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).”
David Watkins, a resident physician in the Department of Medicine and the Internal Medicine Global Health Pathway at the University of Washington, and Jim LoGerfo, a professor of Medicine and Global Health at the university, write in a Seattle Times opinion piece, “A new pandemic has emerged and is beginning to overshadow all others,” adding, “The chronic-disease pandemic will be the ‘face’ of global health in the coming decades … an insidious pandemic for those who are affected, causing slow and subtle declines in health over years.” They write, “In addition to providing cost-effective medicines for hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol, the prevention of cases will be our greatest challenge. Chronic diseases require large public-health interventions and improvements to primary health-care systems” (9/15).
When the results of a large clinical trial testing the effectiveness of the RTS,S malaria vaccine among children in Africa are made available later this year, “it will be time to start discussing what to do with the vaccine,” Orin Levine, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center at Johns Hopkins University, writes in a Huffington Post opinion piece. “If the vaccine is safe and effective, one of the most important questions will be how to pay for it … and even though Andrew Witty, the CEO of the vaccine’s manufacturer, GSK, has promised to price the vaccine at a point just above its production cost, this price may still end up being too high for many malaria-affected countries to pay for it,” he writes.
Some of the issues to be addressed at the U.N. High-level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) taking place this week in New York “are controversial, including those relating to intellectual property rights for new medicines, diagnostics and medical devices,” James Love, director of Knowledge Ecology International, writes in an Al Jazeera opinion piece. “By continuing to assert that the Doha Declaration is in fact limited in various ways, U.S. and European trade negotiators have tried to discourage the granting of compulsory licenses on patents for high-priced drugs for cancer and other non-communicable diseases,” he continues, before outlining a proposal called the “cancer prize approach” that would de-link drug prices from research and development incentives.
“[F]ar too many children in Kenya and other African countries continue to suffer unnecessarily each year due to the misdiagnosis of fever, which contributes to the deaths of nearly three million children of less than five years of age from malaria and pneumonia,” Willis Akhwale, head of Kenya’s Department of Disease Prevention and Control in the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation, writes in a Daily Nation opinion piece, saying that health care workers “desperately need a test that can quickly and accurately identify and distinguish between fever-causing diseases.”
Nobel Peace Prize winner and human rights advocate Archbishop Desmond Tutu writes in a Washington Post opinion piece that President Barack Obama “is in a position to make a game-changing impact on the war against AIDS” and he “should lead the world in a massive effort to expand access to treatment and rid humanity of AIDS — the most devastating disease of our time.” However, “just as the end of AIDS has finally come within reach, we are witnessing an unprecedented drop in financial and political support for the cause,” he adds.
Mary Fanning, South Africa’s country coordinator for PEPFAR, writes in a New Age guest column, “In the fight against HIV/AIDS, this is a time of hope. It’s also a time to celebrate the partnerships that are advancing this work and to recommit to a plan to ensure prevention, treatment and care for those infected and affected is sustainable and locally managed,” adding, “Ultimately, whether it’s putting more people on treatment, supporting HIV testing campaigns or leveraging mass media to drive the prevention message, the partnership between the U.S. and South African governments saves lives.”
Recent U.N. statistics showing a drop in child mortality are both good and bad, because the number of child deaths continues to drop, but “progress isn’t reaching all families around the world, and it isn’t reaching newborn babies as often as older children,” Joy Lawn, director of Global Evidence and Policy for Save the Children’s Saving Newborn Lives program, writes in a GlobalPost opinion piece. While the knowledge and technology exist to save lives, “too often, there is simply no one equipped to deliver basic lifesaving care to families who need it most. More than anything else, babies and children die for lack of frontline health workers,” she writes.
The health care system in the refugee camps in Dadaab, Kenya, which were established “long ago,” are “currently challenged and stretched by the recent influx of refugees,” UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimihen writes in this BMJ Group Blogs entry, noting that efforts are underway “to strengthen the existing system with supplies [and] human resources at clinic and outreach levels” to increase access. UNFPA is working “to improve reproductive health care in Dadaab and in accessible parts of Somalia through the provision of related life-saving medical supplies and equipment, which will lead to a reduction in adult and child morbidity and death,” he writes.
This Lancet editorial responds to the 25th Board meeting of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria held in Accra, Ghana in November, stating, “Tensions were high as the Fund had to make difficult decisions in a year that has been plagued by financial shortfalls, corruption, and calls for organizational reforms. â€¦ However, the Fund remains committed to ensuring the continuation of essential services and to supporting existing grants over new ones to the end of 2013.”