KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

Media Outlets Examine How U.S. Government Shutdown Affecting Health, Science Agencies

The government shutdown “doesn’t mean that the entire government closes,” Science reports, adding, “It was largely business as usual at agencies deemed essential for public safety and national security, for instance, including the departments of Justice and Homeland Security … [b]ut research agencies were hit hard.” For example, “At the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 73 percent of its more than 18,600 employees were ordered to stay home,” the magazine writes, profiling several workers who are deemed essential staff (Kaiser et al., 10/4). NPR’s “The Salt” blog and “All Things Considered” examine how the shutdown is affecting the CDC’s food safety division (Aubrey, 10/3). NPR’s “The Two-Way” blog examines how the shutdown is affecting different science and health agencies, including NIH, CDC, and FDA, among others (10/1).

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Reports, Projects Address Maternal Health Care

“From donkey ambulatory services for pregnant women in the mountainous regions of Afghanistan to free caesarean sections in Congo, reports about global efforts to improve maternal health were showcased in the past week as development experts gathered in various forums here during the U.N. General Assembly session from September 17 through September 30,” Women’s eNews reports. The article summarizes several programs and reports, including “A Roadmap for Promoting Women’s Economic Empowerment” (.pdf), from the United Nations Foundation and ExxonMobil; “Delivering Success: Scaling Up Solutions for Maternal Health” (.pdf), by researchers from the Wilson Center; and a project spearheaded by the British organization HealthProm, promoting a “maternity saddle” for donkeys to transport pregnant women to health centers in rural Afghanistan (Oberoi, 10/2). The Atlantic profiles the so-called “donkey ambulance” (Blua, 9/30). The Thomson Reuters Foundation profiles a new program, called Zero Mothers Die, which will launch a pilot project in Ghana that aims “to improve maternal, newborn and child health by providing pregnant women and new mothers with mobile health information” (Anderson, 10/2).

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Nigeria Plans To Vaccinate 3M Children For Measles, Polio

“Nigeria’s northern Kano state is starting to vaccinate three million children against polio and measles with tight security because of fears of attack by Islamic extremists,” the Associated Press/Washington Post reports. “[T]he vaccinations will be administered at 2,700 community centers — apparently ensuring more protection,” according to Shehu Usman Abubakar, the executive secretary for primary health care, the news agency states, noting, “Militants staging an Islamic uprising in northeastern Nigeria in February killed nine women health workers as they were vaccinating children in a house-to-house campaign in Kano city.” Last year, 200 children died of measles in Kano state, and 14 new cases of polio have been reported recently in Borno state, the AP adds (10/4). According to Bernama, “More than 34,000 teams will be engaged in the immunization exercise sponsored by the [WHO], UNICEF, and Rotary International, along with other key development partners and the Nigerian government” (10/4). In a feature story, Science profiles Muhammad Ali Pate, Nigeria’s former minister of state for health, who “has been trying to do what no one has been able to accomplish before him — finally drive the poliovirus from Nigeria, one of the last and most stubborn reservoirs in the world” (Roberts, 10/4).

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IRIN Examines Damage Done To Mali's Health Care System During 2012 Coup

“Health care has been severely impaired throughout northern Mali, where the militant Islamists seized key towns during the” country’s March 2012 coup, IRIN reports, adding, “The rebels were ousted by French forces in January, but recovery of the sector has been slow.” The news service examines how the fighting affected the country’s health care system, saying that in some areas, up to 70 percent of clinics and hospitals were destroyed. “The effects of the conflict have overwhelmed Mali’s already weak public health system,” IRIN writes, adding, “Health care disruptions caused by the conflict, including the flight of medical staff, contributed to epidemics of cholera, malaria and measles in late 2012 and the start of 2013, experts say.” In addition, “[t]hree out of every four households are reliant on food assistance, the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization said in a recent appeal,” the news service notes. “As Mali steadies itself, with a newly elected president, some health experts fear that the economic, political and governance priorities will overshadow the need to restore the health sector” (10/3).

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Editorials and Opinions

Reduce Waste, Cut Down Biofuel Use To Meet Global Food Needs

Writing in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog, Timothy Wise of the Global Development and Environment Institute (GDAE) at Tufts University and Marie Brill, executive director of ActionAid USA, discuss predictions of food insecurity, saying, “The issues are indeed serious, but the specter of looming food shortages is a bit overblown.” They continue, “The policy prescriptions that follow these dire forecasts typically call for the expansion of industrial-scale agricultural development while ignoring the obvious threats to our global food supply: biofuels expansion, inadequate investment in climate-resilient agriculture, lagging support for small-scale and women food producers, and the massive loss of food to spoilage and waste. Add to those the need for more equitable distribution of the food we currently produce, and there is no doubt we can feed the world in 2050 — if we change course.”

“Our new report, ‘Rising to the Challenge: Changing Course to Feed the World in 2050,’ shows that many of the public pronouncements calling for a doubling of global food production by 2050 are based on outdated or flawed economic forecasting and misleading characterizations of this research,” Wise and Brill state. “[T]he failure to distinguish food production from agricultural production obscures the largest single contributor to recent food price spikes: the massive expansion of agricultural biofuel production,” they write and discuss “several other key variables” they say have been excluded from “recent economic forecasting and analysis.” They conclude, “As our report makes clear: hunger, now and in the future, is less a matter of inadequate production than inequitable access to food and food-producing resources. The developed world’s myopic focus on increasing production is obviously misguided as we simultaneously waste one-third of the food that is produced and pursue a course to devote another 13 percent of cereals to feeding our cars instead of our people” (10/3).

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Other Countries Can Learn From Colombia's Success In Eliminating River Blindness

Alba Lucia Morales Castro, health education adviser with the Carter Center’s Onchocerciasis Elimination Program for the Americas (OEPA), writes in The Guardian’s “Global Development Professionals Network” blog about how “Colombia recently became the first country in the Americas to wipe out onchocerciasis (river blindness) and the first in the world to be granted ‘verification of elimination’ status by the [WHO].” She outlines several critical components of Colombia’s eradication program, including using medicine to treat the disease and “the marshaling of large networks of health workers and community volunteers to teach their neighbors how to prevent the disease.” Castro discusses the work of OEPA in other countries in the region, noting “[t]ransmission has stopped in Ecuador, Mexico, and Guatemala, and each country is working to get official elimination verification by the WHO.” She concludes, “OEPA’s lessons and successes have also served as an inspiration for a new Carter Center goal: to eliminate river blindness in the areas we assist in Africa, where nearly all of the world’s river blindness remains,” and to “overtur[n] decades of scientific belief that elimination in Africa was impossible” (10/1).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

Senate Could Act On PEPFAR Bill Despite U.S. Government Shutdown

“While much of the work in this shuttered capital has ground to a halt, the Senate is still open for business, and that means that the body could act on S 1545, the PEPFAR Stewardship and Oversight Bill of 2013, as early as this coming Monday,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. The blog notes the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s passage of an amended version of the bill earlier this week and writes, “The Senators are working now to get the bill to the Senate floor quickly, according to congressional sources” (Barton 10/3).

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Blog Examines Global Fund Replenishment, Accomplishments, Other Issues

“Donors and health advocates may have struck Global Fund gold last week,” Ben Leo, director of the Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance Program and a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD), writes in the organization’s “Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance” blog. Noting recent pledges to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria made by the U.K. and Nordic country governments, Leo writes, “All of these actions are intertwined to leverage $5 billion from the United States (and vice versa) over the next three years. Secretary [of State John] Kerry is then supposed to deliver the final step of the highly choreographed plan this December — the Global Fund’s ultimate $15 billion financing target.” He continues, “While other donor governments continue stepping forward, U.S. politicians must decide whether the Global Fund deserves such generosity.” Leo discusses the Global Fund’s accomplishments, changes it has made in recent years, as well as some key issues facing the organization that may influence donor commitments moving forward (10/3).

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New Issue of 'Global Fund News Flash' Available Online

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has published Issue 27 of its newsletter, the “Global Fund News Flash.” The issue includes an article on accessing health care in rural Tanzania; a piece on the Board of the Global Fund’s approval of “recommendations from its Strategy Investment and Impact committee on how incentive funding will work in the new funding model, when it is fully launched in early 2014”; and mention of another Board decision about “adopting a way to apportion funding among programs to fight HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria” (9/27).

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