The White House Office of the Press Secretary on Thursday released a fact sheet, titled “Global Health Security,” that describes how the U.S. “is taking a multi-faceted approach to the full spectrum of challenges posed by infectious diseases, whether naturally occurring, accidental, or the result of a deliberate attack.” According…
National Security and Bioterrorism
In this Politico opinion piece, former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), who chairs the non-profit Hope Through Healing Hands, writes, “Continued investment in the fight to end global AIDS is more than an investment in the lives of families and communities in developing nations — it is an investment in security, diplomacy and our moral image worldwide.” He says the goals announced by President Barack Obama on World AIDS Day — including providing antiretroviral treatment to a total of six million people by the end of 2013 — “must have the support of Congress.” Frist continues, “Under the current budget cuts, more than four million people will likely lack mosquito nets, a cheap way to prevent malaria. More than 900,000 children will lack access to vaccinations for measles, tetanus and pertussis.” He stresses the “need for accountability, transparency and results,” citing the Millennium Challenge Corporation as “a good example of promoting aid effectiveness from ‘input to impact.'” He concludes, “Foreign aid is less than one percent of our national budget, so cutting it would have a miniscule effect on our deficit reduction” (12/14).
U.S. Science Advisory Board Asks Science, Nature To Omit Data From Bird Flu Studies Amid Security Concerns
The U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity on “Tuesday asked two scientific journals to leave out data from research studies on a lab-made version of bird flu that could spread more easily to humans, fearing it could be used as a potential weapon,” Reuters reports (Steenhuysen, 12/20). The board “recommended that the journals Science and Nature publish only the general discoveries, not the full blueprint for these man-made strains,” the Associated Press notes (Neergaard, 12/20). “Editors at the journals … say they will not agree to the redactions until they are assured the data will be accessible to researchers” according to BBC News (12/20).
In an article (.pdf) published in Global Health Governance, Derek Licina, an U.S. Army Medical Service Corps Officer, writes about the international military sector’s role in global health activities, which “has gained visibility in recent years.” He continues, “What is less clear is the overall contribution of the military sector to global health outcomes through direct and indirect investments.” He argues that focusing military global health efforts as outlined in international treaties, expanding existing multilateral military-related organizations, and establishing an international military global health financing mechanism will help “the military sector’s current role … become more efficient and effective in supporting the global good” (12/31).
A new issue of Global Health Governance is available online and features articles focused on human security and health. The issue includes articles on nodding syndrome in Northern Uganda and child nutrition in developing countries from a human security perspective, as well as commentaries on a new agenda for global human security and health and human security in the Americas, among other pieces (12/31).
“U.S. government officials say they expect to put the finishing touches this month on new rules designed to help funding agencies identify and regulate especially problematic H5N1 studies before they begin,” which would allow influenza researchers “to lift a year-old, self-imposed moratorium on certain kinds of potentially dangerous experiments,” Science reports. “The two developments would essentially end a long and bruising controversy over the risks and benefits of H5N1 research,” the magazine notes, adding the debate was initiated by two research teams that lab-engineered H5N1 strains to be transmissible among mammals. “The issue has been especially sensitive for the U.S. government, because its National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded the two studies and is one of the world’s biggest funders of H5N1 research,” Science writes. The magazine discusses the moratorium’s impact on research worldwide and summarizes differing views about its effects (Malakoff, 1/4).
“Some 240,000 children have missed U.N.-backed vaccinations against polio because of security concerns in Pakistan’s tribal regions bordering Afghanistan, a top official with the World Health Organization said Friday,” the Associated Press/Huffington Post reports. “Nima Saeed Abid, the acting WHO chief in Pakistan, said health workers have not been able to immunize…
In order to “fill food gaps in the 70 most food deficient countries, … the U.S., through the Food for Peace program and other food aid programs, provides approximately two million tons of American-grown food donations to 50 million starving people every year,” James Henry, chair of USA Maritime, writes in an opinion piece in The Hill’s “Congress Blog.” He continues, “This food, delivered on ships proudly flying the U.S. flag in bags stamped ‘From the American People,’ provides a tangible symbol of our generosity that helps generate goodwill toward our nation,” and “we all should agree that our willingness to help others in need is one of our country’s proudest achievements.” Henry writes that though food aid programs account for less than one half of one percent of the federal budget and “impact the lives of millions of hungry people around the world every year,” they “are in jeopardy as some policymakers are considering eliminating funding for international food aid.”
“White House science adviser John Holdren has replied [.pdf] to questions asked last month by Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) about how the Obama Administration has handled the controversy surrounding two studies that showed how to make the H5N1 avian influenza virus transmissible between mammals,” ScienceInsider reports. On March 1, “Sensenbrenner — a former head of the House of Representatives committees on science and the judiciary, and currently vice chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, sent a ‘fact-finding letter’ [.pdf] to Holdren” asking a “number of questions about how the government reviews potential ‘dual-use research of concern’ (DURC) that might be used for good or evil,” the news service writes.
A Financial Times analysis examines how the international community is working “to ensure scientific work can proceed without falling prey to accidental leaks or malevolent intent,” following controversy surrounding two studies on the H5N1 bird flu virus. The article states that “while much discussion has focused on the ‘virtual’ leakage of such studies through the very fact of publication, allowing the unscrupulous to read and replicate the work, another important risk has received far less attention: the accidental ‘physical’ leakage from the growing number of laboratories enÂgaged in such work around the world.” The article describes several accidental leaks and how governments and international bodies are working to balance risk and regulation (Jack, 4/10).