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Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

President Obama Travels To Africa This Week

The Guardian’s “Guardian Africa Network” blog reports on President Obama’s trip to Africa this week, noting the visit “will be only his second to sub-Saharan Africa since he became president more than four years ago” (Ogunlesi , 6/25). In a conference call briefing on Friday, the White House discussed the nature of the visit to South Africa, Senegal and Tanzania, calling it “a very important opportunity for him to advance U.S. interests in a range of areas — in particular, U.S. engagement in Africa at the beginning of his second term” (6/21). In an article on AllAfrica.com, Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications and speech-writing in the White House, provides excerpts from the briefing, noting the president will “[speak] to the key pillars of our development agenda, which has focused on economic growth and also on issues such as food security and global health” (6/25).

The “Guardian Africa Network” blog discusses the Obama administration’s policy on the continent, comparing it to that of his predecessor, George W. Bush (6/25). “Critics of Obama’s Africa policy point to George W. Bush’s program to combat HIV/AIDS in Africa, [PEPFAR,] with an initial commitment of $15 billion over five years when it as launched in 2003,” Reuters writes, adding, “Bush is also praised for initiating the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a foreign aid agency that provides assistance, if a recipient nation can meet good government criteria, for anti-malaria initiatives and for forgiving debt” (Felsenthal, 6/25). The Associated Press examines “the U.S. administration’s cautious promotion of gay rights in Africa, an issue that is likely to come up during President Barack Obama’s visit this week to three African nations — South Africa, Senegal and Tanzania — the last two of which punish homosexuality with jail time” (Corey-Boulet, 6/24). In a separate article, the news service outlines “some developments concerning anti-gay legislation in Africa” (6/24).

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U.K. Aid To Africa Fell Sharply Last Year, ONE Report Says

“U.K. aid to Africa fell sharply last year following a drop in its multilateral contributions, according to ONE, the anti-poverty group,” The Guardian reports. “In a report on the eve of the government’s comprehensive spending review, ONE said U.K. official development assistance (ODA) to the continent fell by 7.4 percent to £3.41 billion [$5.27 billion] in 2012,” the newspaper writes, adding, “Sub-Saharan Africa saw an even sharper drop of 9.8 percent to £3.07 billion [$4.74 billion].” However, the newspaper continues, “given chancellor George Osborne’s budget statement in March, U.K. aid spending is expected to significantly increase, following a decline to £8.56 billion [$13.22 billion] in 2012.” The Guardian adds, “Although aid to Africa dropped disproportionately last year, the U.K. still devotes the largest share of its ODA to the region” (Tran, 6/24).

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More Must Be Done To Support Aging Population, Especially In Developing Countries, Ban Says

“‘People around the world are living longer, healthier lives, thanks to advances in health and well-being,’ [U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon] said in a video message to the opening on Sunday of the 20th World Congress of Gerontology and Geriatrics in Seoul, Republic of Korea,” and he “urged greater efforts to support the needs of older people, particularly in developing countries,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “By 2050, 80 percent of the world’s older people will live in developing countries and the population over 60 years old will be larger than the population under 15, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA),” the news service writes. “In his message, Mr. Ban called for full implementation of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Aging,” which “focuses on three priority areas: older persons and development; advancing health and well-being into old age; and ensuring enabling and supportive environments,” the news service notes (6/24).

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CDC Warns Of Rubella Epidemics In Japan, Poland

“Japan and Poland are both experiencing epidemics of rubella, and the [CDC] has issued travel warnings suggesting that women who are pregnant or might be consult their doctors before visiting either country,” the New York Times reports, noting, “The disease, also known as German measles, usually causes only mild fever and rash in adults and children, but can be devastating to a fetus, causing stillbirth or a host of birth defects, including developmental disabilities, deafness, heart problems and cataracts.” According to the New York Times, “Rubella cases in Japan have shot up to over 10,000 and are still increasing,” while “Poland has had more than 26,000 cases this year.” The newspaper discusses vaccination efforts in the respective countries (McNeil, 6/24).

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Christian Science Monitor Examines HIV/AIDS In South Africa

The Christian Science Monitor Weekly features a cover story on AIDS in South Africa. The article profiles Olga Thimbela and her family, “who became part of an occasional series on South Africa’s AIDS orphans,” the newspaper writes. In addition, the story discusses HIV/AIDS statistics, the success of antiretroviral drug therapy, the role of women as caregivers, HIV prevention strategies, and how South Africa can serve as a model for other nations in the fight against HIV (Moore, 6/23).

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Improved Health Care Quality, Increased Community Involvement Helped Reduce Infant Mortality In Malawi, Study Shows

“A combination of strategies aimed at improving the quality of care for mothers in rural Malawi has dramatically reduced newborn mortality,” and “[e]xperts say it could be a model for similar programs in other countries with poor pre- and postnatal care,” VOA News reports. A five-year study found that when used together, “improving health care quality at birthing facilities [and] community involvement in helping the mother get the professional care she needed” were more effective in reducing neonatal mortality than either strategy used alone, the news service notes. “However, the Malawi trial did not show a significant reduction in maternal mortality,” according to VOA. Tim Colbourn, a population expert at University College London who analyzed the data, “says the [WHO] and other [non-governmental organizations (NGOs)] are evaluating the Maikanda approach, which means ‘mother baby’ in the native Chichawa language, in other low-income countries,” VOA writes, noting, “The study was funded and carried out by the non-governmental Health Foundation with support by partners in the U.S. and Britain” (Berman, 6/24).

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Vaccine-Derived Polio Cases Do Not Impact India's Polio-Free Status

The death of an infant from vaccine-derived polio in India’s Maharashtra state on Saturday “won’t impact the country’s march toward being certified polio-free,” the Wall Street Journal’s “India Real Time” blog reports, noting the country has gone more than two years without a case of wild-type polio. According to the WHO, a country “must complete three years without a single case of polio caused by the wild poliovirus,” the blog adds. “India has been using the oral polio vaccine for 35 years,” and the country “had one case of vaccine-derived polio in 2012 and seven cases in 2011, according to the National Polio Surveillance Project,” according to the blog, which notes “[t]his is the third case in India in 2013.” Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan are the three remaining polio endemic countries worldwide, the blog adds (Dutta/Chowdhury, 6/24).

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GlobalPost Blog Examines History Of ORS Use In Bangladesh

GlobalPost’s “Pulse” blog examines the history of the use of oral rehydration solution (ORS) — a blend of salt, sugar, and clean water — in Bangladesh, writing, “A simple electrolyte blend, ORS was formulated to treat cholera by U.S. and Bengali researchers in the late 1960s at the Pakistan-SEATO, the predecessor to the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b).” The blog states, “Since 2007, the 2011 Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey reports, about 78 percent of children with diarrhea have been treated with ORS, which is readily available at shops and clinics today.” The therapy “is now a mainstream treatment around the world, with UNICEF distributing 500 million sachets to 60 countries each year,” according to the blog (Yee, 6/24).

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Editorials and Opinions

Ambition And Partnerships Can Defeat HIV, TB, Malaria

“Today we are at a turning point for making historical gains in Liberia’s health sector — where no child dies of malaria and every mother living with HIV can give birth to HIV-negative children while living healthy lives themselves,” Liberia President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf writes in the Huffington Post’s “The Big Push” blog. “It would have been impossible to make these strides towards defeating these diseases without the international donor support of our partnership with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria,” she continues. “While we still appeal for donor support to help push us past the tipping point of defeating these diseases, we also recognize the paramount need to increase investments in our own country’s health programs,” she writes, adding, “For, at the end of the day, we must take responsibility for our own lives. Liberia has the potential to be a prosperous nation, but this will only be possible with a healthy population.”

“Nevertheless, I fully support the Global Fund’s request for $15 billion from donors for 2014-16, which is crucial for scaling up current health programs that are keeping hospital beds in malaria wards empty; preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS while keeping people still living with HIV alive and healthy; and effectively treating TB,” Johnson-Sirleaf writes. “Defeating these pandemics may be an ambitious goal, but only by being ambitious can we achieve great things,” she states, adding, “I will not allow my fellow compatriots to be held hostage to the diseases we have the science and strategy to defeat through effective partnerships with organizations such as the Global Fund” (6/24).

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Global Aging A Call To Action That Must Be Heard Around World

“[T]he vast majority of developing countries are seeing their populations age just as America’s is, but their rate of change is often even faster,” John Feather, CEO of Grantmakers In Aging, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Post50” blog, and provides statistics from various countries. “We in the U.S. often wring our hands about the ‘silver tsunami’ that will overwhelm us because the population over 65 will increase by 100 percent before 2040,” he states, and continues, “But now consider Singapore, Colombia, India, Malaysia, Egypt, Costa Rica, Bangladesh, Kenya, the Philippines and Morocco …, the countries that will see the greatest change during that period” with “an increase in their older populations of more than 250 percent.”

“While some see this as a problem, Dr. John Beard, director of the [WHO’s] Department of Aging and Life Course, argues that it is a success story and a cause for celebration,” Feather notes. “So, what can we learn from the experience of other countries, and what do we have to teach?” he asks, and discusses the issues of “[w]ell-established networks of services,” a “[f]ocus on chronic rather than acute health care,” “[c]hanging family structures and long-distance caregiving,” and “[g]rowing old alone.” He concludes, “Aging presents formidable challenges” and “is a call to action we need to hear around the world” (6/24).

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U.N. Envoy Chambers Announces First Recipient Of 'Global Health Heroes' Award

Announcing the first recipient of the “Global Health Heroes” award, Ray Chambers, U.N. special envoy for health financing, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog, “As the big players in global health work to achieve the health Millennium Development Goals, it’s important to remember that every one of us has the power to touch others and save lives, whether through a simple donation or a heroic endeavor, like the story of Marie de Silva.” Chambers describes de Silva’s background and her establishment of the Jacaranda School in her native Malawi. “Today the Jacaranda School educates 430 students — all orphans — and it is the only entirely free primary and secondary school in Malawi. Its success has earned wide recognition globally, and Marie was even featured as one of the CNN Heroes,” he notes. Upon learning of her $1,000 prize, de Silva “was quick … to thank governments like the United States that have made AIDS treatment accessible and affordable for millions of Africans, including her own brother and niece who are living with AIDS today because they can now get free ARV medication in Malawi.” Chambers concludes by thanking de Silva for her work and calling for additional stories of people who “have worked to make a difference in the health of the world” (6/24).

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Recent Releases

Ambassador Goosby Highlights PEPFAR Investments in Laboratory Networks, Commodities, Workforce

“Strong laboratories and well-trained laboratory specialists are critical to well-functioning health systems, enabling clinicians and health workers to diagnose and treat a range of diseases and conditions, Ambassador Eric Goosby, head of the U.S. State Department’s Office of Global Health Diplomacy and the U.S. global AIDS coordinator, writes in the PEPFAR.gov blog. “Over the past nine years, PEPFAR has invested approximately $3 billion to create and strengthen lab networks, lab commodities, and the lab workforce, particularly in southern Africa,” he states, highlighting a number of examples. He continues, “Moving forward, PEPFAR will continue to rely on strong lab systems for the deployment of new, appropriate technologies — including point of care technologies — to test for viral load, CD4, HIV and TB drug resistance, and early infant diagnosis of HIV, among others” (June 2013).

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CGD Blog Examines Agenda For Obama's Trip To Africa This Week

Writing in the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance Blog,” Sarah Jane Staats, director of the Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance Program, discusses President Obama’s trip to Africa this week, writing, “The White House and U.S. development agencies have been unusually quiet prior to departure, but some things are sure to be on the agenda: economic growth, trade, investment, democracy, youth, food security, and health.” She notes, “Based on his administration’s global development policy work to date, we can expect three themes” — “[e]conomic growth, trade and investment”; “[d]emocracy gains, youth and women’s empowerment”; and “[t]he initiatives: food security, global health and climate power.” She adds, “While presidential trip announcements can draw global attention to important issues and policy responses, they run the risk of being photo ops that may or may not amount to much afterwards” (6/24).

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Melinda Gates Reflects On Development In Senegal As She Prepares To Visit The Country This Week

Noting her upcoming trip to Senegal this week in a post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Melinda Gates, co-chair of the foundation, recounts her previous visit to the country and writes, “Senegal is a great place to see development in action because the country is putting a lot of resources — intellect, leadership, and money — into its family planning program.” She provides a “partial list of specific reforms that have taken place in Senegal since [she] was there last July” and adds, “I am eager to learn more about the specifics of these new reforms, but mostly I’m curious to find out whether these changes are actually helping people” (6/24).

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Lancet Global Health Launches First Issue

The first issue of The Lancet Global Health launches today and “contains a diverse selection of high-quality research articles and associated comments on maternal and child anemia, intrauterine growth restriction, cataract surgery (with accompanying podcast), and causes of non-malarial fever in a malaria-endemic setting,” according to The Lancet homepage. “Alongside the journal content, we also launch an interactive blog site, which includes special guest posts from PAHO Director Carissa Etienne and Sweden’s Global Health Ambassador Anders Nordström,” The Lancet notes (6/25).

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