As the World Health Assembly draws to a close in Geneva this week, and Margaret Chan accepts her appointment to a second five-year term as director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), an editorial and an opinion piece examine the future of the U.N. health agency. Summaries of these pieces appear below.
The following summaries of two opinion pieces and an editorial explore a recent paper published by the World Bank discussing significant declines in infant and under-five mortality in Kenya and across sub-Saharan Africa.
Target Of 25% Reduction In Premature Mortality From NCDs By 2025 A 'Rallying Call' For Global Health Community
Member states at the 65th session of the World Health Assembly, which concluded last week, “agreed to adopt a global target of a 25 percent reduction in premature mortality from non-communicable diseases [NCDs] such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases by 2025,” Devi Sridhar, a lecturer in Global Health Politics at Oxford University; Lawrence Gostin, professor of law at Georgetown University, faculty director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, and director of the WHO’s Collaborating Center on Public Health Law and Human Rights; and Derek Yach, senior vice president of global health and agricultural policy at PepsiCo and former executive of the WHO, write in the journal Global Health Governance. The authors discuss the basis on which the target was set and examine what will need to be done, and by whom, in order to achieve the goal.
HIV transmission in China is increasing faster among men who have sex with men (MSM) than in any other population, a trend that “cannot continue,” a group of researchers working in China write in a Nature commentary, adding, “Policymakers, public health researchers, clinicians, educators, community leaders and other stakeholders in China must come together to educate everyone, and gay men in particular, about HIV prevention and treatment — before any more people become infected as a result of ignorance and fear.” They continue, “Chinese people aren’t uncomfortable just in discussing homosexuality” but “sex in general,” which has resulted in “a pervasive stigma against people with HIV, a lack of general sex education for young people, and poor epidemiological data about the spread of HIV in some populations around the country,” as well as “a hidden population of individuals who are afraid to seek out HIV information resources or testing and counseling centers.”
“As the nations of the world attend the World Health Assembly in Geneva this week, the World Health Organization is in a budget crisis and continuing to struggle for relevancy among better-funded, more agile philanthropic foundations and disease-specific initiatives,” Thomas Bollyky, senior fellow for global health, economics, and development at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), writes in this CFR expert brief. “Survival for the institution is possible, but only if WHO reinvents itself as a twenty-first century international institution that can adapt to changing global health needs and thrive in austere times,” he writes (5/23).
“We need to revive the rights-based agenda and realign research priorities for women’s health,” journalist Priya Shetty writes in this SciDev.Net opinion piece. “The activists who fought to put human rights at the center of women’s sexual and reproductive health, at the landmark International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo in 1994, may have won the battle — but they are still fighting the war,” she continues and outlines the “radical set of resolutions” produced by the conference. However, she writes, “this rights-based approach to women’s health never quite came to fruition.”
Following controversy surrounding a study published in the Lancet earlier this month that examined the impact of the Millennium Villages Project (MVP) on child mortality, “both the authors of the paper and the journal itself have finally responded,” blogger Matt Collin writes in the Aid Thoughts blog and provides a link to the post in the World Bank’s “Development Impact” blog that began the debate. The blog notes that study author Paul Pronyk of the Earth Institute, in a letter (.pdf) to the Lancet, retracts the child mortality data in the study and accepts that mathematical errors highlighted in the “Development Impact” post were made (5/18). In the Roving Bandit blog, blogger Lee Crawfurd discusses the Lancet editors’ response (.pdf) and writes, “There are definitely lessons to be learned across [the medical and economic] disciplines both ways. It’s just an incredibly sad state of affairs that one of the lessons that journals of medicine, the discipline that gave us randomized controlled trials, needs to learn from economics, is a more careful attention to statistics and causality” (5/21). In a post in the Christian Science Monitor’s “Africa Monitor” blog, blogger Tom Murphy summarizes the controversy and writes, “The discussion is important, say the critics, because of the popularity and cost of the MVP” (5/23).
In his Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) blog “The Internationalist,” Stewart Patrick, senior fellow and director of the CFR Program on International Institutions and Global Governance, writes about the first U.S. Intelligence Community Assessment of Global Water Security (.pdf), which “predicts that by 2030 humanity’s ‘annual global water requirements’ will exceed ‘current sustainable water supplies’ by 40 percent.” According to Patrick, the document says “[a]bsent major policy interventions, water insecurity will generate widespread social and political instability and could even contribute to state failure in regions important to U.S. national security.” He describes several factors that are pushing a “combination of surging global demand for increasingly scarce fresh water in certain volatile regions of poor governance.” Though “the intelligence community has performed a great service” with this report, “the policy response to date has been just a drop in the bucket,” Patrick concludes (5/8).
Ahead of Mother’s Day on May 13, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe writes in this post in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog, “Together we can go from 390,000 children becoming infected with HIV each year to zero,” and he highlights “three simple things we can all do to ensure babies everywhere can be born free from HIV.”
The Millennium Villages Project (MVP), established in Africa to determine what improvements can be made when programs addressing health, education, agriculture, and other development needs are implemented simultaneously, published its first results in the Lancet on Tuesday. The following opinion piece and editorial address the findings.