Though President Barack Obama signed an executive order on his third day in office to “lif[t] the odious ‘global gag rule’ that denied federal money for family planning work abroad to any group that performed abortions or counseled about the procedure, even with its own money,” he left standing a policy that is “an overly restrictive interpretation of the  Helms amendment.” The policy “imposes similar speech restrictions and bans using foreign aid money for abortions — even to save a woman’s life or in cases of rape in war zones like Congo, Sudan and Burma,” a New York Times editorial states.
In this New York Times opinion piece, W. Ian Lipkin, a professor of epidemiology and a professor of neurology and pathology at Columbia University and a paid technical consultant on the film “Contagion,” which opened this weekend, writes about the risks of an infectious disease outbreak as portrayed in the film, stating, “Those risks are very real — and are increasing drastically.”
Yves Engler, a Canadian writer and author, writes in a post on the Guardian’s “Comment Is Free” blog that local citizens and investigative journalists have alleged that the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti (Minustah) dumped feces and other waste in holes a few feet from water used for drinking and bathing in the central plateau city of Hinche on August 6 and again 10 miles from Hinche on August 21, as well as cites a report (.pdf) stating that sewage disposal at the U.N. base near Mirebalais 10 months ago caused a devastating cholera outbreak.
A VOA News editorial says U.S. support to Haiti since the early days of an outbreak of cholera, which has affected more than 439,600 people since it was first detected almost a year ago, “remains unfailing.” The editorial continues, “To date, the U.S. government has spent more than $75 million on improved water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, … has established and operated treatment centers and trained Haitian health care workers in preventing, diagnosing and treating cholera,” among other treatment, prevention and monitoring initiatives. “While some humanitarian groups are gradually reducing their operations in Haiti, the U.S. remains focused on giving the Haitian government the aid and tools needed to prevent and treat this potentially deadly disease,” the editorial says, adding, “The medical and public health response has been effective in limiting deaths associated with the disease” (9/12).
Several news sources have published opinion pieces regarding the ongoing famine in Somalia and hunger situation in the Horn of Africa, some of which are summarized below:
“Thirty years since the first case of AIDS was diagnosed in the United States, the world finds itself at a tipping point in the fight against this deadly disease,” U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby and George W. Bush Inaugural Global Health Fellow Ambassador Mark Dybul, who served as global AIDS coordinator from 2006 to 2009, write in a Huffington Post opinion piece. With the creation of PEPFAR, “President Bush and Congress responded with an effort that reflected … the compassion and generosity of the American people, [with an] insistence on impact,” they write, adding, “Since taking office, the Obama Administration has made building on the success of PEPFAR a priority.”
In this Atlantic opinion piece, Amanda Glassman, director of Global Health Policy at the Center for Global Development (CGD), and Denizhan Duran, a research assistant at CGD, outline the macro- and microeconomic effects non-communicable diseases (NCDs) can have on countries and families, noting that “80 percent of NCD deaths occur in developing countries, mostly the middle-income countries.” However, they write that NCDs “can be substantially reduced with simple, low or no-cost interventions,” but “middle-income countries are not implementing these simple interventions at scale” for reasons that “have little to do with money.”
Alexander Finlayson, Katherine Hudson and Faisal Ali, all affiliates of MedicineAfrica, a social enterprise providing a platform for health care educational and research partnerships between Northern and Southern collaborators, write in a SciDev.Net opinion piece, “Health scientists in developing countries can use social media to tackle research priorities, … build[ing] networks and shar[ing] the knowledge needed to make strategic progress towards strengthening health systems.” They say that mobile technology can enable “direct interaction with patients, helping remote training of health care workers, and supporting the education of scientists,” and that the use of social media outlets, such as Twitter, can “facilitate collaboration between scientists in developing countries,” preventing duplication of research (9/15).
“Innovation can transform a company, a culture, and even the world. But innovation doesn’t have to come in the form of a gadget. It can come in the form of a smiling neighbor knocking at a family’s door, toting some basic supplies and the skills to address matters of life and death,” Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation writes in a Huffington Post opinion piece.
The movie “‘Contagion’ is fiction, but truth closely trails behind. It tells an effective story of why we need new vaccines, tests, drugs, and other tools to prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases to address existing and emerging global health threats,” Kaitlin Christenson, coalition director of the Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC), writes in an opinion piece in The Hill’s “Congress Blog.” She notes the world has “been dealing with multiple new threats” over the past few years, adding, “We will surely face new pandemic threats, and we already face other emerging ones such as dengue fever and drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB).”