Noting this week marks the first anniversary of the U.N. High-Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), a Lancet editorial states, “The meeting was a crucial step for putting diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease high on the global health agenda. However, little action, other than more talking, has been taken since.” The editorial continues, “The key positive development of the past year was the goal to reduce preventable deaths from NCDs by 25 percent by 2025 passed by the World Health Assembly in May,” but “[t]he challenge now is how to meet it.”
“If left unaddressed, [non-communicable diseases (NCDs)] will lead to more death, disability and the implosion of already overburdened health systems in developing countries at huge cost to individuals, families, businesses and society,” Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and former UNAIDS executive director, writes in the Huffington Post “Impact” blog, adding, “Like AIDS, NCDs are a problem for rich and poor countries alike, but the poor suffer the most.” He continues, “The 2011 U.N. High-Level Meeting on NCDs — only the second time the U.N. had convened a major meeting on a health issue, following the U.N. AIDS Summit in June 2001 — was a landmark event in the short history of the fight against NCDs but was not a tipping point. Much more remains to be done.”
In a post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Helen Matzger, a program officer in new vaccine delivery at the foundation, writes about outbreaks of cholera in Haiti, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and other areas, and says creating stockpiles of a recently WHO-approved cholera vaccine could help save lives in the future. “The creation of a cholera stockpile is not a panacea; … Still, the cholera vaccine works. Though many of us may never need it, millions of people living in some of the poorest regions of the world face cholera outbreaks all too often. We have a way to alter the course of an outbreak and save lives. Let’s use it,” she concludes (9/19).
Noting that “[n]on-communicable diseases (NCDs) kill four times the number of people in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) that they do in high-income countries,” Benn Grover, a health communications specialist who manages policy for the National Forum for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, and Felicia Knaul, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and director of the Harvard Global Equity Initiative, write in the Huffington Post Blog, “The right to health of the majority of the world’s inhabitants is severely hampered due to vast inequalities in access to care and many of the social rights that determine their health. These inequalities are not just a matter of health, but issues of social justice and human rights.”
Bill Gates Describes How 'Catalytic Philanthropy' Can Help Bring Vaccines, Medicines To Untouched Markets
In an essay adapted for Forbes magazine from a speech given at the Forbes 400 Summit on Philanthropy in June, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, discusses how “[i]nnovations for the poor suffer from … market limitations” and his idea of “catalytic philanthropy.” Gates writes, “The market is not going to place huge bets on research when there are no buyers for a breakthrough. This explains why we have no vaccine for malaria today, even though a million people die from it every year.” Therefore, “when you come to the end of the innovations that business and government are willing to invest in, you still find a vast, unexplored space of innovation where the returns can be fantastic,” he continues.
“South Africa faces significant challenges when it comes to sexual health, and with the high prevalence of rape, teen pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases and infections, schools need to implement strong and informative programs on sexuality and contraceptive use,” Jos Dirkx, founder of Girls & Football SA, writes in this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, published in partnership with Women Deliver as part of a series on youth perspectives to recognize World Contraception Day, observed annually on September 26. She discusses some women’s personal experiences with contraception, and concludes, “Girls & Football SA strongly believes that by creating a safe space through our programming, we are able to present girls with the chance to ask questions, get accurate information and start a dialogue about their bodies, their health, and their sexuality” (9/18).
In a guest post on USAID’s “IMPACT Blog,” Rachel Cohen, regional executive director of DNDi North America, writes, “The United States government and its country partners should be commended for the tremendous achievements in the fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) as part of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) NTD Program” and the National Institutes of Health. “However, not all NTD research is created equal,” she writes, adding, “Beyond basic research, much more research and development (R&D), including late-stage product development, for new drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics is urgently needed for those NTDs where adequate tools do not exist.” Noting that African sleeping sickness, Chagas disease, and kala azar (visceral leishmaniasis) “are not yet included in the USAID NTD Program,” Cohen says “greater commitment to developing new NTD treatments and other tools is sorely needed if disease control or elimination is to be achieved” (9/18).
In this post in the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Global Health Policy” blog, Victoria Fan, a CGD research fellow, and Rachel Silverman, a research assistant for the global health team at the center, examine the future of UNITAID. “Perhaps due to its relative obscurity and late entry to a crowded global health field, UNITAID has proactively worked to differentiate itself through a focus on commodities, market shaping, novel funding sources, and innovation,” but, “as UNITAID celebrates its sixth birthday …, it stands at a potential crossroads,” they write. Fan and Silverman note that a five-year evaluation report on the future of UNITAID, commissioned by its Executive Board, is forthcoming, and they highlight a paper (.pdf) in which they “outline some contradictions and limitations of UNITAID’s current approach.” They write, “We hope that the imminent evaluation provides the impetus for UNITAID to turn inward and do something truly innovative: buck institutional inertia, change course as necessary, and reinvent itself as the solution to 2012’s biggest global health challenges” (9/17).
In this post in the Huffington Post Blog, Deborah Derrick, president of Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, examines the role of health efforts in the rebuilding of Burma, also known as Myanmar. “According to the World Health Organization, the ruling military leaders’ investment in health is only two percent of GDP, among the smallest health budgets in the world,” she writes, adding, “An estimated 240,000 people in the country are living with HIV/AIDS, and there remains a high risk of malaria, with incidence of drug-resistant malaria spreading.”
“For all its importance to human well-being, agriculture seems to be one of the lagging economic sectors of the last two decades,” Tyler Cowen, a professor of economics at George Mason University, writes in a New York Times opinion piece. “That means the problem of hunger is flaring up again, as the World Bank and several United Nations agencies have recently warned,” and in Africa, for example, “[t]he expansion of the … middle class and the decline in child mortality rates are both quite real, but the advances have not been balanced — and agriculture lags behind,” he states.