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HHS Unveils $1.9B Strategy To Better Prepare For Biological Threats

“Acknowledging that the development of medical countermeasures against bioterrorism threats and pandemic flu is lagging, [U.S.] federal authorities Thursday announced a $1.9 billion makeover of the system for identifying and manufacturing drugs and vaccines for public-health emergencies,” Tribune Company/Seattle Times reports. “The overhaul includes manufacturing refinements aimed at shaving weeks off the time it takes to produce pandemic flu vaccine and a series of steps aimed at more quickly detecting promising scientific discoveries and getting them to market,” the news service writes (Zajac, 8/19).

Also In Global Health News: Ebola Drug Study; Niger Hunger Crisis; WHO’s Breastfeeding Guidelines For HIV-Positive Mothers; Slowing India’s Birth Rate; Food Aid In Somalia; Transaction Tax

Treatment Administered To Monkeys Within Hour Of Ebola Infection Found To Be 60% Effective, Study Finds  “A treatment administered to rhesus monkeys within an hour of being infected by the deadliest strain of Ebola was 60 percent effective, and a companion drug was 100-percent effective in shielding cynomolgus monkeys against Ebola’s cousin, the…

Obama’s National Security Strategy Released, Includes Global Health, Food Security Priorities

“The Obama administration on Thursday released a sweeping statement of its national security goals,” the Los Angeles Times reports. The 52-page document “calls for the United States to strengthen international institutions, to heed treaties and norms, and to build stronger ties to allies, including to the emerging powers of India, Brazil and China. It says the United States needs to manage the emergence of new powers, while pressuring other nations to shoulder more of the burden of international problems,” according to the newspaper (Richter, 5/27).

Recent Releases In Global Health

New This Week In The Kaiser Global Health Policy Tracker: The President’s Malaria Initiative announced a new focus country and USAID released a new fact sheet on the agency’s reform initiative. Kaiser’s Policy Tracker provides a timely single reference point for the latest information on congressional and administration action on global health. Strengthening…

White House Science Adviser Responds To Inquiry Regarding Handling Of H5N1 Research Controversy

“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.

Financial Times Analysis Examines Efforts To Address Dual Risk Research

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 en­gaged 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).

Humanosphere Blog Reports On ‘Diseases Without Borders’ Forum

KPLU 88.5’s “Humanosphere” blog reports on a “Diseases without Borders” forum held in Seattle on Tuesday at which Nils Daulaire, director of the Office of Global Affairs for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, stressed that global health is a domestic issue. “‘Our only chance to keep Americans safe is if the systems for preventing, detecting and containing disease … also stretch across the globe,’ Daulaire said,” according to the blog, which notes, “Daulaire spent a significant amount of time explaining the policy interests of the Office of Global Affairs” (Stiffler, 4/4).

Development Gains In Afghanistan Must Be Made Sustainable

Alex Thier, assistant to the administrator and director in the USAID Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs, writes about the agency’s new report, titled “USAID in Afghanistan: Partnership, Progress, Perseverance,” in this IMPACTblog post. “Afghanistan’s literacy, life expectancy, infant mortality statistics, as well as access to communications, electricity, and paved roads, were dismal” in 2002, but a decade later, “Afghanistan has shown incredible gains in health care, education, and economic growth,” Thier writes. The report “outlines these impacts in a transparent and frank accounting of the roughly $12 billion in civilian assistance that USAID has implemented in Afghanistan to date,” he notes. “But these gains are fragile,” he writes, adding, “We must cement the gains from this incredible investment, and make them sustainable” (4/4).

2-Day Meeting Examining Issues Of Censorship Of Scientific Studies Leaves Questions Unanswered

A two-day Royal Society meeting held this week in London — which examined “whether scientific journals should occasionally publish censored versions of papers because the full ones might prove useful to terrorists” — “brought scientists no closer to resolving the question of whether there are any kinds of experiments whose results should be kept from the public,” the Washington Post reports. “The audience of about 200 scientists and ethicists considered numerous questions,” the newspaper writes, noting, “There was general agreement that some experiments are off limits, such as attempting to make the AIDS virus transmissible by air,” but “[t]here was less agreement about the experiments at hand, which changed the characteristics of H5N1 bird flu.”