Business and political leaders meeting in Davos, Switzerland, at the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Thursday agreed that the focus on the global financial crisis “won’t matter unless people have one basic thing: Enough food to eat,” the Associated Press reports. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) “estimates there are at least 925 million undernourished people in the world — almost one in seven,” the AP notes. FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said, “The problem is not the supply side. … The problem is the access — they don’t have the money to buy it or they don’t have the water and land they need if they are subsistence farmers,” according to the news service (Heilprin, 1/26).
Private Sector Involvement
Speaking at an event organized by the Every Woman Every Child initiative on Thursday, “Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [called on] business leaders attending the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, to increase their investment in women’s education and health to ensure their well-being and encourage their participation in the world economy,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “‘The business community can help. Your partnership is crucial in preventing unnecessary suffering for women and girls everywhere,’ Mr. Ban said, adding that despite recent progress, much remains to be done,” the news service notes.
“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.”
The argument that “a country’s quickest way to better health for its people is economic development … is only one factor, and not the most important one, in explaining global health outcomes,” Charles Kenny, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, writes in a SciDev.Net opinion piece. “The challenge is to ensure that a cheap basic package of health interventions is available to — and is used by — all,” he continues.
In this PLoS Medicine research article, Reed Beall and Randall Kuhn of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver provide an analysis of trends in compulsory licensing (CL) of pharmaceuticals since the Doha Declaration. “Almost 10 years after the Doha Declaration, we examined the subsequent occurrence of CL episodes, an important direct indicator of treaty impact,” they write. Given that “compulsory licensing activity has diminished greatly since 2006, … the researchers conclude, health advocates who pushed for the Doha Declaration reforms have had little success in engaging trade as a positive, proactive force for addressing health gaps,” according to the article’s Editors’ Summary (1/10).
Frontline Health Workers Coalition Launches Initiative To Add 1M Health Care Workers In Developing Countries
The Frontline Health Workers Coalition — which consists of 16 major non-governmental organizations (NGOs) including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Family Care International, the International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care, and RESULTS — has launched “a new initiative to add one million health care workers in developing countries,” VOA News reports, adding that the “Coalition says training more community-level workers is the most cost effective way to save lives, speed progress on global health threats and promote U.S. economic and strategic interests” (DeCapua, 1/11). “The Coalition, which launched today with the release of a new report (.pdf) focusing on the need for frontline health workers, is calling on the U.S. administration to train and support an additional 250,000 new frontline health workers — and to better support the capacity and impact of existing workers where the need is greatest,” a Coalition press release (.pdf) states (1/11).
Speaking this week at “the 99th Indian Science Congress, the country’s largest annual gathering of scientists,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh “said the occasion demanded looking anew at the role of science in a country ‘grappling with the challenges of poverty and development'” and “emphasized that ‘the overriding objective of a comprehensive and well-considered policy for science, technology and innovation should be to support the national objective of faster, sustainable and inclusive development,'” SciDev.Net reports. “Singh also underscored the need to use innovations creatively for social benefit,” the news service writes.
The January issue of the WHO Bulletin features an editorial on non-communicable diseases and post-conflict countries; a public health round-up; an article on Arab health professionals; a research paper on caesarean section rates in China; and a series of round table articles on the Global Fund and the interaction of public and private interests (January 2011).
J&J Will Not Join Medicines Patent Pool; Company’s Pharma Head Says Mechanism Could ‘Cause Disaster’
Pharmaceutical company “Johnson & Johnson has rejected calls to offer patent rights on its HIV medicines to generic drug companies through a” Medicines Patent Pool, created to promote low-cost antiretroviral drugs in low-income countries and the development of new drug combinations and formulations, the Financial Times reports. “Paul Stoffels, worldwide head of pharmaceuticals at J&J, … cautioned that the pool could trigger a ‘mixing and matching’ of medicines that would cause a rapid surge in patient resistance to innovative HIV drugs” that could “cause a huge disaster,” according to the newspaper.
The Guardian examines how ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTFs) — “small packets of a sticky, peanut butter-like paste, fortified with minerals and vitamins, that can reverse severe malnutrition within six weeks” — “have revolutionized famine relief in Africa,” and asks whether these products could be produced in the countries in which they are being distributed. “The vast majority of RUTFs are produced in the U.S. or Europe, bought by aid agencies such as UNICEF, and transported great distances to reach those in need,” the newspaper writes, adding, “But a small group of social enterprises is questioning this business model, redesigning it with a more local footprint in mind.”