“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).
National Security and Bioterrorism
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).
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).
Following the conclusion of a two-day meeting at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) this week — meant “to gather feedback from flu researchers, others in the science community, and the public on its draft framework for funding H5N1 gain-of-function studies and to continue an international dialogue on issues related to benefits and risks of the research” — “experts anticipated that a voluntary moratorium on work with lab-modified strains that have increased transmissibility might end soon,” CIDRAP News reports (Schnirring, 12/18). “That’s because officials at the National Institutes of Health say they will be moving swiftly to finalize a new process for deciding whether or not to fund proposed experiments that could potentially create more dangerous forms of the bird flu virus H5N1,” NPR’s “Shots” blog notes.
“Global health is not often thought of as a national security issue, but development professionals and military leaders have been coming together in the belief the two are ‘closely tied together,'” Zach Silberman, a policy associate with the U.S. Global Leadership Council (USGLC), writes in the organization’s blog. He discusses a recent report, “Global Health as a Bridge to Security,” by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Military leaders have been among the strongest voices in recognizing that global health has a positive impact on stability abroad,” but “[e]nhancing security through global health efforts … does not require a military solution,” Silberman writes, concluding, “Bringing together American compassion and security demonstrates the impact of smart power in development” (11/14).
A recent video from the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) on global health and national security discusses the importance of military and non-military health partnerships with middle- and low-income countries, the American Public Health Association’s “IH-Blog” reports. The video features commentary from leaders in security and health, according to the blog (11/9). A CSIS report titled “Global Health as a Bridget to Security” is available online (11/1).
The Global Washington blog summarizes a discussion about the role of U.S. foreign aid that took place last week in Columbus, Ohio, between former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and former Gov. Bill Richardson (D-N.M.). While the discussion, convened by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition and moderated by Ohio Public Radio and Television Bureau Chief Karen Kasler, focused on the future role of Ohio in global development, Frist said humanitarian aid is an important component of U.S. foreign policy and “encouraged the audience to see U.S. policies as ‘replacing desperation and disease and poverty with health and hope and opportunity,'” according to the blog. “Senator Frist and Governor Richardson were emphatically positive about the future of U.S. foreign aid, and both encouraged the audience to keep up with global health and business developments over the next few months,” the blog notes (Jensen-Clem, 11/1).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday released a 268-page annual report that “profiles a wide range of CDC influenza-related projects around the world, from flu surveillance in Indonesia to vaccine effectiveness studies in El Salvador and epidemiology training in Ghana,” CIDRAP News reports. The report also “describes the CDC’s collaborations with the World Health Organization (WHO), outlines projects it supports in about 40 countries, … describes specific studies undertaken in many of those countries,” “lists international training conferences it has sponsored, and describes the CDC program for sharing diagnostic test kits and reagents,” the news service writes. “Over the past six years the [international] program has undergone remarkable growth and has expanded to provide support to over 40 countries, all WHO regional offices and WHO headquarters,” the report notes, according to CIDRAP. “The report, covering 2011, is the third annual account of the agency’s global flu activities, which have expanded greatly in the past decade,” the news service adds (Roos, 10/30).
“What should President [Barack] Obama and [Republican presidential nominee] Gov. Mitt Romney talk about during [Monday's] foreign policy debate? The force that can make or break a foreign policy: food,” author William Lambers, who partnered with the U.N. World Food Programme on the book “Ending World Hunger: School Lunches for Kids Around the World,” writes in a Tennessean opinion piece. “There are 870 million people worldwide who suffer from hunger and malnutrition,” he notes, adding, “As former Army chief and Secretary of State George Marshall said, ‘Food is a vital factor in our foreign policy. And the attitude of Americans toward food can make or break our efforts to achieve peace and security throughout the world.'”
Briefly recapping a history of foreign aid policy since 1920, former Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) write in a Politico opinion piece, “Credit for America’s global leadership role belongs to both major political parties and Americans of all stripes” who “have always been guided by the notion that all lives have equal value, regardless of where someone was born.” Because of the current economic recession, “[w]e understand that there might be temptation to cut back on U.S. humanitarian programs and investments abroad,” they write, continuing, “However, the cost of cutting back on such programs is not worth it,” as such cuts would amount to less than one percent of the federal budget, “affect too many peoples’ lives and damage American economic and national security interests at a time our world is more interconnected than ever.”