“As the World Economic Forum kicks off this week in Davos, Switzerland, the importance of global health — and the health of the globe — is getting special attention,” Karl Hofmann, president and CEO of Population Services International (PSI), writes in this post in The Hill’s “Congress Blog.” He continues, “The world’s still massive bottom of the economic pyramid — some 2-3 billion people — represents a potential $5 trillion in purchasing power,” but without access to “quality health care and services, … their global economic impact suffers. Imagine if by simple investments in health, we turned these struggling individuals and families into healthy, active consumers and producers.”
Private Sector Involvement
Obama To Announce New Initiative Aimed At Boosting African Agriculture In Advance Of G8 Summit This Weekend
On Friday, President Barack Obama is expected to announce “new investments in African agriculture in a speech in Washington … as a precursor to the weekend Group of Eight [G8] summit at Camp David, Maryland,” Bloomberg Businessweek reports (Bjerga, 5/18). “The president is scheduled to speak to African leaders at a summit on food security Friday,” VOA News writes, adding, “[The] new initiative is expected to target 50 million food-insecure people by boosting agricultural investments” (5/17). According to NPR’s “Morning Edition,” “The leaders of Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Ghana are among those in Washington to launch the new food security initiative, which [USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah] says will include several billion dollars in investments from private companies” (Kelemen, 5/18). “We are never going to end hunger in Africa without private investment,” Shah said, the New York Times writes (Strom, 5/17).
“The worldwide counterfeit drug market is huge and growing,” Tim Mackey and Brian Liang of the Institute of Health Law Studies at the California Western School of Law and Thomas Kubic of the Pharmaceutical Security Institute write in a Foreign Policy opinion piece, noting such “drugs occupy a wide spectrum of medications, and their quality is suspect; they can be mislabeled, tainted, adulterated, ineffective, or, in the worst cases, all of the above.” They argue for a new framework for fighting the illegal drug trade because “[g]lobal policy has not kept up with the burgeoning counterfeit drug trade.” The authors say that although initial results of the WHO IMPACT (International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeit Taskforce) are “encouraging,” they note that “[s]ome WHO member states, including India and Brazil (both top producers of generic drugs) and other developing countries, have questioned whether WHO can rightly take on enforcement operations” because it “is not a global law enforcement agency.”
In a post on USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” Amanda Makulec of John Snow Inc. describes the Helping Babies Breathe (HBB) initiative, which was developed “to equip birth attendants in developing countries with the skills they need to successfully resuscitate babies born without the ability to breathe on their own.” She continues, “[I]t was the power of the Global Development Alliance (GDA) model — public-private partnership on a global scale — that dramatically expanded access to newborn resuscitation in remote health facilities and communities in 34 countries within 18 months of the launch of the partnership … by leveraging the commitment, resources, and support of a diverse group of program implementers, NGOs, private sector organizations, government institutions, U.N. agencies, professional associations to enable the rapid roll out of the intervention globally” (4/30).
The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog notes that PEPFAR recently released its 8th annual report (.pdf) to Congress. “The five-page document outlines the program’s progress as of the end of fiscal year 2011 in various areas,” including the provision of antiretroviral treatment, care, and support; HIV testing and counseling for pregnant women; and prevention of mother-to-child transmission services, the blog notes. The report includes sections on “leading with science,” “smart investments,” “country ownership,” and “shared responsibility,” according to the blog (Mazzotta, 5/4).
Officials At WHA Fail To Agree On Convention To Encourage R&D Into Health Issues In Developing Countries
Health officials attending last week’s World Health Assembly “failed to come to an agreement on a binding convention on stimulating research and development [R&D] focusing on the health problems of developing countries,” BMJ reports. The negotiations focused on an April report by the WHO Consultative Expert Working Group (CEWG) on R&D, which included a recommendation “that all countries — developing and developed — should commit around 0.01 percent of their gross domestic product to research into and development of treatments for the health problems of developing countries,” the news service notes. However, “[t]he United States (despite the fact that it already meets this target), the European Union, and Japan blocked this recommendation, and instead member states agreed on the final day of the assembly that the report would be discussed at regional committee meetings in the next few months,” BMJ writes, noting that “WHO will hold a global meeting later in the year that will report back to WHO’s executive board meeting in January” and that “[n]ew proposals will be put on the agenda for next year’s assembly” (Gulland, 5/28).
Al Jazeera’s “Counting the Cost” program on Saturday focused on the fight against malaria and the “business behind its treatment and prevention.” According to the program, progress against malaria “is being threatened in these tough economic times. There is a $3 billion shortfall in funding for malaria treatment and prevention.” The program reports on drug-resistant malaria strains in South-East Asia; examines a vaccine candidate under development by GlaxoSmithKline; speaks with Jo Lines of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Christoph Benn of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria about the impact of the international financial crisis on the fight against the disease; and discusses a mobile phone app developed by a group of medical students that would help people receive a quicker diagnosis and treatment (Santamaria, 5/26).
“I have just returned from a whirlwind visit to Washington, D.C., and Chicago, where I participated in a number of events around the G8 and NATO Summits focused on food and nutrition security,” Tom Arnold, CEO of Concern Worldwide, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog, adding, “Among so many world leaders and high-level representatives from civil society and academia, I felt a sense of critical mass beginning to form in the fight to end global hunger.” He continues, “It’s a feeling I’ve had before — perhaps not this strong — only to be disappointed when promises went unfulfilled. We must keep calling our leaders to persevere, especially those in the G8, to ensure that does not happen this time.”
In a guest blog post on the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks,” Chris Collins, vice president and director of public policy at amfAR: The Foundation for AIDS Research, and Mitchell Warren, executive director of AVAC: Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention, summarize a Capitol Hill briefing “on the research agenda for beginning to end the AIDS epidemic” that took place Wednesday. “[R]esearchers, policymakers, and advocates joined our organizations and the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus” at the briefing to discuss “the research agenda needed to bring the epidemic to a close, with special focus on” combination interventions for treatment and prevention; “progress on vaccine and cure research”; and the importance of HIV testing, they write. Collins and Warren conclude, “We need to finance the response, make strategic choices about what to bring to scale (and what not to) and stop discriminating against high-risk populations. Whether you’re a researcher, policymaker or advocate, new scientific developments are how we end the epidemic” (5/24).
On World No Tobacco Day, WHO Calls On National Leaders To Stand Together Against Tobacco Industry 'Attacks'
“On World No Tobacco Day (31 May), WHO is calling on national leaders to be extra vigilant against the increasingly aggressive attacks by the industry which undermine policies that protect people from the harms of tobacco,” a WHO press release reports, noting that nearly six million people die of tobacco-related illnesses each year and tobacco is a leading preventable cause of illness and death worldwide. WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said, “In recent years, multinational tobacco companies have been shamelessly fuelling a series of legal actions against governments that have been at the forefront of the war against tobacco. … We must now stand together with these governments that have had the courage to do the right thing to protect their citizens,” according to the press release. “More countries are moving to fully meet their obligations under the 2003 WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC),” the press release adds (5/30). PANA/Afrique en ligne reports that WHO has released a technical resource paper based on 2008 guidelines for implementation of Article 5.3 of the FCTC “to help guide countries on ways to combat tobacco industry interference” (5/30).