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White House Health Advisor Emanuel Visits U.S. Government-Funded Health Programs During 3-Nation African Trip

The global fight against malaria could cut prevalence rates of malaria to one in 20 fevers by 2017, Special Advisor on Health Policy to the Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget Ezekiel Emanuel said in an interview in Dakar, Senegal, Bloomberg reports.

Currently, malaria “is the cause of nearly half of all clinically reported fevers on the continent,” the news service notes. “Cases of malaria may decline as bed nets, rapid-test kits and health workers reach Africa’s more remote areas, Emanuel said,” the news service reports.

“One-third of the world’s 108 countries where malaria is endemic, including nine African nations, reduced cases of malaria by at least 50 percent over the past decade, according to the WHO. In Senegal, where Emanuel toured villages and met with the country’s health minister last weekend, malaria deaths have fallen by about 70 percent since 2006, he said,” according to Bloomberg.

Emanuel discussed the Obama administration’s efforts to combat malaria as well as its proposed expansion of funding for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), noting that Obama’s budget requests nearly $100 million to fight the diseases. “Combined with global efforts, the U.S. campaign may see as much as half of Africa’s at-risk population tested for the 15 diseases the WHO lists as neglected tropical diseases, he said,” Bloomberg writes.

Emanuel also said that the administration plans next month to create a strategy to support the distribution of a microbicide-based product to stop the spread of HIV.

“The tone you see in the administration’s statements is one of greater discipline and selectivity and greater emphasis on efficiency and partner governance performance,” J. Stephen Morrison, director of the CSIS Center on Global Health Policy, said as part of a series of remarks reacting to Emanuel’s comments. WHO spokesman Francesco Rio and McGill University AIDS Center Director Mark Wainberg also commented (Hinshaw, 10/29).

Later, Emanuel traveled to Ethiopia where he noted the country’s success in fighting malaria and highlighted challenges still faced by the country’s health system despite recent improvements, PANA/Afrique en ligne reports.

“The healthcare rollout is good but now, we need to focus on the quality of the facilities, which include trained personnel, midwives and trained doctors and other physicians,” Emanuel said. He “said Ethiopia needed to improve the welfare of the women and the health facilities so that many women in the rural areas could easily access the services of trained medical personnel during childbirth,” according to the news service (10/29).

Emanuel also said the U.S. had increased health funding for Africa and that the number of people receiving antiretrovirals had increased from 700,000 to 2.5 million, according to a second PANA/Afrique en ligne article. “There have been substantial attacks against President Obama. But those spreading these negative comments are mostly non-governmental organizations. He is unwavering in his commitment to increase U.S. health care funding to Africa,” Emanuel said (10/30).

Emanuel visited “Ethiopia from October 25-29 as part of a three-nation trip to Africa to look at U.S.-government supported health projects and programs as they relate to the U.S. government’s new Global Health Initiative,” according to a press release from the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia. He met with “Ethiopian Minister of Health, Dr. Tedros Adhanom, as well as many other Ministry of Health, private sector and civil society stakeholders in Ethiopia’s healthcare systems and institutions” (10/28).