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World Humanitarian Day An Opportunity To Reflect On, Address Health Crisis In Syria

This Lancet editorial reflects on a medical crisis in Syria, highlighting a new report (.pdf) by Amnesty International that “documents the human rights abuses already occurring in the city.” The editorial states, “A disturbing feature of modern conflicts and, indeed, the Arab uprisings, has been the flagrant disregard for the Geneva Conventions, including targeting of civilians, persecution of health workers, and attacks on hospitals, alongside the failure of the U.N. system to prevent these violations,” and it highlights several examples cited in the report.

Agriculture, Nutrition Sectors Must Work Together To Fight Undernutrition

“Agriculture and nutrition are deeply intertwined. Not only does increasing agricultural productivity have the potential to improve rural families’ nutrition, but healthier and better-nourished farmers are more productive, earn more income, and contribute to further economic growth,” Gary Darmstadt, Sam Dryden, and Emily Piwoz of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation write in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. The authors note they “recently developed a position paper that describes why and how the agriculture and nutrition strategies of the foundation intersect, highlighting ways that we will work together in the future to make complementary investments in order to improve the lives’ and health of families in developing countries.” They conclude, “Combating undernutrition requires contributions from many sectors, including both nutrition and agriculture” (8/9).

Sustaining Focus On Global Hunger Critical To Improving Transparency, Accountability In Fight Against Malnutrition

“Malnutrition is easily neglected by parents, communities and governments,” Lawrence Haddad, director of the Institute of Development Studies, writes in the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog,” adding, “The signs are not visible until very acute, the impacts are felt long after the food and infection cycle has played out — and far beyond electoral cycles — and the causes are often mistakenly attributed to something else.” He continues, “The challenge is to avoid the fight against malnutrition being a compelling but periodic curiosity,” like the Olympics. Haddad questions how to maintain the current focus on global hunger and nutrition helped by the upcoming August 12 summit in London. “At that event, I hope there will be a commitment to make the effort that is expended in the fight against malnutrition more transparent, and to make those who fall short in their exertions more accountable,” he says and lists three tools “that can help.”

African Leaders, International Community Must Act On Commitments Made At London Family Planning Summit

In this UNFPA opinion piece, Babatunde Osotimehin, U.N. under-secretary-general and UNFPA executive director, and Sharon Camp, president and CEO of the Guttmacher Institute, reflect on last month’s London Summit on Family Planning, where “leaders from 18 African countries made unprecedented commitments — financially and politically — to strengthen their family planning programs,” and highlight “[a] new study by the Guttmacher Institute and UNFPA [that] shows there has been minimal progress in addressing the contraceptive needs of African women during the past four years.” They discuss uneven progress “in meeting the demand for contraceptive services” across the continent and write, “Now it is up to all of Africa’s leaders and the international community to do their part through a sustained commitment to improving the provision of contraceptive services” (8/7).

Private Sector Becoming More Involved In Efforts To Reach Global Health Development Goals

In a post in the Guardian’s “Sustainable Business” blog, Lisa Herman, managing director of the global health practice area at consulting firm FSG, and Mike Stamp, a senior consultant with FSG, discuss “a new guide for companies on how to participate in global action on women and children’s health” recently launched at the London Family Planning Summit. “The guide, co-authored by social impact consultants FSG and sponsored by the Innovation Working Group in support of the global Every Woman, Every Child effort, sets out concrete opportunities for companies from many different industries to contribute to improving women and children’s health,” they write.

President's Malaria Initiative Contributing To 'Major Progress' Against Disease, Should Be Expanded

In this post in The Hill’s “Congress Blog,” Kent Campbell, director of the Malaria Control Program at PATH, and Jonathon Simon, chair of the Department of International Health and director of the Center for Global Health and Development at the Boston University School of Public Health, write that “major progress has been made in the fight against malaria, thanks in large part to the efforts of the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI),” and call the effort “a shining example of the profound impact the U.S. is making in global health.” They highlight a “recent external review of the first five years of its work,” which “shows substantial progress toward PMI’s goal of cutting malaria deaths by half in 15 African countries.”

Improve Investment In Agriculture To Meet Growing Demands

Extreme weather is forcing grain and meat prices to rise, and food production will have to increase about 60 percent over the next 40 years to meet a growing world population, but “there are solutions to these daunting problems,” Catherine Bertini, former director of the U.N. World Food Programme and the 2003 World Food Prize laureate, and Dan Glickman, former secretary of agriculture, write in a Politico opinion piece. The authors, co-chairs of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ Global Agricultural Development Initiative, say that in order to address these issues, “we should increase support for the agricultural researchers, in the U.S. and around the world, who are developing remarkable new drought and flood tolerant crop varieties”; make better use of arable land, especially in Africa; provide “farmers access to improved seeds, pesticides and fertilizers to boost productivity”; improve post-harvest infrastructure, including storage facilities; and “equip those working in agriculture, especially women, with the know-how to use newer technologies.”

Widespread Use Of Current Technologies 'Essential' To Improve Global Health

Noting that this week’s issue of the Lancet explores the theme of “[a]ccess to beneficial health technology, including essential medicines and medical devices, for those most in need,” a Lancet editorial states, “Maximizing use of current health technologies (drugs, devices, biological products, medical and surgical procedures, support systems, and organizational systems) is essential to improving global health.” Collaboration between the journal and Imperial College London has resulted in a new Commission on technologies for global health, which examines different ways to broaden the use of new technologies, from bringing down cost to making them more culturally acceptable, the editorial notes.

Investment In Health Systems 'A Critical Prerequisite' In Beginning To End AIDS

The XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) that took place last week in Washington, D.C., “ignited momentum to shift from ‘fighting AIDS’ to ‘ending AIDS,'” Mohga Kamal-Yanni, senior health adviser at Oxfam International, and Urvarshi Rajcoomer, policy and advocacy adviser at Oxfam in South Africa, write in a Mail & Guardian opinion piece. “Oxfam believes investing in health systems such as infrastructure and health worker, drug supply chain and health information systems, is a critical prerequisite to ending AIDS,” they write. However, “to make this a reality,” pharmaceutical companies, donor governments, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the World Bank “must now do their part,” they continue.