“An international debate over whether to censor new research on bird flu may soon prove academic, as other laboratories close in on similar findings showing how one of the most deadly viruses could mutate to be transmitted from one person to another,” Reuters reports. Last year, two teams of researchers reported study results “that showed how the H5N1 [bird flu] virus can be transmitted through airborne droplets between ferrets, a model for studying influenza in humans,” and the findings prompted the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) in December to advise “two leading journals, Nature and Science, to withhold details of the research for fear it could be used by bioterrorists,” the news service writes.
“In recent months, many politicians and presidential hopefuls have called for budget reductions, and many have specifically targeted military spending for cutbacks,” Peter Hotez and James Kazura, past president and president, respectively, of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, write in this Atlantic opinion piece. “[P]rograms such as the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) often find themselves low on the priority list despite their crucial role in saving the lives of our troops on the battlefield and here at home,” they write, adding, “Today, American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan still face formidable tropical disease threats. … For over 100 years, WRAIR has been the U.S. military’s premier institution for preventing these types of tropical infections.”
Psychological, organizational and budgetary factors contributed to why governments did not respond sooner to early famine warnings in the Horn of Africa, Hugo Slim, a visiting fellow at the Institute of Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict at the University of Oxford, says in this Guardian opinion piece. In a new report (.pdf), Save the Children and Oxfam “suggest that government officials were reluctant to call a crisis until there was a crisis”; that organizing “NGOs and U.N. agencies to agree the scale of a problem and then to act in concert is always going to be difficult”; and that, “[m]ore importantly, budgets are still divided too strictly between emergency and development funds,” he writes.
Sharon D’Agostino, vice president of worldwide corporate contributions and community relations at Johnson & Johnson, writes in a Huffington Post opinion piece about the launch of the Global Motherhood partnership between Johnson & Johnson and the Huffington Post. “The Huffington Post and Johnson & Johnson have collaborated to create this forum focused on global motherhood, a place to share ideas and experiences for improving maternal and child health,” she writes, adding, “We hope that the Global Motherhood section will give voice to the people and organizations that are making a difference and inspire others to join in this effort” (1/18).
Community health workers (CHWs) “are seen to be a key part of a functioning primary health system,” especially in African nations, Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, writes in a post on Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog. “This system should include a clinic within short walking distance, with supplies, a skilled birth attendant and other staff, electricity, and safe water; an ambulance for emergency transport; an emergency ’911’ number; a policy of free care at the point of service (so as not to turn away the indigent); and trained and remunerated CHWs, taught also to treat diseases and save lives in the community,” he says.
The argument that “a country’s quickest way to better health for its people is economic development … is only one factor, and not the most important one, in explaining global health outcomes,” Charles Kenny, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, writes in a SciDev.Net opinion piece. “The challenge is to ensure that a cheap basic package of health interventions is available to — and is used by — all,” he continues.
“After more than a century as a global scourge and hundreds of thousands lives lost, polio may now be on the verge of being the second human disease wiped off the face of the Earth,” Charles Kenny, senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, writes in his column for ForeignPolicy.com, “The Optimist,” and asks whether it is worth it to spend billions of dollars to wipe out the few remaining cases of the disease. Kenny discusses the cost-effectiveness of eradication efforts and writes, “In part because of the considerably greater complexity of the vaccination program, the cost of the polio eradication program is mounting.”
In this Journal Sentinel Online opinion piece, Thomas Inglesby, chief executive officer and director of the Center for Biosecurity of UPMC in Baltimore; Anita Cicero, chief operating officer and deputy director of the center; and D.A. Henderson, a distinguished scholar at the center, comment on a recent announcement by scientists that they have genetically modified a strain of H5N1 bird flu that is “capable of spreading through the air between ferrets that were physically separated from each other,” indicating “it would be readily transmissible by air between humans.” They write, “We believe the benefits of [purposefully engineer(ing) avian flu strains to become highly transmissible in humans] do not outweigh the risks.”
In this post in the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Global Health Policy” blog, Victoria Fan, a research fellow at CGD, and Rachel Silverman, a research assistant at the center, respond to India’s marking of one-year since a case of polio was found in the country, writing, “While we applaud India for its commitment to reaching this milestone, let us not allow this recent success obscure the sorry state of vaccination in India.” They provide statistics regarding vaccination coverage in India and conclude, “We wonder whether India’s focus on polio may have come at the expense of other diseases,” and, “[w]hile India should be applauded for its contribution to global eradication, we urge India to consider the trade-offs in focusing on any one disease at the expense of another and, as much as possible, to try to piggy-back one effort to another effort” (1/14).
Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof continue to answer readers’ questions in this third and final installment of the series on Kristof’s “On the Ground” blog. Gates and Kristof answer questions about assessing and incorporating the needs of women and children in Bangladesh into development initiatives and discuss the global health activities about which they are most excited and optimistic (1/13).