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.”
Private Sector Involvement
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).
Negotiators from the United States and 10 other countries last month concluded a 14th round of private talks in Leesburg, Va., “to wrap up the Trans-Pacific Partnership, poised to become the largest trade deal in U.S. history,” the Charlotte Observer reports. The talks “involve a tussle over how far to go to protect intellectual property rights and, with them, the finances of brand-name drug companies,” according to the newspaper, which adds, “If drug companies get their way in protecting brand-name drugs in a new international trade deal, critics say, millions of AIDS patients in poor countries will go untreated, losing access to cheaper generic drugs that could keep them alive.”
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Al Ansari Exchange, “a major foreign exchange and remittance company in the [United Arab Emirates], have committed $10 million over the next five years to tackle” polio and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), Devex reports (Ravelo, 10/10). “The agreement, which was jointly signed in Abu Dhabi by Bill Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation, and Mohammed Ali Al Ansari, chairman of the board of Al Ansari Exchange, will kick off with an initial co-funded contribution of $4 million to support polio eradication activities in Pakistan and Afghanistan and the prevention and treatment of NTDs in sub-Saharan Africa,” an Al Ansari Exchange press release notes (10/9). In his blog, “The Gates Notes,” Gates provides a transcript of his speech at the 2012 Abu Dhabi Media Summit, where the agreement was signed (10/9).
The Financial Times has published a special report (.pdf) on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) featuring 10 articles examining issues including prevention, research, and treatment.
The Harvard School of Public Health announced on Thursday that Regina Rabinovich, former director of infectious diseases at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has been chosen to be the ExxonMobil Malaria Scholar in Residence, “where she will focus on innovative strategies to combat malaria,” according to a Harvard press release. “The ExxonMobil Malaria Scholar in Residence program is one of several activities under a new cross-university initiative called ‘Defeating Malaria: From the Genes to the Globe,’ which aims to produce, transmit and translate knowledge to support the control and ultimate eradication of malaria,” the press release states, adding, “Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), in collaboration with the Harvard Global Health Institute, is spearheading the effort, which is being launched in partnership with the United Nations Special Envoy for Malaria. The ExxonMobil Foundation is funding the one-year residency program” (10/4).
The Financial Times examines the creation of UNITAID, an innovative financing mechanism and international drug purchasing facility, and how Philippe Douste-Blazy, chair of the UNITAID Executive Board and France’s former foreign minister who helped create the organization, is looking to move beyond drug financing to raise money through “microdonations” for development programs. Douste-Blazy is proposing tacking financial transaction taxes (FTTs) onto the price of certain products and services, creating “gifts so tiny that the donors don’t even notice they are giving them,” according to the newspaper. The Financial Times writes, “Douste-Blazy argues: ‘Certain sectors have benefited enormously from globalization: financial transactions, tourism and mobile phones. We need to tax an economic activity that’s only done by the rich, and tax it so lightly that nobody will notice.'” The newspaper continues, “Moreover, he points out, this tax would be popular. And it would save lives” (Kuper, 10/5).
On Friday at the University of Washington, “historian Anne-Emanuelle Birn will present the Stephen Stewart Gloyd endowed lecture, ‘Philanthrocapitalism, Cooption and the Politics of Global Health Agenda-Setting,'” KPLU 88.5’s “Humanosphere” blog reports. According to the blog, Birn will explain why she “think[s] of global health as a means to also advance corporate or political agendas.” The blog writes, “Birn will compare the efforts of the Rockefeller Foundation to largely fund and direct the creation of the field of international health, which contributed to improvements in public health worldwide and eventually the creation of what would become the World Health Organization, to the [Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s] current efforts to achieve similarly grand results” (Paulson, 10/4).