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To Ensure Its Leading Role, WHO Must Address Challenges Of Governance, Financing

“The World Health Organization (WHO) is facing an unprecedented crisis that threatens its position as the premier international health agency. To ensure its leading role, it must rethink its internal governance and revamp its financing mechanisms,” Tikki Pang, a visiting professor at the National University of Singapore and former director of research policy and cooperation at the WHO, and Laurie Garrett, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, write in this Nature Medicine opinion piece. They note that the WHO “was born in the bifurcated Cold War world in 1948, and every aspect of its charter, mission and organizational structure was molded by diplomatic tensions between NATO and the USSR,” but “with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of the new emerging market superpowers, the WHO finds itself trying to straddle a global dynamic for which it was not designed.”

Copenhagen Consensus Report Argues For Expanding Family Planning Programs In ‘High-Fertility’ Countries

As part of a series of Slate articles highlighting issues being examined by the Copenhagen Consensus Center, Bjorn Lomborg, director of the center, examines the implications of population growth on development indicators. In a research paper released on Thursday “for Copenhagen Consensus 2012, Hans-Peter Kohler of the University of Pennsylvania looks at sub-Saharan African nations that, among high-fertility countries, make the dominant contribution to world population growth,” he notes, adding, “‘High-fertility’ countries today account for about 38 percent of the 78 million people that are added annually to the world population, despite the fact that they are home to only 18 percent of the population.”

Sierra Leone Has Made Progress In Improving Maternal, Child Health Care, But ‘Much More To Do’

“Just two years ago, our country had one of the worst maternal and infant death rates in the world,” Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma writes in a Huffington Post U.K. “Impact” blog post, adding, “We knew something had to be done.” So in September 2009, the government announced “that all health user fees would be removed for pregnant and lactating women and children under the age of five” and “introduced the Free Health Care Initiative [FHCI] in April 2010, which would give around 460,000 women and a million children a much better chance of having a longer and happier life,” Koroma writes. In one year, the FHCI facilitated a “214 percent increase in the number of children attending outpatient units” and a 61 percent reduction in “the number of women dying from pregnancy complications at facilities,” and “increased the number of health workers and ensured they were given big salary rises to reflect the importance of their positions,” he notes.

Questions Raised Over U.K. DfID Funding And Sterilization In India

A Wall Street Journal editorial addresses reports published on April 14 in the Guardian alleging that the U.K. Department for International Development (DfID) funded a program in India that “has ‘forcibly sterilized Indian women and men’ — a practice India supposedly left behind in the 1970s,” the editorial states. “DfID issued a statement objecting to the Guardian’s report, saying that its funding was not meant to be going to ‘sterilization’ centers, only to helping ‘women access a mix of reversible methods of family planning,’ such as contraceptive pills, and to ‘improve the quality of services,'” the editorial writes, adding, “DfID says it has also offered technical support to help Indian authorities crack down on forced sterilization.” According to the Wall Street Journal, “A DfID official, who declined to be named, clarified to us that the national Indian program funded by British taxpayers does include voluntary sterilization, but that sterilization specifically is ‘not part of what we fund,'” and “[h]e added that DfID will end its support for the national Indian program next year and will focus family-planning aid only on state governments in India’s poorest regions” (5/1).

‘Mandatory Oversight’ Of Potentially Dangerous Biological Research Will Be Necessary

“In the sobering annals of disaster prevention, genetic manipulation of the H5N1 influenza virus is looming as a seminal case,” John Steinbruner, director of the Center for International Security Studies at the University of Maryland, writes in an opinion piece in The Hill’s “Congress Blog,” noting that two “laboratory experiments have rendered the highly virulent avian strain transmissible among ferrets, strongly suggesting that it would be transmissible among humans as well.” He states, “If the virus could achieve efficient transmissibility while retaining anything like its current case fatality rate [of 50 percent], it could inflict global disaster of unprecedented proportions.” The actions of the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, initially recommending publication of redacted versions of the two studies then reversing that decision, “implicitly concedes that the U.S. alone cannot exercise comprehensive jurisdiction,” Steinbruner writes.

Copenhagen Consensus Report Argues For Addressing Chronic, NCDs In Developing Countries

In the second part of a series of Slate articles highlighting issues being examined by the Copenhagen Consensus Center, Bjorn Lomborg, director of the center, examines the global burden of non-communicable diseases, which “receiv[e] the smallest amount of donor assistance of all health conditions, having lost ground since 1990 relative to infectious diseases,” he writes. “In a research paper released today on chronic disease, Prabhat Jha and a team of researchers argue that chronic diseases already pose a substantial economic burden, and this burden will evolve into a staggering one over the next two decades,” according to Lomborg.

Preventing Mother-To-Child Transmission Of HIV Is ‘Smart Investment’

“Each year, nearly 400,000 children are born with HIV globally, and prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) is a particular challenge in sub-Saharan Africa, an area characterized by weak health systems,” U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby writes in the State Department “DipNote” blog. “Last year PEPFAR and UNAIDS joined with other partners to launch the Global Plan, an initiative to eliminate new HIV infections among children and keep their mothers alive,” Goosby writes and reflects on a two-day mission to Nigeria with UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe last week. He concludes, “Preventing new HIV infections in children is a smart investment that saves lives, and the United States is proud to partner with Nigeria and other countries in this cause” (4/30).

World Can Eliminate Preventable Child Death With Combination Of New Technologies, Capabilities

“Every child should have the opportunity to celebrate his or her fifth birthday,” but 7.6 million “kids die within the first five years of life,” a VOA editorial writes. “That is why [USAID] recently launched ‘Every Child Deserves A Fifth Birthday,’ an awareness-raising campaign leading up to the mid-June ‘Child Survival: Call to Action’ two-day conference,” the editorial states, adding, “This high-level forum, convened by the governments of the United States, India and Ethiopia, together with [UNICEF], will mobilize political, non-governmental and private actors to end preventable child deaths.”

Airborne Drones Could Provide Innovative Method Of Delivering Food, Medicines

In a Foreign Policy opinion piece, former U.S. Ambassador Jack Chow, who served as a special representative for HIV/AIDS under former Secretary of State Colin Powell and currently is a professor at Carnegie Mellon’s Heinz College of Public Policy, examines the challenges of delivering humanitarian aid and how “[t]he technological versatility of airborne drones, the flying robots that are already transforming warfare, … has the potential to revolutionize how humanitarian aid is delivered worldwide.” He describes the work of several start-up companies looking to employ drones for such a purpose, saying “waves of aid drones might quickly deliver a peaceful ‘first strike’ capacity of food and medicines to disaster areas.”