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Recent Releases In Global Health

The Future Of Global Health Journalism: This report for the Kaiser Family Foundation found that shrinking newsroom budgets and the closing of many foreign bureaus are curtailing global health coverage within traditional news media outlets. Advocacy and nongovernmental organizations are increasingly bypassing news outlets and producing their own content, leading to questions about how global health news will evolve. In addition, with outside sources now funding some global health journalism coverage, the long-term sustainability of such funding is brought into question. Those interviewed suggested that disaster-related health crises and infectious disease outbreaks were the main focus of global health reporting. In many cases, journalists said that they were having a difficult time finding compelling angles for long-time global health stories such as HIV/AIDS or policy stories emerging from Washington, D.C. (Bristol/Donnelly, 2/10).

How Digital Technology Can Advance Global Health: “Clinical research in the world’s poorest regions lags behind the rest of the globe, but, because these communities carry the highest burden from disease, data from studies conducted in these areas could make the biggest impact on global health,” Trudie Lang of the Centre for Tropical Medicine at the University of Oxford writes in a Science Perspective that describes ways “digital technology is being harnessed to capture, record, store, combine, and share a diversity of data sets” to tackle global health issues. “While scientists are rapidly adapting and taking up these approaches, funding agencies and regulators also need to adapt to ensure that all interested communities are able to take maximum advantage of the digital environment to drive improvements in global health,” Lang concludes (2/11).

Scientists Should Make Sure Public Gets The Facts On GM Mosquitoes, Insects: “If the release of GM organisms is handled badly, it could generate an unnecessary and unhelpful climate of suspicion. … [But] there is no standard laboratory procedure when it comes to informing the public of such experiments,” states a Nature editorial that examines the public’s reaction to release of genetically modified mosquitoes in Malaysia and the Cayman Islands in an attempt to curb dengue fever. “Researchers, both in the public and private sector, should do more to ensure that the relevant authorities make the relevant facts available, or do so themselves,” the editorial continues, before highlighting several suggestions on how to engage the public in global health initiatives (2/10).

Letter Calls For Congress To Fund The GHI: Several health professionals and NGOs “have launched a petition to seek congressional support for the U.S. government’s global health programs,” according to a post on Devex’s “Obama’s Foreign Aid Reform” blog. The letter, dated Feb. 9, calls for Congress to continues its “legacy of bipartisan leadership on PEPFAR … by supporting the United States Global Health Initiative (GHI) and all its lifesaving programs” (Leonzon, 2/10).

Be Smart About Cuts To Foreign Aid: “This month marks the beginning of what is sure to be a difficult and contentious year-long, and perhaps years-long, debate over U.S. spending. Foreign aid should and will be part of that discussion and cuts are certain, whether they come from the Administration or Congress,” Larry Nowels, U.S. policy director for ONE, writes on The Hill’s “Congress Blog.” “[M]y hope is that they will be ‘smart’ cuts that will not minimize the goal of advancing American interests, scale back aid programs that have proven to be effective, or stifle promising new initiatives that will bring greater efficiency, accountability, and impact to that less-than-1% of the budget that is foreign aid” (2/10).

USAID Describes What Flat-Lined, Reduced Budgets Would Mean For TB Programs: The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog describes a recent presentation delivered by representatives from the USAID Bureau for Global Health that provided a breakdown of “the range of cuts its TB programs would experience if flat funded at the fiscal year (FY) 2010 level, or a reduction to the FY 2008 level.” According to the blog, “[s]ome of these cost-cutting actions include reducing USAID’s role in late-stage research with particular ramifications for vaccine research and reducing the reach of the TB program through reductions in the number of countries supported by U.S. dollars” (Lubinski, 2/10).

What USAID’s Report To Congress Says Of TB R&D: Pulling from USAID’s report to Congress, titled “Health Related Research and Development Activities at USAID – An Update on the Five-year Strategy, 2006 – 2010,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog highlights the agency’s commitments to R&D for tuberculosis. Funding priorities include: the development of new drugs to treat TB, vaccines and diagnostics, “improved performance of and accessibility to Directly Observed Treatment Short Course (DOTS) programs” and improved care of people living with HIV/AIDS also infected with TB (Mazzotta, 2/10).

Second-Line Antiretrovirals (ARTs) For Children: “In order to provide life-long ART for children, better use of current first-line regimens and broader access to heat-stable, paediatric second-line and salvage formulations are needed,” write the authors of a Journal of the International AIDS Society study that explored second-line ART use and access in Asia and southern Africa. The results of a survey of African and Asian cohorts revealed, “Ten percent of Asian and 3.3% of African children were on second-line ART at the time of data transfer” (TREAT Asia Paediatric HIV Observational Database and The International Epidemiologic Databases to Evaluate AIDS (IeDEA) Southern Africa Paediatric Group, 2/9).

Efforts To Repeal U.S. Health Care Bill Could Scale Back Reproductive Services Abroad: “As part of his repeal effort [of the U.S. health overhaul bill], House speaker John Boehner [R-Ohio] is intent on reintroducing the ‘global gag’ rule,” officially known as the Mexico City policy, Michael Williams of the University of London writes in a Guardian “Comment is free” article, where he argues the policy limits access to reproductive services. “The global gag rule undermines America’s HIV/AIDS policy, it risks the lives of countless women and it undermines a core American value – the freedom of speech. Women should have access to a wide variety of family planning and health counselling that should include everything from abstinence to abortion. To argue otherwise, given the evidence at hand, is not just reprehensible; it is immoral” (2/9).

Adapting Foreign Aid To New Realities: “In the future, the new realities of the aid environment need to be confronted head on, and any meaningful institutional changes must target aid impact and reach,” Otaviano Canuto, the World Bank’s vice president for poverty reduction, writes on the bank’s “Growth And Crisis Blog.” He highlights a report (.pdf) about aid delivery, noting that it “may indeed provide the best way forward” (2/9).

Congress Should Oppose Cuts To Foreign Aid That Would Harm Global Health Programs: A post on ONE’s blog calls for Congress “to oppose cuts to U.S. foreign assistance funding that supports critical, lifesaving programs” throughout the world. “Cuts to global health and development would achieve only symbolic savings but have a profound impact on human lives and dignity. In these austere times, we must not misplace our priorities. America’s leadership in the world is demonstrated, and assisted, through our assistance to the most vulnerable people” (Nix, 2/9).

Foreign Aid Needs To Be Done Right: “Foreign aid is not a popular thing in the United States, but if done right, it can be a good investment. I am not convinced that the Obama administration has the right priorities, and putting this spending under the microscope seems to me the right thing to do,” lobbyist John Feery writes on The Hill’s “Pundits Blog.” He continues: “Republicans are going to do their best to slash this spending, and in some cases, I might be for cutting it. But cutting foreign aid is not going to balance the budget. … I am not for taking us out of the foreign assistance game entirely, though. Isolationism is not going to make America more secure” (2/8).

Interactive Development Map: The Center for American Progress has released an online tool that aims to help users “better explore where U.S. foreign aid dollars are spent and how these countries rank in terms of basic indicators such as political rights and civil liberties, corruption, and overall development” (Norris, 2/7).

Examining PEPFAR’s New Scientific Advisory Board: “So how long will PEPFAR’s new ‘scientific advisory board’ last? For only one meeting, as has PEPFAR’s PMTCT panel? Or for decades like USAID’s advisory committee? I guess the lifespan of this committee will depend on why PEPFAR established it in the first place, whether the committee can effectively advance those objectives and also on the more general question of whether combating AIDS epidemic retains its importance on the list of U.S. foreign assistance objectives,” Mead Over, senior fellow at Center for Global Development and member of the PEPFAR’s scientific advisory board, writes on the CDG’s “Global Health Policy” blog (2/4).

The Effects Of Rising Food Prices Around The World: “Demand for food is going to increase not only because population is increasing, but the percentage of the global population that is middle class and has enough disposable income to purchase protein is increasing. To meet that demand, every aspect of farming, harvesting, delivery, and distribution has to improve dramatically,” Laurie Garrett, the Council on Foreign Relations’ senior fellow for global health, said in an interview about recent food price spikes. Garrett also discusses the role the rising cost of food has played in destabilizing the Middle East and North Africa (Johnson, 2/4).