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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).

U.K.’s DfID, USAID, Others Announce Commitments To Improving Water, Sanitation Worldwide

U.K. International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell on Friday “announced a doubling of the U.K.’s effort to provide clean water and sanitation to the world’s poorest countries,” the Guardian reports (Elliot, 4/20). At a High-Level Meeting on Water and Sanitation in Washington, D.C., Mitchell “announced that the U.K., through [the Department for International Development (DfID)], would double the number of people it reached with aid in water, sanitation and hygiene education in the next two years, going from 30 to 60 million people globally by 2015,” according to a UNICEF press release (4/20).

USAID’s Shah Urges Cooperation To Improve Child Health, Survival

“Seeing a child die from pneumonia, diarrhea or a mosquito bite is simply unimaginable to most parents. But that is the sad reality for many families each day,” USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah writes in a Huffington Post Blog opinion piece, noting, “Last year over seven million children under five died of largely preventable causes.” He continues, “Today, the global community has the knowledge and the affordable tools to change the course of history,” including bednets, vaccines, and childbirth assistance. “At the current annual rate of decline of 2.6 percent, the gap in child death between rich and poor countries would persist until nearly the end of this century. But we are capable of much more. By working closely with countries and continuing our results-oriented investments in global health, we can bring the rate of child mortality in poor countries to the same level it is in rich countries,” he states.

Assessment Of Sahel Humanitarian Assistance Finds U.S., Partners Learning From Past Crises

In this post in USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” blog administrator Mark Phelan recounts his recent visit to Niger and Mauritania, in Africa’s Sahel region, where he was “assessing nutrition-focused humanitarian assistance.” He writes, “We are indeed facing a crisis, but I am encouraged by what is being done differently, by ways we have applied lessons learned in the Sahel during food crises in 2010 and 2005, though we still have a long way to go.” He concludes, “I am encouraged that we have learned some important lessons from past crises. The U.S., in partnership with other donors, has taken early action in response to early warnings, and together, we are saving lives” (4/20).