“This week, a Senate panel is investigating biological security in the wake of” controversial “potentially dangerous research” on H5N1 avian influenza, “with good reason,” Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) writes in a Washington Times opinion piece. He says “the U.S. government should not have been caught by surprise” by the two research papers describing how genetic mutations to the virus could make it transmissible between ferrets, because the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) “was created in 2004 and charged with the specific responsibility of reviewing this type of research and offering guidance to all federal agencies that conduct biological research.” Sensenbrenner says the NSABB’s initial recommendation against publishing the studies and its subsequent reversal of that decision has left him with “suspicions that the U.S. government is woefully unprepared for dealing with dual use research of concern — research that, while conducted for a legitimate scientific purpose, could be dangerous if misused.”
“President Obama and his GOP challenger Mitt Romney have both prioritized deficit reduction, which, of course, is a worthy goal,” former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), chair of the non-profit Hope Through Healing Hands, writes in an opinion piece in The Week. “[M]any surveys put global health at the top of the list of things to slash. That’s a mistake,” he continues and lists five reasons why global health programs “ought to be spared the chopping block.”
Wednesday, April 25, marks World Malaria Day, which this year has the theme “Sustain Gains, Save Lives: Invest in Malaria.” The following opinion pieces address the fight against malaria.
The following is a summary of several blog posts commenting on the launch of USAID’s “Every Child Deserves a Fifth Birthday” social media campaign by USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah at an event at the Kaiser Family Foundation on Monday.
“Seeing a child die from pneumonia, diarrhea or a mosquito bite is simply unimaginable to most parents. But that is the sad reality for many families each day,” USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah writes in a Huffington Post Blog opinion piece, noting, “Last year over seven million children under five died of largely preventable causes.” He continues, “Today, the global community has the knowledge and the affordable tools to change the course of history,” including bednets, vaccines, and childbirth assistance. “At the current annual rate of decline of 2.6 percent, the gap in child death between rich and poor countries would persist until nearly the end of this century. But we are capable of much more. By working closely with countries and continuing our results-oriented investments in global health, we can bring the rate of child mortality in poor countries to the same level it is in rich countries,” he states.
“We can worry less that a newly created bird flu virus might kill tens or hundreds of millions of people if it escaped from the laboratory,” a New York Times editorial states. “But there is still some residual danger. And we remain appalled at the slipshod way in which this research was authorized despite its potential dangers to public health and national security,” the editorial continues. The editorial provides a recap of the controversy leading up to the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity’s recommendation to publish the studies in late March, and writes, “The board’s new verdict is not wholly reassuring.”
Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika, who died April 5, may be remembered for corruption and mismanagement, but his “positive legacy” is his creation of “an agriculture-led boom in Malawi, one that pointed a way for Africa to overcome its chronic hunger, food insecurity, and periodic extreme famines,” Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, writes in a New York Times opinion piece. Despite “resistance” from the donor community, under Mutharika, “Malawi used its own paltry budget revenues to introduce a tiny [agricultural] subsidy program for the world’s poorest people, and lo and behold, production doubled within one harvest season. Malawi began to produce enough grain for itself year after year, and even became a food donor when famine struck the region. Life expectancy began to rise, and is estimated to be around 55 years for the period 2010-15,” he says.
In a Huffington Post “Global Motherhood” opinion piece, UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin writes, “[I]t warms my heart to see that safe motherhood and women’s reproductive health are finally being recognized as important development issues,” but “millions of women in developing countries still lack even the most basic care during pregnancy,” leading to maternal death and injury and hundreds of millions of women lack access to family planning services, including modern contraceptives. “It is inexcusable that in the 21st century motherhood remains so dangerous for so many. It is not only morally wrong but also hampers economic development and the survival and well-being of families, communities and nations,” he writes.
“During the 1990s it had taken a while for the rest of the world to wake up to the tragedy of AIDS in Africa, but belatedly the alarm call had come,” John Wright, a consultant in clinical epidemiology at Bradford Royal Infirmary in England, writes in a BMJ opinion piece. “Global funding and international action achieved something quite miraculous, bringing the most expensive and innovative drugs in the world to the poorest people on the planet; a triumph of science and health policy that made the discovery of penicillin look quaint,” he says. “The new health colonialists have come from across the globe with admirable intentions and boundless energy in a new scramble for Africa. Dozens of well meaning health providers are falling over each other to help — but crucially also to justify their efforts to their sponsors back home,” he writes.
The World Bank on Monday selected U.S.-nominated Jim Yong Kim, a Korean-American physician and anthropologist, as its new president. The following is a summary of blog posts and commentary published in response to his election.