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US Global Health Policy

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Helping Babies Breathe Initiative Employs Global Development Alliance Model

In a post on USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” Amanda Makulec of John Snow Inc. describes the Helping Babies Breathe (HBB) initiative, which was developed “to equip birth attendants in developing countries with the skills they need to successfully resuscitate babies born without the ability to breathe on their own.” She continues, “[I]t was the power of the Global Development Alliance (GDA) model — public-private partnership on a global scale — that dramatically expanded access to newborn resuscitation in remote health facilities and communities in 34 countries within 18 months of the launch of the partnership … by leveraging the commitment, resources, and support of a diverse group of program implementers, NGOs, private sector organizations, government institutions, U.N. agencies, professional associations to enable the rapid roll out of the intervention globally” (4/30).

Every Child Deserves A 5th Birthday Weekly Theme Is PMTCT

“The Every Child Deserves a 5th Birthday theme for this week is prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT),” an e-mail alert from USAID reports, noting, “PMTCT provides HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support services for the whole family and is the most effective way to create an HIV-free generation.” According to USAID, “when a mother receives antiretroviral therapy, the risk of mother-to-child transmission drops from about 40 percent to near zero.” The e-mail states, “USAID and the global community are committed to accelerating progress and scale-up of PMTCT, with the goal of eliminating new pediatric HIV infections by 2015 and improving maternal, newborn, and child survival and health in the context of HIV” (5/29).

Trade Officials At WIPO Fail To Make Progress On Proposals To Improve Access To Generic Medicines

Trade officials met last week at the U.N. World Intellectual Property Organization “to make progress on a proposal that would allow poor countries to provide inexpensive generic versions of lifesaving medications, rather than rely a single version of the same drugs under expensive patent monopolies,” but the U.S. “remained steadfast in rejecting proposals aimed at lowering the prices of existing medicines in poor countries,” the Huffington Post reports (Carter, 5/29). At the 18th session of the Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (SCP), delegates considered two proposals, according to Intellectual Property Watch. The news service notes that a South African proposal (.pdf), submitted on behalf of the African Group and the Development Agenda Group (DAG), would have assisted developing nations adapt their patent schemes “to make full use of the flexibilities available in the international patent system in the interest of public health,” and a U.S. proposal (.pdf) “warned against any weakening of patent protection as a solution to the lack of availability of medicine in developing countries” because, “the delegate said, less patent rights would be detrimental to innovation” (Saez, 5/25).

PEPFAR Releases 8th Annual Report To Congress

The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog notes that PEPFAR recently released its 8th annual report (.pdf) to Congress. “The five-page document outlines the program’s progress as of the end of fiscal year 2011 in various areas,” including the provision of antiretroviral treatment, care, and support; HIV testing and counseling for pregnant women; and prevention of mother-to-child transmission services, the blog notes. The report includes sections on “leading with science,” “smart investments,” “country ownership,” and “shared responsibility,” according to the blog (Mazzotta, 5/4).

Humanitarian Groups Call On G8 To Address Food Security At Upcoming Summit

Several humanitarian groups say that despite the G8’s pledge made at the 2009 L’Aquila Summit to provide $22 billion over three years to improve agriculture and food security, “the commitment is about to expire” and “much more needs to be done to end hunger,” VOA News reports. Neil Watkins, director of policy and campaigns at ActionAid, said he expects G8 leaders at their upcoming summit at Camp David later this month will promote a new food security initiative with greater private sector involvement, according to VOA. “Gawain Kripke of Oxfam America praised President Obama’s food security efforts since 2009,” the news service writes, adding that Kripke said, “[W]e’ve been calling for President Obama to keep that momentum up — to keep pushing for bigger and better and more ambitious goals and more ambitious resource commitments.”

Nature Publishes First Of Two Controversial Studies On H5N1 Avian Flu

“In a long-awaited study that helped prompt a contentious debate over the wisdom of conducting research that has the potential to help as well as harm, scientists reported Wednesday that they had engineered a mutant strain of [H5N1] bird flu that can spread easily between ferrets — a laboratory animal that responds to flu viruses much as people do,” the Los Angeles Times (Brown, 5/3). Published in the journal Nature, the study is “the first of two controversial papers about laboratory-enhanced versions of the deadly bird flu virus that initially sparked fears among U.S. biosecurity experts that it could be used as a recipe for a bioterrorism weapon,” Reuters writes (Steenhuysen, 5/2). The U.S. National Security Advisory Board on Biosecurity “had asked journals to hold off publishing” the studies, but “[t]he panel later dropped its objections after it became clear the engineered viruses were less virulent than had been feared,” according to the Washington Post (Brown, 5/2).

Examining Health Sector Funding Agreement Between Liberia, USAID

“[A] new and complementary agreement between Liberia and USAID, called the Fixed Amount Reimbursement Agreement (FARA),” is “quite revolutionary,” Amanda Glassman, director of global health policy and a research fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD), and Jacob Hughes, write in CGD’s “Global Health Policy” blog. They note a recent working paper they authored with Walter Gwenigale in which they “describe Liberia’s unique experience in pooling donor funds for health in a post-conflict setting, with good results.” They ask why USAID did not make payments directly into the Health Sector Pool Fund mechanism, stating, “The FARA contribution to the pool could have created complementary, virtuous incentives to achieve the pool fund results as efficiently as possible, which would be a credit to the government and all the participating donors, and would set a precedent for USAID to participate in pooling in other countries” (5/11).

USAID Reports To Congress On Global Health, Child Survival

“In the last 20 years, the world has saved more than 50 million children’s lives and reduced maternal mortality by one-third,” “accomplishments [that] have been the result of good science, good management, bipartisan political support, the engagement of USAID and many other U.S. Government agencies, and the participation of faith-based organizations, civil society, and the private sector,” according to a summary of USAID’s “Global Health and Child Survival: Progress Report to Congress 2010-2011.” The summary states, “With prospects for ending preventable child and maternal deaths, creating an AIDS-free generation, and laying the foundations for universal health coverage, future generations will look back at this period as a turning point in the history of global health” (5/10).

International AIDS Conference To Highlight International, Domestic U.S. AIDS Policies, Politico Reports

When the International AIDS Conference convenes in Washington in July, the first time the U.S. will host the conference in more than 20 years, “it will signal that the U.S. has brought its HIV policies into better alignment with the principles it advocates abroad,” Politico reports, referencing the lifting of the “Helms rule” — which denied U.S. visas to people who are HIV positive — in 2009. “The policy was especially painful to advocates because U.S. scientific and financial investments are largely responsible for stemming the tide of the epidemic around the world,” the news service writes. “But the meeting will also highlight other ways that the U.S. has fallen short, advocates say,” the news service writes, noting that the U.S. epidemic is not slowing. Politico discusses the successes and criticisms of several domestic HIV/AIDS initiatives under the Obama administration (Feder, 5/13).

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