“This G8 summit was, yet again, a missed opportunity for international leaders to make a real commitment to long-term food security and support for African and developing world farmers,” Eva Clayton (D-N.C.), a former Congresswoman and former assistant director general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), writes in this post in the Huffington Post’s “The World” blog. “In the realm of food security, the G8 had an ideal opportunity to provide a clear solution that embraces trade and opportunity, a new paradigm if you will, in international development and food security,” she continues, adding, “Unfortunately, G8 leaders emerging from Camp David still spoke of the same old aid commitments without any backbone, all the while ignoring the impact that trade barriers and U.S. and European multi-billion dollar subsidies have on food production in those countries most in need of development.”
In this Lancet opinion piece, Jennifer Kates, vice president and director of global health and HIV policy for the Kaiser Family Foundation, and Josh Michaud, principal policy analyst at the Foundation, examine the U.S. Global Health Initiative (GHI), which “represents the bulk of the U.S. global health budget and bilateral activities in more than 80 countries.” Kates and Michaud provide a brief overview of the initiative, identify the principles upon which it was founded and say that four years into the GHI, “The picture is one of both successes and challenges.”
As the World Health Assembly draws to a close in Geneva this week, and Margaret Chan accepts her appointment to a second five-year term as director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), an editorial and an opinion piece examine the future of the U.N. health agency. Summaries of these pieces appear below.
“[P]eople everywhere have a stake in eradicating polio, as we have stamped out smallpox,” a Bloomberg View editorial states, adding, “Immunizing the last unvaccinated children on the planet is an expensive and complex undertaking, and worth it in the long run.” The editorial notes, “If polio transmission could be stopped by 2015, the net benefit from reduced treatment costs and productivity gains through 2035 would be $40 billion to $50 billion, according to a 2010 study.”
“As the nations of the world attend the World Health Assembly in Geneva this week, the World Health Organization is in a budget crisis and continuing to struggle for relevancy among better-funded, more agile philanthropic foundations and disease-specific initiatives,” Thomas Bollyky, senior fellow for global health, economics, and development at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), writes in this CFR expert brief. “Survival for the institution is possible, but only if WHO reinvents itself as a twenty-first century international institution that can adapt to changing global health needs and thrive in austere times,” he writes (5/23).
“We need to revive the rights-based agenda and realign research priorities for women’s health,” journalist Priya Shetty writes in this SciDev.Net opinion piece. “The activists who fought to put human rights at the center of women’s sexual and reproductive health, at the landmark International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo in 1994, may have won the battle — but they are still fighting the war,” she continues and outlines the “radical set of resolutions” produced by the conference. However, she writes, “this rights-based approach to women’s health never quite came to fruition.”
“[E]vidence shows that family planning prevents the needless deaths of women worldwide,” which should “be cause to sustain or even increase U.S. investments in these programs,” Chloe Cooney, director of global advocacy for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), writes in this RH Reality Check blog post. “Yet, once again, the House Appropriations Committee voted to let politics interfere with life-saving health care for women,” she continues, adding, “Last week, the House Appropriations Committee proposed to cut funding for international family planning programs and impose harmful restrictions on women’s access to essential health care.” Cooney notes that the Senate version of the bill “increases support for international family planning without attaching restrictions that would undercut these efforts.” She cites a recent U.N. report that “confirms that birth control and reproductive health services are essential to saving women’s lives,” and concludes, “The impact of the decisions made by this Congress will be felt in the lives of women and families around the world” (5/22).
In this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, communications officer and blog editor Amie Newman reports on a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, released Monday, that examines Americans’ views on U.S. global health issues. Newman details a number of the survey’s findings, including that the poll found that “roughly half of Americans (52 percent) now say the news media spends too little time covering global health issues, up from 41 percent in 2010.” She writes, “It’s critical that our news media cover these issues in a way that touches people, and helps people to understand exactly what’s happening in the countries, cities, villages, towns, health centers and homes of people around the world.” She notes that both KFF President and CEO Drew Altman, in a column discussing the survey results, and Gates Foundation Director of Global Brand and Innovation Tom Scott, in a recent blog post, have stressed the importance of properly communicating successful aid stories and data (5/21).
Following controversy surrounding a study published in the Lancet earlier this month that examined the impact of the Millennium Villages Project (MVP) on child mortality, “both the authors of the paper and the journal itself have finally responded,” blogger Matt Collin writes in the Aid Thoughts blog and provides a link to the post in the World Bank’s “Development Impact” blog that began the debate. The blog notes that study author Paul Pronyk of the Earth Institute, in a letter (.pdf) to the Lancet, retracts the child mortality data in the study and accepts that mathematical errors highlighted in the “Development Impact” post were made (5/18). In the Roving Bandit blog, blogger Lee Crawfurd discusses the Lancet editors’ response (.pdf) and writes, “There are definitely lessons to be learned across [the medical and economic] disciplines both ways. It’s just an incredibly sad state of affairs that one of the lessons that journals of medicine, the discipline that gave us randomized controlled trials, needs to learn from economics, is a more careful attention to statistics and causality” (5/21). In a post in the Christian Science Monitor’s “Africa Monitor” blog, blogger Tom Murphy summarizes the controversy and writes, “The discussion is important, say the critics, because of the popularity and cost of the MVP” (5/23).
“This week in Geneva, health ministers from governments around the world will meet at the 65th World Health Assembly (WHA) for their annual meeting to discuss health issues that affect everyone everywhere,” Orin Levine, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC), writes in this post in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog. “Among the resolutions they will consider is one supporting the Global Vaccine Action Plan, a road map to ensure that by the end of this decade, every child, everywhere enjoys the full benefits of immunization,” he notes.