November 17 marked the second annual World Prematurity Day, sponsored by the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH). The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog published two posts discussing premature birth.
The focus of the Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases: Translating the London Declaration into Action conference, which took place November 16-18 in Washington, D.C., was “how we can work together to put the right systems in place and implement the change needed” to control or eliminate neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) by 2020, Simon Bush, director of NTDs at Sightsavers, writes in the Huffington Post U.K.’s “Impact” blog. Sponsored by the World Bank and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the conference brought together pharmaceutical company executives, non-governmental organization (NGO) representatives, academics, government officials, and representatives of the World Bank, WHO and other groups, Bush says.
Noting the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria met last week to discuss progress in fighting the three diseases, Lucy Chesire, executive director and secretary to the board of the TB ACTION Group, interviews Lucica Ditiu, executive secretary of the Stop TB Partnership, about the global response to tuberculosis (TB) in the Huffington Post’s “The Big Push” blog. In the blog, Ditiu summarizes the state of the global TB response, discusses the emergence of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB), and addresses the Global Fund’s role in the response to TB and the future of these efforts. “The Global Fund has an ambitious strategy that includes important milestones for anti-TB efforts,” Ditiu said, adding, “The international community must find a way to fund that strategy and to ensure that resources are allocated in a way that achieves the greatest good for the greatest number of people,” according to the blog (11/16).
The following opinion pieces and blog posts address actions to prevent preterm birth, after the publication of a Lancet analysis that examines preterm birth in 39 developed countries. The analysis is meant to “inform a rate reduction target for” the report “Born Too Soon: The Global Action Report on Preterm Birth,” which was published in May by an international coalition including the World Health Organization, Save the Children, U.S. National Institutes of Health, March of Dimes and other groups.
Improving access to family planning for the 222 million women who lack such services would bring many benefits, including helping to reduce maternal mortality and improve infant survival, UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin says in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog, citing the recently released State of the World Population 2012 report. However, “[i]n many poor countries, contraceptives may not be available or families may lack the money to buy them,” and “social barriers and family resistance are also powerful barriers,” he says, adding, “So too is the lack of proper health or distribution systems or trained workers to give confidential advice.” He continues, “This huge unmet need comes despite the fact that there is almost universal agreement that access to family planning is a human right. By denying this right, we are putting other basic rights at risk across the world.”
With recent suggestions “of privatizing the [U.S.] government’s emergency response capability for natural and human-caused disasters and infectious diseases,” Henry (Chip) Carey, an associate professor of political science at Georgia State University in Atlanta, writes in the World Policy Blog, “One might want to look at Haiti for a case study in the effects of bypassing the government health sector for private organizations.” He continues, “In Haiti, the result of decoupling the state from health care has been across the board decreases in water and sanitation quality.” Carey reviews the history of Haiti’s health system and conditions surrounding the 2010 cholera outbreak. He concludes, “What is needed are comprehensive, low-tech sanitation systems and clean, common water sources throughout the country, overseen by the Haitian government. In the past three decades, the U.S. has not given Haiti’s leaders the chance to show us that they can rise to the occasion. It is high time we change course and help the Haitians help themselves” (11/14).
Writing in Huffington Post’s “The Big Push” blog, Lucy Chesire, executive director and secretary to the board of the TB ACTION Group, notes “countries from north and south, U.N. organizations, private sector companies and [non-governmental organizations (NGOs)] are meeting in Geneva [this week] at the Board meeting of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to discuss how best to invest available resources against the three killer diseases.” She highlights “a new approach to fight AIDS, which basically could lead to the end of the global pandemic,” noting, “UNAIDS calls it ‘the people-centered investment approach.'” Chesire interviews Bernhard Schwartlander, director of evidence, innovation and policy at UNAIDS, about this new approach.
The U.S. government, and in particular U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby, the head of PEPFAR, “have a unique opportunity to make [the program’s] money stretch farther and do more good, at very little cost to U.S. taxpayers: release the reams of data that PEPFAR and its contractors have already collected, at substantial cost — perhaps as much as $500 million each year,” Mead Over, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD), writes in the Center’s “Global Health Policy” blog. “This would be a first step in what I hope will be [a] 2013 drive to improve the efficiency, the quality and the accountability of the U.S.’s most frequently praised foreign assistance program,” he states. Over goes on to describe the Data Working Group and its recommendations to PEPFAR (11/13).
Noting that an estimated $2 billion was spent on the U.S. presidential campaigns, Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and founding dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine, writes in the Huffington Post “Healthy Living” blog, “Many of us in the global health community can only look upon that $2 billion figure in awe because of the potential for those dollars to be repurposed to immediately and dramatically improve the lives of the poorest people who suffer from disease.” Hotez says neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) “are the most pervasive and common infections of the world’s poorest people” and “not only impair health but actually trap people in poverty.” He says the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases can provide pharmaceutical “rapid impact packages” that “can control or even eliminate many of these diseases as public health problems … for as little as 50 cents per person per year, making NTD treatments one of the world’s most cost-effective public health interventions.”
The Affordable Medicines Facility-malaria began as a pilot program in 2010 to “provide a ‘co-payment’ to the manufacturers of [artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs)], thereby allowing commercial wholesalers and private or government health services to purchase the drugs at a fraction of the already low negotiated price,” Kenneth Arrow, a Nobel laureate in economic sciences in 1972 and an emeritus professor of economics at Stanford University, writes in a New York Times opinion piece. The program subsidized ACTs — a newer, more effective malaria treatment — to “sell [them] as cheaply as [less-effective] chloroquine in Africa’s private pharmacies and shops, where half of all patients first seek treatment for malaria-like fevers,” he states. “Strikingly, it has worked,” Arrow writes, noting a recent independent review of the program published in the Lancet.