KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

U.S. House Approves $622M Zika Funding Bill Despite President Obama's Veto Warning

Associated Press: House GOP presses ahead with Zika measure
“House Republicans on Wednesday pushed through a $622 million bill to battle the Zika virus, setting up challenging negotiations with the Senate and the White House. The 241-184 House vote broke mostly along party lines as Democrats lined up in opposition, heeding a White House veto threat and a warning from a top government health official that the bill wouldn’t do enough to respond to the growing threat from Zika…” (5/18).

The Hill: House approves $622M Zika funding bill
“…All but four Republicans who cast votes were in favor of the bill, which funds federal research, prevention and treatment efforts for the next six months. President Obama has warned he would veto the bill, which a White House spokesman recently blasted as ‘a dumb approach.’ The House’s bill is about half of the Senate’s funding package of $1.1 billion, which is intended to last through September 2017. The Senate advanced that bill on Tuesday…” (Ferris, 5/18).

The Hill: House GOP vows ‘hundreds of millions’ more for Zika response
“A leading Republican said Wednesday the House will ultimately approve just as much Zika virus funding — if not more — than the Senate, in an attempt to resolve the funding fight within the GOP. Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who manages health spending on the House Appropriations Committee, said ‘there will be hundreds of millions’ of dollars for the Zika virus in the annual spending bill this year…” (Ferris, 5/18).

The Hill: House Dems object to abortion limits in Zika bill
“A group of Democrats is objecting to the House’s bill funding a response to the Zika virus in part because it continues restrictions on federal funding for abortions. … ‘By including Hyde language that denies access to abortions for women receiving Medicaid, women in the Peace Corps and military, federal workers and others, it continues discriminatory policies that deny women vital reproductive health care services based on their income, their insurance, and where they work,’ the lawmakers said in a statement. The Senate’s compromise Zika funding measure, which also includes Hyde restrictions, advanced on Tuesday without abortion-related objections…” (Sullivan, 5/18).

Reuters: House approves $622 million to combat Zika virus
“…House Republicans argue their bill, when coupled with $589 million the Obama administration already shifted to Zika from unused funds to battle Ebola, would provide enough money through Sept. 30, the end of this fiscal year. It was unclear how long it might take the Senate and House to work out their differences once they pass their respective bills…” (Beech/Cowan, 5/18).

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U.S. Senate Republicans Block Democrats' Stand-Alone Zika Spending Bill Proposals; Sen. Shaheen Urges WHO To Rethink Advice On Rio Olympics

CQ News: Zika Aid Prompts New Senate Spat Over Spending Levels
“The debate over Zika funding reached a fever pitch on the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon, as lawmakers sparred over competing standalone proposals to provide extra appropriations to combat the spread of the mosquito-borne virus. … The Senate drama demonstrated Democrats are concerned Zika aid won’t get to the president’s desk quickly enough unless it’s pulled out of a larger appropriations package…” (Mejdrich, 5/18).

Foreign Policy: Senator to WHO: Take Another Look at Whether The Olympics Is Such a Great Idea
“The 2016 Olympics in Brazil: a month-long sporting jaunt that brings a conflict-ridden world together? Or a Zika-spreading international mistake? U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) would like to prevent the games from becoming the latter. She sent a letter Tuesday night to Margaret Chan, the director general of the World Health Organization, calling for a ‘comprehensive evaluation’ of the public health risks presented by the games…” (Alpert, 5/18).

The Hill: Senate Republicans block stand-alone Zika bills
“Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked a Democratic push to pass stand-alone legislation funding the federal response to the Zika virus. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) first blocked a request from Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to pass a stand-alone bill to provide $1.9 billion to fight the Zika virus…” (Carney, 5/18).

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The Economist Examines U.S. Congress's Actions On Zika, History Of Outbreak Response Funding

The Economist: Why Americans will be more vulnerable to Zika than they should be
“…The refusal of Republican congressmen to meet Barack Obama’s request for $1.9 billion to fight the Zika virus, which culminated this week in both congressional chambers voting to release much lesser sums, shows American democracy at its worst. … Republican-controlled Houses have form in such matters. The $5.4 billion they granted Mr. Obama in 2015 to fight Ebola was around $800m less than the president had requested; the $3.8 billion they gave George Bush in 2006 to prepare against a flu pandemic was $3.3 billion less. That is one reason America is so unprepared for Zika; ‘We have a history of underestimating public health emergencies,’ says Jennifer Kates of the Kaiser Family Foundation. Yet the contrast between the imminent tragedy of Zika in America and the political hay some Republican congressmen have made of it is especially unsavory…” (J.A., 5/18).

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Podcasts Address Issues Surrounding U.S. Response To Zika Outbreak

POLITICO: Ebola czar: America failing on Zika
“…Ron Klain, who served as White House Ebola czar and as Vice President Joe Biden’s chief of staff, told POLITICO’s ‘Pulse Check’ podcast that Congress has failed to heed the lessons of the Ebola epidemic and that the Zika funding battle has become unforgivably partisan in the face of such dire human costs, including severe brain defects in infants…” (Diamond, 5/18).

Roll Call: Podcast: Congress Has Caught the Zika Bug
In this podcast, Adriel Bettelheim, managing editor of CQ Roll Call, interviews “CQ budget and economics editor Jane Norman on politics and the public health threat posed by the Zika virus” (5/18).

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Europe At Low-To-Moderate Risk Of Zika Spread In Spring, Summer, WHO Says

Agence France-Presse: WHO urges European vigilance against Zika virus
“The World Health Organization on Wednesday urged Europe to be vigilant ahead of a possible summer outbreak of the Zika virus, especially in the Black Sea coastal areas of Georgia and Russia…” (Billing, 5/18).

New York Times: WHO Cites Low to Moderate Risk of Zika’s Imminent Spread to Europe
“The World Health Organization said on Wednesday that there was a low-to-moderate risk of the mosquito-borne Zika virus spreading to Europe in the spring and summer, as the group’s director general warned that researchers were increasingly concerned about the threat posed by the disease…” (Cumming-Bruce, 5/18).

U.N. News Centre: U.N. health agency foresees low to moderate risk of Zika virus spread in Europe
“… ‘With this risk assessment, we at WHO want to inform and target preparedness work in each European country based on its level of risk. We call particularly on countries at higher risk to strengthen their national capacities and prioritize the activities that will prevent a large Zika outbreak,’ [Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO regional director for Europe,] added…” (5/18).

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New York Times Examines Brazil's Abortion Laws, Challenges Facing Pregnant Women, Physicians In Light Of Zika Outbreak

New York Times: Brazil’s Abortion Restrictions Compound Challenge of Zika Virus
“…This video documents several challenges facing pregnant women and their doctors in a country where access to legal abortions is severely restricted, and where Zika has compounded fears about birth defects, adding a new layer of health complications. Some women have sought illegal abortions before knowing whether their babies had microcephaly…” (McDonald, 5/18).

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U.S., E.U., Canada Protest Islamic Countries' Move To Block Some Groups From Attending U.N. AIDS Meeting

New York Times: U.N. AIDS Meeting Faces Dispute Over 22 Barred Groups
“The United Nations is scheduled to host a global meeting to stop the AIDS epidemic. Should groups that represent transgender people or drug users be allowed to participate? No, according to a number of countries that belong to the 193-member General Assembly. And they have managed to block the participation of nearly two dozen organizations, from countries as diverse as Cameroon, Jamaica, and Russia. … The blacklisted organizations and their supporters have loudly objected…” (Sengupta, 5/18).

Reuters: Muslim states block gay groups from U.N. AIDS meeting; U.S. protests
“…Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, wrote to General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft and said the groups appeared to have been blocked for involvement in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender advocacy. … U.N. officials said the European Union and Canada also wrote to Lykketoft to protest the objections by the [Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)] group, whose members include Saudi Arabia, Iran, Indonesia, Sudan, and Uganda…” (Nichols, 5/17).

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U.K.'s Review On Antimicrobial Resistance Releases Final Report, Makes Recommendations To Alleviate Market Failures

The Atlantic: The Plan to Avert Our Post-Antibiotic Apocalypse
“…The scope of [drug resistance] is clear in [economist Jim] O’Neill’s final report, which launches … on the back of eight earlier interim publications. It is as thorough a review of the problem of drug-resistant infections as currently exists. … The report’s language is sober but its numbers are apocalyptic. If antibiotics continue to lose their sting, resistant infections will sap $100 trillion from the world economy between now and 2050, equivalent to $10,000 for every person alive today. Ten million people will die every year, roughly one every three seconds, and more than currently die from cancer…” (Yong, 5/19).

Bloomberg: Jim O’Neill Has a Plan to Make Big Pharma Avert Armageddon
“…Companies that don’t devote resources to develop antibiotics should pay a levy of 0.25 percent of annual sales into a pooled fund to support market rewards for rivals who successfully develop new treatments, said Jim O’Neill, who chaired the government’s Review on Antimicrobial Resistance. … Acknowledging market failures that led to a dearth of new antibiotics, O’Neill’s final 84-page report released Thursday recommends a lump sum payment of as much as $1.3 billion as a reward for a successful developer of a new antibiotic drug. Other suggestions included taxes on antibiotics and transferable vouchers to let successful developers go to the front of the line for any drug awaiting regulatory approval…” (Fourcade/Baker, 5/18).

CNBC: ‘Superbugs’ could cost $100 trillion — and millions of lives — by 2050: Report
“…According to a global review on antimicrobial resistance (AMR), drug-resistant infections are ‘one of the biggest health threats that mankind currently faces’ and there are fears of pandemics becoming more of a norm as antibiotics lose their efficacy…” (Ellyat, 5/19).

The Guardian: No antibiotics without a test, says report on rising antimicrobial resistance
“A blueprint to end the scourge of antimicrobial resistance proposes that drug companies should foot the bill for the development of new antibiotics and that patients should not be able to get them without a test to ensure they are needed…” (Boseley, 5/18).

Reuters: Industry hits back at idea of pharma levy in superbug fight
“The drug industry hit back on Thursday at a proposal to charge firms a levy to help fund development of new antibiotics and said the idea, set out in a high-level U.K. review of drug-resistant superbugs, would ‘undermine goodwill’…” (Hirschler, 5/19).

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WHO Director-General Candidate Douste-Blazy Proposes Small International Tax To Help Fund U.N. Health Agency

Associated Press: Candidate for U.N. health chief eyes global tax to help WHO
“A French diplomat competing to be the world’s top health official says a tiny international tax can help fill the World Health Organization’s coffers, a proposal aimed at bringing order to the U.N. agency’s fragmented budget. Dr. Philippe Douste-Blazy told journalists at the Foreign Ministry in Paris that ‘micropayments’ tacked on to as-yet-undetermined international business operations could support WHO’s budget…” (5/18).

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Lancet Series Examines Burden Of Untreated Mental Health Disorders In India, China

New York Times: China and India Burdened by Untreated Mental Disorders
“The growing burden of untreated mental disorders in the world’s two most populous countries, India and China, cannot be adequately addressed without changes to their health care systems and by training folk healers to become collaborators, a new report has found. The analysis, published as a part of a series in the journals The Lancet and The Lancet Psychiatry, draws on years of medical surveys in those countries…” (Carey, 5/18).

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Editorials and Opinions

Eliminating TB Requires U.S. Leadership, Investment In Research To Develop New Vaccines, Drugs

New York Times: Eliminate the TB Scourge
Uvistra Naidoo, pediatrician and research scientist

“…Today we have an ineffective TB vaccine, insufficient diagnostic tools, TB drugs with pernicious side effects, a growing problem of bacterial resistance to current treatments, and an inexplicable lack of urgency, even though one-third of the planet’s population is infected by TB, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. … Where is the reflection of this reality in research priorities and overlying policies? … TB control and prevention have not been embraced [the way other diseases, like Ebola, have been] despite the disease’s extraordinary global impact and cost. … The world urgently needs President Obama’s leadership on this. But his global health budget request for the coming year would cut TB aid funding by 19 percent. … Drug-resistant TB can and must be confronted — but researchers and health care experts need the money to develop new vaccines and drugs…” (5/19).

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Development Policies, Programs Must Account For 'Inextricable Link' Between Nutrition, Gender Equality

Project Syndicate: The Right Diet for Gender Equality
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, chair of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, and Lawrence Haddad, lead author of the upcoming 2016 Global Nutrition Report

“…We can no longer treat gender discrimination and malnutrition as separate issues. The two are inextricably linked; they reinforce each other in a pattern that touches women at every stage of their lives. Malnutrition — in all of its forms — is both a cause and an effect of the profound power imbalance between men and women. … To improve nutrition outcomes for girls and women, we need to scale up proven nutrition interventions and ensure that other development programs take nutrition into account. … Development policies and programs must also take gender imbalances into consideration. … On June 14, the 2016 Global Nutrition Report will launch globally. The report aims to assess progress, improve accountability for meeting global commitments, and recommend actions for government and key stakeholders to end all forms of malnutrition by 2030. … The call for action to sever the link between nutrition and gender inequality must be loud enough to echo around the world. We must eliminate all factors that perpetuate gender inequality. And that starts with better nutrition for all…” (5/18).

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Decriminalizing LGBT Relationships, Sex Work Critical To Ending HIV

The Guardian: We will lose the battle against HIV without LGBT decriminalization
Bisi Alimi, founder of the Bisi Alimi Foundation

“…[O]ur biggest challenge in the fight against [HIV] is people’s reaction to those living with it. This must be addressed as the International AIDS Conference returns to Durban in July. … Efforts to decriminalize LGBT people’s relationships and lives must be at the forefront of discussions in Durban. … The continuous global criminalization of sex work also needs to stop. … There must also be an increased focus on sensitive and humane care and support for people living with HIV in Africa — this is the only way we will drive the epidemic down further. … As we prepare to return to Durban to discuss ‘Access equity rights now,’ we need to commit to ending stigma and discrimination, including eliminating legalized discrimination. Until we do, HIV prevention and treatment will not be accessible or equitable for all” (5/18).

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Opinion Pieces Discuss Issues Surrounding Health Care Delivery In, Funding For Humanitarian Crises

Devex: Delivering health care in crises
Ala Alwan, regional director of the Eastern Mediterranean region of the WHO

“…Clear laws and conventions prohibit attacks on health workers and facilities, yet in many places, they are being ignored. Despite repeated calls for the respect and protection of health care by the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross, these attacks continue, depriving people of their fundamental right to health, severely disrupting humanitarian operations and undermining health systems and long-term health development goals. We must not accept this as the status quo. … Unless immediate action is taken by all to protect health workers and health facilities, these attacks will continue, threatening to become the norm and sealing the fate of millions of people. … The summit is the opportunity for all of us to come together to make a strong call on all parties to armed conflict to respect the rules they have endorsed in international humanitarian and human rights law…” (5/18).

IRIN: Why more money alone won’t improve crisis response
Kristalina Georgieva, vice president of the European Commission

“…Putting humanitarian aid funding on a sustainable trajectory requires systemic change. … We ought to make the system simpler and more attuned to best practice. To make this happen, the donors and the implementers of aid need to come together to pioneer a model of collaborative efficiency that we decided to call … the Grand Bargain. The Grand Bargain is all about making more resources available on the frontline of needs, and spending less on administrative procedures that lead to waste because of duplications and overlaps. We desperately need to raise more money to fund humanitarian needs but this will only happen if we can get more bang for our buck. … Success will depend upon reaching a consensus around anticipation, transparency, research, and collaboration. … In a world increasingly vulnerable to shocks and strains, we can build confidence in our collective ability…” (5/18).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

BMJ Analysis Outlines Key Questions Next WHO Director General Should Address

The BMJ: Facing forward after Ebola: questions for the next director general of the World Health Organization
Devi Sridhar, professor of global public health, and colleagues discuss the election process for the next WHO director general and “outline the key questions on epidemics preparedness for prospective candidates,” writing, “Our primary goal is to convince political leaders worldwide to reflect hard on the type of director general they want to lead the WHO. While our questions have focused on global health security they touch on many other areas of global health and the work of the WHO. They show the different facets of leadership that are required to ensure that WHO has a key role in the coming years and decades and that an Ebola-like crisis never happens again. Business as usual cannot continue; transformative leadership is called for” (5/18).

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Phasing Out Coal Power Would Slow Climate Change, Improve Public Health

BMJ Blogs: Nick Watts: Why the global health community is calling on the G7 to pull the plug on coal
Nick Watts, director of the U.K. Health Alliance on Climate Change, discusses the impact of coal-fired power on public health, writing, “Health professionals from around the world have come together to suggest a key treatment to G7 leaders as they strive to lessen the burden of public health emergencies: phasing out coal-fired electricity. … Phasing out coal plants in favor of clean, renewable sources of electricity is the fastest way to simultaneously slow climate change and improve the health of millions globally, and it has a key third benefit of being hugely cost-effective…” (5/18).

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