With the disease burden of AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria expected to make up less than 15 percent of the total disease burden in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) by 2030, and non-communicable diseases to account for nearly 40 percent of the total in the region, “[a] revision of the approach to research and health care in SSA is therefore urgently needed, but international donors and health communities have generally been slow to respond to the changing environment,” Ole Olesen and M. Iqbal Parker of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in South Africa write in a commentary in Tropical Medicine & International Health. “Private and public funding for health research in Africa remains therefore disproportionately focused on the three major infectious diseases, whereas only smaller amounts have been allocated to confront other diseases,” they write and provide examples.
In this post in the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters” blog, U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin discusses a family planning summit to be held in London next month, writing the UNFPA “is supporting the initiative so that it can gain traction and support among other donors and UN member countries.” He writes, “More than 200 million women, largely in the least developed countries, want to use modern family planning methods but can’t access them,” and continues, “Enabling women to control the number and spacing of their children is essential to reducing maternal deaths.” The summit, co-hosted by the U.K. government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, “will be launched to meet this unfilled need for modern family planning in developing countries by tackling the estimated $3.6 billion (Â£2.3 billion) annual shortfall in investment (.pdf),” he adds.
“With almost 200 million people living in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India, a state more populous than the entire country of Brazil, the sheer breadth of exciting, new ways to improve maternal and child health is enormous,” Gary Darmstadt, head of the Family Health Division of the foundation, and Wendy Prosser, a research analyst with the division, write in this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. They conclude, “Our partners in Uttar Pradesh are asking for inventive ways to share knowledge to scale successful interventions which have a positive, lasting impact on women’s and children’s health. And we’re working to address this need, given the tremendous potential to increase our collective ability for impact when it comes to maternal, newborn, and child health in India — and to disseminate this learning from India for benefit throughout the world” (6/7).
“Around the world, frontline health workers are often the first link to lifesaving care and supplies, and in some cases they are the only link for families and communities in rural and impoverished areas,” Oying Rimon, a senior program officer in family health at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,…
In this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, editor Amie Newman, a communications officer at the foundation, notes that in 2007, “Kenya enacted a new constitution which … declares reproductive health care the right of all citizens,” and writes, “Kenya’s climb towards broad contraceptive coverage, and with that the hope for increased empowerment for women and girls and an improved economic situation for all, seems steep but scalable.” She discusses ongoing efforts in the country, highlights the upcoming London Family Planning Summit, and concludes, “Despite a new constitution, there’s a lot that needs to be done to meet the goal” (6/25).
In this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Megan Averill and Tricia Petruney, senior technical officers with FHI 360’s Global Health, Population and Nutrition Group, and Ward Cates, president emeritus at FHI 360, discuss the “domino effect” of family planning. “We’ll begin with a simple and intuitive causal relationship: voluntary use of contraception prevents unintended pregnancies,” they write, and highlight a number of benefits they say stem from this relationship. They conclude, “Until now, too few people have been aware and too few leaders willing to acknowledge the essential role that family planning plays in achieving sustainable development. Rio+20 is our chance to tip this pivotal domino piece forward, and witness the measurable cascade of progress it evokes” (6/18).
In this post on RH Reality Check, Marianne Mollmann, senior policy adviser with Amnesty International, addresses an upcoming summit in London on family planning funding, which is being co-hosted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.K. Department for International Development and supported by USAID and UNFPA. She says that poverty and “women’s ability to exercise her human rights, including the rights to quality health care, non-discrimination in education and health, and economic empowerment through job creation and protections for equality in the workplace,” are important drivers of maternal health and need to be addressed by governments (6/21).
“By the end of the 21st century, more than one billion people are expected to die from illnesses related to tobacco use primarily in low to middle income countries,” Amie Newman, communications officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and editor of the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, writes in this blog post in recognition of World No Tobacco Day. “We’ll continue to support efforts which reduce the number of deaths and diseases due to tobacco use — especially in developing countries,” she adds (5/31). An AIDS.gov blog post addresses tobacco use by people living with HIV, writing, “Smoking rates of people living with HIV are estimated to be two to three times higher than the national average, and smoking weakens the immune system, making it harder to fight off HIV-related infections” (5/31).
The “groundbreaking” London Summit on Family Planning, scheduled for July 11, “aims to provide an additional 120 million women … lifesaving contraceptives, information, and services by 2020,” Gary Darmstadt, who heads the Family Health Division of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, writes in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. If that goal is reached, the health and economic benefits would be “staggering,” he says, laying out the five guiding principles to the world’s “collective efforts to revitalize family planning.” Those principles include improving “political commitment, funding, and collaboration”; promoting equal rights among women and girls; strengthening voluntary family planning programs under existing infrastructure; and holding stakeholders accountable, he writes, and concludes, “The time to come together is now. The global community has the chance to achieve transformational results that will save millions of lives” (6/28).
Gates Foundation Plans To Invest In Biotech Companies To Improve Global Access To Treatments, Vaccines For Infectious Diseases
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation “plans to take equity stakes in up to a dozen biotech companies this year, signaling a shift towards a ‘venture capital’ approach at the world’s biggest philanthropic organization” and “mark[ing] a further move away from its traditional approach of grant-giving and towards a more business-oriented way to support the development of treatments and vaccines for infectious diseases affecting the world’s poor,” the Financial Times reports. Trevor Mundel, president of the Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program, said the foundation will make a series of investments worth several million dollars each “and not ask for a return but for global access. … We will specify the countries and the diseases,” according to the newspaper. The Financial Times notes that “[t]he move points to growing interest in working directly with companies rather than primarily through co-operating via non-profit ‘product development partnerships’ or intermediaries such as the Medicines for Malaria Venture and the Tuberculosis Alliance” (Jack, 6/26).