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Opinions: U.S. Child Survival Programs; Global Family Planning; Impact Of Nuclear Fallout; Success In Global Health

Congress Should Continue To Support Global Child Survival Programs

“Over my 22 years in Congress, programs that support child survival around the world have enjoyed bipartisan support and have saved millions of young lives worldwide. Unfortunately, funding for these lifesaving programs is at risk now. … We should not give up now on a great American achievement: helping more of the world’s mothers and children survive,” Rep. Donald Payne (D-N.J.) writes in Star-Ledger opinion piece that highlights the successes of U.S. global health programs.

“Taking care of children is a fundamental American value. And we know what works. … Meanwhile, current economic pressures threaten our progress. But the reality is that foreign aid spending is less than six-tenths of 1 percent of the U.S. budget. We should spend more, not less, to save children’s lives. Hard economic decisions are necessary, but they must not endanger child survival,” Payne concludes (5/10).

Time To Galvanize Political Will To Support Global Family Planning

“Rapid population growth is bad news for” Africa, “as it will likely outstrip gains in economic development. It’s also a wake-up call: If the world doesn’t begin investing far more seriously in family planning, much of our progress fighting poverty in sub-Saharan Africa over the last half-century could be lost,” Malcolm Potts, a professor at the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley, and Martha Campbell, president of Venture Strategies for Health and Development, write in a Foreign Policy opinion piece.

Potts and Campbell examine the recent U.N. population predictions and look at the implications for Africa, where “access to contraceptives – and information about family planning – is extremely hard to come by.” The “lack of attention” to international family planning “may well prove to be one of the worst foreign-policy mistakes of recent decades. Budgets for family planning have collapsed – despite the fact that they were yielding real results.”

“If we want to live in an ecologically sustainable world, we’ll have to meet the needs of the present without compromising the natural resources and services our children and grandchildren will need. … We have to ensure that the population can be slowed by purely voluntary means and within a human rights framework. We need to galvanize the political will to make it happen and invest now so that family planning options are universally available. Fail to do so, and we may give birth to a new, difficult era of poverty instead,” they conclude (5/9).

Nuclear Fallout Should Continue To Be Researched

“It has been 25 years since the worst nuclear power accident in history at the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine, and we still aren’t certain what health damage it may ultimately cause. That gap needs to be filled by a vigorous research program – both to improve readiness to cope with another bad nuclear accident and to enhance understanding of the long-term effects of low doses of radiation,” a New York Times editorial states.

The editorial supports an expert panel’s recommendation that “a research foundation be established to conduct long-term studies much as a foundation in Japan has been studying the long-term effects of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” The New York Times writes that “continuing uncertainties should be a warning to Japanese authorities to begin studies of the health effects of the Fukushima nuclear accident while the evidence trail is still fresh” (5/9).

International Development, Health Organizations Should Stop Crying Wolf And Recognize Successes

Charles Kenny, who holds fellowships at the Center for Global Development and the New America Foundation, asserts in a Foreign Policy opinion piece that “Apocalypse buffs and international development types have one thing in common: They’re both wrong.” Kenny highlights examples of progress in global health and development, but also acknowledges that there is still “plenty of tragedy and suffering.” Kenny writes that a “statistical analysis of news stories on developing countries in particular suggests a focus on the apocalyptic rather than the positive. Peaceful elections or declining mortality rates in Africa are apparently of little interest to the U.S. or European news consumer. … And, of course, it also works for well-meaning nonprofits and aid agencies trying to raise attention and funding to respond to development challenges.”

Despite the improvements, “nearly every agency continually cries crisis – and that reduces the incentive to give assistance to any of them. … The tragedy of continually crying wolf is that NGOs, aid agencies, and governments have in fact been part of the immense progress in quality of life we’ve seen worldwide over those 40 years. And that’s why it makes sense to provide continuing assistance,” he writes. Kenny concludes: “The apocalypse now is further off in the future than ever before, so it is long past time to change the marketing strategy for development. It might work for Glenn Beck, but Raj Shah can do better” (5/9).

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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.