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Nature Examines How Funding Shortfalls Are Hindering Efforts To Use Drugs To Curb HIV Spread

Nature examines how funding shortfalls are hampering global efforts to use drugs to curb the spread of HIV, writing, “[A]t this week’s annual Conference on Retro­viruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle, Washington, there was growing concern that financial austerity in the United States and elsewhere is eating away at the funding needed for a worldwide prevention effort.” The journal cites proposed reductions “to direct international aid for HIV programs under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)” in President Barack Obama’s FY 2013 budget request and an announcement by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria last November that it had cancelled Round 11 grants “until 2014 because of tightening budgets in donor countries.”

Congress Must Protect International Family Planning Funding

“Opponents of birth control don’t just want to limit access in the U.S., they want to slash U.S. support for international family planning programs. It’s a perennial debate, and it’s about to start all over again,” Chloe Cooney, director of global advocacy at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, writes in an RH Reality Check blog post. President Obama’s FY 2013 budget “demonstrates the value the administration places on family planning,” as “funding for international family planning programs is preserved,” she writes, noting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent testimony to Congress about the budget proposal, in which “she consistently reiterated the importance of development as a key pillar of our foreign policy and national security strategy” and “the administration’s focus on women and girls as central to these goals.” Cooney concludes, “The president’s budget protects U.S. investments in family planning programs around the world. Now it’s up to Congress to make sure those funds remain intact” (3/5).

Yemen To Launch Measles Vaccination Campaign After Increase In Number Of Cases, Deaths

“Measles has killed 126 children in Yemen since mid-2011, a consequence of the breakdown of basic health services during the year-long political crisis,” and “[i]n response … , the Yemeni government has appealed for international assistance and an outbreak-response vaccination campaign will begin in the hardest-hit regions on 10 March,” IRIN reports. Since mid-2011, “3,767 cases of measles have been confirmed, resulting in 126 deaths,” according to the Ministry of Health, whereas “in the three years from the beginning of 2007 until the end of 2009, the ministry reported a total of 211 cases and no deaths due to measles,” the news service notes.

U.S. Farm Bill Has Global Implications For Food Security

In this ONE Blog post, Jennifer Wynn, an intern with ONE’s policy team, reports on a recent panel discussion held at George Washington University that examined the U.S. Farm Bill and its implications for global hunger and food security. “I would have never thought to make a connection between our farms and farms around the world … [b]ut after an evening with some of the field’s experts, it’s clear to me that domestic policy on agriculture has far-reaching impacts,” she writes. The panel included Ken Cook, president and co-founder of the Environmental Working Group; Margaret Krome of the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute; and former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman (3/5).

Incorporating Gender Policy In USAID Programs Is ‘Good Business Practice’

USAID Deputy Administrator Ambassador Donald Steinberg writes in the White House Council on Women and Girls blog, “I am proud to say that USAID” last week released “a new policy on gender quality and female empowerment, the Agency’s first in 30 years,” “achieving great strides and reaffirming our commitment to close the gender gap in international development.” He continues, “From Presidential initiatives like Feed the Future (FtF), the Global Health Initiative (GHI), and Global Climate Change to the full range of the Agency’s programs, we are ensuring that gender is not just being included, but fully incorporated. Eliminating gender bias and empowering women isn’t just a question of fairness or equity: it’s simply good business practice” (3/5).

Rep. Sensenbrenner Sends ‘Fact-Finding Letter’ To White House Science Adviser About Bird Flu Studies

“Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), a former head of the House committees on science and the judiciary, and currently vice chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, last week sent a ‘fact-finding letter’ to White House science adviser John Holdren, asking pointed questions about how the U.S. government has handled the controversy” surrounding two studies that showed how H5N1 bird flu virus could be manipulated to become transmissible among ferrets, a model for humans, “and questioning whether it should have funded the two flu studies,” ScienceInsider reports. “The [Obama] Administration’s response has appeared ad hoc, delayed, and inadequate,” Sensenbrenner writes, adding, “An ad hoc approach is inadequate to balance the priorities of public health and the free flow of academic ideas,” according to the article, which includes the full text of the letter.

USAID Committed To Early Action On Sahel Drought, Drawing From Lessons From Horn Response

“A year after the worst drought in 60 years sent 13.3 million people in the Horn of Africa into crisis, we are now facing a rising threat of crisis in the Sahel — an arid belt that stretches from Senegal through Niger and Burkina Faso to Chad,” Nancy Lindborg, head of democracy, conflict, and humanitarian assistance at USAID, writes in this post in Huffington Post’s “The Blog.” She notes, “Today, rising food prices, another failed rain, and conflict in Mali and Libya, means that between seven and 10 million people are at risk of sliding into crisis as we enter the lean season of the months ahead,” and writes, “As we focus on the rising crisis in the Sahel, we are committed to responding immediately and acting on the most important lessons learned from the Horn response.”

AIDS Advocacy Groups Ask Obama To Reconsider FY13 Budget Request For PEPFAR

“Nine global HIV/AIDS advocacy organizations sent a letter [.pdf] to President Obama Thursday asking him to rethink his fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget recommendation to slash $546 million in funding from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. The groups, which include AVAC: Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention, the HIV Medicine Association, and POZ Magazine, noted the request “recommended funding the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria at $1.65 billion — keeping the U.S. on track to reach its three-year commitment of $4 billion by 2013,” but in the letter stated, “[W]e must and we do strongly object to the apparent shoring up of the Global Fund budget request at the expense of the PEPFAR program. … These two programs are synergistic and often provide complementary services to the same communities,” the blog notes (Mazzotta, 3/2).

Blog Summarizes Clinton’s Congressional Testimony On Administration’s FY13 Budget Request

Will McKitterick, a research assistant with the Center for Global Development (CGD), in this “Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance” blog post summarizes Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s “grueling marathon of Congressional committee hearings in defense of the FY2013 international affairs budget request.” The nine hours of hearings “ran the gamut of U.S. priorities in national security and foreign policy,” McKitterick writes, adding, “Congressional leaders seemed alarmed by reductions in global health spending and raised specific concerns over the administration’s ability to meet its commitments to its PEPFAR goal of placing six million people on life-sustaining treatment by 2013. Secretary Clinton assured the committees that cuts would be balanced by consolidating programs, finding efficiencies, improving partners’ capacity, and shifting more responsibilities to host countries” (3/2).

NGOs Welcome Announcement Of U.S., North Korean Nuclear Arms Agreement That Could Bring Food Aid To Nation

“The State Department’s announcement that North Korea would halt nuclear activities in exchange for 240,000 metric tons of U.S. food aid was welcomed by aid groups that have long struggled to raise money to feed hungry people under an unpopular regime,” the Los Angeles Times’ “World Now” blog reports. Marcus Prior, spokesperson for the World Food Programme (WFP) in Asia said the group is “encouraged” by the development but it “remain[s] concerned about the level of nutrition, especially for children in poorer areas,” according to the blog. More than 90 percent of U.S. food aid has been delivered through the WFP since 1996, with the remainder channeled through non-governmental organizations (NGOs), a 2011 Congressional Research Service report (.pdf) says, the blog notes.