“Twenty years ago this month, the first text message was sent through the airwaves,” Sharon D’Agostino, vice president for worldwide corporate contributions and community relations at Johnson & Johnson, writes in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, adding, “Since then, text messages have been used to communicate all sorts of information. Most inspiring to me is how the technology once used to send a holiday wish is transforming the way women and families receive the information they need to be healthier — no matter where in the world they are.” She discusses several initiatives working with mobile technologies to improve health education and access, and states, “The ubiquity of the mobile phone provides the perfect method to deliver critical health information, as more than a billion women in low- and middle-income countries have access to a mobile phone” (12/20).
Private Sector Involvement
“Nigeria is one of only three countries — along with Afghanistan and Pakistan — that remains blighted by polio,” Aliko Dangote, founder and CEO of the Dangote Group and chair of the Dangote Foundation, writes in a Project Syndicate opinion piece. He notes Nigeria is “one of Africa’s most developed countries,” “the largest recipient of foreign direct investment in Africa,” home to “thriving Nigerian businesses,” and “will soon surpass South Africa to become Africaâ€™s largest economy.” However, “Nigerians cannot hope to lead Africa, economically or otherwise, while neglecting to eliminate preventable diseases like polio,” he writes.
A study led by World Bank economist Jishnu Das and published in Health Affairs on Monday examines the quality of primary care delivered by private and public health care providers in rural and urban India, a World Bank press release notes. The study found many providers do not have medical degrees; the quality of medical training is low; and less than half of providers provide correct diagnoses, according to the press release, which says the results show an “urgent need” to carefully measure the quality of care. “The study could help policymakers make evidence-based decisions,” the press release notes, adding, “In November, the government announced a five-year plan to triple health spending and improve the quality of health services” (12/3).
Seattle Times Examines Partnership Between Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Uganda Cancer Institute
The Seattle Times examines a partnership between the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI). In 2008, “the two institutes formally agreed to collaborate on clinical care and research projects, and more recently a major building project at Uganda’s only cancer-research center,” the newspaper writes. Corey Casper, director of the UCI/Fred Hutchinson Research Center Cancer Alliance, “says [the partnership] has the potential to demonstrate ‘that you can do first-rate research that can alter the impact of cancer care in the developing world, and that the craft of oncology can be practiced as well in Africa as it is in the developed world, just like it is with HIV,'” according to the Seattle Times (Silberner, 12/16).
Olivier De Schutter, the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, writes in a Guardian opinion piece, “In order to support investment in agriculture, governments have … come to rely on private sector investment and development aid — and increasingly a partnership of the two,” and he notes “[t]he New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, proposed by [U.S. President] Barack Obama and the U.S. Agency for International Development and launched in May 2012, will draw more than $3 billion of private sector investment into food security plans in Africa.” He continues, “One potential danger of development aid, and particularly of private-led projects, is that the goals of poverty reduction and rural development can be relegated below the goal of raising food production.”
“Each year, the United States spends more than $1.5 billion feeding starving people overseas,” columnist Farah Stockman writes in a Boston Globe opinion piece. “But our charity comes with a catch: The food has to be bought in America, and much of it must be shipped on American ships,” she continues, adding, “Researchers estimate that buying food closer to where needy people are costs about half as much.” She continues, “We are the last donor country in the world to have these rules,” and writes, “At a time of budget cuts, you would think that one thing Republicans and Democrats could agree on would be making sure every tax dollar stretches as far as it can.” Stockman asks, “Why don’t we just change it?”
UNFPA and mobile phone company Nokia announced this week that the “company will donate the equivalent of 3,000 clean delivery kits to the fund,” according to an UNFPA press release. “The kits, designed and distributed by UNFPA, help ensure safe delivery of babies in humanitarian settings,” and are being provided as a result of the fund’s social media campaign “Safe Birth. Even Here.,” the press release states, adding, “The campaign, which reports on and tracks safe deliveries in refugee camps and emergencies around the globe, is active on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, and aims to raise awareness about maternal health and the challenges faced by expectant mothers in crisis settings” (12/4).
New Public-Private Partnership Will Allow Brazil To Produce Patented ARV For National Treatment Program
For the first time, Brazil in 2013 will enter into a new type of public-private partnership that allows the nation to produce a generic version of the antiretroviral (ARV) drug atazanavir sulphate, which will be under patent through its producer Bristol-Myers Squibb until 2017, Inter Press Service reports. Under the “productive development partnership,” Farmanguinhos, “a technical-scientific unit of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) and the Health Ministry’s largest pharmaceutical laboratory,” will make the drug, one of 20 ARVs the government distributes at a cost of about $425 million annually, according to the news service.
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine this week are hosting a conference in New York, titled “Lives in the Balance: Delivering Medical Innovations for Neglected Patients and Populations,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. In a video presentation, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim “told the conference … that the goal is to ‘lay the foundation of a health science that works for the poor,'” according to the newspaper. “That means innovative research on diseases and delivery systems geared to people in developing nations, not the more affluent ones, greater sharing of ideas, and support for developing nations so they can assist in the process from beginning to end,” the newspaper writes (Sell, 12/14).
The Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog” examines efforts to prevent and treat cervical cancer in sub-Saharan Africa, where “cervical cancer kills large numbers of women, many of whom are never diagnosed because local hospitals do not recognize the disease until it is too late.” However, “[a] very simple and cheap form of screening has begun to be introduced — and now there is the possibility of a vaccination program against the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus (HPV) that causes most cervical cancers,” the blog writes, noting a recent announcement by the GAVI Alliance that it plans to fund HPV immunization programs in several countries. According to the blog, “15 countries [are] asking to be considered,” and “Uganda and Rwanda have already been approved, although some ‘clarifications’ are required from the governments on how their programs will run.” The blog continues, “No one believes it will be easy to introduce the HPV vaccination in Africa, and there may be problems,” including issues with efficacy and cost (Boseley, 12/14).