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U.S. Government ‘Catalyzing’ International Community To End Preventable Child Deaths

“When it comes to promoting global health, the American people have much to celebrate and be proud of. With strong bipartisan support, the U.S. government has not only committed many billions of dollars and saved many millions of lives, it has changed the way the world approaches foreign aid,” former U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Mark Dybul writes in an opinion piece in The Hill. He highlights several U.S. initiatives, including the Millennium Challenge Corporation, PEPFAR, and the President’s Malaria Initiative, among others, “that definitively changed how the U.S. serves its global sisters and brothers,” and writes, “[T]hese solid investments in saving and lifting up lives have changed how people around the world view America and Americans.”

‘Global Pulse’ Summarizes Event Launching USAID Child Survival Social Media Campaign

At an event on Monday launching USAID’s “Every Child Deserves a Fifth Birthday” social media campaign, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah described how $30 worth of materials contained in a backpack he carried onto stage, including zinc to prevent diarrhea and vaccines to prevent pneumococcal diseases, “can lead to a massive reduction in preventable child death in the developing world,” GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog reports. Though the backpack and the campaign’s use of 5th birthday photographs from celebrities, lawmakers, and policymakers “made for powerful symbols,” the event “dug a little deeper” to “highligh[t] numerous challenges facing the major U.S. government advocacy effort on child survival, which includes a gathering of world health leaders in Washington in June to push a new plan aimed at reducing preventable child deaths to zero,” the blog says.

U.S. Government Must Be Prepared To Handle Dual Use Research Of Concern

“This week, a Senate panel is investigating biological security in the wake of” controversial “potentially dangerous research” on H5N1 avian influenza, “with good reason,” Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) writes in a Washington Times opinion piece. He says “the U.S. government should not have been caught by surprise” by the two research papers describing how genetic mutations to the virus could make it transmissible between ferrets, because the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) “was created in 2004 and charged with the specific responsibility of reviewing this type of research and offering guidance to all federal agencies that conduct biological research.” Sensenbrenner says the NSABB’s initial recommendation against publishing the studies and its subsequent reversal of that decision has left him with “suspicions that the U.S. government is woefully unprepared for dealing with dual use research of concern — research that, while conducted for a legitimate scientific purpose, could be dangerous if misused.”

Draft Farm Bill Includes ‘Promising’ Fixes To U.S. Food Aid System

In this post in the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance Blog,” Connie Veillette, director of CGD’s rethinking U.S. foreign assistance initiative, comments on a draft farm bill released by Congress last week, which she writes “includes some promising fixes to the notoriously inefficient U.S. food aid system.” She continues, “Kudos are definitely in order for a draft bill that advances ideas around improving food aid effectiveness,” including “the reauthorization of local and regional purchase (LRP) to buy food closer to emergencies.” Veillette writes, “I would prefer the nature of the food emergency to determine whether U.S. commodities or LRP is used rather than some formula that makes more sense for Washington politics than for global hunger,” and concludes, “I commend the [Senate Agriculture] Committee for taking a serious look at improving food aid efficiencies and hope that this marks the start of a productive process of policy reform” (4/24).

Allowing Countries To Use PEPFAR Funding For Voluntary Contraception For Women Aligns With GHI’s ‘Women-Centered’ Approach

“PEPFAR has said it will use” nearly $1.5 billion in unspent aid “to invest in commodities (condoms, HIV rapid test kits and voluntary medical male circumcision kits), systems and institutions, and program strengthening,” Suzanne Ehlers, president of Population Action International, writes in this post in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog. “Here’s one idea that would offer a huge return on investment and save the lives of millions: voluntary contraception for women,” she continues, adding, “Voluntary contraception has been called ‘the best kept secret in HIV prevention’ and has a proven evidence base.”

USAID Administrator Shah Launches Social Media Campaign To Garner Support To Improve Child Health, Survival

Under the slogan “Every Child Deserves a Fifth Birthday,” USAID on Monday launched a social media campaign featuring childhood photos of celebrities, global health leaders and lawmakers, with the aim of “build[ing] support to fight preventable deaths of children,” CQ HealthBeat reports. “‘By asking others to remember their own fifth birthdays, we want to remind people that more than seven million children each year never get the chance to celebrate that milestone,’ USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said in a statement,” the news service writes, noting, “Children who reach age five are much more likely to become adults, experts say.” The article notes, “The campaign is a different tack for USAID, engaging the public as well as congressional leaders who decide the agency’s funding.” “The trend follows an attempt by the Obama administration, through its Global Health Initiative (GHI), to broaden and better coordinate U.S. global health policies, … addressing systemic health care problems in developing countries, rather than focusing primarily on individual diseases like HIV/AIDS or malaria,” CQ writes, noting, “Many advocates say that while the president’s [global health] plan is the right approach in terms of long-term international development,” it has “attracted tepid support from some lawmakers and has been dogged by the anti-spending environment in Congress.”

5 Reasons Global Health Programs Should ‘Be Spared The Chopping Block’

“President Obama and his GOP challenger Mitt Romney have both prioritized deficit reduction, which, of course, is a worthy goal,” former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), chair of the non-profit Hope Through Healing Hands, writes in an opinion piece in The Week. “[M]any surveys put global health at the top of the list of things to slash. That’s a mistake,” he continues and lists five reasons why global health programs “ought to be spared the chopping block.”

Rep. Sensenbrenner Sends Second Letter Inquiring About U.S. Government’s Review Of Controversial H5N1 Studies

“A senior Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives is asking more questions about how the U.S. government reviewed two controversial H5N1 avian influenza studies, and how it wrote a new policy for reviewing taxpayer-funded studies that might be used for good and evil,” ScienceInsider reports. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) on Monday “sent a letter [.pdf] to Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), asking him to clarify how the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) reached its recent decision to recommend publication of the two studies after recommending against publication late last year,” the news service writes, noting, “The letter also asks for more information on which government officials were involved” in the new policy regarding research that might be “dual use research of concern” (DURC).