPP will harm access to more affordable medicines in both the U.S. and its trading partners. … Armed with knowledge about the details of the TPP’s anti-access provisions, there is still time for health advocates to convince the U.S. Congress and TPP partners that the TPP’s monopoly-enhancing measures must be rejected” (3/8).

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U.S. Should Invest In, Support Conflict-Affected CAR

U.S. Global Leadership Coalition: An Ounce of Prevention in the Central African Republic
David Stein, policy associate at the USGLC, discusses the international community’s role in supporting fragile states like Central African Republic (CAR), writing, “It is in America’s interest to invest in long-term stability and resilience by helping CAR address the underlying causes of the conflict. Unfortunately, America’s funding of the International Affairs Budget — which addresses these challenges — has not kept pace. … This is shortsighted given the fragility of peace in weak states like CAR” (3/9).

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Lancet Series Discusses Impact Of Breastfeeding On Preventing Child Deaths

Humanosphere: Even more evidence that exclusive breastfeeding prevents child deaths
Humanosphere reporter Tom Murphy discusses a new series of articles published in The Lancet on the impact and benefits of breastfeeding (3/8).

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