Ariel Pablos-Mendez, USAID assistant administrator for global health, writes in the agency’s IMPACTblog about his recent trip to Burma and the challenges the country faces as it transitions to an open society. “Hope springs anew for a transformative era of peace, prosperity and development for a country that’s just emerging from isolation from the international community,” he says, adding, “[W]hile maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS, [tuberculosis (TB)] and malaria are obvious targets for investment, there was a strong emphasis on the importance of strengthening health systems and stemming the growing problem of chronic diseases and injuries.” Pablos-Mendez continues, “New commitments in health” from the country’s leadership, the U.S., and other partners “hold promise for the Burmese people” (11/14).
Programs, Funding & Financing
In the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Global Health Policy” blog, Amanda Glassman, director of global health policy at CGD, and Denizhan Duran, a CGD research assistant in global health, examine a new report (.pdf) by the IMS Institute, which focuses on how countries can advance the responsible use of medicines. “Today, one-fifth of total health spending goes to medicines,” they write, adding, “Figuring out how to realize efficiencies in medicines spending is therefore crucial for every country, and for the international funders that support them.” They discuss the conclusions and limitations of the report, which supports the findings “of our recent work on priority-setting in health.” In effect, they say improved health technology assessment (HTA) agencies “could weigh cost-effectiveness, affordability and other factors in order to decide which medical interventions should receive higher priority in the allocation of scarce public and donor money” (11/14).
Writing in Huffington Post’s “The Big Push” blog, Lucy Chesire, executive director and secretary to the board of the TB ACTION Group, notes “countries from north and south, U.N. organizations, private sector companies and [non-governmental organizations (NGOs)] are meeting in Geneva [this week] at the Board meeting of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to discuss how best to invest available resources against the three killer diseases.” She highlights “a new approach to fight AIDS, which basically could lead to the end of the global pandemic,” noting, “UNAIDS calls it ‘the people-centered investment approach.'” Chesire interviews Bernhard Schwartlander, director of evidence, innovation and policy at UNAIDS, about this new approach.
Speaking at the World Bank on Wednesday, “Irish rock star and anti-poverty activist Bono said thousands of people could die from AIDS if the United States cuts development assistance to reduce the budget deficit,” Reuters reports. Bono is in “Washington this week to urge politicians to spare U.S. development aid, as Congress is embroiled in negotiations aimed at preventing looming tax hikes and spending cuts known as the ‘fiscal cliff,'” the news agency writes. Citing “figures from amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research,” Bono said “a shrinking U.S. budget for global health would leave more than 275,000 people without treatment for the autoimmune disease, leading to 63,000 more AIDS-related deaths,” the news service writes (Yukhananov, 11/14). “We know there’s going to be cuts. … We understand that. But not cuts that cost lives,” Bono said, according to the Wall Street Journal (11/14). “Bono … also spoke to World Bank President Jim Yong Kim on Wednesday about the need for transparent data to fight corruption, and the deadline for eliminating poverty,” Reuters adds (11/14). “According to Bono, who peppered his serious speech with jokes, guaranteeing transparency would be the biggest ‘turbo-charger’ to the fight against extreme poverty,” the Manila Bulletin reports (11/15). Business Insider provides video footage of Bono’s discussion with Kim (Ro, 11/14).
UNFPA Calls Family Planning An ‘Essential Human Right,’ Says Meeting Unmet Need Could Save More Than $11B Annually
In its annual State of the World Population 2012 report, the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) on Wednesday “called family planning an ‘essential human right’ and urged the world’s nations to help meet the needs of 222 million women in developing countries,” The Hill’s “Global Affairs” blog reports (Pecquet, 11/14). According to Inter Press Service, the report “says the huge unmet need for family planning persists, ‘despite international agreements and human rights treaties that promote individuals’ rights to make their own decisions about when and how often to have children'” (11/14). However, “[i]t is the first time the … annual report explicitly describes family planning as a human right,” the Associated Press notes, adding, “It effectively declares that legal, cultural, and financial barriers to accessing contraception and other family planning measures are an infringement of women’s rights” (11/14). “UNFPA insists that family planning is not optional; it is a fundamental right, and the obligation to fulfill it is a formal treaty obligation,” IRIN writes (11/14). But “[i]t is not binding and has no legal effect on national laws,” CBS News notes (11/14).
The Wall Street Journal examines how “Greece has seen decades of advances in public health rolled back, as a flood of illegal immigrants, a dysfunctional government and budget cuts ravage a once proud health-care system.” Noting “[o]ver the past two years, more than 50 endemic cases of [malaria] and more than 100 imported cases have been identified in Greece,” the newspaper writes, “The return of malaria, a scourge in developing countries, to Greece is a disturbing indicator of the nation’s decline since it crashed in 2009 under the weight of a debt binge.” The Wall Street Journal examines the history of malaria’s return to the country and how the government is responding. “In addition to malaria, public health officials say they are worried about rises in everything from infectious respiratory-tract diseases and skin conditions to tuberculosis and HIV,” the newspaper notes (Granitsas, 11/14).
The U.S. government, and in particular U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby, the head of PEPFAR, “have a unique opportunity to make [the program’s] money stretch farther and do more good, at very little cost to U.S. taxpayers: release the reams of data that PEPFAR and its contractors have already collected, at substantial cost — perhaps as much as $500 million each year,” Mead Over, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD), writes in the Center’s “Global Health Policy” blog. “This would be a first step in what I hope will be [a] 2013 drive to improve the efficiency, the quality and the accountability of the U.S.’s most frequently praised foreign assistance program,” he states. Over goes on to describe the Data Working Group and its recommendations to PEPFAR (11/13).
Noting that an estimated $2 billion was spent on the U.S. presidential campaigns, Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and founding dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine, writes in the Huffington Post “Healthy Living” blog, “Many of us in the global health community can only look upon that $2 billion figure in awe because of the potential for those dollars to be repurposed to immediately and dramatically improve the lives of the poorest people who suffer from disease.” Hotez says neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) “are the most pervasive and common infections of the world’s poorest people” and “not only impair health but actually trap people in poverty.” He says the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases can provide pharmaceutical “rapid impact packages” that “can control or even eliminate many of these diseases as public health problems … for as little as 50 cents per person per year, making NTD treatments one of the world’s most cost-effective public health interventions.”
The Affordable Medicines Facility-malaria began as a pilot program in 2010 to “provide a ‘co-payment’ to the manufacturers of [artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs)], thereby allowing commercial wholesalers and private or government health services to purchase the drugs at a fraction of the already low negotiated price,” Kenneth Arrow, a Nobel laureate in economic sciences in 1972 and an emeritus professor of economics at Stanford University, writes in a New York Times opinion piece. The program subsidized ACTs — a newer, more effective malaria treatment — to “sell [them] as cheaply as [less-effective] chloroquine in Africa’s private pharmacies and shops, where half of all patients first seek treatment for malaria-like fevers,” he states. “Strikingly, it has worked,” Arrow writes, noting a recent independent review of the program published in the Lancet.
Joint U.N. Assessment Finds Better Harvests In DPR Korea But Warns Undernutrition Persists Among 2.8M Vulnerable People
“There has been an increase in staple food production in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) for the second year running, but undernutrition persists for nearly three million people, according to a new United Nations assessment released” Monday, the U.N. News Centre reports. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme’s (WFP) joint Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission “found that overall production for the main 2012 harvest and 2013 early season crops is expected to be 5.8 million metric tons, an improvement of 10 percent over last year,” the news service writes (11/12). “This, however, should not mask an ongoing struggle with undernutrition and a lack of vital protein and fat in the diet, especially for an estimated 2.8 million vulnerable people,” an FAO/WFP joint press release states (11/12). “DPR Korea still needs international help,” Kisan Gunjal, FAO economist and mission co-leader, said in a statement, adding, “The new harvest figures are good news, but the lack of proteins and fats in the diet is alarming,” Reuters writes (11/12).