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IHP news #518 (April 19, 2019)

Highlights of the week

WB/IMF Spring meetings: some more news & analysis

Bretton Woods Project – Spring Meetings wrap-up 2019: what crisis of multilateralism?


Must-read analysis.

Key messages:  “Bank and Fund governance issues deepen crisis of multilateralism; Double standards on tax and failure to address rising debt remain; Bank’s investment in fossil fuels back in the spotlight; Billions to Trillions push producing limited results.”

World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings 2019: Development Committee Communiqué


The Communiqué reiterated support for climate change & for the Human Capital project, among others.

On the latter, in particular, the Communiqué said this: “ Investments in human capital that produce better learning and health outcomes are critical to productivity and economic well-being. We welcome the strong start on the Human Capital Project and the fact that close to 60 countries have joined thus far. We request further development of disaggregated data and refinement of indicators under the Human Capital Index and an emphasis on policy reforms that achieve tangible results. We look forward to an update on the Human Capital Project in October 2019.”

There will also be a more explicit link between IDA & the Human Capital project. See WB – World Bank Launches Human Capital Plan to Propel Investment in Africa’s People

The World Bank unveiled a new plan [today] to help African countries strengthen their human capital….” “… In an effort to help countries turn these indicators around, the World Bank’s Africa Human Capital Plan is setting ambitious targets to be achieved in the region by 2023. These include a drastic reduction in child mortality to save 4 million lives, averting stunting among 11 million children, and increasing learning outcomes for girls and boys in school by 20%. These achievements can raise Africa’s Human Capital Index score upwards to increase the productivity of future workers by 13%. … … The World Bank will increase its investments in human capital in Africa by 50% in the next funding cycle. This includes new World Bank grants and concessional finance for human capital projects in Africa totaling $15 billion in fiscal years 2021-2023.  …”

Devex – World Bank pandemic facility ‘an embarrassing mistake,’ says former chief economist


As already flagged in last week’s IHP issue, “Lawrence Summers, the World Bank’s former chief economist, slammed an initiative launched in 2016 that aimed to create an insurance market for pandemics, calling the facility “an embarrassing mistake” and a symptom of “financial goofiness” within the institution….”  The PEF, that is.

As somebody put it on Twitter, “why does the boss (Jim Kim) first have to leave before criticism of the PEF was possible, especially with all these eminent economists working at the WB? “

In case you wonder what the WB’s Pandemic Emergency Facility is (and is not), see this great blog by Lorcan Clark Four features of the World Bank’s Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility — Structuring, Pricing and Trading Pandemic Risk  

This month (April 2019) has seen the first public announcement for the updated version of the Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility — PEF 2.0. This post describes four features of the PEF and seeks to inform debate as the discussions begin on the future of international finance for pandemic risks.”

Devex – From critic to cheerleader — David Malpass’ first week at the World Bank


The World Bank Spring Meetings, which concluded on Sunday, might have lacked the policy significance that accompanied last year’s negotiations over the terms of the institution’s capital increase, but they did offer something else: a first glimpse of David Malpass as the bank’s president.”

With among others, Malpass on climate change, multilateralism & China, future priorities for the WB under his leadership, low likelihood of more internal WB reform, a shift back to country-led programming,…

Devex – World Bank looking for new options in fragile and conflict states


The World Bank is currently in the consultation phase of a new strategy for fragility, conflict, and violence, which officials hope will help the institution enter conflict-affected areas earlier and with a better understanding of how security and development intersect….”

Fourth Annual Health Financing Forum  (9-10 April)


“The World Bank Group and USAID, in collaboration with the GFF, hosted the 4th Annual Health Financing Forum on April 9-10. The Health Financing Forum explored the frontiers of resource mobilization for health including innovations that have the potential to catalyze significant progress in health financing.”

Not much info available on this Forum, apart from the concept note…

Meanwhile, the economic situation in quite a few African countries is deteriorating. See BloombergWorld Bank Warns Africa Bond Bonanza Risks Hurting Nations

The World Bank warned that high demand for African Eurobonds will place countries at a higher risk of debt distress once an increase in U.S. rates prompts investors to turn their backs on emerging-market assets. We are very concerned,” World Bank Chief Executive Officer Kristalina Georgieva said … … The situation can become “very difficult,” she said. There are 17 African countries that are in high debt, or high distress, said Georgieva. Those in the worst situations include Chad, Republic of Congo, Gambia, Mozambique, South Sudan and Zimbabwe, she said.”

1st Digital Health Guidelines WHO

WHO – WHO releases first guideline on digital health interventions


WHO [today] released new recommendations on 10 ways that countries can use digital health technology, accessible via mobile phones, tablets and computers, to improve people’s health and essential services….”  See WHO Guideline: recommendations on digital interventions for health system strengthening.

As a reminder on the term ‘digital health’, “…Digital health, or the use of digital technologies for health, has become a salient field of practice for employing routine and innovative forms of information and communications technology (ICT) to address health needs. The term digital health is rooted in eHealth, which is defined as “the use of information and communications technology in support of health and health-related fields”. Mobile health (mHealth) is a subset of eHealth and is defined as “the use of mobile wireless technologies for health”. More recently, the term digital health was introduced as “a broad umbrella term encompassing eHealth (which includes mHealth), as well as emerging areas, such as the use of advanced computing sciences in ‘big data’, genomics and artificial intelligence”…”

HPW – New WHO Digital Health Guidelines Assess “Appropriateness” Of Technology Options


Excellent coverage & analysis.  Must-read.

Importantly, “…The guidelines emphasise that “digital health interventions are not a substitute for functioning health systems, and that there are significant limitations to what digital health is able to address. Digital health interventions should complement and enhance health system functions through mechanisms such as accelerated exchange of information, but will not replace the fundamental components needed by health systems such as the health workforce, financing, leadership and governance, and access to essential medicines.” The guidelines also clearly prioritise the needs of vulnerable communities, stating that implementation of the recommendations “should not exclude or jeopardize the provision of quality non-digital services in places where there is no access to the digital technologies or [where] they are not acceptable or affordable for target communities.” “Digital health is not a silver bullet,” Bernardo Mariano, WHO’s chief information officer, said in the release….”

2nd WHO Fair Pricing Forum (Jo’burg): more coverage & analysis

WHO – At WHO Forum on Medicines, countries and civil society push for greater transparency and fairer prices


At a global forum on fair pricing and access to medicines, delegates from governments and civil society organizations called for greater transparency around the cost of research and development as well as production of medicines, to allow buyers to negotiate more affordable prices….”

“…WHO will launch a public online consultation in the coming weeks to collect views and suggestions for a definition of what actually constitutes a ‘fair price’ from relevant stakeholders….”

HPW – “Dialogue” Highlighted As Way Forward At Closure Of WHO Fair Pricing Forum


Excellent coverage of the meeting. And thus recommended.

You might also want to read UN News – Greater transparency, fairer prices for medicines ‘a global human rights issue’, says UN health agency

While developing countries have long struggled with the price of medicines, today’s costs have rendered it a world-wide challenge, and the key topic of concern at a global medicines forum in South Africa, co-sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO). “This is a global human rights issue”, said WHO Assistant Director-General for Medicines and Health Products Mariângela Simão on Saturday at the WHO Forum on Medicines in Johannesburg. “Everyone has a right to access quality healthcare”….”

See also K Perehudoff et al  (Health & Human Rights blog), on access to medicines & the human rights obligations of Big Pharma – WHO Fair Pricing Forum: Watching for Drug Industry Accountability  

Global Measles crisis

Guardian – Measles cases up 300% worldwide in 2019, says WHO


Measles cases worldwide rose by 300% during the first three months of 2019 compared with the same period last yearthe World Health Organization(WHO) has said, amid growing concerns over the impact of anti-vaccination campaigns, particularly spread through social media…”

“…there is also concern over Africa, which has less vaccine coverage than other regions. WHO says its Africa region had the biggest rise in cases in the last three months compared with the same time last year – a 700% increase.”

For the new WHO measles surveillance data, see here.

See also UN News‘A global measles crisis’ is well underway, UN agency chiefs warn.

“… two UN agency heads declared on Monday that we now stand “in the middle of a global measles crisis”. “Cases have soared across the world, including in places where measles had previously been eliminated, like the United States”, asserted Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO)….”

Ebola DRC – still not a PHEIC (& criticisms); change of strategy needed; vaccine works well

Stat News – WHO stops short of declaring Ebola crisis a global health emergency


News from late last week (Friday), which you probably already know by now.  For the official WHO statement, see here.

The Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo still does not warrant the declaration of a global health emergency, the World Health Organization said Friday — a decision that is sure to trigger substantial debate as the virus continues to spread unabated….”

Not everybody agreed with this assessment, as you can imagine. This piece contains views of David Fidler, Tom Frieden, …

For more reactions, see also  The Guardian (includes an MSF reaction –  in short: “regardless  of the official status of the outbreak, the outbreak is Not under control, urgent change of strategy needed”), Georgetown global health experts (including Rebecca Katz, who was disappointed by the decision);  or Vox – The WHO just decided the latest Ebola outbreak is not a global emergency with criticisms and/or surprise expressed by Larry Gostin, Tom Inglesby, …

Reuters – Ebola is real, Congo president tells skeptical population


Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi on Tuesday implored people in areas hit by the nation’s worst-ever Ebola outbreak to accept the disease is real and trust health workers….”

“…“If we follow the instructions, in two or three months Ebola will be finished,” he optimistically told a crowd after having his temperature taken and washing his hands, as required of all incoming passengers to Beni airport….”

A tweet on the (not very nice) financial situation of the outbreak response:

Dr Tedros: “Funding shortages are hampering the #Ebola response in #DRC. We need a total of US$148m for all partners to fund the response until July. To date, we have only received US$74 millions. I urge donors to step forward. Stopping this outbreak is our collective responsibility.”

Stat News – The data are clear: Ebola vaccine shows ‘very impressive’ performance in outbreak


The experimental Ebola vaccine being used to try to contain the outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is protective 97.5% of the time, according to new data released by the World Health Organization on Friday. The data — the first to be released on how the vaccine is working in the outbreak — suggest a “very impressive” performance by the vaccine, said Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Diseases Research and Policy, who reviewed the report for STAT….”

See also HPWEvidence Shows Ring Vaccination Strategy Effective In Limiting Ebola Outbreak In DRC.

And a milestone has been reached: DRC reaches 100,000 people vaccinated against Ebola in North Kivu and Ituri.

Foreign Policy – Your Cell Phone Is Spreading Ebola

Laurie Garrett ; Foreign Policy;

A deadly outbreak in Congo has become a global emergency because of a raging conflict over valuable minerals.”  Laurie Garrett has some ideas for an additional strategy to tackle the Ebola outbreak.

The international community must double down to halt the sale of minerals that drive the conflict and by proxy….”  Coltan in particular.   …  The Trump administration, G-20, and OECD should immediately scrutinize the conflict minerals trade and the many government attempts to limit their use in cell phones and other electronics. Japan, as the host of the upcoming G-20 Summit, should place trade in coltan and its impact on the Ebola epidemic on the June gathering’s Osaka agenda….”

NEJM (Perspective) -Shifting the Paradigm — Applying Universal Standards of Care to Ebola Virus Disease

W Fisher et al; https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1817070

“…It should no longer be acceptable to have two standards of care — one for patients in resource-constrained settings and another for those in countries where resources are more readily available. The ongoing response to EVD is teaching us that higher standards are no longer aspirational but are possible, and that during inevitable future outbreaks of EVD, no matter how remote the setting, we can provide people who are sick and suffering with the type of care that we would want to receive.”

Global Financing Facility (GFF) expansion

Save the Children (blog) – Quantity and quality: Expansion of the GFF offers the chance to maximise its potential


Earlier this week, the GFF Investors Group convened for its 8th meeting, where the Secretariat planned to launch a new wave of countries.

A few months on from the Global Financing Facility’s (GFF) Oslo replenishment, where more than US$1 billion was raised to improve the health and nutrition of mothers, adolescents, children and newborns, the GFF has confirmed its planned expansion to a total of 50 countries….”  Save the Children’s view on how this should be done.  Key reforms are needed, they say.

GFF – A message from GFF Director Mariam Claeson


As we move into the expansion phase, incorporating learning from countries in the lead, I want to thank you all for our great partnership for women, children and adolescent health and nutrition and for what we have accomplished together in the last two years. After more than 2 ½ years as Director of the GFF — longer than the two years I had originally planned and agreed on — I’m leaving the GFF by the end of June, to time my departure with the transition into the next fiscal year and a new phase of the GFF coinciding with, and being part of, the organizational change across the Human Development family of the World Bank – our host agency.”

Guess Mariam is going back to the Gates Foundation.

More UNAIDS commotion

AP Exclusive: UN whistleblower targeted in misconduct probe


“… Confidential documents obtained by The Associated Press show UNAIDS is grappling with previously unreported allegations of financial and sexual misconduct involving Martina Brostrom, who went public last March with claims that one of the organization’s top officials assaulted her in 2015….”  “…As part of a preliminary internal inquiry, investigators for the World Health Organization, which oversees UNAIDS, wrote that they had found “evidence” that Brostrom and her former supervisor may have taken part in “fraudulent practices and misuse of travel funds,” the documents show….”

AP coverage can be a bit sensational, as you might recall from the past (related to other global health actors), still, this sort of uproar can have (big) implications on donors. See for example another AP report from later this week – US ‘concerned’ over misused funds allegations at UNAIDS

Lancet Global Health May issue


In this new Lancet Global Health issue, there’s so much to delve into, so do check it out in detail during this long Easter weekend. You can indulge in one chocolate egg per article 😊.

But of the articles not published online before, we especially want to draw your attention to:

“… When on a collective journey towards a common objective such as the Sustainable Development Goals, with a rallying cry of “leaving no one behind” and a central aim of “reaching the furthest behind first”, this system of communication is fundamental to move beyond just the rhetorical: to be truly reached, the furthest one behind will need to understand what she is being told, and most likely, that exchange will have to be done in her own language. That principle should apply to all aspects of development, including global health….”




Nature (News) – Promising malaria vaccine to be tested in first large field trial


The vaccine can confer up to 100% protection and will be given to 2,100 people on the west African island of Bioko.”  “A malaria vaccine that can provide up to 100% protection against the disease will be tested in a large clinical trial for the first time, to study its efficacy under real-world conditions….”

“In laboratory studies, the vaccine, called PfSPZ, has proven the most effective malaria vaccine developed so far, giving healthy volunteers complete protection….”

In other malaria vaccine news, see BloombergMalaria Vaccine Took 30 Years. It’s Still a Work in Progress (on the [RTS,S] vaccine  )

HPW – Europe-Africa partnership spearheads development of next-generation antimalarial drug


The European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) has granted new funding of €10m over five years to support late-stage clinical trials of a next-generation antimalarial combination including KAF156 (ganaplacide). The trials will be conducted in four countries in West and Central Africa: Burkina Faso, Gabon, Mali and Niger. Led by the WANECAM consortium (West African Network for Clinical Trials of Antimalarial Drugs), ten academic organisations based in Africa and Europe will collaborate with the not-for-profit organization Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) and the pharmaceutical company Novartis to develop its compound KAF156 in combination with a new formulation of lumefantrine. The aim is to advance the development of a much-needed new antimalarial therapy while strengthening clinical trial development capabilities in Africa….”

Financing for Development Forum (15-18 April): UN chief appeals for more money for the SDGs

Eurodad – State of emergency: UN convenes Financing Forum while a new wave of debt crises threatens to derail sustainable development


This week, governments [will] meet at the United Nations in New York for the Financing for Development Forum, and the challenge is very clear. Too little progress has been made towards achieving the UN’s SDGs, which to a large extent is the consequence of lacking finance. The 2015 Addis Ababa Action Agenda, a UN framework adopted at the same time as the SDGs, which is supposed to ensure money flows toward development and the achievement of the SDGs, is not fulfilling its objective.  … …. A task force of international agencies, including the UN, World Bank and IMF have just released a new Financing for Sustainable Development Report, which highlights that a new wave of debt crises has begun to strike. 40% of low income countries have severe debt problems, and also in richer countries, private and public debt levels are soaring. Consequently, global debt levels have reached new record highs. …”

UN News – Critical moment for sustainable development


““Uneven growth, rising debt levels, possible upticks in financial volatility, and heightened global trade tensions” are hampering progress on reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), UN chief António Guterres told the Forum on Financing for Development on Monday, during what he called “a critical moment” to “accelerate action for sustainable development”.”

“…“Simply put,” he spelled out “we need more money to implement the Sustainable Development Goals”….”

See also DevexThe Financing for Development forum at the U.N. headquarters this week was characterized by a sense of urgency and discussions of the need to act faster to mobilize the capital needed to finance the Sustainable Development Goals. From discussions about the need for integrated national financing frameworks, domestic resource mobilization, and cracking down on illicit financial flows, to how to engage institutional investors and measure impact, the meetings were a stocktaking exercise that found significant shortfalls. The meeting is seen as a key stepping stone to a summit on financing the SDGs that will be held during U.N. General Assembly meetings in September.”

Health Taxes to Save Lives: Report from the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Task Force on Fiscal Policy for Health

HPW – “Tax The Things That Are Killing Us” To Help Curb NCDs, New Report Recommends


See also last week’s IHP newsletter.  Great coverage of this new report in Health Policy Watch. “Raising taxes on tobacco, alcohol and sugary beverage products by more than 50 percent could prevent more than 50 million premature deaths due to noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) over the next 50 years, while yielding over US$ 20 trillion in revenue. That is the conclusion of a report by a global task force headed by philanthropist Michael Bloomberg and economist Lawrence Summers.”

You might also want to read (CGD blog by Bill Savedoff) – New High-Level Report Calls for Higher Taxes on Tobacco, Alcohol, and Sugary Beverages to Prevent Millions of Deaths 

He explains why this report is so important and lists the report’s five key messages.

BMJ Global Health (blog) – ‘Sin tax’: making clear who commits the sin

Renzo Guinto et al; https://blogs.bmj.com/bmjgh/2019/04/18/sin-tax-making-clear-who-commits-the-sin/?utm_campaign=shareaholic&utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=socialnetwork

Concerns have been expressed especially in social media about the use of the term ‘sin’ in sin tax.  However, the authors of this piece suggest not to get rid of the term. Instead, ‘sin tax’ should perhaps be more accurately called ‘corporate sin tax’, argue Renzo Guinto (EV 2014) and G G Amul. “it must be clear that it is not the consumer but the commercial drivers, particularly the harmful industries, that commit the grave sin. “

Planetary (ill-)Health

Window on Climate Change May Be Even Smaller Than Feared


The window to act on climate change may be even smaller than we realized, according to a University of Virginia School of Law professor’s new paper in the Harvard Environmental Law Review. Professor Michael Livermore and co-author Peter Howard of the New York University Institute of Policy Integrity argue in “Sociopolitical Feedbacks and Climate Change”     “that developing international cooperation to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to the problem must come during a time of economic and political stability. Otherwise, they say, the ability to forge meaningful international agreements may be lost. “We explore the possibility that humankind is wasting a short window of opportunity to address climate change, one that may soon shut as climate damages incapacitate effective political action,” they write in their paper….”

Open Democracy – What will you say to your grandchildren?

J Lent; https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/transformation/what-will-you-say-your-grandchildren/

“Facing oncoming climate disaster, some argue for ‘Deep Adaptation.’ What we really need is ‘Deep Transformation.’”   One of the reads of the week, this essay from Jeremy Lent.

UNCTAD – Top economists outline plan for a global green new deal


UNCTAD officials and experts detail a five-point plan to rebalance development and guide a new form of multilateralism.

“Two leading economists have put forward a solution to the challenges they see facing the multilateral system of trade, investment and finance ahead of the annual spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group (WBG) in the United States capital of Washington DC, running from 12 to 14 April. The ‘Geneva Principles for a Global Green New Deal’ are outlined in a new report by UNCTAD’s Richard Kozul-Wright and the University of Boston’s Kevin Gallagher. In ‘A New Multilateralism for Shared Prosperity: Geneva Principles for a Green New Deal’, they spell out five key steps that need to be taken to solve the system of “predatory rent-seeking” or “crocodile capitalism” they believe has broken the social contract established in the wake of World War II, allowing global corporations to benefit while the general public loses….”

Science Daily – Warming Arctic permafrost releasing large amounts of potent greenhouse gas


A recent study shows that nitrous oxide emissions from thawing Alaskan permafrost are about twelve times higher than previously assumed. About one fourth of the Northern Hemisphere is covered in permafrost, which is thawing at an increasing rate. As temperatures increase, the peat releases more and more greenhouse gases. And, even though researchers are monitoring carbon dioxide and methane, no one seems to be watching the most potent greenhouse gas: nitrous oxide….”

New Food Economy – World Health Organization drops its high-profile endorsement of the EAT-Lancet diet

New Food economy;

“The UN health authority cites concerns about the economic impact on poor, livestock-producing countries. British Medical Journal reports that the World Health Organization (WHO), the arm of the United Nations charged with monitoring global health, has dropped its endorsement of the EAT-Lancet Commission’s planetary health diet—a much-ballyhooed, well-publicized attempt at saving the planet through the food we eat. The organization pulled out of sponsoring a launch event in Geneva, Switzerland, on March 28, after Gian Lorenzo Cornado, Italy’s ambassador to the United Nations, questioned the diet’s impact on public health. The ambassador stated that radical, drastic limitations on animal livestock production—the commission’s primary recommendation—would cause economic hardship in developing countries….”

  • In other planetary health news, check out also Linda Mans’ reaction on Andrew Harmer’s blog on whether the WHO should declare climate change a Public Health Emergency of International concern. See here. Under Harmer’s blog, you also find an insightful view from Colin Butler on this issue. He has his doubts.

As for my own view, via a tweet: “I think WHO should declare a new sort of emergency for the medium-term risk of civilizational collapse: “a Public Health Super-Emergency of International Concern (PHSEIC)”  (in line with Global Health’s fondness of ‘super’-bugs):)   Or perhaps a Planetary Health Emergency of International Concern.”   😊.

  • PS: for the ones among you who still wonder what an “eco-phany” is, see this excerpt (about the metamorphosis of a (former) university staff member/ Climate Extinction participant ) from the FT:

“… Green began to read about climate change. “For a month, I went around in shock. I just saw the world completely differently,” she says. “I suddenly felt so incredibly vulnerable — I realised just how fragile life on the planet really is.” Concerned that her colleagues were unaware of the gravity of the situation, Green started handing out climate science papers at work. Nobody denied there was a problem, but people tended to grow uncomfortable if the discussion went on too long and meetings would quickly move to the next agenda item: budgets, staffing, curricula. “I had this really rude awakening where I realised that my career was completely pointless — it was irrelevant, it was meaningless,” Green says. “Either I’m going to continue doing what I do and not sleeping well at night because of the crisis that we’re in, or I’m going to jump ship. How can we knowingly educate students for a future that doesn’t exist?” A friend of hers coined a phrase — “ecophany” — to describe Green’s metamorphosis. She has since resigned from her job to support Extinction Rebellion, persuading hundreds of academics and scientists to endorse its principles. Green has also started volunteering as UK director of Scientists Warning, a public engagement group. Her biggest frustration is with those who tell her privately that they support Extinction Rebellion’s aims but do not want to say so publicly for fear of harming their careers. “There’s still this view — and it does prevail in academia — that you work within the system,” Green says. “What they don’t yet get is that the system is the cause of the problem. Either we dismantle this edifice that we’ve built, or it’s going to crumble.”  …”

New ILO report – Stress, overtime, disease, contribute to 2.8 million workers’ deaths per year, reports UN labour agency


Stress, excessively-long working hours and disease, contribute to the deaths of nearly 2.8 million workers every year, while an additional 374 million people get injured or fall ill because of their jobs, the UN labour agency, ILO, said on Thursday. In a new report underlining ILO’s message that no paid work should threaten your wellbeing, your safety or your life, the agency identifies several new or existing occupational risks of growing concern, that affect women more than men. These include modern working practices overall, world population growth, increased digital connectivity and climate change, which are believed to account for losses of almost four per cent of the global economy….”


Stat News – As calls mount to ban embryo editing with CRISPR, families hit by inherited diseases say, not so fast

Stat News;

Not everybody is convinced of “scientists’ emphatic calls to prohibit “embryo editing” of disease-causing genes”.

“…Changing a single DNA “letter” in the genome of a very early embryo has the potential to correct a genetic defect not only in any resulting baby but also in all of that baby’s descendants. That, warn opponents of such germline editing,”would change the human gene pool, a step they worry could have unforeseen and irreversible consequences. They also argue that known carriers of genetic diseases could have embryos screened for harmful mutations before being used in IVF. The opponents have largely dominated public discussion of this use of CRISPR, especially after a Chinese scientist announced last November that he had changed the genome of two IVF embryos and produced the world’s first “CRISPR babies.” Worldwide condemnation was instantaneous, and since then a group of prominent CRISPR experts called for a global moratorium on using CRISPR for reproduction … … Watching all this have been people with a special interest in embryo editing: those who carry genetic mutations that can cause severe disease. They wonder whether experts who denounce embryo editing have any understanding of what millions of people with such inherited diseases — especially ones that have plagued their families for generations — suffer….”

PS: He Jiankui, perhaps the most notorious scientist on earth now, made it to Time’s List of 100 most influential people in 2019. As did Greta Thunberg. In both cases, well deserved…

Some key papers, reports and journal articles of the week

Lancet Editorial – Universal health care in 21st century Americas


Despite considerable progress, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) estimates that 30% of the population of the Americas still do not have access to the health care they need because of multifaceted barriers. On April 9, leaders… gathered with academics, activists, and representatives of social movements in Mexico City to hear the report of the Commission on Universal Health in the 21st Century. … … The Commission is unflinching in its acknowledgment of social inequality as a barrier to health. … …  However, it notes that the social determinants approach to health, although useful, can compartmentalise these factors without critically examining why these determinants have arisen and whom they are serving. The Commission criticises the consolidation of a worldwide economic model based on globalisation and increasing commercialisation and urbanisation, which it sees has led to climate change, migration, an increase in non-communicable diseases, mental health disorders, road traffic injuries, and violence. … … By examining health beyond its social determinants, the PAHO Commission not only delivers actionable recommendations with regional impact but also presents the global order of the 21st century as a barrier to health for all.”

BMJ Global Health – Addressing upstream determinants of health in Germany’s new global health strategy: recommendations from the German Platform for Global Health

Jens Holst; https://gh.bmj.com/content/4/2/e001404

To strengthen its expanding role in global health, the German government is currently preparing a new global health strategy, to be published in 2019. As social, political and economic determinants are highly relevant for population health, the German government will need to increase coherence in order to promote its emphasis on creating equal opportunities and reducing inequalities in and between countries. For further strengthening its commitment to universal health coverage, for promoting decent work and healthy labour conditions, and for enforcing the right to health, the German government will have to stress the mandatory role of the public sector for global health.”  (recommend – and not just for Germany : ))

Global Health Action – Does the political will exist to bring quality-assured and affordable drugs to low- and middle-income countries?

E Beck, Ellen ‘t Hoen et al; https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/16549716.2019.1586317

Increased coverage with antiretroviral therapy for people living with HIV in low- and middle-income countries has increased their life expectancy associated with non-HIV comorbidities and the need for quality-assured and affordable non-communicable diseases drugs . Funders are leaving many middle-income countries that will have to pay and provide quality-assured and affordable HIV and non-HIV drugs, including for non-communicable diseases.” This study estimates “costs for originator and generic antiretroviral therapy as the number of people living with HIV are projected to increase between 2016 and 2026, and discuss country, regional and global factors associated with increased access to generic drugs.”

The global HIV response increased access to affordable generic drugs in low- and middle-income countries. Cheaper active pharmaceutical ingredients and market competition were responsible for reduced drug costs. The development and implementation of regulatory changes at country, regional and global levels, covering intellectual property rights and public health, and flexibilities in patent laws enabled prices to be reduced. These changes have not yet been applied in many low- and middle-income countries for HIV, nor for other infectious and non-communicable diseases, that lack the profile and political attention of HIV. Licensing backed up with Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights safeguards should become the norm to provide quality-assured and affordable drugs within competitive generic markets….”

BMJ Global Health – Managing health research capacity strengthening consortia: a systematised review of the published literature

N Tagoe, S Mollyneux et al ; https://gh.bmj.com/content/4/2/e001318

Locally relevant research is considered critical for advancing health and development in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Accordingly, health research capacity strengthening (HRCS) efforts have intensified, increasingly through consortia. Yet, the knowledge base for managing such consortia is not well defined. This review aimed to ascertain the scope and quality of published literature on HRCS consortium management processes, management-related factors influencing consortium operations and outcomes, and the knowledge gaps….”

Health Promotion International (Editorial) – Trends, fads and taboos in health promotion

S Van den Broucke; https://academic.oup.com/heapro/article/33/5/735/5145152

Nice short read. On the difference between trends, fads & taboos in health promotion.

“…Health promotion research and practice do not operate in a void. They are part of society and therefore subject to societal forces. As for any other discipline or professional field, it is almost inevitable that trends show up in the preferences for certain themes, paradigms, strategies or methods in health promotion. As long as these trends are acknowledged and critically reflected upon they are of little harm. Although they may reduce the potential for innovation, they also concentrate efforts and facilitate collaboration. Fads and taboos, on the other hand, are more dangerous and threaten to hold back the development of health promotion as a professional field: fads because they are more about capturing attention than about real innovation, and taboos because they draw the lines of normality and acceptability too strictly.”

Turns out Kingdon’s Multiple Streams Theory is also a bit of a ‘fad’ : )

BMJ Global Health – How to use relevant data for maximal benefit with minimal risk: digital health data governance to protect vulnerable populations in low-income and middle-income countries

N Tiffin, A George et al; https://gh.bmj.com/content/4/2/e001395

Globally, the volume of private and personal digital data has massively increased, accompanied by rapid expansion in the generation and use of digital health data. These technological advances promise increased opportunity for data-driven and evidence-based health programme design, management and assessment; but also increased risk to individuals of data misuse or data breach of their sensitive personal data, especially given how easily digital data can be accessed, copied and transferred on electronic platforms if the appropriate controls are not implemented. This is particularly pertinent in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs), where vulnerable populations are more likely to be at a disadvantage in negotiating digital privacy and confidentiality given the intersectional nature of the digital divide. The potential benefits of strengthening health systems and improving health outcomes through the digital health environment thus come with a concomitant need to implement strong data governance structures and ensure the ethical use and reuse of individuals’ data collected through digital health programmes. We present a framework for data governance to reduce the risks of health data breach or misuse in digital health programmes in LMICS. We define and describe four key domains for data governance and appropriate data stewardship, covering ethical oversight and informed consent processes, data protection through data access controls, sustainability of ethical data use and application of relevant legislation. We discuss key components of each domain with a focus on their relevance to vulnerable populations in LMICs and examples of data governance issues arising within the LMIC context.”

BMJ Global Health (Analysis) – Because space matters: conceptual framework to help distinguish slum from non-slum urban areas

R Lilford et al; https://gh.bmj.com/content/4/2/e001267

Despite an estimated one billion people around the world living in slums, most surveys of health and well-being do not distinguish between slum and non-slum urban residents. Identifying people who live in slums is important for research purposes and also to enable policymakers, programme managers, donors and non-governmental organisations to better target investments and services to areas of greatest deprivation. However, there is no consensus on what a slum is let alone how slums can be distinguished from non-slum urban precincts. Nor has attention been given to a more fine-grained classification of urban spaces that might go beyond a simple slum/non-slum dichotomy. The purpose of this paper is to provide a conceptual framework to help tackle the related issues of slum definition and classification of the urban landscape…”

Health Promotion International – Beyond positive a priori bias: reframing community engagement in LMICs

Seye Abimbola; https://academic.oup.com/heapro/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/heapro/daz023/5455495

Showing the causal link between community engagement and improved health outcomes is a ‘holy grail’ of health policy. This article argues that this ‘holy grail’ has remained elusive because community engagement in primary health care is under-theorized, having been based on positive a priori assumptions, e.g. that people necessarily want to be engaged in governing their health system. By adopting a theory-driven approach and an agnostic premise, we show that understanding why, how and when community engagement may emerge or function spontaneously is important for informing efforts to support community engagement in primary health care primary health care governance….”

WB report – Out-of-Pocket Expenditures on Health : A Global Stocktake

A Wagstaff et al; http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/404051554751713745/Out-of-Pocket-Expenditures-on-Health-A-Global-Stocktake

Released at last week’s Spring Meetings. In case you hadn’t noticed it yet.

“…This paper provides an overview of research on out-of-pocket health expenditures, reviewing the various summary measures and the results of multi-country studies using these measures. The paper presents estimates for 146 countries from all World Bank income groups for all summary measures, along with correlations between the summary measures and macroeconomic and health system indicators….” “Large differences emerge across countries in per capita out-of-pocket expenditures in 2011 international dollars, driven in large part by differences in per capita income and the share of gross domestic product spent on health. The two measures of dispersion or risk — the coefficient of variation and Q90/Q50 — are only weakly correlated across countries and not explained by the macroeconomic and health system indicators. Considerable variation emerges in the out-of-pocket health expenditure budget share, which is highly correlated with the incidence of “catastrophic” expenditures. Out-of-pocket expenditures tend to be regressive and catastrophic expenditures tend to be concentrated among the poor when expenditures are assessed relative to income, while expenditures tend to be progressive and catastrophic expenditures tend to be concentrated among the rich when expenditures are assessed relative to consumption. At the extreme poverty line of $1.90-a-day, most impoverishment due to out-of-pocket expenditures occurs among low-income countries.”

HP&P – ‘LMICs as reservoirs of AMR’: a comparative analysis of policy discourse on antimicrobial resistance with reference to Pakistan

M Khan et al; https://academic.oup.com/heapol/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/heapol/czz022/5448869?redirectedFrom=fulltext

“… However, there is a dearth of research on differences in issue framing by external agencies and LMIC’s national policymakers on the problem of AMR; such analyses are imperative to identify areas of conflict and/or potential convergence. We compared representations of AMR across nine policy documents produced by multilateral agencies, donor countries and an LMIC at the forefront of the global response to AMR—Pakistan. We analysed the texts in relation to five narratives that have been commonly used to frame health issues as requiring action: economic impact, stunting of human development, consequences for health equity, health security threats and relationship with food production. We found that AMR was most frequently framed as a threat to human health security and economic progress, with several US, UK and international documents depicting LMICs as ‘hotspots’ for AMR. Human development and equity dimensions of the problem were less frequently discussed as reasons to address the growing burden of AMR. It is clear that no single coherent narrative on AMR has emerged, with notable differences in framing in Pakistani and external agency led documents, as well as across stakeholders primarily working on human vs animal health. While framing AMR as a threat to economic growth and human security has achieved high-level political attention and catalysed action from governments in high-income countries, our analysis suggests that conflicting narratives relevant to policymakers in Pakistan may affect policy-making and impede the development and implementation of integrated initiatives needed to tackle AMR.”

SRHM – Sexual health, sexual rights and sexual pleasure: meaningfully engaging the perfect triangle

S Gruskin et al ; https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/26410397.2019.1593787

Looks like we finally have found a new ‘triangle’ in global health circles. Hurray!  Tell the Thai (and dr. Suwit in particular 😊). Whether this one “moves the mountain”, that will be context-specific, I’m afraid.

“To improve sexual health, even in this charged political moment, necessitates going beyond biomedical approaches, and requires meaningfully addressing sexual rights and sexual pleasure. A world where positive intersections between sexual health, sexual rights and sexual pleasure are reinforced in law, in programming and in advocacy, can strengthen health, wellbeing and the lived experience of people everywhere. This requires a clear understanding of what interconnection of these concepts means in practice, as well as conceptual, personal and systemic approaches that fully recognise and address the harms inflicted on people’s lives when these interactions are not fully taken into account. Bridging the conceptual and the pragmatic, this paper reviews current definitions, the influences and intersections of these concepts, and suggests where comprehensive attention can lead to stronger policy and programming through informed training and advocacy.”

Journal of Global Health – China: leapfrogging to become a leader in global health?

Titiporn Tuangratananon, Kun Tang, Rapeepong Suphanchaimat, Viroj Tangcharoensathien, and Suwit Wibulpolpraserthttp://www.jogh.org/documents/issue201901/jogh-09-010312.htm

Even if written by Thai authors, not Chinese, this is an interesting & wide-ranging read. Based on discussions at an expert meeting in Beijing, it appears.

They conclude: “Undoubtedly, China is one of the largest global economic leaders and has the potential to becoming a global health leader, going beyond simply financial contributions. A more comprehensive collaborative strategy to rapidly build China’s global health capacity is the missing piece of a more powerful China engagement….”

Some key blogs and other mainstream press articles of the week

Guardian – There’s a dark side to women’s health apps: ‘Menstrual surveillance’


Sounds as scary as it is, menstrual surveillance.  And as somebody noted on Twitter: “#MenstrualSurveillance – what are some possible implications for women’s rights & reproductive justice? #SRHR

Guardian – Wellcome Trust drops plans to trial four-day working week


A pity, but great they put the issue on the agenda (in the broader “global health world”, at least). “The Wellcome Trust has scrapped plans to trial a four-day week for its 800 head office staff , saying it would be “too operationally complex to implement”….”

Still way better than the dumbhead advice from Jack Ma (who was also a member, at least originally, of some high-level WHO NCD commission, I believe) to work at least 72 hours, if you’re really ‘passionate’ about your work. For him (Alibaba), that is, obviously.

CGD (blog) – It’s Technology, Stupid: How Important is Innovation for Better Development Outcomes?

Owen Barder et al ; https://www.cgdev.org/blog/its-technology-stupid-how-important-innovation-better-development-outcomes?utm_source=190416&utm_medium=cgd_email&utm_campaign=cgd_weekly

Income growth is the holy grail of development. At least that’s been the implicit view of much of the development community in recent history. The ultimate aim of development is to improve people’s lives, and GDP growth and income distribution are the yardsticks of this hallowed ground. This is because income (whether spent by individuals or the state via taxation and redistribution) is used to obtain all of the things fundamental to better lives, such as healthcare, education, and nutrition. While the development community has spent decades searching, with limited success, for reliable models of economic growth, however, advances in technology have been quietly increasing these other quality of life measures. Technology is defined here in the economic sense as improved knowledge—of how to make products, for example, or how to organise people, deliver services, or cure diseases. Technology can be embodied in physical products—and these may be cutting-edge and thus fit the conventional notion of technology—but it does not have to be. We have not yet arrived at a dependable model of raising incomes, but the “development” that any level of money can buy is growing, and technology has been the force increasing the bang per buck; it has allowed us to shortcut the route to development. To explore this dynamic, we consider child mortality rates….”

IHP – Keynote Speech by Jean-Paul Adam, Minister of Health of the Republic of Seychelles at the Second WHO Africa Health Forum : ‘Domestic Financing for Sustainable Health Security in Africa’

J-P Adam; IHP;

The Minister of the Seychelles made quite an impression with this keynote speech at the recent (2nd) WHO Africa Health Forum.

Science – African research projects are failing because funding agencies can’t match donor money


Although African countries appreciate research grants from donor countries, they often chafe at the condition that they bring in their own money in order to be eligible. Some research projects fall by the wayside because African granting agencies simply have no way to provide their share of the money, sometimes called counterfunding, the heads of 15 national science councils in Africa said at a meeting held here on 4 and 5 April. The funding agencies usually ask for contributions between 20% and 50% of the project cost, says Peter Ndemere, executive secretary of the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST) in Kampala. For donor agencies, it’s a way to raise interest and make sure African partners are committed to the project….”

NPR – The End Of Empathy


Empathy is out, ‘selective empathy’ is in, it seems, in many countries around the world. Gloomy read.

From a somewhat different angle (i.e. starting from the sorry Brexit saga), you might also want to read Richard Horton’s Offline this week – The case for compromise.

Blog – Public health has a language problem

Andy Turner; http://publichealthy.co.uk/public-health-has-a-language-problem/

Nice blog on the jargon haunting public health, for example “SDH”.

Excerpt: “….Everything we do in public health is supposed to be for the public good, but we talk like we’re not really of the public we serve.  A bit like – dare I say it – politicians. We all bang on about the need to engage with our populations and the importance of co-production, then we try to do it by using phrases like ‘engage with our populations’ and ‘co-production’.  Real-life humans don’t use these words. I don’t say to my wife “Becci, I think we should engage with one another to co-produce tonight’s tea”.  No wonder we’re struggling to sell the importance of public health.”

Devex – Opinion: Corporations must be held liable for abuses

Alice Evans; https://www.devex.com/news/opinion-corporations-must-be-held-liable-for-abuses-94557

Alice Evans explores why we don’t (yet) have corporate accountability (she sees two main reasons), but sees hopeful signs in many places in continental Europe, with more and more organisations & stakeholders pushing for corporate accountability (legislation), with respect to supply chains, and other human rights issues far away.


Global Health Events

G7 Health Experts working group (Paris 16-17 April)

Via a tweet Michèle Boccoz:

#PHC #SDG3 #g7france focuses on strengthening multilateralism and better coordination with the Global action plan for Healthy lives and wellbeing for all. Civil society is a key partner to help fight inequalities and serve the vulnerable @WHO.”

Let’s see what makes it to the “real” G7 summit(s) later this year.

And a tweet on other G7 related news:

« The French @G7 finance minister meeting will have a core mission: to build the tax system of the 21st century, more efficient and fairer » says minister @BrunoLeMaire at the IMF and World Bank spring meetings #WBGMeetings

WHO – World Conference on Health and Climate Change, Taking care of humankind at +2°C.   (15-16 April, Cannes, France)


On the occasion of the Centenary of the foundation of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the Red Cross organiz[ed] the first “humanitarian COP” on climate change and health in Cannes, France. The World Health Organization was asked to join efforts and participate in the discussions. Following the major UN climate conference COP24 in Katowice, Poland, and the landmark UN IPCC special report on 1.5 degrees of global warming, the consequences and future impacts of a changing climate on the health of populations worldwide needs to be further examined. This humanitarian COP examine[d] current and future consequences of climate change on health, explore[d] innovative approaches to face the emerging challenges it brings, and involve[d] citizens and decision-makers at all levels to discuss their role in the prevention, preparedness, adaptation and response to climate impacts….”

Coming up: World Immunization week (24-30 April)


This year’s theme is: “Protected Together: Vaccines Work!” promoting the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages.

You might already want to read (GAVI) eight game-changing approaches to vaccination.

And UNICEF launched a new campaign #VaccinesWork to inspire support for vaccines.

See also UN News on this new campaign – ‘Vaccines are safe’ and save lives, UNICEF declares, launching new #VaccinesWork campaign

Amid a surge in outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced on Thursday a new social media campaign, emphasizing that “vaccines are safe, and they save lives”.”

Coming up: Multi-stakeholder hearing (29 April 2019), in run-up to UN HLM on UHC (23 Sept)


The President of the United Nations General Assembly (PGA) will organise a multi-stakeholder hearing on 29 April 2019 at UN General Assembly Hall, to allow non-state actors to formally contribute to the preparation of the UN HLM on UHC.  “

See also IISDIn Advance of Stakeholder Hearing, UN Leaders Urge Support for UHC

As part of the preparations leading to the high-level meeting on UHC, which will convene in New York, US, on 23 September 2019, Member States requested the UNGA President to convene an interactive multi-stakeholder hearing to ensure the active, substantive and inclusive engagement of stakeholders in the process. The hearing will convene on 29 April with the aim of enabling stakeholders to share their perspectives on urgent actions and investments for UHC. It will also offer an opportunity to identify how the UHC political declaration can add value to the UHC movement and result in agreement on a concrete milestone to accelerate progress towards achieving UHC by 2030. The hearing will feature an opening segment, three interactive panel discussions and a closing segment. The three panel topics are: UHC as a driver for inclusive development and prosperity; leave no one behind-UHC as a commitment to equity; and multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder actions and investments for UHC. The hearing will result in a summary prepared by the UNGA President.”

Coming up next month: 72nd World Health Assembly   (20-28 May, Geneva)


Already with a number of preparatory documents.  Incl. preliminary agenda: here.

For the tentative program of the civil society preparatory meeting (17-18 May), see G2H2. The hub also posted an overview of all side (WHA) events, technical briefings & meetings, see here.

ODI (resource) – China and global development: what to read ahead of the Belt and Road Forum


Nice resource, compiled by Linda Calabrese (ODI). The second Belt and Road Forum will take place in Beijing later this month.


Global governance of health

Contemporary Politics – Lost in internal evaluation? Accountability and insulation at the World Bank

E Heldt;  https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13569775.2018.1455491

Article from 2018. “Over past decades, the World Bank has been criticized by scholars, policymakers, and civil society groups for being unaccountable and inefficient. Confronted with this wave of contestation, the Bank established several internal accountability mechanisms, including the Inspection Panel, the Independent Evaluation Group, and the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman. Against this background, this article investigates how the proliferation of accountability mechanisms in a large and complex organization such as the World Bank reduces rather than enhances transparency and lines of accountability. I argue that the establishment of a myriad of accountability mechanisms has paradoxically made the Bank even more encapsulated and less accountable to the outside world. Unpacking the differential effects of external and internal accountability mechanisms makes this contribution of significant interest to scholars working on the accountability and performance of international organizations.”

Project Syndicate – Will Free Trade Make Africans Sick?

W Ochieng (Aspen New Voices fellow); https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/africa-free-trade-agreement-health-risks-by-walter-ochieng-2019-04

The new African Continental Free Trade Area could yield enormous economic benefits once it takes effect. But African governments must act immediately to address the AfCFTA’s potential negative implications for Africans’ health.”

CGD – How Effective Is UK Aid? Assessing the Last 8 Years of Spending

Ian Mitchell et al; https://www.cgdev.org/blog/how-effective-uk-aid-assessing-last-8-years-spending

In our new policy paper, we take advantage of the fact that the impact of UK aid is independently assessed by the Independent Commission on Aid Impact (ICAI). Looking back over 8 years and 65 graded assessments, even with a focus on riskier projects, we find that almost 80 percent of UK aid assessed was well spent….”

Book: The World Health Organisation – a History

M Cueta; https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/world-health-organization/9A0B11E8BA52C41A2AD5504A6BEA8300

Looks like excellent reading for on the beach. (the first author is from Rio de Janeiro 😊).

According to its Constitution, the mission of the World Health Organization (WHO) was nothing less than the ‘attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health’ without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic status, or social condition. But how consistently and how well has the WHO pursued this mission since 1946? This comprehensive and engaging new history explores these questions by looking at its origins and its institutional antecedents, while also considering its contemporary and future roles. It examines how the WHO was shaped by the particular environments of the postwar period and the Cold War, the relative influence of the US and other approaches to healthcare, and its place alongside sometimes competing international bodies such as UNICEF, the World Bank, and the Gates Foundation. The authors re-evaluate the relative success and failure of critical WHO campaigns, from early malaria and smallpox eradication programs to struggles with Ebola today.”

IISD – SDG Knowledge Weekly: Public, Private and Blended Finance Update


This week’s brief summarizes recent developments in the finance world around the 2019 Spring Meetings of the World Bank Group and IMF and the 2019 Financing for Development Forum. OECD issued a summary of preliminary data for 2018 official development assistance. The Overseas Development Institute published its findings on “unrealistic” expectations on blended finance to bridge the SDG financing gap.”

CFR session – Is Globalization Still Good for Your Health?


Watch it (again) on Youtube.  With among others, Ilona Kickbush, David Dollar and Vanessa B Kerry.

Devex – ‘Wise persons’ to scrutinize EU development finance

V Chadwick; https://www.devex.com/news/wise-persons-to-scrutinize-eu-development-finance-94662

European Union states have given nine economists six months to suggest changes to the bloc’s development financing structure, as the European Investment Bank, European Commission, and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development vie to assert their role in meeting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The mandate for the “High-Level Group of Wise Persons,” agreed last week by European governments, is to set out “the challenges to and opportunities for rationalising” European development finance, particularly the respective roles of EIB and EBRD.”

Good to know that only economists are considered ‘wise persons’ in EU corridors : ).

Forbes – How A Gates Foundation-Backed Fund Is Revolutionizing Global Health Impact Investing


Dr. Curt LaBelle has been investing in healthcare companies for over 18 years, and now serves as the Managing Partner of the Global Health Investment Fund (GHIF).  GHIF is a social impact investment fund, which manages manages ~$108M and was initially structured and backed by the Gates Foundation and JP Morgan in 2012. As Bill Gates detailed in a talk announcing the fund with Jamie Dimon, GHIF is one of the pioneers of global health investing, focused on a ‘double bottom line’ of health outcomes and financial returns. The fund targets $5-15M investments in innovative global health companies, and alongside the Gates Foundation, is backed by the IFC, GSK, Pfizer, Grand Challenges Canada, KfW and Merck, among others.  GHIF’s work in product development is used by the World Bank as a case study as to how to effectively expand access to quality and affordable health care.”  Interview with LaBelle.

ODI (report) – Exit from aid: an analysis of country experiences

L Engen et al; https://www.odi.org/publications/11298-exit-aid-analysis-country-experiences

“…This report is the first to look systematically at the impact on development financing of countries’ transition from low- to middle-income status.”  “A companion paper reviews development partners’ approaches to transition and exit from bilateral programmes.”

Global Health Council – Global Health Security Act Reintroduced in Congress

Global Health Council;

“Global Health Council welcomes the reintroduction of the Global Health Security Act of 2019 (bill number pending) by U.S. Representatives Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and Steve Chabot (R-OH). This bipartisan legislation supports the U.S. commitment to elevating global health security and the Global Health Security Agenda, an international partnership that works to build capacity to prepare for and respond to infectious disease outbreaks.”

… Specifically, the Global Health Security Act strengthens interagency coordination on U.S. global health security activities and addresses the need for a permanent official responsible for coordinating between U.S. agencies during global health crises….”

Devex – Venezuela ‘most worsened’ country in 2019 fragile states index


Venezuela is tied for the “most worsened” country in the 2019 fragile states index after it has been “beset by enormous turmoil” and finds itself with two people claiming to be the country’s leader. Venezuela declined for the sixth year in a row and now ranks as the 32nd most fragile country in the world in the index, which is produced annually by the Fund for Peace and measures risk and vulnerability in 178 countries….”

FT – Philanthropy’s blighted reputation threatens global giving

P Buchanan; https://www.ft.com/content/1980e4b4-57bc-11e9-8b71-f5b0066105fe

“ Donations are increasingly caricatured as self-protective ruses for the wealthy.”  That’s a bit too cynical, is the gist of this piece.  Op-ed by the president of the Center for Effective Philanthropy.

NYT – Melinda Gates on tech innovation,
global health and her own privilege.


This interview with Melinda Gates is well worth a read. Excerpts:

You would perhaps be demonstrating an excess of sympathy to feel sorry for ultrawealthy philanthropists. But it’s fair to say that many members of that cohort have found themselves in a challenging moment, faced as they are with increasing anti-elitism and skepticism about just how much altruism, as opposed to ideological self-interest, motivates their work. “There are absolutely different points of view about philanthropy,” says Melinda Gates. …”

“Gates’s focus, both here and abroad, is on broadening women’s rights, a subject she explores in her new book, “The Moment of Lift.” “I have rage,” she said, about the injustices she has seen. “It’s up to me to metabolize that and use it to fuel my work.” …”

“… What’s something about the tech world right now that drives you crazy? One thing that does bug me is that, even for the big world problems Bill and I are talking about, sometimes the tech world thinks the solution is to give somebody an app. Well, that’s not going to change everything.

“…One of the recurring criticisms of large-scale philanthropists is that they aren’t interested in any redress of the economic systems that create inequality. But in order to rectify inequalities, doesn’t a radical rethinking need to happen? Bill and I are both on the record saying that we believe in more progressive taxes. We believe in an estate tax. We don’t believe in enormous  inherited wealth.

“How have the political shifts of the last few years — toward populism especially — affected the Gates Foundation? It’s a much tougher political environment because of the polarization and things being said or enacted by the administration. But luckily, the president proposes a budget, and Congress disburses the money. So we are working with Congress more than ever. The people who have been there for a while understand that if you want peace and stability in the world, you put money into foreign aid….”

And a few tweets:


One small factor progress [i.e. in the fight against climate change] is too slow is that the @gatesfoundation accepts too much of a Stephen Pinker perspective; ie that everything is basically ok and getting better; in fact we are heading towards a cliff; they do not understand Limits to Growth.”

  • Did you know that many providers of #devcooperation beyond the DAC also report their data to the #OECD? Turkey & the UAE both exceeded 0.7% #ODA as a share of GNI, with 1.10% and 0.95% respectively. See more of this year’s data OECD DAC. “


Advocacy ahead of UN High-Level meeting on UHC

HIV and the High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage: What’s at Stake?


The global networks of people living with HIV sound the alarm for inclusion.”

Recommended – with 2 opportunities perceived, and 5 critical risks.

Indian Express – Health of a nation

K S Reddy; https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/health-of-a-nation-universal-health-care-lok-sabha-elections-2019-political-parties-promise-5675488/

In election season, parties promise universal health care. But it will need to be defined and monitored”.  Recommend by Rob Yates. As you can imagine, ‘PUBLIC Financing’ gets a prominent role in this piece 😊.

In other news from India, Modicare ropes in just 1 per cent of private hospitals

By the Ayushman Bharat website, 15,291 hospitals have been empanelled under the scheme launched in September 2018.”  “Ayushman Bharat, the most ambitious universal health insurance scheme, has just one per cent of the private hospitals and nursing homes empanelled. Healthcare experts opine that the number of these hospitals have to go up at least by eight to 10 times for the scheme—also known as Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) and Modicare–to be successful.” Doesn’t bode too well for Modicare.

Reuters – China’s Ant Financial amasses 50 million users, mostly low-income, in new health plan


A mutual health aid plan launched by Ant Financial Services Group, the dominant fintech player in China, has amassed more than 50 million users and is aiming for 300 million within two years, the company said late on Thursday. The plan, dubbed Xiang Hu Bao or literally “mutual protection”, is marketed on Ant Financial’s flagship mobile payment app Alipay and provides participants a basic medical coverage with the risks and expenses distributed across all members. It has gained unexpected popularity among China’s “low-end population”, poorer sections of society, who struggle to afford medical services due to the government’s inadequate social healthcare system and are under-served by traditional commercial insurers as they cannot meet the premiums and advance payments required with commercial health insurance products.”

International Journal of Health Planning and Management – Factors associated with misreporting in performance‐based financing in Burkina Faso: Implications for risk‐based verification

N Kuunibe, M de Allegri et al; https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/hpm.2786

“…  As a key component of PBF, quantity verification is carried out to ensure that reported data matches the actual number of services provided. However, cost concerns have led to a call for risk‐based verification. Existing evidence suggests misreporting is associated with factors such as complexity of indicators, high service volume, and accepted error margin. In contrast, evidence on the association of key facility characteristics with misreporting in PBF is scarce. We contributed to filling this gap in knowledge by combining administrative data from a large‐scale pilot PBF program in Burkina Faso with data from a health facility assessment in the context of an impact evaluation of the intervention. Our results showed the coexistence of both overreporting and underreporting and that misreporting varied by service indicator and health district. We also found that the number of clinical staff at the facility, the population size in the facility catchment area, and the distance between the facility and the district administration were associated with the probability of misreporting. We recommend further research of these factors in the move towards risk‐based verification. ….”

Lancet World Report – Liberia post Ebola: ready for another outbreak?


Years after the west Africa Ebola virus epidemic, Liberia’s health system still carries the burden of the deadly outbreak. Laura Salm-Reifferscheidt reports from Gbarnga, Liberia.”


Planetary health

Let’s start this section by a tweet from Jason Hickel:

Today I learned a fantastic new word: “Plutocene“, which captures the fact that ecological breakdown is being driven primarily by the excess emissions and consumption of rich nations and individuals. I’m filing this one alongside Capitalocene, which is similarly useful.”

How Big Business Is Hedging Against the Apocalypse – Investors are finally paying attention to climate change — though not in the way you might hope.


Not exactly an upbeat read.  On the increasing Big Business army of ‘climate profiteers’.

Annual Review of Public Health – Global Environmental Change and Noncommunicable Disease Risks

H Frumkin & A Haines; https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/full/10.1146/annurev-publhealth-040218-043706

Multiple global environmental changes (GECs) now under way, including climate change, biodiversity loss, freshwater depletion, tropical deforestation, overexploitation of fisheries, ocean acidification, and soil degradation, have substantial, but still imperfectly understood, implications for human health. Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) make a major contribution to the global burden of disease. Many of the driving forces responsible for GEC also influence NCD risk through a range of mechanisms. This article provides an overview of pathways linking GEC and NCDs, focusing on five pathways: (a) energy, air pollution, and climate change; (b) urbanization; (c) food, nutrition, and agriculture; (d) the deposition of persistent chemicals in the environment; and (e) biodiversity loss.”

UN News – Turn toxic e-waste into a source of ‘decent work’, UN labour agency urges


“A “toxic flood of electric and electronic waste” that is growing by the day across the world, should be urgently converted into a source of decent work, that can also protect populations from its harmful effects, the United Nations labour agency said on Wednesday. “


infectious diseases & NTDs

Reuters – Afghan Taliban bans WHO and Red Cross work amid vaccination drive


“The Afghan Taliban have banned the World Health Organization and the Red Cross from operating in areas under their control until further notice, a spokesman said on Thursday, citing unspecified “suspicious” actions during vaccination campaigns. The move comes as the WHO is carrying out a vaccination campaign in Afghanistan, one of the last countries in the world where polio is still endemic….”

HPW – DNDi and Atomwise Collaborate to Advance Drug Development Using AI for Neglected Diseases


Efforts to discover novel compounds against Chagas disease see early successes – part of Atomwise’s Artificial Intelligence Molecular Screen (AIMS) Awards program to fast track drug development. Atomwise, Inc., a biotech company using artificial intelligence (AI) for drug discovery, and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), a not-for-profit research and development organization working to deliver new treatments for neglected diseases, today announced that promising drug-like compounds have been discovered in a program to develop first-in-class treatments for Chagas disease. The research collaboration is part of Atomwise’s Artificial Intelligence Molecular Screen (AIMS) Awards program….”

Guardian – Mounting concern over cholera health crisis in Yemen


Yemen is facing a massive resurgence of cholera in what was already one of the world’s worst outbreaks, with more than 137,000 suspected cases and almost 300 deaths reported in the first three months of this year. With well over 2,000 suspected cases being recorded every day – a doubling since the beginning of the year – aid agencies fear they could be facing a major new health crisis….”

Via Stat News: New initiative aims to end diseases caused by intestinal worms


The END Fund, a philanthropy dedicated to ending the five most common neglected tropical diseases, just announced a new initiative to fight a parasitic disease known as schistosomiasis as well as other conditions caused by intestinal worms in Africa. The organization is teaming up with TED’s Audacious Project to eliminate these diseases over the next six years. The initiative will involve deworming, and although medication is available, making sure that the drugs get to the 100 million people who are at risk people will be challenging, according to the END Fund. The initiative has already secured over $50 million in funding. “

For more info, see END.

Guardian – Europe at risk from spread of tropical insect-borne diseases


Insect-borne diseases such as dengue fever, leishmaniasis and encephalitis are on the rise and are now threatening to spread into many areas of Europe, scientists have warned. Outbreaks of these illnesses are increasing because of climate change and the expansion of international travel and trade, the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases was told in Amsterdam on Saturday….”

BMJ Global Health – Is the elimination of ‘sleeping sickness’ affordable? Who will pay the price? Assessing the financial burden for the elimination of human African trypanosomiasis Trypanosoma brucei gambiense in sub-Saharan Africa

C S Sutherland et al; https://gh.bmj.com/content/4/2/e001173

Programme to eliminate neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) have gained global recognition, and may allow for improvements to universal health coverage and poverty alleviation. It is hoped that elimination of human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) Trypanosoma brucei gambiense (Tbg) would assist in this goal, but the financial costs are still unknown. The objective of this analysis was to forecast the financial burden of direct costs of HAT Tbg to funders and society….”

Lancet – Effect of ten-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine on invasive pneumococcal disease and nasopharyngeal carriage in Kenya: a longitudinal surveillance study


Cfr a tweet by Seth Berkley (GAVI):

A new study in @TheLancet shows that #VaccinesWork against invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD). Vaccine-type IPD has been virtually eliminated in Kenya since the introduction of the #pneumococcal conjugate vaccine.”

The Telegraph – World watches as UK announces it will drop key childhood vaccine to two doses


The UK is set to become the first country in the world to cut a key childhood vaccine from three to two doses in a move that experts hope will encourage poorer countries to eventually follow suit. Last July a government advisory group, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), recommended that the dosing schedule for the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) be reduced from three to two doses after a Lancet Infectious Diseases study showed that the vaccine was just as effective and safe when given in two shots….”

“…The UK does not disclose how much it pays for the vaccine, Prevenar13, manufactured by US drug firm Pfizer. But in other parts of the world it is one of the most expensive vaccinations in the routine childhood schedule and in the US it costs $130 (about £100) for every shot. If the UK dropped one dose it could potentially save millions of pounds every year. Experts believe that the change could eventually pave the way for similar policies in lower and middle income countries, saving them significant amounts of money. Low income countries get the vaccine at a fraction of the price paid by high-income countries – from just a few cents to a few dollars depending on a country’s income per capita – via Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. However, some middle income countries missing out on Gavi support cannot afford the PCV. And for those countries which no longer qualify for Gavi support because they are becoming wealthier, the vaccine may become unaffordable in the long run….”

Stat (Op-Ed) – Life-course vaccination can protect adults from infectious disease

L Privor-Dumm; Stat;


“… The problem of low vaccination rates among adults isn’t limited to the U.S. It’s a worldwide phenomenonLess than half of countries publicly recommend that older adults be vaccinated against influenza, and influenza vaccination rates in adults over 65 in countries that are part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development range from as low as 2.8 percent in Estonia to as high as 84 percent in Korea. Middle- and low-income countries are even less likely to include adult vaccination than high-income countries. … … Enter life-course vaccination. It is an embodiment of the simple fact that the risk of infectious disease continues long past childhood and into old age. Yet only a few countries, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, have embraced life-course vaccination and many have held few if any conversations about it….”

“… The world’s health leaders can no longer ignore this issue. Adopting adult immunization and life-course vaccination as a preventive measure must become a political priority and emerge front and center for global health policy makers who are now working on a new vision and strategy for vaccines and immunization for the decade ahead. Just as a global movement has led to global support and funding for childhood vaccination, a similar one is needed to create momentum for adult and life-course vaccination. Recognition of these demographic shifts and the importance of preventing infectious diseases in older adults is growing. The International Council on Adult Immunization, composed of experts in the fields of healthy aging, infectious disease, economics, and social science, hosted at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, is synthesizing available data on these trends and the medical, economic, and social consequences of adult vaccines. Based on this work, the group will call for global recommendations from the WHO and healthy aging organizations on the actions countries need to implement to integrate immunization planning into broader health strategies….”

Lancet (Perspective) – Disease X and other unknowns

M Honigsbaum; https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(19)30803-7/fulltext

Interesting read.

“…Given the history of microbiology and that the past century has been littered with similar missed alarms, the only wonder is that WHO did not think to coin the term Disease X sooner.”

the tendency of medical researchers to become prisoners of particular scientific models and theories of disease causation, blinding them to the threats posed by pathogens both known and unknown….  In each case, what was known before the outbreak—that Ebola is unlikely to reach a major urban area or that Zika is a disease that causes a mild rash-like illness and is not a threat to unborn babies—was shown to be wrong….”

“…Another lesson of these recent epidemics is that by focusing on specific microbial pathogens—whether Ebola, SARS, or Disease X—we risk missing the bigger ecological picture … …  it is worth keeping in mind the view expressed by George Bernard Shaw in his play The Doctor’s Dilemma, namely, that “the characteristic microbe of a disease might be a symptom instead of a cause”. Indeed, updating Shaw’s axiom for the 21st century, we might say that infectious diseases nearly always have wider environmental and social causes, and unless and until we take account of the ecological, immunological, and behavioural factors that govern the emergence and spread of novel pathogens, our knowledge of such microbes and their connection to disease will always be partial….”

Lancet Global Health (Correspondence) – Now is the time for shorter all-oral regimens for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis

K J Seung et al ; https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(19)30186-X/fulltext

The newly revised WHO guidelines for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis treatment includes major changes from the previous version, published in 2016. Notably, drugs such as bedaquiline, linezolid, and clofazimine are now strongly recommended for the treatment of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis. At the same time, older drugs, such as injectables, ethionamide, and para-aminosalicyclic acid, have been downgraded due to poor effectiveness and side-effect profiles. These new recommendations, if implemented, are expected to have a huge impact globally, increasing access of patients with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis to more effective and safer drug regimens that avoid debilitating side-effects, such as permanent hearing loss. Given the new recommendations on the hierarchy of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis drugs, we find it surprising that WHO continues to recommend the shorter “Bangladesh” regimen, which includes several drugs that are low in the current hierarchy of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis drugs (eg, amikacin, ethionamide, and isoniazid). Nowadays, newer and better multidrug-resistant tuberculosis drugs are increasingly available, even in resource-limited settings….”

Devex – Opinion: The ‘global gag rule’ hits PEPFAR implementers, study shows


This year marked the second anniversary of U.S. President Donald Trump’s reinstatement and expansion of the “global gag rule” — which bars U.S. global health funding to any organization that provides abortions, counsels or refers for abortion services, or advocates for access to safe abortion. A new report from amFAR shows how the policy, which has known detrimental impacts on the reproductive health of women and girls, is now also undermining U.S. investments in global HIV prevention, namely the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief….”

Coverage of report published end of January.



BMJ Global Health -Tracking global trends in the effectiveness of antibiotic therapy using the Drug Resistance Index

E Klein et al; https://gh.bmj.com/content/4/2/e001315

Evaluating trends in antibiotic resistance and communicating the results to a broad audience are important for dealing with this global threat. The Drug Resistance Index (DRI), which combines use and resistance into a single measure, was developed as an easy-to-understand measure of the effectiveness of antibiotic therapy. We demonstrate its utility in communicating differences in the effectiveness of antibiotic therapy across countries.”

Coverage for example in Cidrap – New metric aims to simplify how global resistance is measured.

Cidrap – Report highlights lack of access to antibiotics


See also a previous IHP newsletter.

“… a new report from the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (CDDEP) suggests limited access to antibiotics in many parts of the world, particularly low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), is an overlooked and under-appreciated problem. The report argues that a combination of factors—from weak, underfunded health systems to unreliable supply chains and high out-of-pocket costs—create barriers to access that prevent millions of people from receiving the antibiotics they need. And those barriers can have a profound public health impact, the authors of the report say….”



Economist – Death of the calorie


Interesting read. And not just if you’re on a diet. “For more than a century we’ve counted on calories to tell us what will make us fat. Peter Wilson says it’s time to bury the world’s most misleading measure.”

BMJ Editorial – Commercial interests, transparency, and independence: a call for submissions

R Moynihan et al ; https://www.bmj.com/content/365/bmj.l1706

« Help the move towards independence from commercial interests”.

Includes a very neat overview (figure) of all “Industry strategies to influence evidence and discourse about evidence”.

AP – Study finds diabetes drug may prevent, slow kidney disease


A drug that’s used to help control blood sugar in people with diabetes has now been shown to help prevent or slow kidney disease, which causes millions of deaths each year and requires hundreds of thousands of people to use dialysis to stay alive. Doctors say it’s hard to overstate the importance of this study, and what it means for curbing this problem, which is growing because of the obesity epidemic. The study tested Janssen Pharmaceuticals’ drug Invokana. Results were discussed Sunday at a medical meeting in Australia and  published by the New England Journal of Medicine….”

The Lancet – A turning point for chronic kidney disease in diabetes

K R Tuttle; https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(19)30855-4/fulltext

“…There is an urgent unmet need to improve outcomes for chronic kidney disease in patients with diabetes; the last new drugs approved were angiotensin receptor blockers in 2001. In the early 1990s, angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors were introduced. A series of drugs failed in conventional clinical trials. Although there were myriad reasons, a major problem was clinical trial designs that were misaligned with heterogeneous patient features, relevant outcomes, or reasonable timeframes. The Study Of Diabetic Nephropathy with Atrasentan (SONAR) in The Lancet demonstrates a turning point in trial innovation….”

Comment linked to a new Lancet studyAtrasentan and renal events in patients with type 2 diabetes and chronic kidney disease (SONAR): a double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial

Guardian – Even moderate intake of red meat raises cancer risk, study finds



Eating even the moderate amounts of red and processed meat sanctioned by government guidelines increases the likelihood of developing bowel cancer, according to the largest UK study of the risks ever conducted….”

Globalization & Health – Sugar-sweetened beverage affordability and the prevalence of overweight and obesity in a cross section of countries

F Ferretti et al; https://globalizationandhealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12992-019-0474-x

Their conclusions : « … By controlling for the main possible confounding factors, our results clearly indicate that affordability is a major driver of purchasing behaviours and is significantly associated with the prevalence rates of both overweight and obesity. We thus suggest a fiscal approach to curb SSB consumption based on the effectiveness of ‘soda taxes’ to affect the long-term dynamic of SSB affordability.”



SR/Mat/neonatal & child health

PNAS – Systematic assessment of the sex ratio at birth for all countries and estimation of national imbalances and regional reference levels

F Chao et al; https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2019/04/09/1812593116

This study provides information on sex ratio at birth (SRB) reference levels and SRB imbalance. Using a comprehensive database and a Bayesian estimation model, we estimate that SRB reference levels are significantly different from the commonly assumed historical norm of 1.05 for most regions. We identify 12 countries with strong statistical evidence of SRB imbalance: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, China, Georgia, Hong Kong (SAR of China), India, Republic of Korea, Montenegro, Taiwan (Province of China), Tunisia, and Vietnam.”

Washington Post – Tracking a sensitive topic: menstrual health in women

E Blakemore;  https://www.washingtonpost.com/

Menstruation may be commonplace, but it presents extraordinary challenges to people living in lower-income countries. According to UNICEF, at least 500 million women and girls worldwide lack adequate facilities for managing menstruation. And comfortable, effective menstrual supplies aren’t available to everyone with a period. People who care about menstrual health management want to change that. And the International Menstrual Health Entrepreneurship Roundup (IMHER) is tracking their efforts. The new website, developed by Dartmouth College’s Global Girls Forward Lab, is an information hub created by a research team with no financial stake in menstrual health….”

See also the GuardianCloth, cow dung, cups: how the world’s women manage their periods

For women living without access to basic sanitation, menstruation can be especially challenging. Their resourcefulness knows no bounds.”

Save the Children (report) – Follow the Money: Equitably financing child survival


Report launched last week at the Spring meetings.

“…Without a concerted drive to reduce social disparities, child survival targets will not be reached. Decision-makers need to make sure that tackling inequality is front-and-centre of their efforts to finance, track and ultimately achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  Follow the Money sets out three equity decisions governments need to make: How much public resource should be dedicated to health and nutrition? Which services should be prioritised? Which beneficiaries should be put first? Two case studies from Kenya and Indonesia highlight the practical challenges decision-makers face in adopting an equity approach to financing. This report puts forward recommendations to governments and development partners on how the pledge to Leave No One Behind can be turned into action – and ensure every child has the chance to survive and thrive.”

Science (Editorial) – Reverse global vaccine dissent

H Larsson et al; Science;

The concerns driving antivaccine sentiment today are diverse. …”

« …Today’s tech companies are now being called to account for their role in spreading vaccine dissent. Last month, the American Medical Association urged the chief executives of key technology companies to “ensure that users have access to scientifically valid information on vaccinations.” But this is not merely an issue of correcting misinformation. There are social networks in which vaccine views and information are circulating in online communities, where vaccine choices become part of one’s overall identity. To mitigate the globalization of vaccine dissent, while respecting legitimate sharing of concerns and genuine questions, a mix of relevant expertise is needed. Technology experts, social scientists, vaccine and public health experts, and ethicists must convene and take a hard look at the different roles each group has in addressing this challenge. It needs everyone’s attention. »

MSF – Humanitarian mechanism for vaccines used for first time in Europe to counter high prices


A new humanitarian mechanism for vaccines has been used for the first time in Europe, allowing MSF to vaccinate refugee children in Greece at an affordable price. Children were vaccinated with the pnemococcal conjugate vaccine, which is usually prohibitively expensive in Europe. We urge for more vaccines to be included in the humanitarian mechanism, allowing children to be protected against more diseases.”

Science Daily – Child vaccination levels falling short in large parts of Africa

Science Daily;

A study by the University of Southampton shows that several low-and middle-income countries, especially in Africa, need more effective child vaccination strategies to eliminate the threat from vaccine-preventable diseases. Geographers from the University’s WorldPop group found diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough (pertussis) vaccination levels in Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Mozambique and also in Cambodia, southeast Asia, fall short of the 80 per cent threshold recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). This means the potential for disease circulation and outbreak in these countries remains high. Findings are published in the journal Nature Communications….”

Xinhua – East African states unite to eradicate female genital cut


Countries from East Africa on Wednesday signed a declaration to eliminate Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and in particular the one that has cross-border dimensions. Senior officials from Ethiopia, Somalia, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya signed the declaration at the end of a three-day meeting held in Kenya’s resort city of Mombasa….”


Access to medicines

Diabetic medicine – A perspective on global access to insulin: a descriptive study of the market, trade flows and prices

D Beran et al; https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/dme.13947#.XLF-F0pBf9x.facebook

“…Insight is provided into the insulin market in terms of numbers of insulin‐producing companies, trade flows of insulin, global prices of insulin and the possible impact of different factors on the price of insulin for individual countries. This study uses data sources traditionally not used in health research and offers a perspective on how to gain a better understanding of the global pharmaceutical market and access to medicines….”

“This research shows the high variability of insulin prices and the reliance on a few sources, both companies and countries, for global supply. In addressing access to insulin, countries need to use existing price data to negotiate prices, and mechanisms need to be developed to foster competition and security of supply of insulin, given the limited number of truly global producers.”

HPW – Generics Industry Raises Questions About WIPO-Pharma Medicines Patent Database


“An international group representing the largest producers of generic medicines worldwide has raised concerns about the effect of a medicines patent database developed jointly by the World Intellectual Property Organization and the innovative pharmaceutical industry. But big pharma tells Health Policy Watch it is working to settle the concerns….”

HPW – DNDi: “Bench-To-Bedside” Approach Needed For Drug & Vaccine Response To Global Health Crises


Global Health policymakers need to adopt a “bench-to-bedside” approach to research and development, to ensure that new drugs and vaccines are not only put into the development pipeline, but are also readily available for responding to global health crises such as Ebola, says Michelle Childs of the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi).  Childs, DNDi’s head of policy and advocacy, was a key speaker at a seminar this week with industry, civil society, and UN representatives on “Policies and Practices for Effective Response to Global Health Crises,” sponsored by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)….”


Human Resources for Health

Lancet Editorial – The doctors’ predicament: China’s health-care growing pains


Editorial on Chinese society’s negative perception of doctors.

The striking contrast between the social status ascribed to Chinese doctors today and that they were given in the past is truly shocking and disappointing, but it can also be viewed as growing pains of a health-care system undergoing massive societal and economic transition.  … … Health-care systems cannot be changed overnight, but a more rapid response to Chinese doctors’ discontent in their roles, and providing support for doctors to improve their practice, could be steps towards promoting modern medical professionalism … … To give a voice to Chinese doctors’ predicaments, The Lancet will soon initiate a new editorial project—a Chinese version of our Wakley Prize. Since 1996, The Wakley Prize is awarded annually for the best original essay on any topic of importance to medicine and health, in memory of the founding editor of the journal, Thomas Wakley. For the Chinese version, we will invite essays on medical professionalism written in Chinese, so that more Chinese doctors can speak up about their own stories and concerns in medical practice, which we hope will contribute to enhancing patient care in China.

SS&M – Psychosocial distress among unpaid community health workers in rural Ethiopia: Comparing leaders in Ethiopia’s Women’s Development Army to their peers

K Maes et al; https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953619302059

Many global health initiatives rely on unpaid, impoverished community health workers (CHWs). Unpaid CHWs in Ethiopia’s Women’s Development Army are worse off than their peers. The unpaid CHW position puts more work on already burdened shoulders. Unmarried, unpaid CHWs experience negative gossip and high levels of psychological distress. These findings underline the need for payment and other support for these workers.”

You might also want to read “The Human Resources for Health Program in Rwanda: A Response to Recent Commentaries” (in IJHPM) (by C Cancedda & A Binagwaho)



Harvard Study: Wellness Programs Do Little to Improve Health, Lower Spending


Workplace wellness programs have been touted as a powerful tool that can make employees healthier and more productive while reducing health care spending, but the results of a new Harvard study suggest such interventions yield unimpressive results in the short term. The findings, published April 16 in JAMA, raise questions about the effectiveness of these programs offered by 80 percent of large U.S. employers via an $8 billion workplace wellness industry….”

NYT – Gene-Edited Babies: What a Chinese Scientist Told an American Mentor


In the CRISPR saga on gene-edited babies: “….Dr. Quake (former mentor of He Jiankui) is facing a Stanford investigation into his interaction with Dr. He. That inquiry began after the president of Dr. He’s Chinese university wrote to Stanford’s president alleging that Dr. Quake had helped Dr. He.”

Dr Quake denied the allegations.

A few days later, Stat reported Stanford clears three faculty members of ‘CRISPR babies’ involvement     Including Dr Quake.

Guardian – Working 9 to 9: Chinese tech workers push back against long hours


Chinese tech employees are pushing back against the industry’s notoriously long hours, known as the “996” schedule of working from 9am to 9pm, six days a week. Over the past few weeks, a project that began in part as a joke among tired Chinese developers has turned into a nationwide debate about work culture and a rare protest against practices at some of the country’s largest companies….”

See also Jack Ma (Alibaba CEO)’s dumb remarks from last week in this debate.

Open Democracy – What happens when NGOs are accused of violating human rights?


International NGOs have concrete moral and ethical responsibilities in the ways they work overseas that should be subject to external verification, but how?”

Vox – Scientists: We kept pig brains alive 10 hours after death. Bioethicists: “Holy shit.”


Analysis of this (rather creepy) breakthrough.