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Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

Reports Released At Women Deliver Conference Support Better Data Collection To Improve Reproductive Health

“Lack of reliable data is hampering progress on improving reproductive health services for women and ‘must be seriously addressed’ at global and national levels, according to the World Bank,” which released a report on Tuesday at the Women Deliver conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, The Guardian reports. The report (.pdf), titled “Investing in women’s reproductive health: closing the deadly gap between what we know and what we do,” “outlines the health, social and economic benefits of improving women’s reproductive care, but says insufficient data makes it difficult to monitor progress and improve services,” the newspaper writes. “Without [data collection] systems, too much energy is spent on the estimation, and debating estimates, of mortality than actually addressing the problems and monitoring progress. … There needs to be much greater investment in collecting accurate and timely data on reproductive health,” the report states, according to The Guardian (Ford, 5/28). The report “demonstrates that addressing the reproductive health needs of women is critical to achieving gender equality and improved development outcomes,” a Global Health Strategies press release states (5/28).

Another report (.pdf) released on Tuesday at the conference by the Guttmacher Institute, titled “Adding It Up: The Need for and Cost of Maternal and Newborn Care, Estimates for 2012,” provides new regional data on the unmet need for maternal and newborn care,” according to the Global Health Strategies press release. “The report finds that additional investments in reproductive and maternal health would generate immediate returns in terms of reducing disability among women and newborns, and saving lives,” the press release states. Jeni Klugman, director of gender and development at the World Bank, said, “The research presented today shows that when we address the reproductive health needs of girls and women, the global economy is stronger, households are more likely to prosper and future generations have a greater chance of living long, healthy lives. … Investing in reproductive health and family planning is not just the right thing to do; it’s smart economics,” according to the press release (5/28).

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Stunted, Malnourished Children Significantly Less Able To Read And Write, Save The Children Report Says

“In addition to the serious health problems it causes, child malnutrition is costing the global economy tens of billions of dollars a year by depriving its victims of the ability to learn basic skills, according to a new report (.pdf) released Tuesday by Save the Children,” Inter Press Service reports. “Based on a multi-year study in four countries, the 23-page report found that chronically malnourished children — about one of every four children born today — are significantly less able to read, write a simple sentence, or perform basic arithmetic,” the news service writes (Lobe, 5/29). “The report — Food for Thought — is based on studies of thousands of children in Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam,” BBC News notes, adding, “Th[e] study suggests that children aged eight who are stunted due to malnutrition were 19 percent more likely to make mistakes reading a simple sentence like ‘the sun is hot’ or ‘I like dogs’ than those with a balanced diet” (5/27).

Noting “Tuesday’s report says the impact of childhood malnutrition poses a major threat to the long-term economic growth of many developing countries,” VOA News adds, “Save the Children says tackling malnutrition should be a priority for G8 leaders meeting next month in Northern Ireland” (Hennessy, 5/28). The charity is also “urging [U.K. Prime Minister] David Cameron to commit Britain to spending £132 million [$199 million] a year until 2020 to combat malnutrition in poor countries before a hunger summit in London,” according to The Guardian. “The charity said the event on June 8, which takes place a week before the G8 summit …, could provide the necessary cash for nutrition, considered one of the most effective ways of making a meaningful impact on development,” the newspaper adds (Tran, 5/28). “The U.S. government is expected to come to London with robust funding for nutrition and a concrete, measurable plan to tackle the problem, including efforts to reform U.S. food aid policy that would feed two to four million more children at no extra cost,” a Save the Children press release notes (5/27).

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New ONE Report Examines Correlation Between Spending, Progress On MDGs; Media Analysis Examines Goals' Usefulness

“African countries that are allocating a greater share of government spending to health, education and agriculture are making faster progress on achieving the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) but many nations are still failing to meet their commitments and are lagging behind,” according to the ONE Campaign’s 2013 Data Report released today, The Guardian reports. “In the first big study to rank countries on their overall progress on the MDGs and assess the contribution from sub-Saharan African countries’ own spending, ONE highlights a ‘clear correlation’ between spending and progress,” the newspaper writes. “Those countries in Africa that are lagging behind should be inspired by neighbors that are making dramatic progress. And Europe must deliver on its promise to Africa too. In the next thousand days, we need a sprint finish for the Millennium Development Goals,” Adrian Lovett, Europe director at ONE, said, The Guardian notes (Allen, 5/28).

In a related story about the MDGs, the Christian Science Monitor examines the impact of the goals on global development and international aid, and explores what will happen after the MDGs expire in 2015. “Aid officials, academics, politicians, and many ordinary people are trying to figure out what will come next,” the Christian Science Monitor writes, continuing, “There will definitely be a continuing global development agenda. … A consensus has emerged because of the MDGs that these sorts of global exercises are worth doing, even if we’ll never be able to measure their impact precisely” (McClanahan, 5/26).

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France Reports First Death From Coronavirus; WHO Stresses Need For Countries To Work Together

“France reported its first death from the new SARS-like coronavirus on Tuesday, and Saudi Arabia, where the virus first emerged last year, said there were five new cases,” Reuters reports (Savary, 5/28). The man, “whose illness was identified May 8 after he returned from a visit to the United Arab Emirates, died Tuesday,” the Associated Press writes (5/28). “The man was diagnosed with the virus strain, known as [Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)], … after being admitted to hospital on April 23, shortly after his return from Dubai, with what seemed at first to be a severe stomach bug and breathing problems,” Reuters adds (5/28). “While hospitalized, he infected a neighboring patient who remains hospitalized,” according to the New York Times (Sayare, 5/28).

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan “has sounded the alarm over [the] novel coronavirus, and stressed the need for countries to work together to adequately address the threat posed by the rare illness,” the U.N. News Centre reports (5/28). The novel coronavirus “‘is not a problem that any single affected country can keep to itself or manage all by itself,’ [Chan] said Monday in her closing remarks at the 66th World Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland,” CNN notes (5/28). “She announced that joint WHO missions with Saudi Arabia and Tunisia will take place as soon as possible with the aim of gathering all the facts needed to conduct a proper risk assessment,” the U.N. News Centre adds (5/28). The health agency “said on Friday that it would help Saudi Arabia dig deeper into deadly outbreaks of [the] virus to draw up advice ahead of the annual haj pilgrimage, which attracts millions of Muslims,” Reuters writes in a separate article (Nebehay, 5/24).

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Scientists Find First Signs Of Antiviral Resistance In New H7N9 Virus

“Scientists have found the first cases of the new bird flu virus proving resistant to treatment with Tamiflu or similar drugs,” The Guardian reports. “The analysis of the course of the H7N9 bird flu virus and use of antivirals in 14 patients, reported in The Lancet (.pdf) medical journal, found that three severely ill people did not respond to the group of medicines that are the standard weapon against threatened flu pandemics,” the newspaper writes, adding, “The authors, from Shanghai and Hong Kong, said that in these cases genetic testing showed a mutation” (Meikle, 5/28). “The researchers said: ‘The apparent ease with which antiviral resistance emerges in H7N9 viruses is concerning, it needs to be closely monitored and considered in future pandemic response plans,'” BBC News notes (Gallagher, 5/28). “The H7N9 virus is known to have infected 131 people in China since February, but no new cases have been detected since early May, according to the [WHO],” Reuters writes (Hirschler, 5/28).

But “[e]xperts fear the possibility of the virus mutating into a form easily transmissible between humans, with the potential to trigger a pandemic,” Agence France-Presse notes, adding, “[T]he world is not ready to deal with a major pandemic, the deputy head of the [WHO] told a conference last week, despite efforts since an outbreak of another form of avian influenza, H1N1, in 2009-10” (5/27). The WHO “has previously said it has no evidence of ‘sustained human to human transmission’ of the virus, which has killed 36 people in China,” Reuters reports in a separate article. However, “[a] study … presented at a briefing in Hong Kong on Friday found  … [t]he new H7N9 bird flu virus can be transmitted between mammals not only via direct contact but also in airborne droplets, and may be capable of spreading from person to person,” the news service notes (Mo, 5/24). “The latest research into the virus, which before this year had never been detected in humans, was published Thursday (subscription required for full text) in the online edition of the journal Science,” according to the Los Angeles Times (Brown, 5/23).

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Gates Discusses Polio Eradication, Foreign Aid With Australian PM; New Commitments Announced

Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, on Tuesday met with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Canberra “to lobby for a financial commitment from Australia for polio and to discuss foreign aid,” Sydney’s The Telegraph reports (Robertson, 5/28). In a statement with Minister for Foreign Affairs Bob Carr, Gillard announced an additional pledge of “AU$80 million [$77 million] from 2015-2018 to [the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI)], following a AU$50 million [$48 million] commitment by the government in 2011-2014,” Devex notes (Morden, 5/28). In a speech at Australia’s National Press Club, Gates “said progress towards an aid target of 0.5 percent of gross national income was important,” ABC News writes, and provides a video of his speech (5/28). “Earlier this month, the Australian government announced a 2013-2014 foreign aid budget of AU$5.7 billion ($5.49 billion), composing 0.37 percent of the country’s gross national income,” Devex writes, adding, “Much to the development community’s dismay, however, Australia deferred for the second year in a row its commitment to raise aid spending to 0.5 percent of GNI until 2017-2018” (5/28).

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WHO Suspends Polio Vaccination Campaign In Pakistan After 2 Volunteers Shot

The WHO “on Tuesday withdrew polio-vaccination teams from the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar after two volunteers were shot, in another setback to eradicating the crippling disease that remains resilient in the region,” the Wall Street Journal reports (Symington/Hodge, 5/28). “The victims of the shooting in the violence-plagued northwestern city of Peshawar were aged 18 and 20,” Reuters writes, adding, “Police said both had died, but medical sources said one had died and one was seriously wounded” (Ahmed, 5/28). “No group immediately claimed responsibility for slaying the vaccination workers, who have become frequent targets of attacks,” according to the Associated Press (5/28).

“Most such violence has been attributed to the Pakistani Taliban, who have criticized vaccination efforts as a cover for Western espionage,” the New York Times notes, adding, “Also, religious extremists claim that the real aim of vaccination campaigns is to sterilize Pakistan’s Muslim population” (Khan/Masood, 5/28). “Last year many polio workers were killed when Taliban militants attacked polio-eradication teams in several districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the country’s southern port city of Karachi,” Xinhua notes (Yang, 5/28). The WHO “condemned the attack,” according to another AP article (Khan/Toosi, 5/28). “Pakistan is one of three countries in the world where polio has yet to be eradicated,” CNN notes (Khan, 5/29).

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Editorials and Opinions

Opinion Piece, Blog Posts Address Proposed U.S. Food Aid Reform

The following is a summary of an opinion piece and blog posts addressing reform to the U.S. food aid program proposed in President Obama’s FY 2014 budget request.

  • Rachel Bergenfield, Christian Science Monitor: “[C]urrent food aid policy actually harms the people whom the U.S. is trying to help. President Obama’s proposed fiscal year 2014 budget will fix this,” Bergenfield, an international relations consultant, writes. “In short, current U.S. food aid policy is the equivalent of McDonald’s shipping every french fry from its headquarters in Oakbrook, Ill., to its franchises throughout the world,” she writes. “[USAID] estimates that the proposed changes will lead to significant efficiencies and cost savings,” but “[u]nfortunately, Mr. Obama’s proposed changes face narrow but fierce opposition from shipping and agriculture businesses and lawmakers in Congress from big farming states,” Bergenfield writes. However, she states, “[I]f politicians are serious about the government cutting costs and avoiding cultivating aid dependency abroad, they’ll support Obama’s proposed reforms to U.S. food aid” (5/24).
  • Nick Conger, Chicago Council On Global Affair’s “Global Food For Thought” blog: Conger, a blogger and strategist with the World Wildlife Fund, reports on two recent food conferences, writing, “Most everyone agreed that the United States should lead a global effort to reform the way food is produced, traded and disseminated, from Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to the co-chairs of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs whose latest report calls for renewed U.S. leadership on food.” He continues, “That the U.S. should lead is one thing, how we’ll do it is another,” and he presents a few ideas that “stood out [as] actionable in the near term”: “Scaling and sharing farming practices,” “[i]ncreas[ing] agricultural research and development,” and investing in the future (5/28).
  • Helene Gayle, Chicago Council On Global Affair’s “Global Food For Thought” blog: “In the face of such emergencies [as volatile food prices, natural disasters and human conflict,] ensuring food and nutrition security requires a new framework that is comprehensive, effective, coordinated and efficient,” Gayle, president and CEO of CARE USA, writes. “The challenge we face is an opportunity for the U.S. to lead, and President Obama’s food aid reform proposal demonstrates that leadership,” she continues, adding, “There is still a vital role for U.S. commodities in places where food is not available or places where purchasing food locally would disrupt markets. However, the U.S. response must be flexible when addressing emergencies, chronic hunger and undernutrition — our tools and programs must put first the needs of the farmers and hungry populations we seek to help” (5/28).

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Data Can Drive Improvements In Child Health

Published in The Lancet on May 14, “[t]he Global Enteric Multicenter Study (GEMS) … provides health and policy experts with evidence to pinpoint areas where research for new vaccine candidates is urgently needed to combat diarrheal diseases — the second leading cause of death among children globally,” and “[i]t also reveals other important opportunities for intervention,” Richard Walker, director of PATH’s enteric vaccine initiative, and Myron Levine, principal investigator at GEMS and professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, write in a Devex opinion piece. “The study tested for almost 40 pathogens and confirmed that just four are responsible for the majority of moderate-to-severe diarrhea cases: rotavirus, Cryptosporidium, Shigella and ST-ETEC, a type of E. coli,” they write, noting that there are already two vaccines against rotavirus, the leading cause of diarrhea. “In addition to rotavirus, it is critical to rally support for the development of vaccine candidates for the other three leading causes identified by GEMS,” they state.

“Developing and delivering vaccines for these top diarrheal disease pathogens will require stakeholders at all levels to advocate for the resources needed to create inexpensive, simple tools that can be implemented in low resource settings across sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia where the need is greatest,” Walker and Levine write, adding, “Advocates will also need to push for policy changes in these regions to expedite regulatory approvals and rollout of new vaccines.” They continue, “As health and policy experts debate the prioritization of investments for global health, they must remember that vaccines are one of the most powerful and cost-effective tools available to improve child health and advance our broader development goals. Now that we are able to better quantify and measure the burden of diarrheal disease, we can assess the impact of evidence-based decisions aimed at improving child health” (5/24).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

CSIS Report Examines U.S. Government's Options For Global Fund Replenishment

The Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) on Tuesday released a report (.pdf) — titled “Options for U.S. Diplomatic Support” and written by Katherine Bliss, a senior associate with the CSIS Global Health Policy Center — that examines options for the replenishment of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria as it “seeks pledges of $15 billion to support planned activities for 2014-2016.” The report summary states, “Following reports of grant mismanagement in some key recipient countries in 2011, the fund went through an extensive, and at times difficult, yearlong reform process that has put new leadership in place, overhauled grant administration and accounting procedures, and positioned the organization to reengage with donors in securing financial support for its activities,” adding, “Yet at a time when some experts argue it is finally possible to ‘turn the tide’ on HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis, it is an open question whether countries and other donors will pledge adequate funding to meet the revitalized fund’s replenishment goal” (5/28).

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Linking Food Security, Global Health Programming

“[H]unger and food security programs are essential to address the root causes of malnutrition and poverty, … [and] those of us working in global health must programmatically link up with food programs to achieve our vision of a healthier world,” Karen Blyth, director for East Africa programs at IntraHealth, writes in the organization’s “Global Health Blog.” She continues, “There is hope today, however, to successfully link farmers and health workers to reduce hunger and chronic nutrition in some of the poorest countries in the world.” Blyth discusses the goals of the Feed the Future program, writing, “Feed the Future offers great opportunities to bring together the farmers and health workers in local communities to develop local solutions to poverty, hunger, and chronic malnutrition.” However, “[t]he initiative must be more directly linked programmatically and structurally at the country level with donors and global health organizations and initiatives, such as PEPFAR,” she states, adding, “If this happens, local farmers and health workers can bring creative solutions to their country leaders on how to feed their people and give them the best chance for living healthy and productive lives” (5/28).

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Redirecting Existing Resources In HIV/AIDS Fight Could Provide Better Return On Investment

“The scientific advances and the programs that have been developed over just the last few years now provide an historic opportunity to drive HIV to levels that we had previously not dared to hope for,” Tim Hallett, director of the HIV Modeling Consortium and reader in global health at Imperial College London, writes in a Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria blog post, adding, “There is a confluence of four forces that are working to make this happen: compelling evidence for the power of the interventions we deliver, falling costs, experience in getting the results we need and a revolution in our understanding of the epidemic.” He discusses advancements in prevention tools, as well as progress in understanding factors driving the epidemic. “Now that we have the tools and resources, we can leverage this new intelligence to squeeze even more impact out of the resources we have,” Hallett writes, adding, “Our computer models suggest that impact could increase by 20 percent, just by redirecting the same resources to the populations at greatest risk of infection and transmission.” He concludes, “Investment now — in the right interventions for the right populations at the right time — would save millions of lives, but also ‘soften’ the epidemic and give the goal of the AIDS-free generation compelling scientific backing” (5/27).

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PSI Impact Magazine Focuses On Health, Rights Of Women And Girls

In a special issue of its Impact magazine, “produced in partnership with Women Deliver and the Skoll Foundation, [PSI] focus[es] on one of the most effective ways to lift families, communities and countries: investment in the health and rights of girls and women,” according to the Letter from the Editor. Editor-in-Chief Marshall Stowell summarizes the magazine’s content, including PSI’s efforts to “develo[p] a handful of simple, low-cost ‘bright idea’ pilot projects that have potential to really deliver for girls and women” (May 2013).

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