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Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

U.N. High-Level Panel On Post-2015 Development Goals Agrees To 'End Extreme Poverty,' U.K. PM Cameron Says

A U.N. “High-Level Panel on a post-2015 global development agenda wrapped up [Wednesday] with consensus emerging on how to make a more equitable world, said British Prime Minister David Cameron in his role as co-chair of the body,” the U.N. News Centre reports. Cameron said the panel, including co-chairs “President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, ‘nailed our colors to the mast with one clear overarching aim — end extreme poverty in our world,'” the news service notes. “A statement released after the conclusion of the three-day meeting said the panel reiterated ‘the imperative need for a renewed global partnership that enables a transformative, people-centered and planet-sensitive development agenda, realized through the equal partnership of all stakeholders,'” the news service writes, noting, “The panel is due to present its report on 30 May to the Secretary-General, who participated in [the] discussions.” In a separate meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, “Ban thanked Mr. Cameron for his leadership and his support to the United Nations on several issues, including Somalia, Mali, Syrian refugees, the impressive level of U.K. development assistance, and the U.N.-backed Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria,” the U.N. News Centre adds (5/15).

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Developing Countries Spending Less Than Promised On Attaining MDGs, Report Says

“Countries are barely funding social protection, gender equality and climate change programs, crucial for meeting sustainable development goals after 2015, a report by Oxfam and Development Finance International (DFI) said on Thursday,” The Guardian reports. “Putting Progress at Risk, the first report to track what developing countries are spending on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), found most are spending much less than they promised, or has been estimated is needed by international organizations, on all the targets,” the newspaper writes, adding, “No spending target is on track: only one-third of developing countries are meeting promised or needed levels for health, one-quarter for education, and one-fifth for agriculture and water, sanitation and hygiene.”

“Although many had managed to increase spending in these areas, and in others such as education, this was funded by a large increase in borrowing,” The Guardian continues, noting, “Fears about rising debt, combined with recent aid cuts mean governments are now cutting back.” The newspaper writes, “Looking beyond 2015, the report noted that social protection, gender equality and climate change will be crucial areas if inequality is to be tackled,” adding, “U.N. experts last year mooted the idea of a $20 billion global fund to promote the creation of social safety nets for the most vulnerable people in poor countries.” In addition, “[t]he report suggested that developing countries needed to make data on MDG spending more accessible to their citizens, while donors were urged to report and repatriate illicit outflows, end laws and investment treaties that reduced poor countries’ revenue, increase innovative financing such as financial transaction and carbon taxes, and put more aid through developing country budgets” (Tran, 5/15).

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Saudi Arabia Reports 2 Health Workers Infected With nCoV, Further Evidencing Person-To-Person Transmission

“Two health workers in Saudi Arabia have become infected with a potentially fatal new SARS-like virus [known as novel coronavirus, or nCoV,] after catching it from patients in their care — the first evidence of such transmission within a hospital, the World Health Organization said,” Reuters reports. “The health workers are a 45-year-old man, who became ill on May 2 and is currently in a critical condition, and a 43-year-old woman with a coexisting health condition, who fell ill on May 8 and is in a stable condition, the WHO said,” the news service writes (Kelland, 5/15). “[T]he virus has likely already spread person-to-person in some circumstances, including between patients [in the same hospital room] in France,” the Associated Press notes (Stobbe, 5/15). However, “‘[t]his is the first time health care workers have been diagnosed with nCoV (novel coronavirus) infection after exposure to patients,’ the WHO said in a statement,” according to Agence France-Presse/Channel News Asia (5/16).

In related news, “[a] group of coronavirus experts has published its proposal to name [the] new, deadly virus after the Middle East, the region where it originates,” Science Insider reports. “In a short paper published online [Wednesday] by the Journal of Virology, the Coronavirus Study Group (CSG), along with several other scientists, recommends calling the pathogen Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV),” the news service writes (Enserink, 5/15). “Since last September, WHO says it has been informed of a global total of 40 laboratory confirmed cases of the virus, including 20 deaths,” AFP notes (5/16).

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Life Expectancy Continues To Increase Globally, But Some Countries See Fall, WHO Report Says

“People are living longer than ever and ‘dramatic’ gains in life expectancy show no sign of slowing down, the [WHO] said on Wednesday,” Reuters reports, noting the release of the WHO’s annual World Health Statistics 2013 report. “‘The global life expectancy has increased from 64 years in 1990 to 70 years in 2011. That’s dramatic,’ Colin Mathers, coordinator for mortality and burden of disease at the WHO, said,” the news agency writes. “Much of the global increase is due to a rapid fall in child mortality over the past decade, as well as improvements in China and India, which have both seen a seven-year jump in average life expectancy at birth since 1990,” Reuters states, noting, “Life expectancy has fallen in North Korea, South Africa, Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Libya since 1990, a year that serves as the baseline for the United Nations Millennium Development Goals” (Miles, 5/15). The report, “which compares progress made by countries with the best health status and those with least-favorable health status over the past two decades, shows that considerable progress has been made in the areas of reducing child and maternal deaths, improving nutrition, and reducing deaths and illness from HIV infections, tuberculosis and malaria,” the U.N. News Centre notes (5/15). GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog summarizes the report’s findings on child health (Miley, 5/15).

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Financial Times Examines Intellectual Property Debate In India

The Financial Times examines how the “struggle of educated, middle-class patients to obtain cutting-edge medicine … has led to a showdown between India and western pharmaceutical companies over the patents and prices of lifesaving drugs” in the country. The newspaper writes, “Western drugmakers fear India will inspire other emerging markets to challenge their patents,” adding, “They have accused India of trampling on their intellectual property rights after a series of decisions overriding, revoking or refusing patents on cancer and hepatitis C drugs from Bayer, Pfizer, Roche and Novartis.”

“At a recent U.S. congressional hearing, Roy Waldron, Pfizer’s chief intellectual property officer, complained that New Delhi had ‘routinely flouted trade rules to bolster the Indian generics industry,'” the Financial Times continues. However, “Indian generics executives and patients activists say the reality is more nuanced,” the newspaper notes, adding, “They argue that India’s courts are trying to balance drug companies’ intellectual property rights against the need for affordable medicine for 1.2 billion Indians.” The Financial Times states, “India’s public health care system has virtually collapsed, with Indians paying 60 percent of their health care costs from their own pockets.” The newspaper provides a history of drug patent issues in the country, discusses the implications of the current debate on global and in-country drug markets, and highlights how issues in the country’s health care sector are contributing to the problem (Kazmin, 5/15).

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Tetanus Eliminated From More Than 30 High Priority Countries, U.N. Announces

The U.N. “and its partners [on Wednesday] announced that tetanus — one of the most deadly diseases a mother and her newborn can face — has been eliminated in more than 30 countries with previously high rates of the illness,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “Tetanus kills one newborn baby every nine minutes and almost all of these babies are born in poor families living in the most disadvantaged areas and communities,” the news service writes, adding that the disease is preventable with a three-dose immunization that costs about $2. “The broad-based Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus Elimination Initiative, in which various United Nations agencies participate, said that since 1999, over 118 million women of childbearing age have been vaccinated against tetanus in 52 countries,” the news service writes, adding, “Many of these women received their tetanus vaccine as part of a campaign which included other life-saving interventions for children — such as immunization against measles, Vitamin A supplements, de-worming tablets and information on umbilical cord care.” According to the U.N. News Centre, “In a news release, the Initiative said that despite the progress in over half the 59 priority countries, some 28 other countries have still not reached the elimination goal. The main challenges to eliminate the disease are a lack of access to communities because of insecurity, cultural barriers, competing priorities, and inadequate funding” (5/15).

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Editorials and Opinions

Proposed U.S. Budget Cuts To International, Domestic TB Programs Will Hamper Efforts To Fight Disease

“In 2011, tuberculosis [TB] killed 1.4 million people worldwide, almost as many as died from HIV/AIDS,” yet President Obama’s FY 2014 budget request proposes cuts to U.S. TB spending, Celine Gounder, a primary care doctor and specialist in infectious diseases and public health, writes in a Bloomberg View opinion piece. The proposed budget cuts “will severely hamper [USAID’s] efforts to contain the global spread of drug-resistant TB, and to expand access to better drugs,” she states. In addition, “public health spending on tuberculosis in the U.S. is also being cut,” she writes, noting proposed cuts to the CDC’s Tuberculosis Trial Consortium. “Instead of cutting funding for national and international programs — almost certainly leading to unnecessary deaths — the Obama administration should be moving in the opposite direction,” Gounder writes, concluding, “By strengthening the public health system to deliver essential TB services in the U.S. and abroad and expanding the number of TB drugs, we should be working to prevent all deaths from tuberculosis” (5/15).

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Mobile Technology A 'Key Tool' To Combat Maternal Mortality, Achieve MDGs

“While the time-saving benefits of smartphones are often cited, we rarely think about the life-saving benefits. But for women in developing nations, access to a smartphone can make the difference between life and death during childbirth,” Randi Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. “What if each of the one billion women living in low-and middle-income countries who own a cell phone could use those devices in the same way that many western moms do — to seek quick access to care or health information?” she asks, and writes, “We don’t just have to imagine the possibilities; action is already being taken in every corner of the world.”

“Doctors in rural hospitals are using apps that provide information about common birth complications that could help save a mother (and baby’s) life. And with Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action, a program that sends text messages to low-income women around the world about staying healthy during and after pregnancy, new and expectant moms can learn about safe breastfeeding practices, what vaccines children need and how to get them, proper medicine regimens, how to diagnose common diseases and more,” Zuckerberg notes, adding, “Another mobile health (mHealth) program called MoTeCH helps local health workers keep track of pregnant patients’ data by entering it into their phones.” She writes, “Mobile technology for moms is a key tool being used in efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” and she highlights the GBCHealth Conference, taking place in New York this week, noting the event “brings together businesses and allied leaders to deepen engagement on the world’s most pressing issues, including maternal and newborn health” (5/15).

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To Minimize Disabling Consequences Of Cerebral Malaria, Focus On Community-Based Prevention, Detection Programs

“Every year in sub-Saharan Africa, more than 500,000 children contract cerebral malaria — 110,000 of these will die and many others are left with neurological impairments that can affect their physical and intellectual functioning,” Mike Davies, former regional director, and Julian Eaton, senior mental health adviser for CBM, a disability charity, write in The Guardian’s “Global Development Professionals Network” blog. “Until recently, doctors have focused on the survival of patients with cerebral malaria and not on long-term outcomes,” they write, adding, “As a result, the number of patients who have developed chronic neuro-cognitive dysfunction following malaria has been underestimated and under-reported.” Therefore, “[m]uch more effort is needed to campaign for increased government support for services that help to minimize the disabling consequences of disease, including cerebral malaria,” they state.

“It is estimated that only around 15 percent of people with severe mental and neurological illness in sub-Saharan Africa can access the care they need,” Davies and Eaton write, adding, “In the field of neurological impairment, the gap between needs and resources can be partly addressed using a twin-track approach of advocacy for greater government support, combined with grassroots work — often by local [non-governmental organizations (NGOs)] — to prevent malaria and to provide early detection and intervention services.” They conclude, “Mitigating the disabling consequences of neurological impairment through community-based early detection and intervention activities remains the best hope for an improved quality of life of many thousands of children in Africa and elsewhere” (5/15).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

GAVI Alliance-Supported HPV Vaccine Campaign To Reach 30M Girls

Writing in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Dagfinn Høybråten, chair of the GAVI Alliance Board, notes the GAVI Alliance’s campaign to provide vaccines for human papillomavirus (HPV), the leading cause of cervical cancer, to women worldwide, and states, “By 2020, we estimate that countries will have immunized more than 30 million girls in 40 countries against this silent killer.” He continues, “Making HPV vaccine available to girls in developing countries marks a huge step for GAVI,” because “[f]or the first time we will help countries offer vaccination to girls of school age” instead of infants. “Prevention is usually better than treatment. This is never more true than when the opportunity to prevent comes in the form of a simple vaccination while the diagnosis and treatment is, in many cases, simply not accessible,” Høybråten writes, concluding, “It fills me with pride to know that the GAVI Alliance is at the forefront of ensuring that women in developing countries have access to the same vaccines as their counterparts in the industrialized world” (5/16).

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Proposed Food Aid Reform Will Help Long-Term Agricultural Goals In U.S., Abroad

“[A]s an agricultural advocate for Oxfam America, being productive means supporting sisters and brothers around the world to farm as I do and help feed their neighbors,” former farmer and rancher Jim French, agriculture advocacy lead at Oxfam America, writes in the organization’s blog. “As a member of the Farm Bureau, … I am so disappointed that the Farm Bureau would distort the need for [proposed food aid] reforms in a recent editorial,” he states, adding, “American Farm Bureau Federation President Stallman calls in to question the accountability and efficacy of using cash, rather than shipping food.” However, French notes “[t]he proposed reforms don’t eliminate U.S.-produced commodities from being used for aid” because “the majority of emergency food aid will remain in that form.” He concludes, “While emergency food aid may be a band-aid for a day, our support of long-term agricultural programs and market development helps create stability, more food, and new customers for our own goods” (5/15).

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Partnerships Are Necessary To Improve Global Health

Writing in USAID’s “IMPACTblog” as part of a series on the agency’s activities in global health, Hope Randall, child health communications associate at PATH, discusses the importance of partnership and integration and says “one of the most exciting partnership activities was the recent global [non-governmental organization (NGO)] response to the Integrated Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia and Diarrhea (GAPPD).” She continues, “More than 100 NGOs with diverse focus areas and geographies supported this integrated approach by signing onto a community statement and more than 40 global leaders and experts in the field lent their voices to the effort,” some through a social media campaign. Randall concludes, “For the Global Action Plan to truly be actionable, partnership efforts must cascade to the local level. That’s why PATH and World Vision developed a toolkit to enhance the efforts of our colleagues advocating for change at the national, subnational, and community levels. From conception to implementation, partnerships are taking the movement forward” (5/15).

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Examining Mobile Technology Use In Global Health

“Mobile applications — or ‘apps’ — seem to be the latest craze in mobile technology for global health programming,” Amanda Glassman, director of global health policy and a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD), and Kate McQueston, a program coordinator to the global health policy team at the center, write in the organization’s blog. “The proliferation of these apps is converging around a growing interest in open (and big) data, so you don’t have to look far to find creative ways they are being used to collect and display data in the development sector,” they continue, highlighting several apps available from USAID and other health and development agencies. They add, “While mobile apps seem promising, it remains to be seen if they will be able to overcome many of the same issues mHealth [technologies] have faced” (5/15).

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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.