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Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

President Obama Urges U.S. Congress To Act Quickly On Zika Funding; CDC Monitoring 279 Pregnant Women With Virus In U.S., Territories

ABC News: Zika Virus: President Obama Urges Congress to Pass Full Funding to Fight Virus
“President Obama urged Congress to pass the full $1.9 billion funding requested to fight the Zika virus hours after federal health officials reported a dramatic increase in the number of pregnant women being monitored for possible complications related to the virus…” (Mohney, 5/20).

Associated Press: Trying to get jump on Zika preparations with money in limbo
“Beg, borrow, and steal: Zika preparation involves a bit of all three as federal, state, and local health officials try to get a jump on the mosquito-borne virus while Congress haggles over how much money they really need…” (Loller et al., 5/23).

The Atlantic: The Count of American Zika Cases Just Got Bigger
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday that 279 pregnant women in the United States and its territories have tested positive for the Zika virus, which can cause the birth defect microcephaly…” (Kelly, 5/20).

Bloomberg: Congress Must Act on Zika Money, Obama Says as Infections Grow
“…Obama, who met with Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, and other top health officials on Friday, expressed frustration that Congress has been slow to act on his request for about $1.9 billion to prepare for the virus. Health officials say they expect local transmission of Zika in the continental U.S. by the summer…” (Olorunnipa, 5/20).

CQ News: Administration Presses Congress to Back Robust Zika Funding
“…Frieden spoke to CQ shortly after meeting with Obama and other top health officials at the White House. Obama afterward scolded the House approach, saying that ‘it doesn’t make a lot of sense.’ The president strongly urged Congress to finish work on Zika funding next week. ‘They should not be going off on recess before this is done,’ Obama said…” (Siddons, 5/20).

Foreign Policy: Dramatic Rise in Zika Cases Among Pregnant Women in the U.S.
“…News of the dramatic rise in Zika cases comes at the end of a week in which the White House and Congress are at odds over how much should be allocated to stop Zika’s spread. President Barack Obama has asked for $1.9 billion to fight it. Earlier [last] week, the Senate agreed to give the president $1.1 billion. The House balked at providing new funding, allocating $622 million in existing spending to stop the virus, spread by mosquitoes and sexual contact…” (Francis, 5/20).

The Hill: Obama to Congress: Give me Zika funding or skip recess
“…The CDC said earlier Friday it is monitoring nearly 300 pregnant women with the Zika virus. About half — a total of 122 pregnant women — live in Puerto Rico, which has been hit hard by the outbreak…” (Sullivan, 5/20).

The Hill: Fauci: ‘We can’t take our eye off the ball with Ebola’
“The head of infectious disease research at the National Institutes of Health said on Sunday the U.S. still needs to focus on the battle against the Ebola virus, criticizing those who have said the money left over from the fight against Ebola could be put toward the Zika virus…” (Savransky, 5/22).

New York Times: Obama Chides Congress Over Zika Funding
“The House and Senate are gearing up for a push before a Memorial Day break that President Obama said Congress should not take unless it got some very specific business done. … But chances of a quick compromise on the legislation seem dim…” (Hulse, 5/23).

New York Times: CDC Is Monitoring 279 Pregnant Women With Possible Zika Virus Infections
“…The rising numbers of pregnant American women testing positive — Friday’s figure is more than double the previous count of 113 — reflect a new case definition used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rather than a surge in cases, according to Dr. Margaret Honein, the chief of the agency’s birth defects division…” (McNeil, 5/20).

POLITICO: CDC: Nearly 300 Zika cases in pregnant women in U.S. and territories
“…The figure, based on tests of women with symptoms of the disease, probably underestimates the total number, the agency said. All of the U.S. infections occurred in women who had traveled abroad or, in rare cases, contracted the virus by infected sexual partners who returned from areas where the Zika is prevalent. In Puerto Rico, the virus is being transmitted by mosquitoes…” (Allen, 5/20).

Reuters: U.S. reports 279 Zika cases in pregnant women, Obama pushes Congress on funds
“…Obama wants the U.S. Congress to provide close to $1.9 billion for vaccine development, faster diagnostic tests, and new tools for killing the mosquitoes that carry the virus, which can cause a rare birth defect in newborns and neurological disorders in adults. ‘We’ve got to get moving,’ Obama told reporters after meeting top health officials in the Oval Office…” (Pierson/Rampton, 5/20).

Science: Zika funding too low in House, Senate bills, Obama says
“…On 22 February the White House requested $1.885 billion. The emergency appropriations proposal — which went into fine detail — gave $1.509 billion to HHS (which oversees NIH and CDC), $335 million to the U.S. Agency for International Development, and $41 million to the State Department. It took legislators almost three months to mull over the request and respond. And what prompted Obama’s ire [Friday] is their stance on the amount of money to be allocated, when it can be spent, and the strings attached to its use…” (Cohen, 5/20).

Wall Street Journal: CDC Says 279 Pregnant Women in U.S., Territories Infected With Zika
“…Overall, the CDC says 544 people in U.S. states and 836 people in U.S. territories have tested positive for Zika and had symptoms or complications as of May 12. The new numbers provide more fodder for negotiations in Congress over funding to combat Zika in the U.S. The Senate has approved a $1.1 billion plan, while the House has passed a $622 million bill…” (McKay, 5/20).

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News Outlets Examine U.S. Congressional Actions On Zika Response Funding, Potentially Larger Role For Private Sector

Devex: Will Zika see ‘big private sector action’?
“As the international community struggles to mobilize funds and resources to take on the Zika virus outbreak, pandemic experts have asked why the private sector has not played a bigger role in critical elements of response such as diagnostic testing. … But the private sector’s role in the Zika response could soon ramp up, hinted Amy Pope, deputy homeland security adviser and deputy national security adviser at the White House National Security Council…” (Tyson, 5/20).

POLITICO: How a deadly tropical virus became another Washington mess
“…The bipartisan response to previous public health crises, such as the 2014 Ebola outbreak and the H1N1 flu pandemic in 2009, is not evident in the months-long congressional debates about Zika, despite its huge human costs. The virus in pregnant women has been closely linked to severe brain abnormalities in fetuses…” (Haberkorn, 5/20).

STAT: 5 lessons from the protracted Zika funding fight
“…Here’s what we’ve learned from the fight thus far: Those who see Zika as an emergency are frustrated … The House is thinking of the Zika funding as an installment plan … So much for the Ebola money … There’s no veto threat against the Senate bill … Republicans are gettable … [R]ight now, the Senate has to be considered the side with the upper hand — because it’s the only bill with a broad coalition of support, not just the backing of one party…” (Nather, 5/20).

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World Bank Launches $500M Pandemic Emergency Facility To Aid Nations Facing Serious Disease Outbreaks

Agence France-Presse: After Ebola, World Bank creates pandemic insurance plan
“The World Bank announced Saturday a new program to mobilize funds quickly against virulent disease outbreaks after the world was caught unprepared in the 2014 Ebola disaster in West Africa. World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said the new Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility (PEF) will accelerate global and national responses to disease outbreaks that threaten large populations and fragile economies…” (5/21).

Devex: Inside the World Bank’s Pandemic Emergency Facility
“…Questions linger about how effective the new mechanism will be, how much money it can leverage, and whether it can stand the test of time against pandemics that are growing more frequent and more costly…” (Tyson, 5/23).

Financial Times: World Bank launches pandemic risk insurance market
“…A new Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility was the main outcome of a quiet Group of Seven finance ministers summit in Sendai, Japan, with the hosts pledging an initial $50m over three years to fund the system…” (Harding, 5/21).

International Business Times: World Bank Announces Creation Of $500 Million Pandemic Insurance Plan To Combat Disease Outbreaks
“…The PEF will be a combination of catastrophe insurance and bonds, marking the first time ‘Cat-bonds’ will be used to combat infectious diseases. In the event of an outbreak, the facility — designed in collaboration with the World Health Organization and the private sector — will release funds quickly to the affected countries and qualified first responder agencies…” (Pandey, 5/21).

Reuters: World Bank launches $500 million insurance fund to fight pandemics
“…But the insurance mechanism is limited to certain classes of infectious diseases most likely to cause major outbreaks, including several types of influenza, respiratory diseases such as SARS and MERS, and other deadly viruses including Ebola and Marburg. Kim said the types of qualifying diseases had to be limited in order to secure the insurance policy, for which the World Bank will pay premiums…” (Lawder, 5/20).

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World Humanitarian Summit Begins In Instanbul; Some Critics Worry Meeting Will Not Deliver Reform

Deutsche Welle: Can heaven help the U.N. World Humanitarian Summit?
“…[I]s faith capable of driving economic development in poor countries, helping refugees start new lives and denying terror groups a foothold? Donors and world leaders, German Chancellor Angela Merkel among them, will be asking that question when they meet in Istanbul for the U.N. World Humanitarian Summit on May 23. … Religion is at the top of the agenda…” (De Oliveira, 5/21).

The Guardian: World humanitarian summit starts amid hope, hype, and fear of empty words
“Hundreds of world leaders and politicians will descend on Istanbul on Monday in a nominal attempt to reform the global humanitarian system, despite criticism that their summit is a photo-opportunity that will achieve little. Representatives of 175 countries, including 57 heads of states or governments, will attend the world humanitarian summit, as the outgoing U.N. secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, attempts to restructure the way the world responds to humanitarian crises. … The key commitments to which he hopes leaders will agree include better structuring of aid; more funding for local groups; greater respect for the rules of war; better planning for disaster situations and climate change; and wider sharing of refugee populations…” (Kingsley, 5/23).

New York Times: Thin on Influence, World Humanitarian Summit Will Tackle Aid Crisis
“…The machinery of humanitarian aid is not only broke — but, according to many critics, also broken. To address these problems, the United Nations is sponsoring the first World Humanitarian Summit, starting on Monday in Istanbul. But most of the world’s most powerful leaders — those whose soldiers and diplomats can end wars and hold accountable those who violate international humanitarian law — are not going…” (Sengupta, 5/21).

Reuters: As humanitarian needs grow, USAID chief says the world must act
“…Gayle Smith, the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), described a global humanitarian system stretched to the limit by the number of disasters and a growing funding gap compounded by emergency responses that cost more than traditional relief methods. … Smith is set to lead the U.S. delegation to the first U.N. World Humanitarian Summit on Monday and Tuesday in Istanbul, which will include donor countries, U.N. agencies, and non-governmental organizations…” (Wroughton, 5/22).

U.N. News Centre: WHS: U.N. humanitarian summit to ‘shape a different future,’ Ban tells thousands at opening
“At the opening of the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) in Istanbul [Monday], United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon joined the president of Turkey, relief activists, and international celebrities to urge the global community to shape a different future for the world. ‘We are all here because global humanitarian action is unprecedentedly strained,’ Mr. Ban told thousands of participants attending the opening ceremony…” (5/23).

USA TODAY: Rights groups call for action at first humanitarian summit
“Human rights groups on Friday called for the first ever World Humanitarian Summit to result in meaningful action in tackling crises affecting millions of people around the world. … Humanitarian organization Oxfam said improving the response to major incidents will have a limited impact if governments don’t address the underlying causes…” (Onyanga-Omara, 5/20).

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El Niño Weather Pattern Disrupts Crops In Africa For Second Year, Leaving At Least 50M Food Insecure, U.N., Aid Groups Say

The Guardian: 50 million Africans face hunger after crops fail again
“Up to 50 million people in Africa will need food by Christmas as a crisis across the continent triggered by El Niño worsens, the U.N. and major international charities have warned. A second year of deep drought in much of southern and eastern Africa has ravaged crops, disrupted water supplies, and driven up food prices, leaving 31 million people needing food now, and 20 million more likely to run out this year. A further 10 million people in Ethiopia, six million in southern Sudan, and five million in Yemen were in danger of starvation after floods and drought, said the U.N…” (Vidal, 5/22).

The Guardian: Across Africa, the worst food crisis since 1985 looms for 50 million
“…Countries are just waking up to the most serious global food crisis of the last 25 years. Caused by the strongest El Niño weather event since 1982, droughts and heatwaves have ravaged much of India, Latin America, and parts of south-east Asia. … The scale of the crisis unfolding in 10 or more southern African countries has shocked the United Nations. Lulled into thinking that Ethiopia in 1985 was the last of the large-scale famines affecting many millions, donor countries have been slow to pledge funds or support. More than $650m and 7.9m tonnes of food are needed immediately, says the U.N…” (Vidal, 5/22).

The Guardian: How southern Africa is coping with worst global food crisis for 25 years
“From Angola to Zimbabwe, food prices are soaring and malnutrition is on the rise as the latest El Niño weather event takes a brutal toll…” (Vidal, 5/22).

SciDev.Net: El Niño and fighting leave 80 million in food crisis
“Armed conflict and the droughts caused by the El Niño effect have left 80 million people around the world in acute food crisis this year, reveals a food security report. The report by the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, and the World Food Programme adds that a total of 240 million people are in food stress…” (5/23).

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Gates Foundation CEO Writes Letter Detailing Initiatives, Goals In Global Health, Development, Education

New York Times: Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann, Guide of the Gates Foundation
“On her second anniversary as chief executive of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a global colossus of philanthropy, Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann wrote of progress against smoking in the Philippines, polio across the world, and sleeping sickness in Africa. … We spoke for an hour at her office in Seattle. A condensed and edited version of the conversation follows…” (Dugger, 5/23).

Tech Insider: The head of the Gates Foundation reveals the biggest challenge in the world right now
“…Desmond-Hellmann, the former chancellor of the University of California, San Francisco and an oncologist by training, has been at the foundation for two years. Now she’s taking stock with a progress report detailing what the Gates Foundation is all about (in a nutshell: a belief that all lives have equal value, and that everyone deserves opportunities for a healthy and productive life) as well as the wins and tough lessons from the foundation’s recent work in everything from polio to education. Tech Insider spoke with Desmond-Hellmann about what the Gates Foundation has been working on during her tenure as well as where it’s going in the future…” (Schwartz, 5/23).

Wall Street Journal: Ebola, Zika Push Global Health Leaders on Disease Fight, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation CEO Says
“The Ebola and Zika epidemics are pushing governments, industries, and philanthropies to work together to develop cutting-edge technologies to combat infectious disease threats, according to the chief executive officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. ‘You have to have an aggressive strategic plan,’ said Sue Desmond-Hellmann in an interview, ahead of the release of a letter Monday reflecting on the foundation’s lessons learned as it has invested more than $36.7 billion in global health, development, and U.S. education initiatives…” (McKay, 5/23).

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Editorials and Opinions

U.S. Should Create Public Health Emergency Fund, Invest In Infectious Disease Response Efforts

Washington Post: Zika is coming, but we’re far from ready
Ronald A. Klain, White House Ebola response coordinator from 2014 to 2015

“…We can no longer accept surprise as an excuse for a response that is slow out of the gate. … Disease must be fought overseas to lessen the risk of transmission to the United States. We need to continue to press for World Health Organization reform, support the European Union proposal for a ‘white helmet’ battalion to respond to epidemic crises as needed, and increase our investment in the Obama administration’s Global Health Security Agenda to help other nations build up their own disease-fighting capabilities. … Here at home, we owe the American people an infectious-disease response effort as prompt, well-funded, and effective as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at its best. We should create a Public Health Emergency Management Agency (PhEMA). And, whether it is housed in a new agency or put under the CDC or elsewhere in the Department of Health and Human Services, we should create a public health emergency fund that the president can draw down in the face of a dangerous epidemic — without waiting for Congress to act…” (5/22).

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Editorial, Opinion Pieces Discuss Antibiotic Resistance, Efforts To Prevent, Address Problem

The Guardian: The Guardian view on antibiotic resistance: walk softly, carry a big stick
Editorial Board

“The Longitude Prize is a very smart idea. The prize is a handsome £8m and it awaits the first individual or (more probably) team that develops a quick, cheap, and reliable way of stopping overuse or misuse of antibiotics. … A prize is smart economics to encourage smart science. It counters the lack of a strong market incentive to develop a diagnostic for which there is an overwhelming need — while reminding the rest of us to remember, next time we see the doctor, the urgency of the crisis. … The problem of antibiotic resistance is about science and economics, and it faces society itself, locally and globally, with hard questions, too. It pits individual benefit against the common good: your sore throat, our ability to survive a hospital stay. It demands recognition that a personal benefit may at a distance have a much greater cost. … [T]here is only one big way to meet the threat. Together” (5/22).

Forbes: The NIH Needs To Increase Efforts To Fight Drug-Resistant Bacteria
John LaMattina, senior partner at PureTech Ventures

“…While [the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ (NIAID) budget] shows the importance that the NIH and the U.S. puts on this area of research, the remit of the NIAID is very broad and includes funding programs in: AIDS, TB, Ebola, biodefense, MERS, etc. Amid all of these priorities, research into antimicrobial resistance seems to be getting squeezed out … It’s hard to argue against spending money on AIDS, Ebola, and the newly emerging Zika virus. But given the looming crisis with drug-resistant organisms, shouldn’t a greater emphasis be put on funding more work into understanding how bacteria are learning to evade current drugs? The NIH sets the agenda for research priorities in the U.S. By increasing, perhaps even doubling, the funds it allots to antimicrobial resistance, it could provide a big stimulus to the fight against the ‘antibiotic apocalypse.’ It is a step it needs to take” (5/20).

Huffington Post: The Worst Superbug? Tuberculosis
Aaron Oxley, executive director of RESULTS U.K.

“…The development of a new generation of drugs to which resistance has not developed is crucial. … [B]y providing a major reward for developing new drugs and treatment regimens, the [Review on Antimicrobial Resistance’s (AMR)] recommendations could transform how we treat TB. Equally important are the recommendations on ensuring that all people around the world can afford and access any new treatments, as this is truly a global problem and TB is most likely to affect poor and marginalized people no matter how rich a country they live in. If drug resistance continues to grow on its current trajectory, we could return to an era where treatment becomes practically impossible. The scale of the human and economic impact means we urgently need new tools to fight TB. We have to act, and we have to act now…” (5/20).

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Donor Governments Should Prioritize Sexual, Reproductive Health Care In Emergency Settings

The Guardian: Sexual health gets little attention in a crisis, with devastating results
Tewodros Melesse, director general of the International Planned Parenthood Federation

“…[T]he demand for sexual and reproductive health care is much higher than normal in crisis situations. These are essential services and must form part of any humanitarian response. … We need to ensure that there is a coordinated response to provide sexual and reproductive health care on the ground, one which has the same status as other humanitarian responses such as those surrounding food, shelter, water, and sanitation. We urge governments to include reproductive health in their own humanitarian response delivery. Donor governments need to ensure that services are more equitably distributed between conflict zones and natural disasters. … A comprehensive response that includes sexual and reproductive health will help people to rebuild their lives after their worlds are turned upside down” (5/22).

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Better Access To Surgeons, High Quality Obstetric Care Critical To Preventing, Treating Fistula

The Guardian: Why do a million women still suffer the treatable condition of fistula?
Kate Grant, CEO of the Fistula Foundation

“…The most crucial variable in the outcomes for women is the competency of the surgeon developed over years of experience. Yet the biggest challenge to treating more women [with fistula] goes beyond money, it is lack of health care infrastructure. … We are now learning what can move the needle with our program in Kenya called Action on Fistula. The beauty of this effort is it confronts health care weaknesses head-on by training more surgeons through the global competency-based manual developed by Figo (the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics), building treatment capacity at seven hospitals, creating a community of practice among local fistula surgeons, and partnering with women’s groups to identify patients and secure treatment. In just two years, we have treated more than 1,200 women — the number we had hoped to treat in three years. This effort is yielding results that can be replicated, while providing capacity to treat fistula in Kenya…” (5/23).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

Japan Announces $800M Commitment To Global Fund For Upcoming 5th Replenishment

Friends of the Global Fight Blog: Japan Pledges $800 Million to Global Fund’s Fifth Replenishment Ahead of G7 Summit
Sarah Marston, director of communications at Friends of the Global Fight, writes, “On May 20, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan announced that the country will pledge U.S. $800 million to the Global Fund’s upcoming Fifth Replenishment, demonstrating a strong commitment to global health ahead of the G7 Summit in Ise-Shima, Japan, next week. … Prime Minister Abe announced the pledge as part of a $1.1 billion package of new funding aimed at responding to public health emergencies, infectious disease control, and the achievement of the [Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)] and Universal Health Coverage (UHC)” (5/20).

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Access To Health Care 'Essential To Shared Humanity,' WHO Official Says

WHO: A new world, a new agenda for humanity
In a commentary, Bruce Aylward, WHO executive director ad interim of outbreaks and health emergencies, discusses access to health care, writing, “Providing assistance to [people in conflict and emergency situations] is the right thing to do. But it is also in our own self-interest. … Everyone, everywhere, has the right to health — including people affected by crises. Ensuring they can access health services is essential to our shared humanity” (5/22).

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Humanosphere Podcast Discusses Evolution Of Term 'Global Health' With Peter Piot

Humanosphere: Peter Piot: From tropical medicine to global health
In this podcast, Imana Gunawan, social media manager and producer of the podcast at Humanosphere, interviews Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who discusses the etymology of the term “global health” and the importance of building health infrastructures instead of responding to diseases ad hoc. The podcast also includes a discussion with Humanosphere reporter Tom Murphy on various global health and development stories from the week (5/20).

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