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Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

Food Security Campaign Asks U.K. Prime Minister To Increase Efforts To Address Issue

U.K. Prime Minister “David Cameron’s pledge to reduce the number of malnourished children by 20 million by 2020 will ‘ring hollow’ unless he redoubles his efforts to tackle the issue, according to leading aid agencies,” The Guardian reports. As Cameron “prepares to meet [U.S. President] Barack Obama in the White House on Monday, the Enough Food for Everyone If campaign has sent a letter to Cameron warning that Britain has failed to prepare the ground before the Nutrition for Growth summit on 8 June when he is due to join forces with Microsoft founder Bill Gates,” co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the newspaper writes, noting “the campaign group, comprising more than 100 U.K. charities, warns that Britain has failed to do the basic legwork ahead of the nutrition summit.” In the letter, “Enough Food for Everyone If points out that at least a third of all child deaths are due to malnutrition but warns that only 0.3 percent of global aid is spent on tackling the problem directly,” The Guardian adds (Watt, 5/12).

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Direct References To Women's Sexual, Reproductive Health Rights Needed In Post-2015 Development Goals, European Parliament Group Hears

“Explicit references to women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights must appear in any new set of development targets, and the U.N. panel producing a first draft must be bold and seek real change, a conference of [European] parliamentarians heard on Thursday,” The Guardian reports. “Baroness Glenys Kinnock, honorary co-president of the Labour Campaign for International Development and a former [member of the European Parliament], told the European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development that women should be listened to, so that their needs — rather than what [non-governmental organizations (NGOs)] and governments think they need — are met,” and “[s]he criticized moves by conservatives, such as some members of the G77 group of developing countries and the Holy See, for trying to block progress for women,” the newspaper writes and summarizes her comments.

The U.N. panel “is expected to publish its report this month, following meetings in London, Monrovia and Bali since October” 2012, the newspaper notes. “Thursday’s conference, held in London, heard of a growing backlash against women’s rights that became acutely apparent at this year’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), which advocated agreement on ending violence against women and girls,” The Guardian writes and includes comments from Diego Palacios, a post-2015 coordinator at the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) (Ford, 5/10).

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Health Experts Concerned About Novel Coronavirus As It Continues To Spread In Saudi Arabia, France

“Two more people have died from novel coronavirus, a new strain of the virus similar to the one that caused SARS, in an outbreak in al-Ahsa region of Saudi Arabia, the deputy health minister for public health said on Sunday,” Reuters reports. “Ziad Memish said that in the latest cluster of infections, 15 cases had been confirmed, and nine of those patients had died,” the news service notes (McDowall, 5/12). In addition, “France has confirmed a second case of [the virus], authorities said Sunday, as they increased efforts to inform the public about how to avoid the illness and watch for its signs,” the Associated Press writes (Krivokapic, 5/12). “The second patient diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, known as NCoV, was in the same room as a man with the infection at Valenciennes hospital from April 27 to 29,” according to CNN (Almasy, 5/12). “Three people who came into contact with France’s [first] confirmed case of coronavirus have tested negative for the SARS-like disease, … Health Minister Marisol Touraine said on Saturday,” Reuters adds in a separate article (Frost, 5/11).

“Health experts are concerned about clusters of the new coronavirus strain, NCoV, which was first spotted in the Gulf and has spread to France, Britain and Germany,” Reuters reports in a third article (Frost, 5/12). “A two-man [WHO] mission traveled to Saudi Arabia this week to study the … situation there, said the health organization Friday,” according to Xinhua (5/10). WHO “officials said on Sunday it seemed likely [NCoV] could be passed between humans, but only after prolonged contact,” Reuters writes in another article (McDowell, 5/13). “‘This pattern of person-to-person transmission has remained limited to some small clusters and so far, there is no evidence to suggest the virus has the capacity to sustain generalized transmission in communities,’ [a WHO] statement adds,” BBC News notes (5/12). “At this point, several urgent actions are needed,” the statement says, adding, “The most important ones are the need for countries, both inside and outside of the region, to increase their levels of awareness among all people but especially among staff working in their health systems and to increase their levels of surveillance about this new infection” (5/12).

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MAMA Initiative Using Mobile Technologies To Help Mothers, Newborns In South Africa

PBS Newshour’s “The Rundown” blog examines “the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action, affectionately known as MAMA — a global movement that uses mobile technologies to improve the health and lives of mothers in developing nations.” According to the blog, “MAMA provides pregnant women and new mothers with vital information and support using their mobile phones, through five different channels, including an interactive website, text messages, social networking and voicemails,” and “[w]omen are charged one rand (about 10 cents) to sign up for the MAMA services” (Cheers, 5/10). According to a press release from the United Nations Foundation, one of the program’s sponsors, MAMA “kicked off its two-year anniversary early with the national launch of MAMA South Africa [on Thursday], its second mobile health program.” The press release notes, “MAMA is a global partnership, launched on Mother’s Day 2011 by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, which provides free, adaptable mobile messages to 140 organizations in 50 countries” (5/9).

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Cambodia On Track To Eliminate New HIV Infections By 2020, WHO Says

“Cambodia is on track to become one of the few countries in the world to successfully reverse its HIV epidemic and may eliminate new infections by 2020, the [WHO] said Friday,” Agence France-Presse reports. “The Southeast Asian nation has reduced its HIV prevalence rate from a 1998 peak of 1.7 percent among people aged 15-49 to 0.7 percent in 2012 across the whole population, the WHO said in a joint statement with the Cambodian health ministry,” the news agency writes. Almost 75,000 people are living with HIV in Cambodia, but “new infections have dropped from around 15,500 annually in the early 1990s to about 2,100 in 2009 and 1,000 in 2011, the statement said,” AFP notes. However, the statement “cautioned the 2020 target could be missed without continued investment in HIV prevention and care for the sick,” the news agency states, noting, “External partners fund 90 percent of the country’s AIDS program, which costs just over $50 million a year” (5/10).

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Wall Street Journal Examines Motivation Behind Melinda Gates's Focus On Family Planning

The Wall Street Journal examines how traveling the world inspired Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to “ma[ke] a bold and controversial pledge to help women in the developing world get better access to contraception” a little more than a year ago. “Declaring family planning to be her priority issue wasn’t an easy choice for the Ms. Gates, 48 years old, who was raised Catholic,” the newspaper notes, adding, “Some Catholic groups … disagree with Ms. Gates’s stance.” But “[i]n her travels across sub-Saharan and South Asia over more than a decade, Ms. Gates says she had seen the same scene play out over and over,” the newspaper writes, adding, “Women she met with to talk about vaccines would ask her how they could get birth control,” such as Depo-Provera. The Wall Street Journal notes, “About 222 million women in the developing world in 2012 who were sexually active and did not want to get pregnant did not use modern contraceptive methods, according to the Guttmacher Institute.”

“At a summit last summer hosted by the Gates Foundation and the U.K. Department for International Development, donors pledged $2.6 billion — $300 million more than the hosts had hoped to raise — to bring voluntary family planning services to 120 million more women in the world’s poorest countries by 2020,” the Wall Street Journal continues, adding, “Gates also has her eye on reducing deaths of newborns, a cause to which the Gates Foundation also contributes” (McKay, 5/11).

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CBS News Interviews Bill Gates On '60 Minutes'

CBS News’s “60 Minutes” on Sunday aired “Bill Gates 2.0,” a video interview with correspondent Charlie Rose and Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. According to the program transcript, Gates explains in the interview “why he thinks inventions are the key to success, and just what he intends to accomplish with his time, intellect and $67 billion fortune, starting with his plans to knock out some of the world’s deadliest diseases” (5/12).

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Editorials and Opinions

'Time Has Come For Some Fresh Thinking' On U.S. Food Aid Program

“Among the more laudable ideas in President Obama’s budget for fiscal 2014 is a plan to modernize and reform the $1.5 billion U.S. food aid program,” a Washington Post editorial states. Noting some of the proposed changes, the editorial writes, “Obama’s plan has run into political opposition on Capitol Hill” as “[m]embers of Congress from both parties have objected, citing the potential losses for U.S. farmers, ports, ships and merchant seamen.”  The newspaper notes, “On April 5, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) sent a letter to the president arguing that his plan ‘would significantly reduce the amount of U.S. farm products our nation could provide to those in need around the world. It would also threaten our national security preparedness by reducing the domestic sealift capacity on which our U.S. military depends.'” Gerald Connolly (D-Va.), a signatory to the letter “said that Mr. Obama’s plan would make sense in ‘an ideal world,’ but that political realities are such that foreign aid cannot get funding unless domestic U.S. constituencies also benefit,” the editorial continues.

The “rationale is a familiar one — indeed, it was part of the Eisenhower administration’s original argument for food aid,” the newspaper writes, adding, “But poor people abroad have been hostage to interest-group politics in the U.S. long enough.” The editorial continues, “The time has come for some fresh thinking of the sort Rajiv Shah, Mr. Obama’s foreign aid administrator, is trying to introduce,” adding, “Among the many points Mr. Shah makes are that food aid shipments have declined by 64 percent in the last decade anyway, so it’s a bit late for farmers and merchant mariners to be claiming that they can’t survive without them.” The newspaper concludes, “Perhaps it’s true that funding for foreign aid, always politically tenuous, has depended on greasing interest groups. But it’s also true that foreign aid depends on persuading taxpayers in general that their funds are being well spent. And there are more taxpayers than special interests” (5/12).

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Sustained Funding Necessary To Fight HIV/AIDS Among Women

“Mother’s Day is a celebration of life and reflects the importance of women to their families, communities and countries. However, worldwide HIV/AIDS robs women and girls of their potential and health,” Susan Blumenthal, Huffington Post’s public health editor and former assistant U.S. surgeon general, and Annie Chen, a fellow at amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, write in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. “Improving women’s health will … enhance the health of families, communities and countries,” they write. “Yet support for lifesaving women’s HIV/AIDS programs globally is now in jeopardy,” they state and cite proposed cuts to federal spending on global health issues.

“What is urgently needed, instead, are intensified efforts to save the lives of women, including those who are pregnant and new mothers, employing a comprehensive and multifaceted approach,” Blumenthal and Chen write, detailing programs they feel should be strengthened and highlighting a graphic from amfAR “that compares the Obama administration, U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate budget proposals.” They continue, “Insufficient funding for HIV/AIDS initiatives will shortchange those who are most vulnerable, particularly women, who now represent half of all people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide,” concluding, “So starting this Mother’s Day, let’s strengthen our work together to deliver a world to women that is free from the threat of HIV/AIDS” (5/12).

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Save The Children, GlaxoSmithKline Partnership Raises Questions About Future Direction Of NGO, Development Work

“[T]he union of Save the Children and GlaxoSmithKline, launched [last week] in Kenya, is something of a landmark moment. It raises questions about Big Pharma and about the future direction of [non-governmental organizations (NGOs)] and development as a whole,” Guardian health editor Sarah Boseley writes in the newspaper’s “Comment is Free” blog. “Save the Children and GSK talk of the five-year partnership as a groundbreaking new deal,” she notes, adding, “GSK will reformulate products and develop others in line with Save the Children’s advice on what poor countries really need to save babies’ lives, while helping to train health workers.” She continues, “GSK’s chief executive, Sir Andrew Witty, says it is all about speeding things up. … Witty and Save’s chief executive, Justin Forsyth, have been moving towards this union for some time.”

“For Save, this is a pragmatic move,” Boseley states, noting, “Money is short in development and getting shorter as the economic situation does not improve. … All aid organizations are looking for more help. Big Pharma has shedloads of cash.” She continues, “But does the link-up of GSK and Save wash away the sins of Big Pharma? It will do GSK’s reputation no harm at all, but it won’t stop the criticism.” Boseley writes, “It was muted yesterday, because NGOs do not want to throw mud at each other, but there were plenty who did not feel like throwing confetti. If GSK really wants to do good, says Médecins Sans Frontières, it should pledge truly low prices for all its HIV drugs in the developing world.” She concludes, “The partners aim to save the lives of a million babies. It’s hard to argue with that. And it’s a safe bet they will. But the debate over whether this is the best way to do it will run and run” (5/10).

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Rational Discussion About Flu Pandemic Risks Necessary

In his Wall Street Journal column “Mind and Matter,” Matt Ridley writes that the new H7N9 avian flu strain “is spreading alarm” and “has infected about 130 people and killed more than 30.” He continues, “Every time this happens, some journalists compete to foment fear, ably assisted by cautious but worried scientists, and then tell the world to keep calm. We need a new way to talk about the risk of a flu pandemic, because the overwhelming probability is that this virus will kill people, yes, but not in vast numbers.”

He briefly summarizes the histories of different flu strains and writes, “In casual-contact diseases, there is a general tendency for virulence to decline,” not become more lethal, because a virus’s job is to infect as many people as possible, which is easier when people live longer and have more contact with others. “Ironically, the most worrying sign for a bird-flu pandemic would be if the virulence dropped significantly — then it could spread. There are signs this might be happening in Egypt” with H5N1, he states, concluding, “There’s no mystery as to why we talk up the risk every time: All the incentives point that way. Who among the headline-seeking journalists, reader-seeking editors, fund-seeking scientists, contract-seeking vaccine makers or rear-end-covering politicians has even a modest incentive to say: ‘It may not be as bad as all that’?” (5/10).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

Special Mother's Day Message From HHS Secretary Sebelius

“As Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it is important for me to take a moment and reflect on our responsibility to support safe motherhood for everyone, everywhere,” Kathleen Sebelius writes in an article on the Saving Mothers, Giving Life webpage. “Our work at the department is to ensure all Americans live healthier lives,” she continues. “We are also engaging with global partners to ensure all women around the world have a safe and healthy pregnancy and delivery,” she writes, adding, “Saving Mothers, Giving Life is a public-private partnership that seeks to help countries aggressively reduce maternal mortality” by “help[ing] countries build capacities to ensure mothers receive the essential care and resources they need during labor, delivery, and the first 24-hours after birth — the most vulnerable period for mothers and their newborn children” (5/12).

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Option B+ Gaining Momentum Worldwide

Noting Sunday was Mother’s Day, Ambassador Eric Goosby, head of the U.S. State Department’s Office of Global Health Diplomacy and the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, writes in the State Department’s “DipNote” blog, “One way that we can help to support women — and their children — is by ensuring that all mothers receive the essential health services they need, including for HIV.” He highlights a “new and potentially revolutionary tool that has greatly simplified the approach to” preventing mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) — Option B+ — which he states “offers all pregnant or breastfeeding women living with HIV lifelong [antiretroviral therapy], rather than relying on laboratory testing to determine eligibility for treatment.” He continues, “Remarkably, not only can Option B+ reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV to less than five percent, but it also maintains the mother’s health, provides lifelong reduction of HIV transmission to uninfected sexual partners, and supports PMTCT in future pregnancies.” Goosby concludes, “By improving our ability to expand access to lifesaving HIV treatment for mothers and preventing transmission to their infants, Option B+ will be a game-changer in our collective push to achieve an AIDS-free generation” (5/12).

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Working Toward Clean Cookstoves, Fuels For 100M Households By 2020

“The seemingly simple act of cooking a meal is responsible for four million deaths each year” and is the fourth leading health risk in the world, Radha Muthiah, executive director of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, writes in USAID’s “IMPACTblog” as part of a May series examining the agency’s global health work. She continues, “When burned in open fires and basic stoves, solid fuels emit a harmful smoke that causes a range of cancers, heart and lung diseases, developmental and neurological impacts, cataracts, and more.” Muthiah adds, “Inefficient and dangerous cooking practices are also a major cause of burns, and the acts of collecting and burning fuelwood lead to deforestation and the release of climate-changing gases, respectively.” She discusses the actions of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves and “its goal … for 100 million households to adopt clean cookstoves and fuels by the year 2020” (5/11).

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Examining Use Of Mobile Technology To Save Lives

“The development field has been exploring for years ways to harness the power of technology to benefit those in need, especially mobile technology, which can reach people in remote areas who need food, health, education, and other assistance quickly and well,” Kent Hill, senior vice president of World Vision writes in USAID’s “IMPACTblog” as part of a May series examining the agency’s global health work. “Health is an area in which the benefits of mobile technology are obvious,” he states, adding, “One initiative World Vision is especially proud of is our mobile health (mHealth) projects in 13 countries.” He continues, “To support mHealth, World Vision has strategically partnered with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Grameen Foundation, and Dimagi to create and deploy a World Vision version of the Gates-funded MOTECH Suite (MTS), a sustainable, scalable, open source mobile solution,” and he describes the initiative (5/10).

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