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Opinion Pieces Discuss Global Action On Food Security

The Hill’s “Congress Blog” on Friday published two opinion pieces addressing global food security, the G8 summit, and the New Alliance for Food and Nutrition Security. The following are summaries of the pieces.

Obama Announces $3B Food Initiative For Africa

In a Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security on Friday, President Barack Obama “announced a plan to accelerate investments in developing world agriculture to meet rising food demands and improve nutrition, calling the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition a moral, economic and security imperative,” IIP Digital reports (Porter, 5/18). The new program, unveiled “in conjunction with African leaders from Ethiopia, Ghana and Tanzania, will parlay more than $3 billion in private assistance into a public-private partnership with an ambitious goal: lifting 50 million people from poverty over 10 years,” according to USA Today’s “The Oval” (Wolf, 5/18). The initiative “will constitute the next phase of a groundbreaking program begun during the 2009 G8 summit in L’Aquila, Italy,” Inter Press Service writes (Brion, 5/18). More than 45 companies have pledged to invest in the initiative, Devex notes (Ravelo, 5/10). A fact sheet on the New Alliance is available on the White House website (5/18).

Bill Introduced In U.S. Senate Is Latest Push To Award Prizes For New Drug Development

“As Washington prepares for a major international AIDS conference this summer, developments on the drug front are once again elevating the subject of the continuing epidemic in the public eye,” CQ HealthBeat reports. The article mentions an FDA panel’s recent recommendation for the approval of Truvada for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV among healthy people at risk of contracting the virus and a bill (S 1138) introduced last week by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) aimed at reducing the cost of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs). The bill, which is focused on the cost of ARVs in the U.S., would “create a $3 billion ‘prize fund,’ through which [pharmaceutical] firms that bring a new HIV or AIDS medicine to market would get awards” in exchange for relinquishing patent rights to the drug, according to CQ (Norman, 5/18).

Invest In Proven Ways To Curb Maternal Mortality, Morbidity

Christy Turlington Burns, maternal health advocate and founder of Every Mother Counts, notes in this GlobalPost “Global Pulse” opinion piece that “99 percent of women who die during or after childbirth live in the developing world,” and women and girls ages 19 and younger are at a higher risk of maternal mortality and morbidity. But “[w]e know what many of the solutions are,” she says, including “access to health care, inexpensive drugs that stop post-partum hemorrhaging, a scale-up of community health workers, and reproductive health so that pregnancies can be spaced,” as well as education.

Public-Private Partnership Pilot Program Could Facilitate Drug Development For Neglected Diseases

The National Center for Advancing Translational Science (NCATS) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced a pilot program under which “three pharmaceutical companies have agreed to make dozens of their failed compounds available to researchers, who will investigate if the compounds can be re-purposed into successful treatments for other diseases,” Ashley Bennett, senior policy associate at the Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC), writes in the group’s “Breakthroughs” blog. “With this new therapeutics program, NIH and NCATS have created an exciting, innovative model for collaboration between the public and private sectors. … Now NCATS must ensure that research for neglected diseases is encouraged and supported through this initiative,” Bennett says (5/7).

AllAfrica.com Interviews International President Of MSF

In a “wide-ranging,” two-part interview with AllAfrica.com, Unni Karunakara, the international president of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), “spoke about the values that underpin the work of MSF, the organization’s culture and its passion for principled humanitarian action,” the news service writes. “Humanitarian aid has come a long way in the last 40 years, says … Karunakara, but he warns that important health care gains made in the last decade may be reversed if funding is not maintained,” the news service notes. In part one of the interview, Karunakara discusses “gains made in reducing medicine costs and providing treatment for AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria,” as well as “the challenges MSF faces in remaining independent and principled in conflict situations.” In part two of the interview, “he looks at the future of MSF in a changing world” (Valentine, 5/7).

Guardian Examines Launch Of GAVI-Sponsored Immunization Campaign In Ghana

Ghana’s recent “rollout of the rotavirus vaccine and, to much acclaim, a new vaccine against pneumococcal infections, [makes it] the first country in sub-Saharan African to introduce two new vaccines at the same time,” the Guardian reports. The immunization campaign, organized by the Ghanaian government and the GAVI Alliance in partnership with other international agencies, philanthropies and the private sector, is “expected to save thousands of lives,” the newspaper notes. “That GAVI has deemed Ghana able to introduce rotavirus and pneumococcal vaccines together is a vote of confidence in the country’s ability to establish a ‘cold chain,’” a refrigeration network necessary to keep the vaccines viable, according to the Guardian.

World Economic Forum Helps ‘Improve Global Cooperation’ Surrounding Health Issues

Meetings such as the World Economic Forum (WEF) “are highly beneficial for the health sector, since there is a genuine need for reaching out to non-state actors in the midst of the many transformations shaping global and domestic health sector public policy,” Sania Nishtar, founder of Heartfile and Heartfile Health Financing, writes in a Huffington Post opinion piece. “But that is not all the World Economic Forum is doing for health. It is also contributing substantively in the normative and advocacy space,” according to Nishtar, who uses non-communicable diseases (NCDs) as an example. “By identifying NCDs as the top 10 risks to the world in WEF’s Global Risk Reports for two consecutive years (2009 and 2010) it helped raise concern, globally, at a time when it mattered the most,” especially leading up to last year’s U.N. High Level Meeting, she writes.

Calling For Greater Protection Of Health Care Workers In Conflict Settings

In this post in IntraHealth International’s “Global Health” blog, editorial manager Susanna Smith examines how health care workers operating in areas of conflict are “being used as pawns of warfare.” Smith highlights the decision by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) last month to suspend services in prisons in the Libyan city of Misrata due to reports of torture and notes, “[MSF] General Director Christopher Stokes called the situation an obstruction and exploitation of the organization’s work.” Smith cites a Center for Strategic and International Studies report released last week “calling for ‘the mere handwringing that has largely greeted attack on the health care in the past’ to ‘be replaced by concerted international action and a system on documentation, protection, and accountability,’” and concludes, “The international community owes at least this much to these health workers, who give so much and put themselves at risk to care for others” (2/2).