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World Bank Should Re-Evaluate Programs To Reduce Maternal Mortality

“The World Bank boasts that it has positioned itself as a ‘global leader’ in reproductive health, especially for youth and the poor,” but in 2011, it dedicated “just 0.2 percent of its $43 billion budget” to reproductive health projects, and much of that money was provided as loans, which can “leave poor countries indebted and threaten to divert domestic spending away from vital public health services,” Elizabeth Arend, program coordinator at Gender Action, writes in the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog.” In addition, “[t]here is a striking mismatch between countries’ maternal mortality rates and the bank’s spending on reproductive health,” Arend states, citing the examples of Sierra Leone, where the lifetime average risk of dying from pregnancy or childbirth is one in 35 and the World Bank provides $7.43 per person, versus Niger, Liberia, or Somalia, where women “face an average lifetime one in 17 risk of maternal death, yet these countries receive no reproductive health funding from the bank at all.”

Rep. Sensenbrenner Sends ‘Fact-Finding Letter’ To White House Science Adviser About Bird Flu Studies

“Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), a former head of the House committees on science and the judiciary, and currently vice chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, last week sent a ‘fact-finding letter’ to White House science adviser John Holdren, asking pointed questions about how the U.S. government has handled the controversy” surrounding two studies that showed how H5N1 bird flu virus could be manipulated to become transmissible among ferrets, a model for humans, “and questioning whether it should have funded the two flu studies,” ScienceInsider reports. “The [Obama] Administration’s response has appeared ad hoc, delayed, and inadequate,” Sensenbrenner writes, adding, “An ad hoc approach is inadequate to balance the priorities of public health and the free flow of academic ideas,” according to the article, which includes the full text of the letter.

AIDS Advocacy Groups Ask Obama To Reconsider FY13 Budget Request For PEPFAR

“Nine global HIV/AIDS advocacy organizations sent a letter [.pdf] to President Obama Thursday asking him to rethink his fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget recommendation to slash $546 million in funding from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. The groups, which include AVAC: Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention, the HIV Medicine Association, and POZ Magazine, noted the request “recommended funding the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria at $1.65 billion — keeping the U.S. on track to reach its three-year commitment of $4 billion by 2013,” but in the letter stated, “[W]e must and we do strongly object to the apparent shoring up of the Global Fund budget request at the expense of the PEPFAR program. … These two programs are synergistic and often provide complementary services to the same communities,” the blog notes (Mazzotta, 3/2).

Blog Summarizes Clinton’s Congressional Testimony On Administration’s FY13 Budget Request

Will McKitterick, a research assistant with the Center for Global Development (CGD), in this “Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance” blog post summarizes Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s “grueling marathon of Congressional committee hearings in defense of the FY2013 international affairs budget request.” The nine hours of hearings “ran the gamut of U.S. priorities in national security and foreign policy,” McKitterick writes, adding, “Congressional leaders seemed alarmed by reductions in global health spending and raised specific concerns over the administration’s ability to meet its commitments to its PEPFAR goal of placing six million people on life-sustaining treatment by 2013. Secretary Clinton assured the committees that cuts would be balanced by consolidating programs, finding efficiencies, improving partners’ capacity, and shifting more responsibilities to host countries” (3/2).

Funding Gaps Could Hinder Future Of Health Care In Africa, Report Says

The “improvement and extension of health care in Africa is … being constrained by gaps in financing,” according to a new report (.pdf) by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) based on research commissioned by Janssen Pharmaceutica, a Belgian subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, the Financial Times’ “beyondbrics” blog reports (Wheatley, 3/1). The report, titled “The Future of Healthcare in Africa,” “discusses the continent’s traditional health care issues, such as communicable diseases or financing health care in economically difficult circumstances” and “also addresses less well-known topics, such as the threat of obesity and heart disease, the use of mobile technology, development of more preventive care, and more,” according to the Janssen website (3/1). The report “identif[ies] the key trends shaping African health care systems” and uses them “to develop [five] scenarios that depict the possible health landscape on the continent in 2022,” a Janssen press release (.pdf) states (3/1).

Sachs Says He Is ‘Eager For Challenge’ Of World Bank Presidency

The new president of the World Bank “should come to office understanding the realities of flooded villages, drought-ridden farms, desperate mothers hovering over comatose, malaria-infected children, and teenage girls unable to pay high school tuition. More than knowing these realities, and caring to end them, the bank president should understand their causes and interconnected solutions,” Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, writes in a Washington Post opinion piece. “My good fortune to see the world through the eyes of others, during 30 years working on some of the world’s most vexing problems, has helped me understand various regions’ challenges and the need for tailored solutions,” which is why “I am eager for this challenge” to lead the World Bank, he writes, advocating for his nomination to be considered for the position.

Chinese Government Pledges Greater Support For Organizations Fighting HIV/AIDS

“Organizations involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS will get greater government support,” Yu Jingjin, director of the disease prevention and control bureau under China’s Ministry of Health, said, China Daily reports. He said, “‘The government will beef up investment and support for social groups’ and cooperate with reliable ones,” and added, “Each province this year will support three to five civil societies tackling HIV/AIDS and help them with operational costs and training,” according to the news service. “Yu urged health authorities to work more with society in general to fight AIDS,” China Daily writes, adding, “Cooperation in this sphere has not always worked fully to its potential, he said” (Shan, 3/2).

Campaign To Elicit Donations For Health Projects From Airline Travelers Winds Down Amid Funding Woes

The Switzerland-based Millennium Foundation, a Unitaid-funded campaign to solicit donations for health projects from airline travelers, “is being wound down after spending nearly $20 million to generate less than $300,000 over the past four years,” the Financial Times reports. “The lack of successful fundraising sparked concerns from health campaigners over the waste of scarce resources at a time when funding is declining and millions of people around the world are dying each year from HIV, tuberculosis and malaria,” the news service writes.

Kenya’s Ability To Diagnose, Treat MDR-TB Questioned After Mismanagement Of Patient’s Case

“The Kenyan government’s recent failure to adequately treat a patient with extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) has some civil society organizations questioning whether the country’s TB program is equipped to diagnose and treat such patients,” PlusNews reports. “The government admits the TB program in Kenya has not been adequately funded despite the country’s big TB burden,” PlusNews writes, adding, “Kenya ranks 13th on the list of 22 high-burden TB countries in the world and has the fifth-highest burden in Africa.”

Republican Presidential Candidate Santorum Could Be Beneficial To Global Health Programs If Elected President

In the Republican campaign for the presidential nomination, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), “the most religiously conservative candidate, surprisingly, is the most fervent advocate for U.S. global health diplomacy,” Jack Chow, former U.S. ambassador on global HIV/AIDS and former assistant director-general of WHO on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, writes in a Foreign Policy opinion piece. “Santorum has staked out global health as one of his preferred instruments of asserting American power abroad” and “seems determined to lay the groundwork for a global health agenda that is not only far more extensive than his competitors’, but would surpass both [George W.] Bush and Barack Obama in advancing U.S. interests abroad through fighting disease,” Chow writes.