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Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

Scientific American Examines Impact Of Government Shutdown On Health, Science Activities

Following approval of “a final deal to keep the [U.S.] government running until January 15, researchers across the nation say their work — some of it already compromised by the budget sequestration — will suffer lasting damage as a result of the 16-day shutdown,” Scientific American reports. “Health surveillance may take some time to recover,” the magazine writes, noting, “The shutdown forced the agency to furlough 8,754 people — some two thirds of its staff — weakening the agency’s ability to monitor flu and support state and local monitoring efforts.”

“Impacts of the shutdown also threaten to skitter across national borders,” Scientific American writes, noting, “The closure left many federally funded scientists unable to attend international meetings, says Caroline Smith DeWaal, director of the food safety program for the Center for Science in the Public Interest.” The magazine adds, “A Brussels-based meeting with the Trans Atlantic Consumer Dialogue, which brings consumer organizations from both sides of the Atlantic together to discuss food and intellectual property, was slated for the end of the month, but no U.S. representatives are committed to being there, she says” (Maron, 10/16).

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U.N. Agencies, Leaders Stress Importance Of Sustainable Food Systems On World Food Day

“Efficient, well-managed and sustainable food systems are essential to end hunger and malnutrition as well as protect the environment, United Nations officials stressed [Wednesday], marking World Food Day,” the U.N. News Centre reports. The theme of this year’s day, which is celebrated on October 16 in honor of the date of the founding of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 1945, is ‘Sustainable Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition,’” the news service notes. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “The key to better nutrition, and ultimately to ensuring each person’s right to food, lies in better food systems — smarter approaches, policies and investments encompassing the environment, people, institutions and processes by which agricultural products are produced, processed and brought to consumers in a sustainable manner,” the news service adds (10/16). “To mark the day, the FAO said it would hold events all week at its headquarters in Rome and around the world on the importance of food systems for food security and nutrition,” PANA/Afrique Jet writes (10/17). In a news article, FAO summarizes speeches from different world and U.N. leaders marking the day (10/16). SciDev.Net lists various key resources on food sustainability (Barucha, 10/16).

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Global Hunger Index Shows Progress, But Malnutrition Still Plagues Some Countries

In the 2013 Global Hunger Index (GHI), released this week, “[t]he organizations that compile the index — the International Food Policy Research Institute (IPFRI), Concern Worldwide and Welt Hunger Hilfe — say that 23 out of the 120 countries they track have made significant progress, improving their scores by 50 percent or more over the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) baseline from 1990,” IRIN reports. “Among the top 10 in terms of progress are Angola, Ethiopia, Malawi and Niger, along with Bangladesh, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam,” the news service notes, adding, “But amid the general improvement, many countries are still struggling,” including Burundi, Eritrea, the Comoros, and Swaziland (10/16). Though the overall “GHI score has fallen by 34 percent from the 1990 GHI score … 870 million people remain chronically malnourished worldwide,” the Australia News Network writes (10/16). “The report that accompanies this year’s Global Hunger Index focuses on ‘building resilience to achieve food and nutrition security,’” IRIN notes (10/16).

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WHO Cancer Agency Classifies Air Pollution As Carcinogen

“The International Agency for Research on Cancer [IARC] declared on Thursday that air pollution is a carcinogen, alongside known dangers such as asbestos, tobacco and ultraviolet radiation,” the Associated Press reports. “The decision came after a consultation by an expert panel organized by IARC, the cancer agency of the [WHO], which is based in Lyon, France,” the news agency writes (Cheng, 10/17). “The air we breathe is laced with cancer-causing substances and should now be classified as carcinogenic to humans, the [cancer agency] said on Thursday …, cit[ing] data indicating that in 2010, 223,000 deaths from lung cancer worldwide resulted from air pollution,” according to Reuters. The agency said “there was also convincing evidence it increases the risk of bladder cancer,” the news agency states (Kelland, 10/17). “The problem is global, but people in developing countries with large populations and booming manufacturing sectors with few pollution controls are said to be particularly at risk,” according to CNN (Brumfield, 10/17). “The WHO said the classification should act as a strong message to governments to take action,” BBC News adds (10/17).

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Editorials and Opinions

Biofuel Production, Use Impacting Food Security

“The food security impacts [of using food-based biofuels] are multiple and severe,” Marie Brill, executive director of ActionAid USA, and Timothy Wise, policy research director of the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University, write in an Al Jazeera opinion piece. Using food for biofuel “has a direct impact on the cost of food” and puts “added stress on scarce [water and land] resources,” they write. “This is why the [U.N. Committee on World Food Security (CFS)] put the issue of biofuels and food security on this year’s agenda and commissioned an expert report,” they state, adding, “Indeed, the report confirmed the negative impacts of biofuels to date and recommended decisive action. Our own report confirms that one of the main threats to our ability to feed the world in the future is the continued expansion of first generation biofuels.” Brill and Wise criticize the CFS for rejecting a “straightforward proposal that biofuels policies that harm food security should be reformed” (10/17).

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Global Shortage Of Mental Health Service Providers Must Be Addressed

“On October 10, the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Committee on Children’s Rights at the United Nations commemorated World Mental Health Day, an official U.N. international day, with a side event on children’s psychosocial wellbeing,” Mahroo Moshari, a consultant on education and multicultural mental health issues, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog. “The event, titled, ‘Children’s Health and Psychosocial Wellbeing as Foundational Factors in Sustainable Development,’ featured many distinguished panelists including Scott Bloom, director of School Mental Health Services in NYC; Kerron Norman, vice president for community based programs at ANDRUS; Saji Thomas, UNICEF child protection specialist; and Roseanne Flores, associate professor in the department of psychology at Hunter College,” she notes. “For almost half of the world, there is only one psychiatrist per 200,000 people or more,” Moshari continues, outlining some of the topics discussed by the panel. “I was happy to hear that each one of the panelists talked about the need for more mental health services and the importance of reducing the stigma, shame and taboo of mental health across all cultures. By providing more services and reducing the stigma, we can create a healthier and happier society for all,” she concludes (10/16).

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Recent Releases

Letter To Senate Urges Support For PEPFAR Stewardship And Oversight Bill of 2013

The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog provides an update on the PEPFAR Stewardship and Oversight Bill of 2013, writing, “The Center for Global Health Policy, which produces this blog, is urging support for the legislation, which 253 clinicians and scientists rallied behind, with this letter [.pdf] to Senate members.” The authors of the letter write, “This legislation, if enacted in law, promises continued leadership to combat the world’s three leading infectious disease killers,” adding, “Moreover, a focus on measurable gains from targeted HIV interventions furthers hope that with broad support and ongoing commitment, the historic effort that began a decade ago will lead to an AIDS-free generation” (Barton, 10/16).

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Blog Examines Efforts To Measure PEPFAR Results For Orphans, Vulnerable Children Programs

“PEPFAR deserves to be commended for its efforts to define key measurable outcomes for its orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) portfolio,” Sarah Rose, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Global Development (CGD), writes in the center’s “Global Health Policy” blog. “To date, PEPFAR has mainly relied on an output measure to track its OVC programs,” she states, adding that output measures “are useful for monitoring project implementation on an ongoing basis … [b]ut there are limits to what it can tell us.” Rose continues, “As a necessary first step, [PEPFAR] should clearly define the outcomes that its OVC programming is trying to achieve,” adding, “Indeed, a more intentional shift from defining and measuring services toward defining and measuring outcomes could allow greater flexibility for implementing partners to experiment with different approaches to achieve results.” She states, “[T]he onus is now on USAID to redouble its efforts to make sure the right studies — focusing on these core outcomes — are done” (10/16).

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Gates Foundation Evaluating Two Behavior Change Approaches To Save Newborn Lives

“Two approaches have emerged recently to save newborn lives using behavior change in communities with high rates of newborn death,” Gary Darmstadt, head of the Family Health Division of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Wolfgang Munar, senior program officer in the division, write in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. “The first approach involves organizing groups of women who then participate in a facilitated process to prioritize local issues affecting maternal and neonatal health,” and “[t]he second approach for inducing behavior change emphasizes what communities can do to reduce the risk of newborns dying, and to identify specific improvements in maternal and newborn health care which can mitigate those risks,” they write, expanding on each approach. “The Maternal Newborn and Child Health team … is testing (currently in Uttar Pradesh, India) whether a synthesis of the two approaches is best,” and “[t]he study should improve our understanding of how best to reduce newborn mortality through behavior change,” they state (10/16).

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PLOS Medicine, Maternal Health Task Force Publish New Articles In Maternal Health Collection

“The Maternal Health Task Force (MHTF) and PLOS Medicine are delighted to announce the addition of 15 recently published articles for the Year 2 Collection on the theme ‘Maternal Health Is Women’s Health,’” the PLOS “Speaking of Medicine” blog reports. “This theme was created to highlight the need to consider maternal health in the context of a woman’s health throughout her lifespan,” the blog notes and lists the articles (10/16).

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