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To Ensure Its Leading Role, WHO Must Address Challenges Of Governance, Financing

“The World Health Organization (WHO) is facing an unprecedented crisis that threatens its position as the premier international health agency. To ensure its leading role, it must rethink its internal governance and revamp its financing mechanisms,” Tikki Pang, a visiting professor at the National University of Singapore and former director of research policy and cooperation at the WHO, and Laurie Garrett, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, write in this Nature Medicine opinion piece. They note that the WHO “was born in the bifurcated Cold War world in 1948, and every aspect of its charter, mission and organizational structure was molded by diplomatic tensions between NATO and the USSR,” but “with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of the new emerging market superpowers, the WHO finds itself trying to straddle a global dynamic for which it was not designed.”

Devex Examines Closing Of Global Health Council

Devex examines the April 20 announcement by the Global Health Council (GHC) that it will cease operations in the year of its 40th anniversary, discussing possible reasons why the organization is closing and what lies ahead for its members. According to Devex, a lack of funding, operating challenges, and “a lack of focus” all potentially contributed to the organization’s impending closure. “GHC, for its part, has pointed to the general shift from a ‘broad-based health agenda’ toward disease-specific approaches as a reason for its shutdown,” the news service states. As for the future, Devex notes that those consulted for the article were “either unsure which group would” fill the gap left by GHC’s closure or “suggested that a new group or a coalition needs to form” (Schiff, 5/4).

KFF Issues New Brief On Statutory Requirements & Policies Governing U.S. Global Family Planning And Reproductive Health Efforts

The Kaiser Family Foundation on Thursday released a new issue brief that “provides a summary of the major policies and statutory requirements governing U.S. participation in international family planning and reproductive health efforts,” according to the website. “These laws and policies collectively direct how funds are spent, which organizations receive funds and generally shape U.S. family planning and reproductive health activities around the world,” the website adds (5/3).

China Joins Global Alliance For Clean Cookstoves

“Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo announced that China has joined the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves during a tour of a clean cookstove exhibit with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Beijing today,” a U.S. Department of State press release reports. “By joining the Alliance, China will help meet the Alliance’s goal to ensure 100 million homes adopt clean and efficient stoves and fuels by 2020,” the press release states (5/3).

Sierra Leone Has Made Progress In Improving Maternal, Child Health Care, But ‘Much More To Do’

“Just two years ago, our country had one of the worst maternal and infant death rates in the world,” Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma writes in a Huffington Post U.K. “Impact” blog post, adding, “We knew something had to be done.” So in September 2009, the government announced “that all health user fees would be removed for pregnant and lactating women and children under the age of five” and “introduced the Free Health Care Initiative [FHCI] in April 2010, which would give around 460,000 women and a million children a much better chance of having a longer and happier life,” Koroma writes. In one year, the FHCI facilitated a “214 percent increase in the number of children attending outpatient units” and a 61 percent reduction in “the number of women dying from pregnancy complications at facilities,” and “increased the number of health workers and ensured they were given big salary rises to reflect the importance of their positions,” he notes.

USAID’s Shah Speaks About Agency’s Operations, Efforts To Build Sustainable Solutions To Hunger In Foreign Policy Interview

In an interview with Foreign Policy, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah speaks “about how he is reinventing USAID, an often-embattled agency charged with helping the world’s poorest countries develop, while at the same time dealing with crises around the globe,” the magazine reports. Shah discusses his career path, spending oversight, “expanding public-private partnerships, and integrating development and emergency intervention,” especially in relationship to food security in Africa, according to Foreign Policy. Shah said, “The challenges remain fierce but we are excited about the momentum we are achieving through our resilience work around the world and with specific countries,” the magazine notes (Loewenberg, 5/3).

Dengue Fever Costs Puerto Rico Nearly $38M A Year, Study Shows

“The costs of treating and coping with dengue fever in Puerto Rico total nearly $38 million a year, a new study,” published Wednesday in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, finds, according to U.S. News & World Report. “It also said that every $1 spent on surveillance and prevention of the mosquito-borne disease could save $5 in illness-related costs,” the news service reports (5/2). “A team of researchers from Brandeis University says households in the U.S. territory pay almost half of that cost, with the government and insurance companies splitting the rest,” the Associated Press/Seattle Times notes (5/2).

Copenhagen Consensus Report Argues For Expanding Family Planning Programs In ‘High-Fertility’ Countries

As part of a series of Slate articles highlighting issues being examined by the Copenhagen Consensus Center, Bjorn Lomborg, director of the center, examines the implications of population growth on development indicators. In a research paper released on Thursday “for Copenhagen Consensus 2012, Hans-Peter Kohler of the University of Pennsylvania looks at sub-Saharan African nations that, among high-fertility countries, make the dominant contribution to world population growth,” he notes, adding, “‘High-fertility’ countries today account for about 38 percent of the 78 million people that are added annually to the world population, despite the fact that they are home to only 18 percent of the population.”

American Voters Say U.S. Support For WHO Important, Poll Shows

“Nine in 10 U.S. voters say it’s important for the United States to support the global health efforts of the U.N.’s World Health Organization, according to a United Nations Foundation/Better World Campaign poll [.pdf] released Thursday,” The Hill’s “Global Affairs” blog reports. “The poll comes as lawmakers debate significant cuts to federal spending, including cuts to global health funding and foreign aid,” the blog notes (Pecquet, 5/3).

Debate Continues Over Needle/Syringe Exchange Programs

Matt Fisher, a research assistant at the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ Global Health Policy Center, summarizes the ongoing debate in Congress over needle and syringe exchange programs (NSEPs) in this post on the SmartGlobalHealth.org blog. He presents a history of NSEPs and notes, “President Obama recently signed the FY12 omnibus spending bill that, among other things, reinstated the ban on the use of federal funds for needle and syringe exchange programs (NSEPs); this step reversed the 111th Congress’ 2009 decision to allow federal funds to be used for these programs.” He concludes that despite scientific evidence that NSEPs are an effective public health intervention, “ideological and moral opposition remains,” and therefore, “the issue of federal funding will continue to be actively debated” (2/6).