October 24 “is World Polio Day, a day to celebrate the remarkable progress we’ve made in the fight against polio and to focus on the urgency of the work we still have to do,” Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, writes in “The Gates Notes” blog. “But equally important, it’s also a day to say ‘thank you’ to the millions of people around the world who have generously given their time and money to this critical effort,” he continues, and features a video thanking the different organizations working together to bring an end to polio. “To ensure success, we need to fully fund polio campaigns and routine immunizations”; “continued leadership and accountability”; and “ensure the security of vaccination teams so they can get to children — even in the most difficult areas,” Gates writes (10/24). In a post on the Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Jay Wenger, head of the polio program at the foundation, lists five reasons why he’s “excited” about World Polio Day. “It’s really because I have seen an unprecedented series of successes, commitment from existing and new donors and signs of progress that give me confidence we can finish the job,” he writes (10/23).
Private Sector Involvement
MSH’s “Global Health Impact” blog provides a Storify summary of a Washington Post Live panel discussion on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) that took place last week. The blog notes, “One year after the U.N. summit on non-communicable diseases, Washington Post Live convened experts in the NCD and public health community to engage in an in-depth, collaborative working session and analysis in front of a small group of media, fellow health experts, and policymakers” (Hassinger, 10/22). The Washington Post provides video highlights from the discussion (10/17).
PAHO Press Release Responds To Reuters Article, Says Private Sector Not Involved In Decision-Making Processes
“The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) strongly disagrees with the allegations in the recent Reuters article that the food and beverage industry advises our policymaking” with respect to non-communicable diseases (NCDs), the agency said in a press release on Saturday. “In line with PAHO Member States mandates and the Declaration of the United Nations High-Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases held in New York in September 2011, PAHO adheres to a comprehensive approach to fight NCDs, which includes governments, civil society, academia, international organizations, and private sector,” the press release states, adding, “The goal is to work together to raise awareness, promote new and innovative initiatives, and share best practices on the prevention and control of NCDs, as well as in health promotion and behavioral changes.” The press release describes how PAHO works to “manage potential conflicts of interest and ensure transparency and independence in the Organization’s decision-making process,” and the release states, “Private companies are not involved in health policies formulation or in decision-making processes of the Organization” (10/20).
To fight chronic “diseases in Mexico, the nation with the world’s highest rate of obese and overweight adults, a Reuters investigation found that WHO’s regional office has turned to the very companies whose sugary drinks and salty foods are linked to many of the maladies it’s trying to prevent,” the news service reports. “The office, the Pan American Health Organization, not only is relying on the food and beverage industry for advice on how to fight obesity,” but, “[f]or the first time in its 110-year history, it has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars in money from the industry,” Reuters writes.
“Innovative approaches and technologies as well as a strong political will from countries are essential to combat hunger,” according to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who spoke Thursday night in Des Moines, Iowa, at an event to recognize the winner of the World Food Prize, the U.N. News Centre reports. This year’s winner, Israeli scientist Daniel Hillel, developed “a new mode of bringing water to crops iÂÂn arid and dry regions, known as ‘micro-irrigation,'” the news service notes. An end to hunger “calls for harnessing the creativity of scientists and economists,” Ban said, adding, “It requires developing new approaches and technologies to respond to climate change, water scarcity and desertification,” according to the news service (10/18). “There is enough food to feed seven billion people, but because of climatic conditions, because of supply, market price volatility, there are still 870 million people who are going to bed hungry every night,” Ban said, the Des Moines Register notes.
“Nothing could be more appropriate than the World Food Day focus on cooperatives this year,” because “[t]he collective power of cooperatives can enable better access to market, better returns, better access to inputs and services, and a better support network for smallholder farmers,” leading to “[h]igher returns” which allow farmers to “better provide for the nutrition, education and health of their families,” Mark Bowman, managing director of SABMiller, writes in an AllAfrica.com opinion piece. Africa is “at the center of the global challenge of food security,” “because one in three of the world’s hungry live on the continent” and “because Africa has the potential not only to feed its own people but also to become a more significant food exporter,” he says. Smallholder farmers are essential to meet this “challenge and potential,” Bowman notes, but he adds they are “cut off” by location or lack of funding from new products and technologies, efficient transport, and information.
Though the number of children dying of preventable and treatable diseases worldwide has dropped significantly since 1990, there is “realistic hope for much more” progress, particularly if “[i]mproved hygiene and sanitation … play a key role in the next stage,” Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, and Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, write in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. Noting that “diarrhea and pneumonia are the two leading killers of children, accounting for almost 30 percent of under-five deaths globally,” they state, “Vaccines can help, but improved hygiene and sanitation are also vital, and therefore key to meeting the Millennium Development Goal of cutting the child mortality rate by at least two-thirds by 2015.”
Intellectual Property Watch reports on a roundtable on global health law, innovation, access and justice, hosted last week by the Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies and Georgetown Law School. “At issue is the capacity of the pharmaceutical industry to innovate, and the potential barriers to access in a context of widespread diseases that blur the boundaries between developed and developing countries,” the news service writes, noting, “Most panelists concluded that governments should hold primary responsibility for the health of their populations” (Saez, 10/15).
“The Peace Corps has announced a strategic partnership with the Water and Development Alliance (WADA) — a long-standing public-private partnership between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Coca-Cola Company (Coca-Cola) — to improve local capacity to deliver sustainable water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services for the reduction of waterborne disease around the world,” a Peace Corps press release reports. According to the press release, “WADA will work with the Peace Corps’ WASH initiative to raise awareness and build capacity among Peace Corps and community trainers around sustainable water supply and sanitation services, as well as improved hygiene behaviors” (10/12). “The training package will equip more volunteers to help communities create and strengthen WASH efforts in their homes, in schools, and in health facilities,” Jill McGrath-Jones, program specialist for the Peace Corps Office of Global Health and HIV, writes in the AIDS.gov Blog. She adds, “Key actions promoted in the training include building tippy-taps to increase access to water, maintaining latrines, ensuring safe water supplies, and educating others about hygienic practices and behaviors” (10/15).
The non-profit advocacy group Research!America on Monday released a list titled “Top 10 Reasons To Invest In Global Health R&D,” which “provides compelling reasons why the investments are critical, from the humanitarian benefits to being a powerful driver of U.S. economic activity,” according to an e-mail alert (10/15). The list’s webpage states, “The U.S. needs to strengthen its investment in this important research, not only because it saves millions of lives worldwide but because it benefits the health of Americans, spurs new businesses and jobs in the U.S., helps protect our troops on the ground, and promotes global stability and security. Federal funding for global health R&D is the smart thing to do for the U.S. and the right thing to do for the world” (10/15).