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Also In Global Health News: Contraceptives In The Philippines; China Health System; TB Vaccine; Carlos Slim Foundation

Despite Church’s Opposition, Philippines To Distribute Contraceptives

The government of the Philippines “will provide contraceptives to poor couples who request it despite strong opposition from the dominant Roman Catholic church” to which more than 80 percent of the country belongs, Agence France-Presse reports. President Benigno Aquino said during a visit to the United States last week: “The government is obligated to inform everybody of their responsibilities and their choices. At the end of the day, government might provide assistance to those who are without means if they want to employ a particular method … I believe the couple will be in the best position to determine what is best for the family, how to space (the births), what methods they can rely on and so forth” (9/26).

Chinese Health Minister Discusses Country’s Health System Overhaul

The Wall Street Journal interviewed Chen Zhu, China’s minister of health, about the country’s effort to reform its health care system. “Health-care reform is by no means an easy job for [any] country, particularly for a country of 1.3 billion people,” he said adding that challenges will not be solved only with money. China “is expanding basic medical coverage – reimbursement for health-care expenses of up to 60% – to 833 million people[, but] … it still has to figure out how to further advance medical care in rural areas and tackle entrenched reimbursement plans, such as revenue earned by hospitals and doctors for prescribing medicines, said Dr. Chen,” the newspaper writes. Chen discusses other aspects of health reform, including access to care. “The government is also planning to expand this year its HIV prevention and treatment program – an initiative not linked to health reform – that would provide free antiviral treatments and medicine for other infections to anyone who is HIV positive,” the Wall Street Journal notes (Wang, 9/24).

TB Vaccine Target To Be Pushed Five Years, Revised To 2020

“A vaccine for tuberculosis is unlikely to be ready until 2020, say scientists, who will revise the original target from 2015 in a report to be published next month,” SciDev.net reports. The report is a mid-term review of the “Global Plan to Stop TB 2006-2015,” which was created by the Stop TB Partnership and other partners. “It was unreasonable to claim to have the TB vaccine by 2015,” Michel Greco, chair of the Stop TB Partnership Working Group on New TB Vaccines, said. “If we have a valid vaccine produced by 2020 that will be a feat.” The article also quotes Hassan Mahomed, clinical director of the South African TB Vaccine Initiative, and Helen McShane, a vaccinologist at Oxford, and examines impediments to conducting large-scale TB vaccine trials (Tatalovic, 9/23).

Carlos Slim Institute To Focus On Health In Mexico, Central America, Rep. Says

The Carlos Slim Health Institute, funded by Mexican entrepreneur Carlos Slim Helu, has adjusted its original goal of focusing on Latin America and will now work “largely in Mexico and Central America,” Victoria Marquez-Mees, a representative of the institute, said at the recent the Consortium of Universities for Global Health meeting in Seattle, the Seattle Times’ “Business of Giving” blog reports. “Among Slim’s health priorities are improving maternal and child health, reducing the burden of chronic diseases and bringing innovation to primary health care, Marquez-Mees said. As a man who made much of his money in telecommunications, Slim is pushing the use of wireless and mobile technology to bring health care to remote areas.” Marquez-Mees also discussed some of the institute’s other research areas and how it decides to allocate funding (Doughton, 9/23).