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Voters Need More Information On Free Trade Agreement That Could Impact Drug Prices

In an opinion piece in the Guardian’s “Comment is Free” blog, Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, discusses potential policies contained within the “Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), a pact that the United States is negotiating with Australia, Canada, Japan and eight other countries in the Pacific region.” However, “[a]t this point, it’s not really possible to discuss the merits of the TPP since the governments are keeping the proposed text a secret from the public,” he says. Noting “[a] few items that have been leaked give us some insight as to the direction of this pact,” he discusses how the “pharmaceutical industry is … likely to be a big gainer” from the TPP if the pact includes “stronger and longer patent protection and also increased use of ‘data exclusivity.'”

Al Jazeera Examines Global Maternal Mortality

Al Jazeera examines maternal mortality worldwide, saying, “If the situation continues at its current rate, the world will not meet” the U.N. Millennium Development Goal “to reduce maternal mortality by 75 percent between 1990 and 2015.” Though the estimated number of women who die of maternal mortality has dropped from 546,000 in 1990 to 340,000 today, a woman’s lifetime risk of dying during or following pregnancy in developing countries “is still high at one in 31,” compared with one in 4,300 in developed countries, the news agency reports. “Attaining zero maternal death would require greater community involvement and commitment” and increased access to contraceptives and skilled birth attendants, according to experts, Al Jazeera notes (Arjunpuri, 3/19).

First International Podoconiosis Initiative Launched

The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases’ “End the Neglect” blog highlights “the first-ever international podoconiosis initiative, Footwork,” launched on March 15. “Footwork is aimed at raising public awareness about the causes and impact of podoconiosis” — a form of elephantiasis — “in affected communities, and advocates for it to be included in global health and [neglected tropical disease] agendas,” the blog writes, adding, “An estimated four million people in highland tropical Africa are affected with podoconiosis, and it has been confirmed in at least 15 countries in Africa, Central America and Asia” (Patel, 3/16).

FAO Officials, Country Representatives Meet In Vietnam To Discuss Food Security, Nutrition In Asia-Pacific Region

Representatives of 40 member countries of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), as well as senior officials from the agency, on Monday opened the 31st FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific in Hanoi, Vietnam, to “discuss in depth the issues of food security and rural poverty reduction,” Xinhua/China Daily reports (3/12). Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO assistant director general, “sa[id] rising food prices and frequent natural disasters are making it harder to ease hunger and malnutrition in the Asia-Pacific region,” VOA’s “Breaking News” blog writes, adding he “said the challenge of eradicating hunger has also been complicated by the effects of climate change, trade policies, soaring crude oil prices and the growing use of food crops for biofuels.” According to the blog, “ministers [at the meeting] will review a report on measures to speed up progress toward the goal of cutting hunger levels in half in Asia-Pacific by 2015,” a “target was set at a World Food Summit in 1996” (3/12).

South Asia Makes Little Progress In Meeting Maternal, Child Mortality MDGs, U.N. Report Says

“South Asian nations are making the least progress in the Asia-Pacific region on meeting key development goals, which they pledged to achieve by 2015,” Bindu Lohani, vice president for sustainable development at the Asian Development Bank (ADB), said on Friday at the launch of a U.N. progress report on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Reuters reports (Bhalla, 2/19). The Asia-Pacific region already has reached the MDG of halving the incidence of poverty, “but still has high levels of hunger as well as child and maternal mortality,” the report said, according to Asian Scientist (2/21).

WHO Warns Battle Against Leprosy Not Over In Western Pacific Region

“The World Health Organization warned Monday that the battle against the age-old scourge of leprosy is not yet over, with more than 5,000 new cases reported yearly in the Western Pacific, where the disease was declared eliminated in 1991,” the Associated Press/Washington Post reports (2/13). “‘Leprosy is still much alive in the Western Pacific,’ said Shin Young-Soo, WHO regional director,” at a meeting of national leprosy control program managers from the Western Pacific, Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C writes, adding, “Policymakers, health workers and the public should not be misled that the disease is totally gone and must continue to fight it, he said.”

Asia-Pacific Accounts For Second Highest Burden Of Malaria Outside Of Africa, RBM Partnership Report Says

At a meeting of leading malaria scientists, political leaders, and health experts in Sydney on Friday, the Roll Back Malaria Partnership released a new report (.pdf) showing that more than two billion people in the Asia-Pacific region are at risk of the disease, Agence France-Presse reports. “There were some 34 million cases of malaria outside Africa in 2010, claiming the lives of an estimated 46,000 people,” the news agency notes, adding, “The Asia-Pacific, which includes 20 malaria-endemic countries, accounted for 88 percent, or 30 million, of these cases and 91 percent, or 42,000, of the deaths” (Parry, 11/2).

UNAIDS Officials Say Progress Being Made Against HIV/AIDS In Africa, Asia

Speaking at a media briefing in Geneva on Thursday, Sheila Tlou, UNAIDS director of the regional support team for Eastern and Southern Africa, said the region is making progress in scaling up access to prevention and treatment services, including behavior change and prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) programs, the U.N. News Centre reports. “We have to now focus on making sure that we scale up voluntary medical male circumcision, behavior change, and all those [interventions] to make sure that we reduce infections,” she said, adding that improving access to treatment also is critical, according to the news service (1/19). “‘There has been quite a lot of progress since 1997 with a 25 percent reduction in new infections in our region,’ said Tlou,” Agence France-Presse notes (1/19).

S&P Warns Some G20 Nations Face Downgrade Unless Reforms To Stem Rising Health Care Costs Enacted

“Ratings agency Standard & Poor’s warned it may downgrade ‘a number of highly rated’ Group of 20 [G20] countries from 2015 if their governments fail to enact reforms to curb rising health care spending and other costs related to aging populations,” Reuters reports. “Developed nations in Europe, as well as Japan and the United States, are likely to suffer the largest deterioration in their public finances in the next four decades as more elderly strain social safety nets, S&P said in a report,” the news agency writes (Hopfner et al., 1/31).

Estimating Number Of Births Without Skilled Birth Attendants In South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa

Noting that the “fifth Millennium Development Goal target for 90 percent of births in low- and middle-income countries to have a skilled birth attendant (SBA) by 2015 will not be met,” researchers from University College London estimate “that there will be between 130 and 180 million non-SBA births in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa from 2011 to 2015 (90 percent of these in rural areas)” in this BioMed Central Pregnancy & Childbirth article. They conclude, “Efforts to improve access to skilled attendance should be accompanied by interventions to improve the safety of non-attended deliveries” (1/17).

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