In the second part of a series of Slate articles highlighting issues being examined by the Copenhagen Consensus Center, Bjorn Lomborg, director of the center, examines the global burden of non-communicable diseases, which “receiv[e] the smallest amount of donor assistance of all health conditions, having lost ground since 1990 relative to infectious diseases,” he writes. “In a research paper released today on chronic disease, Prabhat Jha and a team of researchers argue that chronic diseases already pose a substantial economic burden, and this burden will evolve into a staggering one over the next two decades,” according to Lomborg.
Programs, Funding & Financing
“Each year, nearly 400,000 children are born with HIV globally, and prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) is a particular challenge in sub-Saharan Africa, an area characterized by weak health systems,” U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby writes in the State Department “DipNote” blog. “Last year PEPFAR and UNAIDS joined with other partners to launch the Global Plan, an initiative to eliminate new HIV infections among children and keep their mothers alive,” Goosby writes and reflects on a two-day mission to Nigeria with UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe last week. He concludes, “Preventing new HIV infections in children is a smart investment that saves lives, and the United States is proud to partner with Nigeria and other countries in this cause” (4/30).
The May issue of the WHO Bulletin features an editorial on the establishment of an evidence base for e-health; a public health round-up; an article on the future of e-health technologies; a research paper on the use of e-health in low- and middle-income countries; and a systematic review on the factors that promote or inhibit the implementation of e-health systems (May 2012).
In this Atlantic opinion piece, Joshua Foust, an author and a fellow at the American Security Project, examines the use of a non-traditional aid model known as the Rural Support Programmes Network (RSPN) in Pakistan, where “heavy rains and devastating flooding … displaced upwards of 20 million people” in July 2010. Though USAID “is very good at quickly mobilizing assistance,” including medical, shelter, food, and water aid, “to disaster-afflicted communities, it carries a lot of political baggage — so much so in places like Pakistan that the U.S might be better off in the long run by downsizing USAID’s direct activities there and working through alternative programs,” he writes. Therefore, “the Pakistan Humanitarian Forum, a consortium of NGOs that work in Pakistan, … submitted an official request to the U.S. government to re-brand their aid” as a result of political tension, according to Foust, who notes the RSPN, founded by the Agha Khan Network in 1982, “reach[es] millions of the poorest homes across a vast swath of Pakistan.”
“Governments are failing to fund projects to improve access to toilets and other sanitation services in poor countries because the subject remains ‘taboo,’ a director at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said on Monday,” Reuters reports. “About 1.1 billion people across the world still defecate in the open because they have no toilets, according to the United Nations,” Reuters writes. “It’s the last big taboo and as a result more than one million kids die every year. Diarrhea is the second largest cause of death after respiratory infections in young children,” Frank Rijsberman, director of water, sanitation and hygiene at the foundation, said at the Global Water Summit 2012 conference in Rome, the news service notes.
“The world is falling behind in its pledge to reduce HIV/AIDS infections and improve treatment, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a U.N. report [.pdf] released Monday” by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the Associated Press reports. The report to the U.N. General Assembly “said that ‘critical challenges remain’ if the world is to make good on promises made at a U.N.-sponsored meeting on HIV/AIDS in June 2011,” the AP writes (Alt Powell, 4/30). “Among the targets set by the international community at the June 2011 high-level meeting are the elimination of new HIV/AIDS infections in children, cutting sexually transmitted infections by 50 percent, and delivering antiretroviral therapy to 15 million people,” Xinhua/China Daily notes (5/1).
The Guttmacher Institute on Friday released a media update examining the impact of U.S. international family planning assistance. The update highlights the benefits supported by $610 million “appropriated for U.S. assistance for family planning and reproductive health programs for FY 2012” and states, “These gains would be seriously jeopardized if this already modest funding for the program were to be cut again,” noting that “reductions of different magnitudes would have proportional effects” (4/27).
Some Public Health Advocates Disagree With Indian Government’s Decision To Roll Out Pentavalent Vaccines, IPS Reports
“Ignoring widespread concern over the safety, efficacy and cost of pentavalent vaccines” — which provide protection against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, hepatitis B and haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) — “India’s central health ministry has, this month, approved inclusion of the prophylactic cocktail in the universal immunization program in seven of its provinces,” Inter Press Service reports. Pentavalent vaccines have “had a history of causing adverse reactions and deaths in India’s neighboring countries like Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan,” the news service writes, noting that India’s National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) in 2010 “recommended limited introduction of pentavalents in southern Kerala and Tamil Nadu and evaluation of results over a year before extension to other states.” Despite this recommendation and outstanding public interest litigation, the government on April 16 announced the vaccines would be introduced in five additional states, IPS reports.
Speaking at a conference in Brazzaville, Congo, on Friday, U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva “appealed to oil- and mineral-rich nations to set up a fund to combat the food crisis gripping the Sahel desert region and other parts of Africa,” Agence France-Presse reports. He said the organization needs $110 million in the short term to combat hunger in the region, which includes Chad, Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger, according to the news service (4/27). He said, “We are very concerned about the Sahel because there are already many conflicts in the region,” Bloomberg notes, adding “[m]ore than five million people in Niger are facing food insecurity, along with three million in Mali and 1.5 million in Burkina Faso, according to the FAO” (Mbakou, 4/27).
This post in Malaria No More’s “Malaria Policy Center” blog reports on a two-part event held on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, April 25, World Malaria Day, titled, “U.S. Advancements in Science and Technology in Malaria: A Showcase of Domestic Research & Development to Save Lives and Keep Americans Safe.” During the event, which featured the “co-chairs of the Senate Working Group on Malaria and Congressional Caucus on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases as honorary hosts,” “20 universities, private companies, and research institutions highlighted cutting-edge scientific and technological advancements in malaria that could save millions of lives around the world, protect U.S. military service members, and create jobs here in their own states,” the blog writes, noting, “USAID Administrator Raj Shah also spoke about the impressive scientific achievements and the development of new tools that can be used in the fight against malaria” (Waltman, 4/27).