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Misconception That Syphilis Has ‘Disappeared’ Presents Major Impediment To Preventing Infant Deaths

In this Globe and Mail opinion piece, columnist Andre Picard examines the efforts of a new group, the Global Congenital Syphilis Partnership — which includes the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Save The Children, the CDC, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and the WHO — to “make screening for syphilis a routine part of pregnancy care with the goal of eliminating congenital syphilis.” Picard writes, “According to the World Health Organization, some 2.1 million women with syphilis give birth every year,” and notes, “Almost 70 percent of their babies are stillborn, and many of the rest suffer from low birth weight (putting them at great risk for a host of illnesses), hearing loss, vision loss and facial deformities.”

Partner Reduction Strategies Essential To Reversing Spread Of HIV

“The rising enthusiasm for providing more medicines threatens to come at the expense of promising initiatives for preventing HIV infections in the first place — initiatives that could save many lives, with less money,” Craig Timberg, the newspaper’s deputy national security editor, and Daniel Halperin, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina, write in this Washington Post opinion piece. “Ambitious treatment efforts and smart prevention programs are, of course, not inherently at odds. But especially in an era of fiscal constraint, these two goals could come into conflict,” they write, continuing, “The result, wasteful in dollars spent and lives diminished, would represent only the latest misjudgment by powerful donor nations such as the United States, which still struggle to understand the root causes of an epidemic that has spread most widely in weaker, poorer nations.”

ScienceInsider Reports On Lancet Letters Regarding CDC Center For Global Health

In a letter (.pdf) published Wednesday in the Lancet, officials from the CDC refute “point by point” three letters previously published in the journal that were critical of the agency’s Center for Global Health, ScienceInsider reports. Lancet Editor Richard Horton on February 11 “published criticisms of the institution’s Center for Global Health that he received from an anonymous letter writer” and then “ran complaints made by two more unnamed critics of the CDC center on March 3,” the news service states, adding, “As Horton noted, the letters ‘raise questions about leadership, management of resources, proper use of the CDC’s authority and power, and the scientific rigor of CDC research.’”

Empowering Women, Promoting Women’s Health Strengthens International Community

“As we honor the enormous impact women have on their families and communities worldwide, we also call on lawmakers to do more for global maternal and newborn health,” Former White House Press Secretaries Mike McCurry and Dana Perino write in a post in The Hill’s “Congress Blog,” marking International Women’s Day, which was celebrated on Thursday. “When we reach out with simple interventions to promote health and save women’s lives, we build international allies for life,” they write.

Women’s Health Status Linked To Empowerment

“The health status of women is linked to their fundamental freedoms and empowerment,” Susan Blumenthal, public health editor at the Huffington Post and former U.S. assistant surgeon general, and Jean Guo, a health policy intern at the Center for the Study of Presidency and Congress, write in the website’s “Healthy Living” blog in a post marking International Women’s Day, which was celebrated on Thursday. “With 3.4 billion women worldwide, women’s health is a global issue today. Yet, societal and environmental factors including poverty, discrimination, and violence are undermining the advancement of women’s health,” they write.

Integration Of HIV, Family Planning Services Will ‘Save Women’s Lives’

“Women who are at risk of unplanned pregnancy are also at risk of HIV, and vice-versa so separation of these services no longer makes sense. The global health community must work to bring family planning and HIV services together — and quickly — to save women’s lives,” by Dana Hovig, chief executive of Marie Stopes International, and Alvaro Bermejo, executive director of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, write in this RH Reality Check blog post marking International Women’s Day. The authors conclude, “We call on the public to urge leaders to support integration of services in the developing world. We encourage organizations working with us to support the integration of family planning and HIV services” (3/7).

Food Assistance Critical Component Of U.S. Global Development, National Security Strategies

“While only a small part of the Farm Bill, food assistance is a critical component of our nation’s global development and national security strategies, reaching 50 million people a year,” Ellen Levinson, executive director of Alliance for Global Food Security and president of Levinson & Associates, writes in the Hill’s “Congress Blog,” adding, “Improvements made to international food aid programs in the 2008 Farm Bill have borne fruit.” She notes, “By 2050, world population is expected to reach nine billion and food production will have to increase by 50-70 percent to keep pace.”

International Women’s Day Provides Opportunity To Renew Commitment To World’s Girls

In this Huffington Post “Global Motherhood” opinion piece, Kate Roberts, vice president of corporate marketing, communications and advocacy at Population Services International, marks International Women’s Day, to be recognized on March 8, and its 2012 theme, “Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures.” She says “the story of Facebook exemplifies precisely why the global community needs to invest in young minds and young leaders — especially girls,” and speculates what might have happened if Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg “had been born a girl in Rwanda.” Roberts outlines what could happen to Rwandan girls growing up, including dying because of malaria or diarrhea before age five; missing out on educational opportunities; dying in childbirth at a young age; or contracting HIV.

Congress Must Protect International Family Planning Funding

“Opponents of birth control don’t just want to limit access in the U.S., they want to slash U.S. support for international family planning programs. It’s a perennial debate, and it’s about to start all over again,” Chloe Cooney, director of global advocacy at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, writes in an RH Reality Check blog post. President Obama’s FY 2013 budget “demonstrates the value the administration places on family planning,” as “funding for international family planning programs is preserved,” she writes, noting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent testimony to Congress about the budget proposal, in which “she consistently reiterated the importance of development as a key pillar of our foreign policy and national security strategy” and “the administration’s focus on women and girls as central to these goals.” Cooney concludes, “The president’s budget protects U.S. investments in family planning programs around the world. Now it’s up to Congress to make sure those funds remain intact” (3/5).

World Bank Should Re-Evaluate Programs To Reduce Maternal Mortality

“The World Bank boasts that it has positioned itself as a ‘global leader’ in reproductive health, especially for youth and the poor,” but in 2011, it dedicated “just 0.2 percent of its $43 billion budget” to reproductive health projects, and much of that money was provided as loans, which can “leave poor countries indebted and threaten to divert domestic spending away from vital public health services,” Elizabeth Arend, program coordinator at Gender Action, writes in the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog.” In addition, “[t]here is a striking mismatch between countries’ maternal mortality rates and the bank’s spending on reproductive health,” Arend states, citing the examples of Sierra Leone, where the lifetime average risk of dying from pregnancy or childbirth is one in 35 and the World Bank provides $7.43 per person, versus Niger, Liberia, or Somalia, where women “face an average lifetime one in 17 risk of maternal death, yet these countries receive no reproductive health funding from the bank at all.”