KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

Reuters Examines Influence Of Vice President Pence On U.S. Domestic, Foreign Health Policies, Including Mexico City Policy, Multilateral Engagement

Reuters: As Trump rewrites public health rules, Pence sees conservative agenda born again
“In a sweeping social policy shift, the Trump administration is seeking to remake health rules at home and abroad for women, gay and transgender people, restricting access to abortion, curtailing support for contraception, and narrowing the scope of civil rights in health care. The turnaround has its foundations in the quiet, behind-the-scenes influence of Vice President Mike Pence, who has been driven throughout his political career by his evangelical Christian beliefs… [One] focus has been the Mexico City policy involving U.S. [global health] aid to [foreign] non-government[al] groups. ‘It’s unfortunate enough that we continue to fund Planned Parenthood here in the U.S.; we don’t need to export a pro-abortion ideology overseas,’ Pence said at a House hearing in 2007. Now, under the expanded Mexico City rule Pence advocated, some groups have refused U.S. funding… At the United Nations and World Health Organization, U.S. representatives appointed under Trump-Pence have worked to pull references to ‘gender’ and ‘sexual and reproductive health’ from international rights documents…” (Abutaleb/Tanfani, 5/30).

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Trump Administration To Launch Commission On Unalienable Rights To Advise Secretary Of State Pompeo On Human Rights, 'Natural Law'

POLITICO: State Department to launch new human rights panel stressing ‘natural law’
“The Trump administration plans to launch a new panel to offer ‘fresh thinking’ on international human rights and ‘natural law,’ … The new body, to be called the Commission on Unalienable Rights, will advise Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, according to a notice the State Department quietly published Thursday on the Federal Register. … Some [human rights activists] privately said they worry that talk of the ‘nation’s founding principles’ and ‘natural law’ are coded signals of plans to focus less on protecting women and LGBT people. The word ‘natural’ in such context is often interpreted to mean ‘God-given,’ a phrasing that is less common in modern human rights literature but which could signal a religious component, experts said. … It is not clear who will serve on the panel or when their appointments will take effect, but activists and former U.S. officials noted that its composition will greatly affect the policies it promotes” (Toosi, 5/30).

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U.S. To Provide Emergency Aid For Venezuelan Refugees In Colombia

Associated Press: U.S. emergency aid for Venezuela to be distributed in Colombia
“U.S.-supplied humanitarian aid that was earmarked for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó will now be distributed in Colombia, officials said Thursday. Colombia’s government said it had reached the decision with the U.S. and representatives of Guaidó because of Nicolás Maduro’s continued ‘blocking’ of the aid…” (5/30).

The Lancet: Colombia struggles to cope with care in Venezuelan influx
“Venezuelans fleeing their country in large numbers place a heavy burden on Colombia’s health system, although its government is intent on helping. … There are now 1.3 million Venezuelans in Colombia, an increase from 900,000 at last count in October, 2018. In 2015, there were 1,475 emergency health care treatments given to Venezuelans but, at the end of last year, that number reached 131,958. Officials estimate that the tax burden is overloaded by 8,800%…” (Daniels, 6/1).

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WHO Condemns Efforts By Philip Morris International To Rebrand World No Tobacco Day As 'No Smoking Day'

Agence France-Presse: WHO decries Big Tobacco bid to rebrand World No Tobacco Day
“The World Health Organization on Wednesday condemned efforts by the world’s biggest cigarette vendor to rebrand a day dedicated to raising awareness about the dangers of tobacco use. … [A WHO official] voiced concern at attempts by Philip Morris International (PMI) to co-opt international efforts for its own campaign this week promoting new vaping and heated tobacco products as part of the solution to the world’s smoking epidemic. ‘We regard the PMI campaign as little more than a cynical attempt by the company to promote its deadly products,’ Vinayak Prasad, head of WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative, told AFP in an email. PMI, the maker of Marlboro, insisted Tuesday that World No Tobacco Day should be renamed World No Smoking Day, and it launched its own campaign dubbed It’s Time to Unsmoke…” (5/29).

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Violence Perpetuating DRC Ebola Outbreak, Experts Say; U.N. OCHA, Aid Groups Formally Call For Stronger Response

CIDRAP News: Experts: DRC Ebola outbreak fueled by attacks
“By early February 2019, transmission of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC’s) Ituri province was largely under control, and declines were observed in Katwa and Butembo, several leading experts on the outbreak wrote [Wednesday] in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). But a sudden increase in violent attacks on health care workers and facilities throughout North Kivu province have caused the outbreak to spike in the last 2 months and become intractable…” (Soucheray, 5/30).

New Humanitarian: Aid community raises highest alert on Ebola
“U.N. and leading aid groups on Wednesday took the step of formally declaring that the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo needs a major scale-up from the humanitarian community. A spokesperson for the U.N.’s emergency aid coordination body, OCHA, confirmed the decision of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, which it chairs. The move can unlock stronger leadership and more funding, but ‘it’s not a panacea,’ according to a top Red Cross official…” (Parker, 5/30).

Reuters: Congo forces kill 26 Islamist rebels in Ebola zone shootout
“Congolese forces killed 26 rebels on Thursday from a group thought to be linked to Islamic State while repelling an attack in east Congo’s Ebola zone, the army said…” (Mahamba et al., 5/30).

Reuters: Children under five dying at higher rate in Congo Ebola epidemic — WHO
“Children under five infected with Ebola in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are dying at a higher rate than other patients as their parents shun special treatment centers, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday…” (Nebehay, 5/30).

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Genetically Modified Fungus Kills Malaria-Carrying Mosquitoes In Trial

NPR: Scientists Genetically Modify Fungus To Kill Mosquitoes That Spread Malaria
“In the hope of finding a new way to fight malaria, scientists have used a spider gene to genetically engineer a fungus to produce a venom that can quickly kill mosquitoes. The modified fungus was a highly effective mosquito killer in the first tests mimicking conditions in sub-Saharan Africa, where malaria remains a major public health problem, researchers reported Thursday in the journal Science…” (Stein, 5/30).

Additional coverage of the study is available from BBC News and Science.

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The Economist Examines Global Efforts To Eliminate Malaria, Zambia's Attempts To Lower Case Numbers

The Economist: Malaria is fighting back against efforts to eliminate it
“These should be hopeful days for those battling malaria. Deaths from the disease have fallen to around 435,000 a year, from perhaps five times that number a century ago. … But two big clouds darken the outlook. One is the stubborn persistence of malaria south of the Sahara. The other is the emergence of new strains of the disease resistant to the available treatments…” (Long, 5/30).

The Economist: Zambia cuts malaria fatalities, but not the number of cases
“…Zambia has tried hard to tackle the disease. It was the first African country to use artemisinin combination therapy, the recommended treatment. Some 70% of Zambians have access to treated bed nets or indoor sprays. Most anti-malaria funding comes from the American government or via the Global Fund. … According to the WHO, reported deaths fell from 9,369 in 2001 to fewer than 1,425 in 2017. But the number of cases — 3.5m a year — has barely budged since 2014. Zambia hopes by 2021 to become the first sub-Saharan African country to eliminate malaria. That goal is admirable, but wildly ambitious…” (5/30).

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International Travelers At Risk Of Spreading Antimicrobial Resistant Bacteria, Study Shows

The Telegraph: Tourists are spreading superbugs across international borders, report warns
“Holiday-makers are at risk of picking up and bringing home superbugs, according to a study looking at the spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) worldwide. Drug-resistant infections are already responsible for some 700,000 deaths globally each year, but it is estimated that this figure could rise to 10 million annually by 2050 if left unchecked. The report, published by the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (CDDEP), found that tourists are contributing to the spread of AMR across international borders — with as many as 88 percent of unwell tourists returning to the U.K. from India infected with drug-resistant bacteria…” (Wallen, 5/30).

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Nature Examines How Humanitarians, Researchers Using Cell Phone Call Data To Improve Lives

Nature: Can tracking people through phone-call data improve lives?
“…Telecommunications companies scrutinize call-detail records to learn about customers’ locations and phone habits and improve their services. Researchers suddenly realized that this sort of information might help them to improve lives. … [S]cientists working under the rubric of ‘data for good’ have analyzed calls from tens of millions of phone owners in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Kenya, and at least two dozen other low- and middle-income nations. Humanitarian groups say that they’ve used the results to deliver aid. And researchers have combined call records with other information to try to predict how infectious diseases travel, and to pinpoint locations of poverty, social isolation, violence, and more…” (Maxmen, 5/29).

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After Being Given GPS Coordinates Of Hospitals To Prevent Attacks, Syria, Russia Bomb Health Facilities In Idlib

The Telegraph: Syria and Russia bomb hospitals in Idlib after they were given coordinates in hope of preventing attacks
“The Syrian government and Russia have in the last month bombed eight hospitals in the rebel stronghold of Idlib whose coordinates were shared with Moscow in the hope of preventing such attacks, doctors say. The United Nations gave the GPS locations supplied by NGOs operating in Idlib to Russia as part of a ‘deconfliction mechanism.’ … Since the government began its offensive on Idlib on April 30, more than 24 facilities have been hit, in what doctors are calling a ‘record.’ … Deliberately targeting medical centers is a war crime under international law…” (Ensor, 5/30).

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More News In Global Health

Agence France-Presse: Eradicating polio in Pakistan, an endless battle (Lovett/Martin, 5/30).

Al Jazeera: Philippines: Dying For Gold (5/30).

Associated Press: Mozambique seeks $3.2 billion to recover from cyclones (Anna, 5/30).

Devex: Is Canada’s feminist foreign aid policy working? (Halais, 5/31).

The Lancet: UNAIDS survey aligns with so-called fourth 90 for HIV/AIDS (Webster, 6/1).

The Lancet: Brazil sues cigarette manufacturers for public health costs (Alves, 6/1).

U.N. News: A major win for transgender rights: U.N. health agency drops ‘gender identity disorder’ as official diagnosis (5/30).

U.N. News: Syria: Thousands of children ‘hemmed in’ by ‘brutal and gratuitous’ spike in violence (5/30).

UPI: Shortage of tuberculosis drugs looms in North Korea (Maresca, 5/30).

VOA News: WHO: More Than 40% of Smokers Worldwide Die from Lung Diseases (Schlein, 5/30).

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Editorials and Opinions

Prioritizing Women's, Girls' Health, Rights Vital To Achieving UHC

Project Syndicate: Women and Girls Hold the Key to Universal Health Coverage
Françoise Girard, president of the International Women’s Health Coalition

“…As governments negotiate a groundbreaking declaration on [Universal Health Coverage (UHC)] this year, they should place the full range of sexual and reproductive health care services at the center of UHC strategies. Doing so would reduce the burden of disease and mortality borne by women and girls, while empowering them to control their own health and reproductive lives. … As the global push toward UHC intensifies, more opportunities to make this case are arising, including the recent World Health Assembly — where the Alliance for Gender Equality in UHC put forward a ‘7th Ask’ to give higher priority to women’s and girls’ health and rights — and this summer’s political negotiations at the U.N. These events will lay the groundwork for the U.N.’s High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage in September, where governments will adopt a roadmap for establishing, financing, and delivering UHC programs worldwide. Governments around the world have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to commit to providing quality, affordable health care — including the full gamut of reproductive and health services — to all. Seizing that opportunity will require strong political will. But one thing is clear: only by emphasizing the needs and rights of women and girls can any UHC strategy be truly universal” (5/31).

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International Community Must Prioritize Mental Health Care Reform

CNN: We are at the beginning of a global mental health revolution
Rosalynn Carter, former first lady of the United States and advocate for mental health care through the Carter Center, and Bill Jallah, president of Cultivation for Users’ Hope

“Access to mental health services has never been more critical — no matter where you live. … Internationally, mental disorders — ranging from something more common like depression to a more complex illness like schizophrenia — affect hundreds of millions of people. … The stigma surrounding these illnesses creates needless suffering and negatively impacts quality of life. … We need to end the silence and put pressure on governments and the private sector to prioritize mental health care reform. And the reform process needs to be guided by informed decision-making that includes the voices and stories of people with lived experience. … We are at the beginning of a mental health revolution in the United States, in Liberia, and globally. As we seek to normalize these disorders and recognize the truth about how many people are affected by them, we need a chorus of authentic, united voices of people who understand these conditions to push for urgent action, funding, legislation, and beneficial policies. Speaking up about this subject can be difficult. But the time has come for people who have lived with mental health disorders to make sure their voices are heard” (5/30).

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Highlighting Role Of Air Pollution In Global Tobacco Epidemic Could Help Improve Tobacco Control Policies

The Lancet: Leveraging climate change to improve global tobacco control
Vin Gupta, assistant professor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation and non-resident fellow at the Center for Global Development, and colleagues

“…How can progress on tobacco control … be encouraged? Perhaps if urgency provides clarity and motivation to act, one argument would be to focus on the persistent toll of indoor and ambient air pollution on the heart and lung health of citizens living in the very countries contending with refractory tobacco epidemics. The adverse effects on health of inhaling tobacco smoke and air pollution are well known, and some existing studies have shown that health outcomes … are far worse for those exposed to both risks at the same time. … Would highlighting the catalytic role of air pollution on worsening smoking-related health outcomes sway governments to greater action and implementation of the [WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC)]? Growing evidence suggests data are there to buttress this line of advocacy. … Conceiving of tobacco use as part of a larger risk framework that incorporates exposure to air pollution is not only bolstered by a growing body of evidence but also imparts a clearer perspective on the risks of continued smoking in places like China, India, and Indonesia. We hope this reframing of the contemporary tobacco epidemic could serve as an additional lever for governments to re-engage with the many policy tools of the FCTC that we already know work well in bolstering tobacco control” (6/1).

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Long-Term Commitment, Investment Needed To Implement WHO Snakebite Strategy

The Lancet: Snakebite — emerging from the shadows of neglect
Editorial Board

“…The burden of snakebite death and disability is equal to that of prostate or cervical cancer, and is greater than any other neglected tropical disease. Yet investment into snakebite has been just £30 million between 2008 and 2017, with limited research, stagnating development of treatments, and declining access to antivenoms in many countries. … With its triad of high mortality, marked disability, and substantial psychological morbidity, snakebite warrants major investment in research. … After decades of relative neglect, snakebite is now firmly on the global health agenda. With a strategy and substantial funding now in place, the stage is set. Will all actors play their parts? Testing and then implementing WHO’s strategy requires long-term commitment by governments of countries with a high burden of snakebite envenoming, in addition to further investment by donors. Only then will snakebite victims, who are often the poorest of the poor, have a better chance of survival” (6/1).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

WHO Africa Releases Manual For Countries Developing National Malaria Strategic Plans

WHO Regional Office for Africa: Manual for developing national malaria strategic plans
This document provides guidance to help countries looking to develop a national malaria strategic plan in order to help achieve the Global Technical Strategy for Malaria (GTS) goals, targets, and milestones, including: “reduce malaria mortality rates globally by at least 90% compared with 2015; reduce malaria case incidence globally by at least 90% compared with 2015; eliminate malaria from at least 35 countries in which malaria was transmitted in 2015; and prevent re-establishment of malaria in all countries that are malaria-free” (May 2019).

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World Bank's International Development Association Continues To Work Toward Eradicating Extreme Poverty

World Bank: From Afghanistan to Zambia, Supporting the World’s Poorest Countries
This post discusses the role of the International Development Association (IDA) in global development and poverty reduction, noting its plans for 2019: “IDA19 will continue to deepen its focus on five strategic themes of jobs and economic transformation; governance and institutions; gender; climate change; and fragility, conflict, and violence. … With this strong focus on growth, people, and resilience and collaboration with a wide coalition of partners, IDA aims to eradicate extreme poverty over the next decade, create opportunities for the world’s poorest people, and help IDA countries reach the Sustainable Development Goals” (5/30).

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Wilson Center Event Focuses On Water As Tool For Resilience In Crisis Settings

Woodrow Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program’s “New Security Beat”: Water as a Tool for Resilience in Times of Crisis
Amanda King, program assistant for the Wilson Center’s Global Risk and Resilience Program, discusses remarks made by panelists at a recent Wilson Center event on water as a tool for resilience. Panelists included David De Armey, director of International Partnerships for Water for Good; Cynthia Brady, former senior peacebuilding and conflict adviser at USAID’s Center for Resilience; Erika Weinthal, Lee Hill Snowdon professor of environmental policy at Duke University; Abigail Jones, water and sanitation adviser at the Water Office in USAID’s Bureau for Economic Growth, Education, and Environment; and Basil Mahayni, deputy director of USAID’s Sustainable Water Partnership at Tetra Tech (5/30).

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From the U.S. Government

USAID Releases May 2019 Issue Of Innovation And Impact Newsletter

USAID: Innovation and Impact Newsletter — May 2019
The latest issue of USAID’s Innovation and Impact Newsletter features USAID’s Bureau for Global Health’s Center for Innovation and Impact (CII) 2019 Impact Brief, which provides an overview of the center’s work and progress over the past year; a CII report on attracting private capital for global health innovation; and a list of upcoming events and recent news stories on innovation in global health (May 2019).

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