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Cutting Funding For International Food Aid 'Not The Best Answer' To Saving Money In U.S. Budget

In order to “fill food gaps in the 70 most food deficient countries, … the U.S., through the Food for Peace program and other food aid programs, provides approximately two million tons of American-grown food donations to 50 million starving people every year,” James Henry, chair of USA Maritime, writes in an opinion piece in The Hill’s “Congress Blog.” He continues, “This food, delivered on ships proudly flying the U.S. flag in bags stamped ‘From the American People,’ provides a tangible symbol of our generosity that helps generate goodwill toward our nation,” and “we all should agree that our willingness to help others in need is one of our country’s proudest achievements.” Henry writes that though food aid programs account for less than one half of one percent of the federal budget and “impact the lives of millions of hungry people around the world every year,” they “are in jeopardy as some policymakers are considering eliminating funding for international food aid.”

GHTC Blog Reviews Recent Congressional Actions With Global Health Implications

In this post on the Global Health Technologies Coalition’s (GHTC) “Breakthroughs” blog, GHTC Senior Policy Associate Ashley Bennett reviews recent action “on the federal budget and other pieces of legislation that could have implications for global health research and development (R&D)” and discusses “what the next several weeks could bring.” She says that the Supreme Court’s Friday decision on the Affordable Care Act, “as well as the rapidly heightening politics surrounding the presidential campaign, could affect progress on finalizing a FY 2013 budget and securing a deal to avoid total sequestration,” and she concludes, “With everything that Congress needs to complete before the end of the calendar year, we may know the election result before we know next year’s final funding levels for key global health R&D programs” (6/28).

Advocacy Groups Say Corruption Leaving Millions Of HIV-Positive Ukrainians Without Treatment, AP Reports

The Associated Press/San Francisco Chronicle reports on how Ukrainian “advocacy groups are accusing the government of embezzling millions of dollars in corrupt drug tenders and thus depriving patients of vital treatment.” The news service notes, “Of the estimated 450,000 Ukrainians who are HIV-positive, 70,000 require urgent treatment today, … [but] only 28,000 are receiving it, leaving over 40,000 of patients without antiretroviral therapy, which could greatly prolong their lives, according to WHO.” Igor Pokanevych, head of the WHO Country Office in Ukraine, said, “More resources should be allocated to fight against AIDS in this country,” but the AP reports that “advocacy groups charge that the government in fact has the necessary funds to treat all of its AIDS patients” and “accuse health ministry officials [of] embezzling money that should be used to treat patients by buying AIDS drugs at hugely inflated prices and then pocketing kickbacks.”

House Foreign Relations Authorization Act Only Includes State Department Operations

“[T]he House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) [on Wednesday] approved the FY 2013 Foreign Relations Authorization Act [.pdf] that it hopes will be the first authorizing bill to pass Congress in a decade,” Casey Dunning of the Center for Global Development (CGD) writes in this post in the center’s “Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance” blog. “The bill aims to provide direction and guidance to appropriators and the administration as they fund and execute U.S. foreign affairs,” however, “[i]n an effort to pass an authorizing bill, the committee decided to completely excise the assistance part of its portfolio — 65 percent of the international affairs budget! — and authorize only State Department operations (aka, the other 35 percent),” she notes. Dunning concludes, “In keeping the focus solely on State Department mechanics and FY 2012 funding levels this year, they were able to avoid contentious debates on issues like aid to Pakistan and funding family planning, muster bipartisan support, and move the bill forward, sans a foreign assistance section. But it means they also avoid an opportunity to influence U.S. foreign aid” (6/28).

Gates Foundation Plans To Invest In Biotech Companies To Improve Global Access To Treatments, Vaccines For Infectious Diseases

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation “plans to take equity stakes in up to a dozen biotech companies this year, signaling a shift towards a ‘venture capital’ approach at the world’s biggest philanthropic organization” and “mark[ing] a further move away from its traditional approach of grant-giving and towards a more business-oriented way to support the development of treatments and vaccines for infectious diseases affecting the world’s poor,” the Financial Times reports. Trevor Mundel, president of the Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program, said the foundation will make a series of investments worth several million dollars each “and not ask for a return but for global access. … We will specify the countries and the diseases,” according to the newspaper. The Financial Times notes that “[t]he move points to growing interest in working directly with companies rather than primarily through co-operating via non-profit ‘product development partnerships’ or intermediaries such as the Medicines for Malaria Venture and the Tuberculosis Alliance” (Jack, 6/26).

Cooperation 'Essential' To Fight Diseases That Easily Cross Borders

“[C]ooperation is essential to combat diseases that cross national borders,” Ramanan Laxminarayan, director of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy and a research scholar and lecturer at Princeton University, and Bryan Grenfell and Petra Klepac of Princeton University write in a SciDev.Net opinion piece. “This is not restricted to regional control — long-term, coordinated efforts that give neighboring countries an incentive to immunize or put in place other intervention measures can also lead to global elimination of a disease,” they write, discussing optimal vaccination strategies and disease control challenges.

London Summit On Family Planning Poised To Provide 'Staggering' Results

The “groundbreaking” London Summit on Family Planning, scheduled for July 11, “aims to provide an additional 120 million women … lifesaving contraceptives, information, and services by 2020,” Gary Darmstadt, who heads the Family Health Division of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, writes in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. If that goal is reached, the health and economic benefits would be “staggering,” he says, laying out the five guiding principles to the world’s “collective efforts to revitalize family planning.” Those principles include improving “political commitment, funding, and collaboration”; promoting equal rights among women and girls; strengthening voluntary family planning programs under existing infrastructure; and holding stakeholders accountable, he writes, and concludes, “The time to come together is now. The global community has the chance to achieve transformational results that will save millions of lives” (6/28).

New Study Lessens Concerns About Dengue Vaccine Production Costs

“Research funded by the Dengue Vaccine Initiative (DVI) involving an economic analysis of producing a tetravalent dengue vaccine shows that the cost could be as low as $0.20 per dose with an annual production level of 60 million doses packaged in 10-dose vials,” a Sabin Vaccine Institute press release reports. The study, published in the July 6 issue of the journal Vaccine, “used data on a vaccine developed by U.S. NIH and the facilities of the Instituto Butantan in Sao Paulo, Brazil,” the press release notes, adding the findings “should provide confidence to ministries of health that they can aggressively plan for the inclusion of dengue vaccine in their immunization programs, as the vaccine should be available at a cost that even middle-income and developing countries can afford” (6/27).

IAS President Will Use AIDS 2012 To Say 'Thank You' To U.S. For Contributions To HIV/AIDS Battle

Elly Katabira, president of the International AIDS Society and co-chair of the 19th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012), said he will use the conference as an occasion to say “thank you” to the U.S., VOA News reports. “We want the world to know how we appreciate the contribution of the American people. We know that we haven’t been going to the U.S. for the last 22 years, but in spite of that [the] U.S. is still the leading contributor to the struggle against the epidemic,” Katabira said, according to the news service. The conference will be held in Washington, D.C., from July 22-27, VOA notes, adding, “The U.S. hadn’t hosted the conference in so long due to a travel ban on those who were HIV-positive.” Katabira said he will stress continued funding for efforts to fight the epidemic, increased awareness and involvement among young people, and decreased stigma and discrimination against men who have sex with men and transgendered persons, according to the news service (De Capua, 6/28).

House Foreign Affairs Committee Approves FY13 Foreign Relations Authorization Act

“The House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday approved a $16.2 billion State Department authorization bill [.pdf] after reaching bipartisan consensus,” The Hill’s “Global Affairs” blog reports, adding, “The bill passed by voice vote in under a minute, in stark contrast with last year’s record 30-hour markup where Democrats and Republicans battled on everything from funding for abortion providers to aid to Pakistan” (Pecquet, 6/27). The FY13 Foreign Relations Authorization Act (HR 6018) “authorizes FY13 appropriations for the State Department and a few other International Affairs programs at largely current (FY12) funding levels, a very positive development in the current budget environment,” according to a U.S. Global Leadership Coalition budget update (Lester, 6/27). The hearing’s opening statement from Committee Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and a summary of the bill are available online (6/27).

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