“Agriculture and nutrition are deeply intertwined. Not only does increasing agricultural productivity have the potential to improve rural families’ nutrition, but healthier and better-nourished farmers are more productive, earn more income, and contribute to further economic growth,” Gary Darmstadt, Sam Dryden, and Emily Piwoz of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation write in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. The authors note they “recently developed a position paper that describes why and how the agriculture and nutrition strategies of the foundation intersect, highlighting ways that we will work together in the future to make complementary investments in order to improve the lives’ and health of families in developing countries.” They conclude, “Combating undernutrition requires contributions from many sectors, including both nutrition and agriculture” (8/9).
“According to analysis led by Kanika Bahl and Pooja Shaw of Results for Development’s (R4D’s) Market Dynamics team, improved global incentives and information on cost-effectiveness could save the fight against malaria up to $630 million over the next five years and encourage manufacturers to produce better-performing nets,” Bahl, a managing director for R4D, and Shaw, a program officer in the Market Dynamics Practice at R4D, write in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. “Using their central position in global [long-lasting insecticide-treated net (LLIN)] markets, donor institutions can introduce policy incentives to focus on cost-effectiveness and rationalize specifications so that suppliers can take advantage of economies of scale in production,” they continue, adding, “To implement these policies, global guidance on the performance of various nets is urgently needed, and this is where organizations such as the WHO can provide direction” (8/27).
In this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Eloise Quintanilla, an associate communications officer with the foundation, discusses an article published in the Guardian over the weekend that examines 15 simple innovations being used to tackle Africa’s health and development problems. She details three of the innovations included in the Guardian piece and writes that the article “serves as an excellent reminder that innovation doesn’t have to be technologically complex in order to be transformative” (8/28).
In this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Max Kamin-Cross, a self-proclaimed political junky and youth activist, writes that by improving access to contraceptives, “[w]e could lift millions of people of all races and both genders out of poverty throughout the world,” “we could significantly decrease the number of premature deaths, as well as the number of lives claimed by deadly infections like HIV,” and “the quality of life for millions more people would be drastically improved.” He provides statistics regarding access to contraception and continues, “This issue should not be controversial. The future of my generation truly may rely on the fate of contraceptive access” (8/22).
In a series of “News Focus” articles in Science, the magazine examines the global effort to eradicate polio. One article examines the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) — a partnership of the WHO, Rotary International, UNICEF, the CDC, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — and recent reports on the program by an Independent Monitoring Board (IMB), “an oversight body” that provides feedback and guidance. A second and third article look at efforts to vaccinate children against polio in Pakistan, which “is the perfect case study for why it is so hard to eradicate poliovirus from its last few strongholds — and what it might take to pull it off.” The WHO’s Chris Maher “and others attribute the explosion of cases last year to a perfect storm of all the problems that are Pakistan: poverty and illiteracy; a health system in tatters; ethnic and sectarian violence; a government struggling to deal with corruption and dysfunction; huge population movements; and, especially since 9/11, rising extremism and anti-Western views — not to mention the natural attrition that accompanies any program that has dragged on for so long,” according to Science (Roberts, 8/3).
“The global effort to eradicate polio received a SEK 1 million [about $150,000] boost today as Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, dedicated the monetary award she accepted from the TÃ¤llberg Foundation to Rotary International — a humanitarian service organization that has made a polio-free world its top priority,” according to a Gates Foundation press release. “Rotary International has been an invaluable champion for bringing the world more than 99 percent of the way toward a polio-free world, and will continue to be in the final steps to success,” Gates said, according to the press release (8/6).
Diagnostics company Cepheid on Monday signed deals with PEPFAR, USAID, UNITAID, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to immediately reduce the price of its Xpert MTB/RIF test kit for its GeneXpert tuberculosis (TB) diagnostic system in 145 countries, Reuters reports. “The agreements will see the test sold for $9.98, down from its current price of $16.86 per test,” the news service writes, adding, “Cepheid said the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will make an initial payment of $3.5 million to make the test immediately available at the lower price” (Ail, 8/6).
The New York Times reports on efforts by the GAVI Alliance to deliver vaccines for children in war-torn and secretive countries. According to the newspaper, the non-profit group “sold to North Korea a vaccine against five diseases, and has announced plans to roll out other vaccines soon in Yemen, the Republic of Congo and Pakistan.” The newspaper notes that the alliance “does not do the vaccinating, but negotiates low prices from manufacturers and resells the vaccines at prices on a sliding scale, depending on a country’s gross national income per capita.” According to the New York Times, “[F]irst the group studies whether the country can use the vaccine — whether officials can keep it refrigerated even in rural villages, for example, and whether there are enough trained vaccinators” (McNeil, 7/30).
As part of its monthly series Stories Behind the Statistics, “guest edited by FHI 360 on behalf of USAID’S IYWG, which provides technical leadership to improve the reproductive and sexual health of young people,” the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog features a story by Gaj Bahadur Gurung, program coordinator for the National Federation of Women Living with HIV and AIDS in Nepal, who discusses the impact of adolescent pregnancy on girls and young women in South Asia. He writes, “Policies and programs must both help prevent early and unintended pregnancy (for married and unmarried women) and mitigate the negative consequences for girls who do become pregnant. Programs should provide young women access to, control over, and informed choice of their sexual and maternal health services” (8/3).
“PrePex, a bloodless circumcision device for adults, will be tested in at least nine African countries in the next year, according to the backers of the tests,” the New York Times reports. PEPFAR “will pay for PrePex circumcisions for about 2,500 men in Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda, said Dr. Jason B. Reed, a technical adviser to the plan,” the newspaper writes. “The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will pay for similar studies in Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe,” it adds. According to the New York Times, the device “was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in January, and World Health Organization approval is expected soon.” The newspaper notes, “No surgeon is needed for the procedure; a two-nurse team slides a grooved ring inside the foreskin and guides a rubber band to compress the foreskin in the groove,” and adds, “After a week, the dead foreskin falls off like the stump of a baby’s umbilical cord or can be painlessly clipped off, said Tzameret Fuerst, chief executive of PrePex” (McNeil, 8/13).