“It’s not much of a surprise that Monday night’s presidential debate, which focused on foreign policy, was consumed by a discussion of defense spending, and security and trade policies,” but “it’s still disappointing that both [President] Barack Obama and [Republican presidential nominee Gov.] Mitt Romney were relatively silent on issues like global health, research, and international aid,” Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC) Communications Officer Kim Lufkin writes in the GHTC’s “Breakthroughs” blog. She summarizes some “brief mentions during the debate season of the role of science and technology,” including some media coverage of the lack of mention of global health. “With the election now less than two weeks away … it seems increasingly unrealistic that either candidate will offer up much on global health, research, or other development topics soon,” she writes, concluding, “But no matter what the outcome is in two weeks, the next president must demonstrate more support for global health and foreign aid than the candidates displayed during Monday night’s debate” (10/24).
The following opinion pieces were published on Wednesday in recognition of World Polio Day, observed annually on October 24.
In the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog, Christy Turlington Burns, founder of Every Mother Counts, writes, “On the list of health risks women are subjected to, mental health seldom reaches the top. And while there are a lot of stigmas around many diseases, there may not be a close rival to the stigma those with diseases of the mind face each day. Mental illness pushes those who are already marginalized in developed and developing societies, even further into the margins.” In a two-part interview, Burns speaks with Jessica Zucker, a clinical psychologist who specializes in maternal mental health, about perinatal mood disorders and postpartum depression (PPD) among women in developing countries. In the first part, Zucker says that without accurate data on the mental wellbeing of mothers, “we don’t know … how widespread postpartum depression is in the developing world” (10/23). In the second part, Zucker discusses the importance of treatment and counseling, and says, “Women need to be tender with themselves as they enter into uncharted territory — learning about and getting accustomed to their new identity in motherhood” (10/23).
Writing in GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog, Claire Panosian Dunavan, a professor of medicine and infectious diseases at the University of California, Los Angeles, reflects on the Global Health Service Partnership, a new public-private partnership launched by Vanessa Kerry, daughter of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) “to boost the education of doctors and nurses in sub-Saharan Africa.” She asks, “Will it fly? Or — to put it more bluntly — is global health still tugging at American heartstrings?” She highlights the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park last month, a five-hour concert sponsored by the Global Poverty Project that “drew 60,000 attendees and millions of dollars for health issues ranging from maternal care to mosquito nets to wiping out polio” and draws comparison to Bob Geldof’s 1985 “Live Aid” concert, which she says “reached nearly two billion people in 150 countries via broadcasts and satellite links” and “marked a milestone in global health awareness.”
October 24 “is World Polio Day, a day to celebrate the remarkable progress we’ve made in the fight against polio and to focus on the urgency of the work we still have to do,” Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, writes in “The Gates Notes” blog. “But equally important, it’s also a day to say ‘thank you’ to the millions of people around the world who have generously given their time and money to this critical effort,” he continues, and features a video thanking the different organizations working together to bring an end to polio. “To ensure success, we need to fully fund polio campaigns and routine immunizations”; “continued leadership and accountability”; and “ensure the security of vaccination teams so they can get to children — even in the most difficult areas,” Gates writes (10/24). In a post on the Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Jay Wenger, head of the polio program at the foundation, lists five reasons why he’s “excited” about World Polio Day. “It’s really because I have seen an unprecedented series of successes, commitment from existing and new donors and signs of progress that give me confidence we can finish the job,” he writes (10/23).
Noting a recent U.N. study (.pdf) showed that, despite progress on tackling child mortality globally, sub-Saharan Africa “is trailing far behind,” David Dominic, a consultant for non-governmental organizations, writes in this Huffington Post U.K. opinion piece, “[T]he more we look, the more it seems that the U.K. aid system, with regards to sub-Saharan Africa, is carefully designed to control and exploit the region, with scant regard for the impacts upon the poor. That is, aid seems to be used as a tool of modern imperialism.” He continues, “This is significant to us in the U.K. because sub-Saharan Africa is the region which has received most aid from the U.K. over the last few decades and is also where the U.K. has had the most influence.”
In the Huffington Post’s “Politics” blog, Serra Sippel, president of the Center for Health and Gender Equity, notes that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said at the XIX International AIDS Conference in July that all women should be able to decide “when and whether to have children” and that PEPFAR, in a guidance [.pdf] released last week, said, “Voluntary family planning should be part of comprehensive quality care for persons living with HIV,” and referred to family planning as a human right. “Then, in bold type, they punctuated it with, ‘PEPFAR funds may not be used to purchase family planning commodities,'” she writes. “They take it a step further with a caveat that before anyone decides they’d like their program to have anything to do with family planning, they had best consult relevant U.S. legal counsel first,” she adds. “To be fair, they do say that PEPFAR programs can just refer women to a different program that offers family planning,” but those programs are not always available, Sippel writes, adding, “So the suggestion is flawed from the start.”
Noting that the Global Health Initiative (GHI) leadership and the three core entities of GHI — USAID, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and PEPFAR — announced the closure of the GHI office and an end to the initiative’s current phase on July 3, Serra Sippel, president of the Center for Health and Gender Equity, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Politics” blog that “the three agencies will be responsible for ensuring that the GHI principles are implemented in the field to achieve global health goals.” She continues, “A focus on the GHI principles — especially principles of health sector integration, equal rights for women and girls, country ownership, and health systems strengthening — is indeed necessary to ensure U.S. global health programs are effective. The principles are the most important piece of GHI, and what has given global health advocates optimism since it was launched in 2009.”
“Last month, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon convened a group of global leaders, including [Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Co-Chair] Bill Gates and heads of state of polio-affected countries, to renew the commitment to eliminate polio,” William Keenan, executive director of the International Pediatric Association, and Robert Block, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, note in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. “This show of solidarity reminds us that the fight is not finished,” they write, and continue, “Armed with effective vaccines, pediatricians, partner organizations and front-line workers around the globe have eliminated 99 percent of all new polio cases.” They state, “We can’t afford to lose sight of this remaining one percent of polio cases.”
“From World Food Day to Anti-Poverty Day, October is a busy month when it comes to calls to make the world a better place,” Astrid Zweynert, deputy editor of AlertNet, writes in the news service’s “Insight” blog. “No one knows the exact number of such days of international observance but there are hundreds each year,” she states, adding, “Many [of the] days have been declared by the United Nations or other international bodies, while others are set up by charities,” and “[t]here is always scope to set up more.” She highlights a list that shows more than 30 days of international observance in October and writes, “It made me wonder how impactful they actually are.”