KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

White House, Democratic Senators Urge Emergency Zika Funding Approval; Other USG Agencies Take Steps To Assist In Virus Response

CQ News: Senate Democrats Launch a New Push for Emergency Zika Funding
“Democratic senators along with independent Sen. Bernard Sanders urged appropriations leaders to fully fund President Barack Obama’s $1.9 billion request to combat the Zika virus, rejecting suggestions that funds dedicated to fighting Ebola could be repurposed, according to a letter sent Friday. The effort, led by Connecticut Democrat Christopher S. Murphy, occurs after Republicans in both chambers have rejected a number of requests for emergency supplemental appropriations, Zika or otherwise…” (Mejdrich, 3/4).

Government Executive: OPM Responds to Zika Virus by Streamlining Agency Hiring
“With the Zika viris continuing to spread from Central and Latin America, the Office of Personnel Management on Friday announced it is allowing streamlined hiring of specialists at the Health and Human Services and State departments, as well as at the U.S. Agency for International Development…” (Clark, 3/4).

The Hill: White House: GOP can’t ‘fall asleep at switch’ on Zika
“The White House warned Friday that GOP leaders should not be ‘asleep at the switch’ on the Zika virus, pressuring them to approve the administration’s emergency funding request to fight the disease…” (Ferris, 3/4).

The Hill: White House to hold summit on Zika virus
“The White House will hold a day-long summit on the Zika virus next month, summoning top researchers and government officials to help prepare the nation for the disease to begin spreading in the U.S. this spring…” (Ferris, 3/4).

The Hill: Dems urge Senate to back Obama Zika request
“…Twenty-four senators sent a letter Friday saying that Congress should support the administration’s $1.9 billion request without dipping into the government funds set aside to tackle Ebola…” (Carney, 3/4).

Washington Times: CDC chief to examine debt-ridden Puerto Rico’s response to Zika
“The chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will head to Puerto Rico in coming days to get a firsthand look at the U.S. territory’s response to the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne disease linked to serious birth defects…” (Howell, 3/4).

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Recently Published Studies Add To Evidence Of Link Between Zika, Microcephaly, Guillain-Barré Syndrome

News outlets discuss the findings of several studies examining the possible association between Zika and neurological defects and syndromes.

The Atlantic: Toward an Understanding of Zika’s Neurological Dangers
“…A new study published Friday in Cell Stem Cell shows how Zika affects neural stem cells, which appear to be particularly vulnerable to the virus. This may be the mechanism by which Zika could cause microcephaly … A study published in The Lancet on Monday offered the first real evidence that Zika can cause Guillain-Barré syndrome — an autoimmune disease in which the immune system targets a person’s nervous system…” (Beck, 3/4).

New York Times: Two Studies Strengthen Links Between the Zika Virus and Serious Birth Defects
“The Zika virus damages many fetuses carried by infected and symptomatic mothers, regardless of when in pregnancy the infection occurs, according to a small but frightening study released on Friday by Brazilian and American researchers. In a separate report published on Friday, other scientists suggested a mechanism for the damage, showing in laboratory experiments that the virus targets and destroys fetal cells that eventually form the brain’s cortex…” (McNeil/Saint Louis, 3/4).

Reuters: New range of serious fetal abnormalities linked to Zika: study
“…The list of ‘grave outcomes’ found in the study of pregnant women in Rio de Janeiro, published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Friday, included fetal death, calcification of the brain, placental insufficiency with low to no amniotic fluid, fetal growth restriction, and central nervous system damage, including potential blindness…” (Berkrot, 3/4).

Reuters: Evidence mounts linking Zika virus to birth defects
“…The WHO’s Emergency Committee is due to meet on Tuesday to review ‘evolving information’ and its recommendations on travel, trade, and mosquito control in what is thought to be high season for transmission of the virus in the southern hemisphere…” (Nebehay/Rampton, 3/4).

Wall Street Journal: Evidence Grows Linking Zika Virus to Birth Defect, Paralysis
“…Health officials say they are operating on the assumption that Zika is linked to these complications, while continuing research to determine the nature of the links and whether there are other factors involved…” (McKay, 3/4).

Washington Post: Zika likely behind more pregnancy problems, birth defects than anyone realized, researchers say
“…The researchers noted that the problems associated with Zika have similarities to those caused by other congenital viruses in the past, such as rubella, which affected hundreds of thousands of infants in the United States in the late 1950s and 1960s…” (Dennis, 3/4).

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Biotech, Drug Companies Research New Ways To Prevent, Treat Mosquito-Borne Diseases Like Zika

New York Times: A Biotech Evangelist Seeks a Zika Dividend
“…Until recently, [Randal J.] Kirk, 62, was a relatively unknown, self-made billionaire, buying up or investing in companies in the biotech world. So when Intrexon acquired the British company Oxitec last summer, it attracted little attention as he extended his reach into genetically modified insects. But that move has thrust Mr. Kirk into the forefront of a scramble to control the Zika virus, suspected of causing babies to be born with tiny heads and damaged brains…” (Pollack, 3/5).

Wall Street Journal: Drugmakers Scramble to Find Zika Vaccine
“…About 15 companies are working on Zika vaccines, most in the initial stages, according to the World Health Organization. Among the more advanced are some in development by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Bharat Biotech International Pvt. Ltd. in India, said Marie-Paule Kieny, the WHO’s assistant director-general for health systems and innovation. She predicted it would take at least 18 months for large-scale trials to get under way…” (McKay/Loftus, 3/6).

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WHO's Chan Calls For New Funding Mechanism To Help Cover R&D Of Vaccines, Treatments For Epidemic Diseases

Financial Times: WHO chief wants help for drug industry to fight global pandemics
“Pharmaceuticals companies cannot be expected to keep picking up the bill for tackling global pandemics, the head of the World Health Organization has warned, urging the creation of a new funding mechanism for emergency drugs and vaccines. Margaret Chan, WHO director general, said the pharma industry had spent almost $1bn developing Ebola vaccines in the past two years without any return on investment…” (Ward, 3/7).

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PolitiFact Examines Claims Of U.S. Global HIV/AIDS Spending Helping Improve Security, Stability

PolitiFact: Do U.S. global AIDS dollars build stability, less violence? Hard to prove
“…PEPFAR got some bipartisan love from two former Senate majority leaders, Sens. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Bill Frist, R-Tenn. In an op-ed in The Hill titled ‘Big-hearted, self-serving and right,’ Daschle and Frist argued that global health aid is in the national interest. … Daschle said that U.S. global AIDS spending helped reduce ‘political instability and violence’ by ’40 percent’ in recipient nations. No one questions that the program did much to ease the burden of disease and helped many sufferers. But there are several reasons the argument that it led to political stability is difficult to make…” (Greenberg, 3/4).

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On Eve Of International Women's Day, Celebrities Urge World Leaders To Focus On Improving Development, Health Indicators For Girls, Women

Thomson Reuters Foundation: Celebrities urge leaders to put girls at heart of anti-poverty drive
“Chat show queen Oprah Winfrey, actress Meryl Streep, and singer Elton John called on Monday for world leaders to put girls at the heart of anti-poverty efforts as a new index revealed Niger was the toughest country to be a girl. In an open letter, published on the eve of International Women’s Day, a host of prominent figures urged leaders to improve girls’ and women’s access to education, justice, and technology, and help them fight HIV and malnutrition…” (Batha, 3/7).

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AP Investigation Shows American Company Mismanaged Some Aspects Of Ebola Response In Sierra Leone

Associated Press: AP Investigation: American company bungled Ebola response
“An American company that bills itself as a pioneer in tracking emerging epidemics made a series of costly mistakes during the 2014 Ebola outbreak that swept across West Africa — with employees feuding with fellow responders, contributing to misdiagnosed Ebola cases and repeatedly misreading the trajectory of the virus, an Associated Press investigation has found…” (Satter/Cheng, 3/7).

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World Bank, Social Scientists Investigating 'Nudge' Theory To Encourage Healthy Behaviors

The Guardian: How the World Bank is ‘nudging’ attitudes to health and hygiene
“…Breaking long-term habits, such as spending the bulk of your income on rice, is extremely difficult — especially, according to recent research, for those living in extreme poverty. This is where nudge theory comes in. It is about using insights from behavioral science to identify reasons why people make bad choices, such as smoking or failing to pay taxes on time, and then testing small changes in the way choices are presented to ‘nudge’ them into making better decisions…” (Rutter, 3/4).

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Microsoft Research Genomics Group Scientist Examining Machine Learning Theory As HIV Vaccine Strategy

Washington Post: Microsoft Research scientist David Heckerman on how we could attack HIV like spam
“…[A]ccording to a machine learning expert, HIV’s mutation-happy defense mechanism also could point to its eventual downfall. David Heckerman, distinguished scientist and senior director of the Genomics Group at Microsoft Research, is combining his expertise in computer science with his background as a medical doctor to apply machine learning to the creation of an AIDS vaccine…” (Kim, 3/4).

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NPR Features TED Talk On Outbreak Preparedness By Bill Gates

NPR TED Radio Hour: How Can We Prevent The Next Global Health Epidemic?
The show features a TED talk by Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, from March 2015, in which he discusses disease outbreak preparedness (3/4).

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Editorials and Opinions

Leveraging Partnerships To Address Global Development

Devex: Innovating partnerships: USAID’s views on the future of partnership
Chris Jurgens, leader of the global partnerships division in the USAID Office of Innovation and Development Alliances

“…The U.S. Agency for International Development has a long history of partnering, and we are constantly seeking to evolve our approach to partnerships to respond to the changing development landscape. There are three themes which we believe are critical to the next generation of partnerships in global development. … More than addressing shared interest, shared value recognizes the business opportunity in addressing social problems, and the ability to generate business value while also achieving social impact. … We are also seeing a shift in how organizations are coming together to tackle development issues, with a desire to go beyond one-off partnerships and address a problem in a more enduring and systemic way. … Finally, it is critical that the global development community more fully recognizes and leverages the unique and significant value that local private sector actors bring to partnerships…” (3/7).

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Continued Funding, Research Required To Address Threat Of Antibiotic Resistance

New York Times: We’re Losing the Race Against Antibiotic Resistance, but There’s Also Reason for Hope
Aaron E. Carroll, professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine

“…We aren’t keeping pace with [antibiotic drug] resistance. … [But there] are … glimmers of good news. … Only in the last year or two have both the president and Congress seemed especially interested in pushing for more funding [to address antibiotic resistance]. New antibiotics are a public good … Huge public support for researching new classes of antibiotics will be necessary to combat this growing threat. … The best outcome is preventing infections through vaccination or public health measures so that we improve human health without increasing resistance to antibiotics” (3/7).

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Multipurpose Prevention Technologies Can Help Women Reduce Risk Of HIV Infection, Control Reproductive Health

New York Times: Letter to the Editor: HIV and African Women
Bethany Young Holt, director of the Initiative for MPTs, and executive director of CAMI Health

“…Although a very welcome development, the dapivirine ring is not the only device with potential for birth control-HIV prevention. Multipurpose Prevention Technologies, or MPTs, are new methods in development that can deliver contraception with HIV and other sexually transmitted disease prevention in various combinations. … Women’s ability to avoid HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases and determine pregnancy and child spacing brings undeniable social, economic, and health benefits to women and families. Offering women a range of options that they themselves can control will enhance the health of women in Africa, and also in the United States, where unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease rates are as high as those in many developing countries” (3/4).

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Western Powers May Have Exacerbated Inequalities, Hurt Development Of Poor Countries

The Guardian: Does the west really care about development?
Jason Hickel, anthropologist at the London School of Economics

“…[‘Developmentalism’] was built on the twin values of economic independence and social justice. … Instead of supporting the developmentalist movement, [Western powers] set out on a decades-long campaign to topple the elected governments that were leading it and to install strongmen friendly to their [own] interests … It reflects an organized effort on the part of western powers to destroy the developmentalist movement that flowered in the global south after colonialism. They simply would not tolerate development if it restricted their access to resources and markets. The legacy of this history is that there is now greater inequality between the west and the rest than there was at the end of colonialism. … No one has been brought to justice for the coups and assassinations that destroyed the global south’s most promising attempt at development and crushed popular dreams of independence. Probably no one ever will. But we need to acknowledge that they happened, and stop pretending that the U.S., France, and Britain are benevolent champions of the poor” (3/5).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

Long-Term Financing For HIV Control In Sub-Saharan Africa Likely To Face Shortfall, Study Says

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: HIV/AIDS long-term costs high — and unaffordable to most-affected countries
“There will be a significant shortfall in the funding needed for HIV control in sub-Saharan Africa in the coming years and those countries with the highest HIV burden will be unable to meet their obligations on their own to sustain control efforts, according to a new study by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. They calculate that the price tag for providing long-term HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment in 2015-2050 in the nine sub-Saharan countries most affected by the epidemic ranges from $98 billion at current coverage levels to $261 billion if coverage is scaled up…” (3/6).

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Addressing Poverty Through Cash Transfers Gaining More Attention, Support

Humanosphere: Giving people money gaining momentum as new anti-poverty solution
Humanosphere reporter Tom Murphy discusses the use of cash transfers as a way to address poverty, noting, “The idea is attracting attention and support from a wide range of groups and individuals” (3/4).

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