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Opinions: Health And Agriculture; GHI’s Main Ideas; Recommendations To Improve Haiti’s Government; China And The Global Fund

Health, Agriculture Experts Should Collaborate More Often

In a SciDev.Net opinion piece, Jeff Waage, director of the London International Development Centre, argues for more collaboration between agriculture and health experts. “The relationship between agriculture and health may seem intuitive and simple – grow more crops and people will have more food and live healthier lives. But because agriculture and health policies are rarely coordinated, the reality is far more complex,” Waage writes before outlining some of the ways health and agriculture interact. “Diseases such as HIV/AIDS not only exacerbate malnutrition but can devastate labour, farm productivity and livelihoods,” according to one example listed.

Waage also addresses some of the factors that prevent health and agriculture experts from working together more closely. “[A]griculturalists, for example, may talk of improving health in terms of food energy, while health specialists deal in disability adjusted life years (DALYs),” according to Waage, who addresses the possibility for coordinating “metrics and methods.”

“The solution is for researchers from both backgrounds to work better together towards common goals,” Waage writes. He notes that the Leverhulme Centre for Integrative Research on Agricultural and Health, where he is the chair, “is a step in this direction,” and he outlines how the center will unite health and agriculture (8/24).  

VOA News Editorial Examines Global Health Initiative

A VOA News editorial, which reflects the views of the U.S. government, highlights Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s recent talk about the Global Health Initiative and looks at some of the GHI’s guiding ideas.

“The benefits of investing in global health are far reaching. Improved health of individuals strengthens fragile or failing states, promotes social and economic progress, protects the national security of the U.S. and partner countries, and enhances diplomacy,” the editorial states, also noting that the GHI “takes a progressive, comprehensive approach that creates sustainable infrastructure to improve health. The Initiative builds on evidence-based science, existing proven programs, and strong relationships with in-country partners and multilateral organizations.”

It concludes: “Under the Global Health Initiative, the U.S. is providing 63 billion dollars to support maternal and child health, family planning, neglected tropical diseases, malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS programs. The U.S. is also reinforcing in-country capacities by creating tailored programming, evaluating impact, improving coordination, and investing in technology” (8/23).

Haitian Rebuilding Effort Requires Better Government

“Haiti’s own plans for recovery, presented to its international donors in March, contained a broad vision but no road map to prioritize and fix urgent needs. It is not enough to raise stronger buildings. What Haiti truly needs is a more resilient and effective government,” James Dobbins, the U.S. special envoy to Haiti under the Clinton administration, and Laurel Miller, a senior policy analyst at the Rand Corp., write in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece.

Dobbins and Miller outline several “key areas” that would improve government stability. They run the gamut from improving the business climate to bettering education. They also recommend that public healthcare be shifted to a performance-based contracting system. Since the January earthquake, “Haitian-based healthcare is crippled amid a continuing imperative to monitor and prevent disease in tent camps, to treat mental illnesses stemming from the quake and to provide prosthetics and rehab therapy.” According to the writers, “Officials should shift operation of all health centers to nongovernmental organizations and other private institutions, leaving Haiti’s government to concentrate on setting policies and enforcing regulations for the system as a whole.”

“The Obama administration should strongly consider naming a point person to oversee all aspects of Haiti’s reconstruction. At the same time, the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission … needs to become the prevailing decision-making body, not just a talk-shop for donors and the government,” according to Dobbins and Miller. “The commission is off to a slow start. To make it work, major donors, most notably the United States, should submit all projects to it for coordination. If the U.S. does not embrace this discipline, no one else will,” they conclude (8/23).

U.S. Should Continue To Fund Global Fund’s Portfolio In China

A Foreign Policy opinion piece refutes the analysis in a previous opinion piece about China’s role as mostly an aid recipient from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. “Undoubtedly, while China can and should commit more of its own resources to meeting domestic as well as global public health needs, U.S. development assistance, whether bilateral or through multilateral mechanisms, should not be seen as a zero-sum endeavor where one recipient benefits at the expense of another,” write Drew Thompson, director of China studies at the Nixon Center, and Jia Ping, director of the Beijing-based Global Fund Watch.

Thompson and Ping assert that “Global Fund dollars are good for China and the world” and go on to explain how the Global Fund has worked to improve China’s health system. However, they grant that “change has not come overnight.”

“The United States should continue to support the Global Fund and its portfolio in China. It is undoubtedly in the U.S. national interest to contribute to China’s capacity to prevent the spread of infectious disease,” they write. “Finally, the U.S. contribution to the Global Fund and its continued support for China is an important manifestation of U.S. intentions toward China. It is particularly important at a time of heightened tensions in the bilateral relationship … that the United States signals that it welcomes China’s participation in the international community and seeks its acceptance and ultimately validation of international norms, such as those espoused by the Global Fund” (8/19).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.