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IHP news #446 (November 24, 2017)

Highlights of the week

NYT – The Climate Crisis? It’s Capitalism, Stupid


Food for thought at the height of consumerism in the year, #BlackFriday: “The real culprit of the climate crisis is not any particular form of consumption, production or regulation but rather the very way in which we globally produce, which is for profit rather than for sustainability. So long as this order is in place, the crisis will continue and, given its progressive nature, worsen. This is a hard fact to confront. But averting our eyes from a seemingly intractable problem does not make it any less a problem. It should be stated plainly: It’s capitalism that is at fault.”

Having said that, we don’t blame you if you want to believe in the Santa “win-win” Clause for adults, Michael Bloomberg.

The Guardian – Too right it’s Black Friday: our relentless consumption is trashing the planet

George Monbiot; https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/nov/22/black-friday-consumption-killing-planet-growth

A related read. Monbiot is always worth reading, and on Black Friday even more so.

What are the politics of our survival as a species? Introducing the Climate Change Trilemma

Duncan Green, Oxfam Blogs;

“So, a physicist, an anthropologist, and two political economists have lunch in the LSE canteen and start arguing about climate change… I was (very notionally) the physicist; my other lunchtime companions were Robert Wade, Teddy Brett and Jason Hickel (the anthropologist). Jason was arguing for degrowth and reminded me of the excellent debate on this blog a couple of years ago between Kate Raworth and Giorgos Kallis; I responded by asking him (as I do) ‘where’s your theory of change?’ It boils down to this: what future paths are feasible, when science appears to be incompatible with politics?”

Green discusses the trilemma formed by capitalism, environmental sustainability and democracy.

The illusion of degrowth: Part II

Branko Milanovic;


A blog in response to Jason Hickel’s critique Why Branko Milanovic is wrong about de-growth. See also Milanovik’s previous blog entry: “The illusion of “degrowth” in a poor and unequal world”.

Milanovic doesn’t believe in degrowth, certainly not in terms of the average human being’s inclination towards self-moderation (and thus the politics required to get there). He’s probably right. Still, if we don’t go for de-growth, we’re toast.  (Unless if you believe in Michael “Santa Clause” Bloomberg et al’s green growth & win-win recipes.)

WHO Executive Board Meeting (EBSS4) : Special session on the draft thirteenth general programme of work (22-23 November, Geneva)


For an in-depth account of the meeting, see this week’s Featured article by Sana Contractor.  As mentioned, this meeting was part of a consultative iteration, and the Secretariat (and Tedros himself) were still in a listening mode.

On the website, you (still) find the draft of the GPW, statements from non-state actors, and some statements (unfortunately, few and not very detailed) statements of member states. Recordings of the sessions are also available, see here.  Definitely check out the final address by Dr. Tedros!

Make sure you check out the presentation by Peter Singer (at the end of day 1)  – http://www.who.int/mediacentre/events/2017/executive-special-session/executive-board-slides.pdf?ua=1  & the draft impact framework.   More probably to come on the website still.

An absolute must-read: Tedros’ opening address in Geneva, in which he provided 10 highlights of the work done so far by him & his team  http://www.who.int/dg/speeches/2017/special-session-executive-board/en/   and set the stakes for the EB meeting.

Some analysis of the EB meeting:

IP-Watch (gated) – https://www.ip-watch.org/2017/11/22/members-delve-draft-5-year-work-programme-question-finance-focus/

(zooming in on the first session, on Wednesday morning) “World Health Organization member states’ first reactions to the secretariat-proposed draft work programme for the next five years were mixed this morning. Although many praised the effort and the vision of the programme of work, in particular its alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, a number of countries found the programme ambitious without the needed financial backing, and sometimes straying from the core function of the organisation.

IP-Watch (also gated) – https://www.ip-watch.org/2017/11/24/not-board-new-director-pushes-make-agency-efficient/

(focusing on the final session) “World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (Tedros) admonished member states at the close of this week’s special session of the WHO Executive Board charged with examining the agency’s draft work programme for 2019-2023. A trust deficit among member states leads to the multiplication of national statements, impeding efficiency, he said. Meanwhile, a number of countries called for affordable and accessible medicines, and help to manufacture generic medicines locally, while the United States pushed the role of the private sector.”

And some reads published ahead of the EB meeting:

Devex –  WHO pivots to the field, setting up potential clash with donors  “ The World Health Organization’s pivot toward a more operational role is likely to be the topic of scrutiny and potential tension with donors in a meeting of the Executive Board this week in Geneva, a senior official tells Devex.”

Stat (Op-Ed by Jeremy Farrar ) – Focused projects can help Tedros restore confidence in the WHO.

UNAIDS (press release) – UNAIDS announces nearly 21 million people living with HIV now on treatment


Remarkable progress is being made on HIV treatment. Ahead of World AIDS Day, UNAIDS has launched a new report showing that access to treatment has risen significantly. In 2000, just 685 000 people living with HIV had access to antiretroviral therapy. By June 2017, around 20.9 million people had access to the life-saving medicines. Such a dramatic scale-up could not have happened without the courage and determination of people living with HIV demanding and claiming their rights, backed up by steady, strong leadership and financial commitment….”


Coverage, for example, in ReutersNew ARV drugs, early diagnosis key to beating AIDS epidemic: UNAIDS   “Developing new antiretroviral (ARV) drugs and using technology for early diagnosis are among steps needed to sustain momentum in fighting HIV/AIDS and ending the disease as a public health threat by 2030, UNAIDS said in a report on Monday.”

Lancet (Offline) – Who is Peter Sands?

Richard Horton; http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(17)33040-4/fulltext

As critical Horton was last week (related to WHO), as enthusiastic he seems about Peter Sands.  Excerpts:

The short answer is that he is an economist and banker. He was CEO of Standard Chartered, an international bank headquartered in London, from 2006 to 2015. But Sands is rather more interesting than his employment history suggests. For several years he has built a reputation as a thoughtful advocate for greater attention to the economic costs of infectious diseases….

“… As a former banker, he speaks directly—and with considerable credibility—to the business community about the economic impact of unexpected infectious disease shocks. He makes a convincing case that “countries should prioritise health security in budgets and increase domestic resource mobilisation”. International institutions must do more, Sands argues, to “incentivise national investment in preparedness”. Through this important work, his appointment is not only welcome, but also signifies an important strategic shift for the Fund. The centrality of infectious disease preparedness to economic security (and therefore to social development and political stability) has been widely neglected by the global health community. …

Sands looks likely to re-engineer the Global Fund to take more seriously the economic aspects of infectious disease threats. …”

Lancet (World Report) – Peter Sands appointed head of the Global fund


(also a must-read) “The appointment of the new executive director of the Global Fund was announced on Nov 14; it was hailed by some as an important move for global health financing. John Zarocostas reports.

“… Senior diplomatic sources familiar with the closed-door proceedings of the 20 voting members of the Board told The Lancet, in the end, everyone voted in favour of Sands except the USA. … The fact that in 2012, while Sands was chief executive of Standard Chartered, the bank paid a civil penalty of $340 million to New York State to settle a claim it had laundered money for Iran in violation of US sanctions “was an issue in Washington”, diplomats said. But the same sources said they hoped the USA, the biggest contributor to the Fund, “would continue” its strong bipartisan support….. “  … “Sands has the stature, and reputation, and high-level business experience to play the role that’s required”, an ambassador from a donor country, speaking on the condition of non-attribution, told The Lancet.  ….   …. By comparison with the selection fiasco in February, when the Board had to reopen the race for a new executive director, because of serious allegations of irregularities and insufficient due diligence, the process this time went smoothly, diplomats said.”

WHO Global Ministerial Conference: Ending TB in the SDG Era (Moscow, 16-17 November)

WHO – New global commitment to end tuberculosis


“… 75 ministers agreed to take urgent action to end tuberculosis (TB) by 2030…”Today marks a critical landmark in the fight to end TB,” said Dr Tedros. “It signals a long overdue global commitment to stop the death and suffering caused by this ancient killer.” The Moscow Declaration to End TB is a promise to increase multisectoral action as well as track progress, and build accountability. It will also inform the first UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting on TB in 2018, which will seek further commitments from heads of state.”

See also Putin, An Unlikely Ally, Supports The Global Effort To Stop Tuberculosis   (The Huffington Post).

Tedros’ address in Moscow: http://www.who.int/dg/speeches/2017/tb-conference-address/en/   Among others, as mentioned, he noted that there is now, finally, high-level political commitment.

WHO – Global Investments in Tuberculosis Research and Development: Past, Present, and Future

“…This policy paper was prepared together with various stakeholders from civil society groups, academia, and product development partnerships, for use in the context of the “WHO’s First Global Ministerial Conference on Tuberculosis in the Sustainable Development Era – A Multisectoral Response” in Moscow in November 2017. This document aims to articulate a coherent vision of the research needs to end TB and elaborates on the funding and structural requirements that are necessary to operationalize this vision. It describes how some of the research funded in the past has delivered benefits to patients and influenced policy- and decision-making, but also how little is being invested in TB R&D in comparison with other diseases, such as HIV and malaria, that also affect poor populations.

Dublin Declaration unanimously adopted at the Fourth Global Forum on Human Resources for Health


A must-read!! (on the meeting in Dublin from last week)  “ Concrete actions to address a projected shortfall of 18 million health workers were announced today at the Fourth Global Forum on Human Resources for Health, where representatives of over 70 countries also unanimously adopted the Dublin Declaration….”

One of the actions of the Dublin Forum was the setting up of the Working for Health Multi-partner Trust Fund (MPTF), to support countries to expand and transform their health workforce. Norway was the first to commit to the fund.

WHO Report – Women on the move: Migration, care work and health


A global paradox is emerging in which care workers – who are largely migrant women, often working in informal home settings – make a considerable contribution to public health in many countries but are themselves exposed to health risks, face barriers to accessing care, and enjoy few labour and social protections. WHO has produced a new report on this population group, collating evidence across sectors. This report breaks new ground in casting a wide net across disciplines – health, labour, employment, social protection, social services, law, immigration, cross-border movement and citizenship – to shed light on a particular population group that both provides care as well as needs it to maintain their own health and well-being. It looks at the lives of these migrant women care workers as well as the situation for their households left behind. It takes a transnational perspective appropriate to our interconnected world.”

Read also this week’s Lancet EditorialCaring for migrant health-care workers (on this report).

WHO – Agreement signed between WHO and UN Human Rights agency to advance work on health and human rights


Today marked a significant milestone for health and human rights as WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein signed an agreement to deepen collaboration between their agencies. The agreement – formally called a Framework for Cooperation – responds to the recommendations of the High Level Working Group for the Health and Human Rights of Women, Children and Adolescents. ”

Plos Med –Human trafficking and exploitation: A global health concern


Cathy Zimmerman and Ligia Kiss introduce the PLOS Medicine collection on Human Trafficking, Exploitation and Health, laying out the magnitude of the global trafficking problem and offering a public health policy framework to guide responses to trafficking.”

See also a Speaking of Medicine blog, introducing this new Plos Med Collection: – Human Trafficking, Exploitation, and Health: a new PLOS Collection.

A Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims (November 19)


For WHO’s factsheet, see Road traffic injuries.

On a more positive note, on Monday-Tuesday, WHO member states agreed on 12 global targets for road safety, after a 1-year consultation process. See  WHO.

More analysis of the Bonn CoP 23

Carbon Brief – COP23: Key outcomes agreed at the UN climate talks in Bonn


The most exhaustive & best wrap-up we’ve come across.


You might also want to read:

A giant bet on the power of peer pressure, with the future of the planet at stake. (that doesn’t sound very reassuring…)

“… So, at Bonn, diplomats focused on ways to encourage countries to ratchet up their ambitions. Next year, world leaders will meet for a formal dialogue to assess how their efforts stack up against the goal of limiting global warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius. … Negotiators sought this year to write a “rule book” that will govern this process, laying out guidelines for how emissions from each country should be measured or how financial aid from rich countries to poor ones should be tracked. Most of the hard decisions about what this rule book should look like were put off until next year….”

UN News – UN urges global action so women and girls everywhere can live free from all forms of violence


Achieving gender equality and the full empowerment of women is the answer to ending violence against women, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said Wednesday, calling for collective global action on this cause. “Violence against women is fundamentally about power,” Mr. Guterres said in his remarks alongside UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, at a special event held at UN Headquarters in New York to commemorate International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which is annually observed on 25 November….”

“… Led by UN Women and partners, hundreds of events will be held worldwide, including marches, flashmobs, concerts, and football and rugby games. Iconic buildings will be lit up in orange to galvanize attention during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence from 25 November to 10 December, when the world marks Human Rights Day. The 16 Days campaign takes place under the umbrella of the Secretary-General’s campaign UNiTE to End Violence against Women by 2030. Orange has been designated as the colour of the UNiTE campaign as it symbolizes hope and a violence-free world. This year’s theme for the campaign is ‘Leave No One Behind: End Violence against Women and Girls.”

WHO launches new manual to strengthen health systems to better respond to women survivors of violence


Was launched on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women 2017: Leave no one behind.

A few key publications of the week

HP&P – The silencing of political context in health research in Ethiopia: why it should be a concern

M T Ostebo et al; https://academic.oup.com/heapol/advance-article/doi/10.1093/heapol/czx150/4641875

A “VIP” – a Very Important Paper. “In 2004, the Ethiopian government launched what has been called an innovative and groundbreaking solution to the country’s public health challenges; the Health Extension Programme (HEP). The positive public health outcomes that have been reported following the implementation of the HEP have led researchers and global health actors to propose it as a model for other countries to emulate. In this systematic review, we point to a potential weakness and methodological bias in the existing research. Despite being implemented within a context of an increasingly authoritarian regime, research conducted following the implementation of HEP reflects a limited discussion of the political context. Following a discussion of why political context is marginalized we provide arguments for why a focus on political context is important: first, political context has an impact on health systems and actualizes questions related to good governance and ethics. While some of the studies we reviewed acknowledge the importance of political factors we contend that the one-sided focus on the positive relationship between political will, political commitment and political leadership on the one hand, and key public health outcomes on the other, reflects a narrow engagement with health system governance frameworks. This leads to a silencing of issues actualized by the authoritarian nature of the Ethiopian regime. Secondly, the political context has methodological implications. More specifically, we contend that the current political situation increases the probability of social desirability bias. In order to balance the overarching positive literature on Ethiopia’s health system, research that takes the political context into account is much needed.”

WHO – Strategic purchasing for universal health coverage: key policy issues and questions – A summary from expert and practitioners’ discussions

Inke Mathauer, Elina Dale, Bruno Meessen; http://www.who.int/health_financing/documents/strategic-purchasing-discussion-summary/en/

Strategic purchasing is one of the main principles guiding health financing reforms to accelerate progress towards universal health coverage. Seeking to align funding and incentives with promised health services, active or strategic purchasing involves linking the transfer of funds to providers, at least in part, to information on aspects of their performance or the health needs of the population they serve. The objectives of strategic purchasing are to enhance equity in the distribution of resources, increase efficiency, manage expenditure growth and promote quality in health service delivery. It also serves to enhance transparency and accountability of providers and purchasers to the population. The document outlines and frames five key policy issues that emerged from expert and practitioners’ discussions held at various meetings. These issues are considered critical for reforms to shift towards strategic purchasing and cover: 1) governance; 2) information management systems; 3) benefit design; 4) mixed provider payment systems; and 5) managing alignment and dynamics. The issues point to the need for capacity strengthening and future research as identified in discussions with country policy-makers and development partners. The discussions also emphasized the importance of information management systems as a critical backbone for strategic purchasing as well as on governance as an overarching and cross-cutting function in order to align strategic purchasing reforms with other health financing reforms.”

HSG (blog) – Pushing for engaging formats in global health conferences: Liverpool, are you ready?

Sana Contractor, Faraz Khalid, Laura Dean; http://healthsystemsresearch.org/hsr2018/news/pushing-engaging-formats-global-health-conferences-liverpool-ready/

A must-read blog by 3 EVs2016, in the run-up to the Liverpool symposium next year!

African Journal of AIDS Research (Supplement) – What the world can learn from Swaziland


Check out, for example, Mixed results: the protective role of schooling in the HIV epidemic in Swaziland  (by Alan Whiteside et al).



Global Health Events

  • We just want to flag here that Lilianne “She Decides” Ploumen gave a UCL/Lancet lecture this week (in London).

A tweet:  “Over 60 countries are supporting She Decides and over $300 million has been raised so far. One anonymous donor pledged $50 million.”

(PS: Horton tweeted  extensively on this event, among others)

  • One day later, Sarah Hawkes and Kent Buse led a discussion at UCL on Rethinking the Global System for Health in Agenda 2030.

Side events UHC forum 2017 (Tokyo) announced


Have a look. Especially for the ones fortunate enough to go to Tokyo, we presume!


Global governance of health

Tweet exchange (between Richard Horton & Anthony Costello, mostly ) – ahead of the (special) WHO EB meeting on 13GPW draft

As already mentioned above, this tweet exchange (last week on Friday mostly, after Horton’s Offline article) received quite some attention, ahead of the EB special session this week. We encourage you to have a look at the Twitter accounts of the two gentlemen. Below you find some/most of their tweets, in no particular order, though:

(As somebody else called it: “This thread is my favourite thing on Twitter today…two intellectual titans…it’s like Borg vs McEnroe for global health. “ )


 And in your next Offline @richardhorton1 please examine country contributions to WHO. Is it right that WHO must depend upon a private philanthropist as its third biggest donor?

 And @DrTedros has been refreshingly open in encouraging debate. WHO staff should not be afraid to defend their plans and budgets from the attacks of naysayers like @richardhorton1

 If you agree that @richardhorton1 should write his next Offline on the Lancet’s view of a fair financial settlement for a World Health Organisation fit for purpose in the 21st century, please retweet.

 WHO should have at least the same financing as the Global Fund and UNICEF ie three times what it receives now. Why not a Lancet campaign to treble WHO funds? Then you can criticise the plans. @richardhorton1

This is the FIRST draft of a global programme. The plan does have detail. But it will ultimately depend upon global government financing, which is exactly what your attacks will undermine.

The attack is on a disappointingly vague collection of promises that offers no convincing plan for financing or political leadership. https://twitter.com/globalhlthtwit/status/931441242147303424 …

The private sector, billionaires, neoliberals, anti-UN voices, autocrats, tin-pot dictators and populist politicians will be heartened by the attacks on multilateralism by @richardhorton1 Editor of the Lancet.

Richard, you work for a for-profit publishing company. You attack multilateralism constantly and defend the privatisation and ‘philanthopisation’ of global health? Is the Lancet the new Daily Mail?

Please note: 1. WHO is owned by member states. 2. Since 1993 assessed country contributions fell from $1.1 billion to $440 mn in real terms ($2016). 3. More than 80% of funds for mother and child health now come from philanthropy. 4. Please defend WHO funding, don’t undermine it.

That’s exactly what the Lancet should do. WHO faces an existential threat. Tedros and his new leadership think about finance every day. We need your support. Not attacks and shameful neoliberal rhetoric.



WHO’s Executive Board meets next week in Special Session to discuss the vision and strategy of Dr Tedros. “The risks of overpromising and underdelivering are great. And WHO cannot afford to fail again.” http://bit.ly/2zNHEtJ 

 Support for WHO and multilateralism should never be a blank cheque. That’s been the weakness in the UN system. We support it but our silent collusion conspires to weaken it.

Not quite the first. There were earlier drafts that were revised after consultation. And now it needs to be revised and strengthened again. It simply won’t convince Presidents and Prime Ministers.

It’s kind of you to suggest that The Lancet should lead WHO’s financial replenishment. One might have expected WHO’s leadership to have thought of that itself. It didn’t. That’s the shame.

To be fair to WHO and Tedros, their new strategy is out for consultation. It’s not the final word. Tedros is “open-minded” and willing to “change” based on the inputs of civil society and others. So decide what you want and tell WHO. They want to know.

Universal health coverage is WHO’s overriding priority. But again, nothing new is offered to give people, let alone governments, confidence that WHO can deliver.

WHO makes big statements about mobilising political will and increasing financing. But if you want to know how, you will be disappointed. WHO has no answers.

The “triple billion” target is the striking centrepiece of WHO’s new strategy. But there is zero detail about how this commitment will be delivered. No new initiatives are proposed. The promise feels like empty rhetoric.

In the early days and months after his election, Tedros framed WHO’s work in terms of global health security. That was a powerful message. It has been almost entirely dropped from the General Programme of Work. A mistake.

WHO offers no convincing vision for sustainable development—too little on our interdependence, too little on intergenerational equity, too little on the biosphere, too little on the political and economic determinants of health.

Disappointingly, Tedros emphasises WHO’s allegiance and accountability to member states. His true accountability should be to people not governments.

An interesting day on twitter. Tedros says he welcomes consultation on his vision and strategy. That’s good. But the brittle and oversensitive responses by some today betray an organisation not at ease with itself. Be strong. Be confident. And listen to your friends.

Thank you to those at WHO who have written privately to support a robust debate about the agency’s future. And who have shared their own concerns—concerns that have not been sufficiently heeded.

Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights: where are they in the future global health agenda? Not nearly high enough a priority. President Trump’s culture of sexual oppression is causing self-censorship among global health leaders.


Others weighed in (and commented on the exchange). For example:

Gavin Yamey:

At its heart this debate is also about role of journalists; their job is 2 speak uncomfortable truths; if they upset nobody they have failed.


As the EB meeting began, Horton added his voice to others’, on the importance of SRHR:

“Dear Executive Board—As you begin to discuss WHO’s General Programme of Work today, please consider strengthening your commitment to sexual and reproductive health and rights. And please ask for specific details about how WHO’s promises will be fulfilled.”

G2H2 meeting with WHO DG Dr Tedros, 20 November 2017: The start of a conversation…


Meanwhile, Dr Tedros is reaching out to civil society. An example: the recent meeting with MMI network leaders Thomas Schwarz & Andreas Wulf. They provided Tedros with a series of detailed memos, on WHO governance, the need to build a strong civil society space in Geneva for more democratic global health, …

WB (Evaluation) – Growth for the Bottom 40 Percent: The World Bank Group’s Support for Shared Prosperity


This evaluation assesses the World Bank Group’s record on implementation of the shared prosperity goal since 2013, using the official definition of the goal of fostering income growth of the bottom 40 percent. It also analyzes institutional requirements for effective implementation of the goal, and evaluates the extent to which the Bank Group was already incorporating distributional issues in its various activities during the period 2005-13, before the adoption of the goal.”

WHO (Alliance) – Primary Care Systems (PRIMASYS) country cases studies


“ Understanding the knowledge gap related to strategic information on PHC systems at national and sub-national levels in LMICs provides insights on the key points of entry to improve health programme implementation, effectiveness, and efficiency. To address these challenges, the Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research is leading a portfolio of work entitled Primary Health Care Systems (PRIMASYS). PRIMASYS supports the development of twenty (20) case studies focused on primary health care systems in selected LMICs. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, PRIMASYS aims to inform efforts to strengthen PHC systems and improve the implementation, effectiveness, and efficiency of PHC interventions worldwide.

… … The Alliance has developed both comprehensive and abridged versions of the 20 PRIMASYS case studies. The abridged versions provide an overview of the primary health care system, written for policy-makers and global health stakeholders interested in understanding the key entry points to strengthen primary health care systems. The comprehensive case studies provide an in-depth assessment of the system for researchers and stakeholders who wish to gain deeper insight into the determinants and performance of primary health care systems in selected low- and middle-income countries. The case studies will serve as the basis for a multi-country analysis of primary health care systems, to understand the systems-level determinants of primary health care performance, and to draw cross-cutting lessons learned in the implementation of PHC policies and PHC systems reforms and interventions.”

Friends of the Global Fight – Key Takeaways: The Global Fund’s 38th Board Meeting

Friends of the global fight;

More analysis of last week’s GF Board meeting.

CGD (blog) – US Aid for Domestic Revenue Mobilization: What, Where, and How Much

J Kalow et al; https://www.cgdev.org/blog/us-aid-domestic-revenue-mobilization-what-where-and-how-much

Domestic revenue mobilization (DRM) seems set to be a priority area for the US Agency for International Development (USAID) under Administrator Mark Green.” An overview of the current situation (and efforts in this respect, by the US).

CDC (Supplement) – Ebola Response Impact on Public Health Programs, West Africa, 2014–2017


Events such as the 2014–2015 West Africa epidemic of Ebola virus disease highlight the importance of the capacity to detect and respond to public health threats. We describe capacity-building efforts during and after the Ebola epidemic in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea and public health progress that was made as a result of the Ebola response in 4 key areas: emergency response, laboratory capacity, surveillance, and workforce development. We further highlight ways in which capacity-building efforts such as those used in West Africa can be accelerated after a public health crisis to improve preparedness for future events.”

F1000 Research – Developing WHO guidelines: Time to formally include evidence from mathematical modelling studies

M Egger et al; https://f1000research.com/articles/6-1584/v1

In recent years, the number of mathematical modelling studies has increased steeply. Many of the questions addressed in these studies are relevant to the development of World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, but modelling studies are rarely formally included as part of the body of evidence. An expert consultation hosted by WHO, a survey of modellers and users of modelling studies, and literature reviews informed the development of recommendations on when and how to incorporate the results of modelling studies into WHO guidelines. In this article, we argue that modelling studies should routinely be considered in the process of developing WHO guidelines, but particularly in the evaluation of public health programmes, long-term effectiveness or comparative effectiveness.  There should be a systematic and transparent approach to identifying relevant published models, and to commissioning new models.  We believe that the inclusion of evidence from modelling studies into the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) process is possible and desirable, with relatively few adaptations.  No single “one-size-fits-all” approach is appropriate to assess the quality of modelling studies. The concept of the ‘credibility’ of the model, which takes the conceptualization of the problem, model structure, input data, different dimensions of uncertainty, as well as transparency and validation into account, is more appropriate than ‘risk of bias’.

WHO Bulletin – A life-course approach to health: synergy with sustainable development goals

S Kuruvilla et al; http://www.who.int/bulletin/online_first/BLT.17.198358.pdf?ua=1

A life-course approach to health encompasses strategies across individuals’ lives that optimize their functional ability (taking into account the interdependence of individual, social, environmental, temporal and intergenerational factors), thereby enabling well-being and the realization of rights. The approach is a perfect fit with efforts to achieve universal health coverage and meet the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Properly applied, a life-course approach can increase the effectiveness of the former and help realize the vision of the latter, especially in ensuring health and well-being for all at all ages. Its implementation requires a shared understanding by individuals and societies of how health is shaped by multiple factors throughout life and across generations. Most studies have focused on noncommunicable disease and ageing populations in high-income countries and on epidemiological, theoretical and clinical issues. The aim of this article is to show how the life-course approach to health can be extended to all age groups, health topics and countries by building on a synthesis of existing scientific evidence, experience in different countries and advances in health strategies and programmes. A conceptual framework for the approach is presented along with implications for implementation in the areas of: (i) policy and investment; (ii) health services and systems; (iii) local, multisectoral and multistakeholder action; and (iv) measurement, monitoring and research. The SDGs provide a unique context for applying a holistic, multisectoral approach to achieving transformative outcomes for people, prosperity and the environment. A life-course approach can reinforce these efforts, particularly given its emphasis on rights and equity.”


Finally, a tweet: “Time for a Commission on Health and Business? Need for a better understanding of the commercial determinants of health. We need pro-health business outcomes.”



Reuters – Exclusive: India pares back planned funding for crucial public health scheme


“India has approved a three-year budget for its flagship public health programme almost 20 percent lower than what the health ministry said was needed, according to sources and previously unreported government documents reviewed by Reuters. The federal finance ministry in August renewed the National Health Mission with $20 billion of funding between 2017-20, against the health ministry’s estimated requirement of $25 billion, the documents showed….”

CGD (blog) – More Health for the Money through Better Purchasing Decisions: The Case of Ghana


By Kalipso Chalkidou.

Global Health Hub – Does Governance Help Achieve Universal Health Coverage?

T Williamson; http://www.globalhealthhub.org/2017/11/20/does-governance-help-achieve-universal-health-coverage/

Governance is steadily rising on the UHC agenda – see also Seye Abimbola’s webinar (HS Governance Collaborative) today. This article gives a nice short overview of the “rise of governance” since 2010.

UHC2030 technical working group on sustainability, transition from aid and health system strengthening: second meeting in November 2017

UHC 2030;

Short report  (of a meeting in Montreux, on 3 November) & presentations.


Planetary health

Lancet Infectious Diseases (editorial) – Climate change: the role of the infectious disease community


« In October, the World Meteorological Organization reported that atmospheric concentrations of CO2increased at a record rate in 2016 to reach their highest point in 800 000 years. Such statistics are a stark reminder that human beings continue to damage the planet and that not enough is being done to mitigate the harms. Climate change is one of the severest threats to human health and wellbeing. At the end of a year of policy setbacks as well as causes for optimism in addressing climate change, now is a good time to reflect on how the infectious diseases community could respond to the challenge. … »

ODI (Working & discussion paper)- Implications of geoengineering for developing countries

D Nassiry et al; https://www.odi.org/publications/10980-implications-geoengineering-developing-countries

As already mentioned before, the “G-word” is popping up more and more…  (and this is not something we should be euphoric about).  « Geoengineering – the deliberate large-scale alteration of the Earth’s environment to counteract climate change through greenhouse gas removal or altering the Earth’s reflectivity – is receiving increasing attention from policy-makers and researchers as a potential means to mitigate the impacts of climate change… This working paper finds that so far engagement by developing countries in discussion about geoengineering has been limited. More support is needed to enable developing countries to assess the costs and benefits of geoengineering, including the potential for unintended consequences»

The Guardian – ‘We should be on the offensive’ – James Hansen calls for wave of climate lawsuits


« One of the fathers of climate science is calling for a wave of lawsuits against governments and fossil fuel companies that are delaying action on what he describes as the growing, mortal threat of global warming. Former Nasa scientist James Hansen says the litigate-to-mitigate campaign is needed alongside political mobilisation because judges are less likely than politicians to be in the pocket of oil, coal and gas companies. …»

UN News centre – In major new report, UN environment chief urges ambitious action to save planet from ‘pollution menace’


« The 2017 Executive Director’s Report: Towards a Pollution-Free Planet, presented [Thursday] by UNEP Executive Director Erik Solheim, analyzes impacts on human health and ecosystems brought on by air, land, freshwater, marine, chemical and waste pollution. “It provides a clearer picture than ever before of the scale of the pollution menace – and the scale of action that will be needed,” he said, stressing : “None of us is now safe, so now all of us have to act.” The report highlights that nearly a quarter of all deaths worldwide – or 12.6 million people a year – are due to environmental causes. »


infectious diseases & NTDs

Vox – Good news: Madagascar hasn’t seen a new plague case in 3 weeks


“…A potential global health disaster appears to be averted, at least for now, thanks to basic public health measures — and a few lessons learned from the infamous 2013-16 Ebola epidemic. …“

NYT – Bird Flu Is Spreading in Asia, Experts (Quietly) Warn

Donald G McNeil; https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/17/health/bird-flu-asia.html?_

While trying to avoid alarmism, global health agencies are steadily ratcheting up concern about bird flu in Asia. Bird viruses that can infect humans — particularly those of the H7N9 strain — continue to spread to new cities there. Since October 2016, China has seen a “fifth wave” of H7N9 infections. Nearly 1,600 people have tested positive, almost 40 percent of whom have died. Most had been exposed to live poultry, but a small number of clusters suggest that the virus could be passing from person to person….”


Plos Med (Perspective) – Closing the gaps in the HIV care continuum

R V Barnabas et al; http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1002443

In a Perspective for the Special Issue on HIV, Ruanne Barnabas and Connie Celum discuss the implications of the accompanying Link4Health and Engage4Health studies for HIV care in sub-Saharan Africa.”

“…In this issue of PLOS Medicine, two independent studies present notably consistent findings on the substantial impact of combination intervention strategies (CIS) on increasing linkage to and retention in the HIV continuum of care in two different settings in sub-Saharan Africa. The evidence-based strategies to strengthen linkage and retention in HIV care in the CIS components included point-of-care CD4 testing, accelerated ART initiation, text message reminders, and noncash financial incentives to increase linkage and retention in HIV care.”


NYT – As Malaria Resists Treatment, Experts Warn of Global Crisis


The animosity continues…  (see also a BMJ Feature last week):  “Much of the region’s success in battling what was once a leading cause of death can be attributed to two-drug combination pills containing artemisinin, an inexpensive and effective drug invented in China decades ago. But a new, drug-resistant strain of the disease, impervious to artemisinin and another popular drug with which it is frequently paired, piperaquine, threatens to upend years of worldwide eradication efforts — straining health care systems and raising the prospect that the death toll could increase again.”

Researchers attack Mekong malaria superbug on multiple fronts


“Medical researchers are inching their way across the fringes of five Southeast Asian countries to test a triple combination therapy of antimalarial drugs. Results from the trial, being conducted in rural corners of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, are due by mid-2018, according to the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU), the Bangkok-based group conducting the tests….”

Plos Med – The US President’s Malaria Initiative, Plasmodium falciparumtransmission and mortality: A modelling study

P Winskill et al; http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.1002448&utm_

Although significant progress has been made in reducing malaria transmission globally in recent years, a large number of people remain at risk and hence the gains made are fragile. Funding lags well behind amounts needed to protect all those at risk and ongoing contributions from major donors, such as the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), are vital to maintain progress and pursue further reductions in burden. We use a mathematical modelling approach to estimate the impact of PMI investments to date in reducing malaria burden and to explore the potential negative impact on malaria burden should a proposed 44% reduction in PMI funding occur.”

The conclusion is not very surprising, of course: “…Our model estimates that PMI has played a significant role in reducing malaria cases and deaths since its inception. Reductions in funding to PMI could lead to large increases in the number of malaria cases and deaths, damaging global goals of malaria control and elimination.

BMC Infectious Diseases (Supplement) – Testing for chronic hepatitis B and C – a global perspective


A series of articles on chronic hepatitis B and C, edited by Philippa Easterbrook, Roger Chou, Margaret Hellard and Philippa Harris.

CGD (blog) – Three Lessons from the OIG’s Wambo.org Audit

Rachel Silverman; Global Health Policy Blog;

Earlier this month, the Global Fund’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a new audit report on Wambo.org, its online procurement platform for drugs and other health commodities, which is intended to streamline global health procurement and generate savings of $246 million by 2019. The headline: despite high marks from its users, Wambo.org is not yet on track to deliver the projected savings—and, in fact, it has not even recouped its far more modest start-up costs of about $10 million. But more than the headline, a close read of the report narrative helps us understand why reality does not yet reflect the Global Fund’s optimistic assumptions—and, reading between the lines, suggests three important lessons for the Global Fund and other international funders….”



CIDRAP – Survey highlights progress on national AMR action plans


A new global survey has found that more than 90 percent of the world’s population now live in a country that has developed or is working on a national action plan to combat antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The survey, conducted in November 2016 by the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), also found that most countries that have implemented or are developing an AMR action plan are taking a One Health approach to the issue, addressing antibiotic use in both humans and animals…”

See also UN News –  With UN support, more countries confronting threat of drug-resistant ‘superbugs’

ODI (blog) – Beating the superbugs: the role of politics in antibiotic resistance

Tim Kelsall; https://www.odi.org/comment/10578-beating-superbugs-role-politics-antibiotic-resistance

(recommended) “Although we know how to slow AMR, there are powerful political obstacles to doing so… Overcoming these problems is an inherently political process. It requires building coalitions of reform-minded actors with the strength to change policy, create regulations or legislation, and – most importantly – implement them.”

FAIRR (Farm Animal Risk Investment & Return) (report)  – Responding to resistance


FAIRR’s collaborative engagement on this issue is now backed by 73 institutional investors with collective AUM of over $2.3 trillion. Active dialogue has seen some companies commit to embark on a structured process to phase out the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in their supply chains. This report demonstrates how investors are stepping up to manage these risks and the progress on this issue from the corporate and policy communities.”

PS: Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (FAIRR) is an investor initiative that aims to put factory farming on the ESG agenda.

Domino’s praised for leading fight against antibiotics


A group of UK food companies, led by Domino’s Pizza, Whitbread and the brewery group Greene King, are leading a global effort to phase out the routine use of antibiotics on livestock, according to a coalition of investors campaigning on the issue.”



First, some news from the NCD Alliance:  Katie Dain named co-chair of working group for UN High-level Meeting

NCD Alliance CEO Katie Dain has been named co-chair of the civil society working group for the third High-level Meeting of the UN General Assembly on NCDs, in 2018. According to the WHO, the working group’s aim is to “advise the Director-General on bold and practical recommendations on mobilising civil society in a meaningful manner to advocate for a highly successful high-level meeting, one which proves to be a tipping point for the NCD and mental health response.” The other co-chair is Svetlana Axelrod, WHO assistant director-general for NCDs and Mental Health.”

The Guardian – French cinephiles left fuming over call to stub out on-screen smoking


« The French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo spent almost an entire film – the 1960s classic À Bout du Souffle (Breathless) – with a Gauloise dangling from his lips. Audrey Tautou portrayed the designer Coco Chanel pinning haute couture dresses while smoking… Hardly surprising then that a call for French directors to stub out smoking on screen has been greeted with a mix of disbelief and outright ridicule. It has also prompted the existential question : what would French cinema be without the cigarette? The debate was ignited after the Socialist senator Nadine Grelet-Certenais accused France’s film-makers of continuing to advertise for the tobacco industry. …»

In the category ‘Dumb and Dumber’, the European Commission also supports this move, apparently.

BMJ – Scientists wake up to coffee’s benefits


This news sparked a series of merry tweets from workaholics (annex coffee addicts) around the globe.   “Drinking three to four cups of coffee a day is associated with health benefits across a range of diseases and conditions. A review published in The BMJ this week identified 201 meta-analyses of observational research and 17 meta-analyses of interventional research and found that coffee consumption was more often associated with benefit than harm over various health outcomes.”

See also the accompanying BMJ Editorial – Coffee gets a clean bill of health

Eliseo Guallar; Editorial;   (subtitle: “Coffee is safe, but hold the cake”)

« Does coffee prevent chronic disease and reduce mortality? We simply do not know. Coffee drinking  is a complex behaviour determined by cultural norms and associated with multiple socioeconomic, lifestyle, dietary, and health behaviours. We do not understand why different people start drinking coffee, or why drinkers stop their habit. Coffee intake is associated with smoking, and adjustment for smoking is needed to identify an inverse association between coffee intake and health endpoints in many studies. Smoking, however, explains a relatively small fraction of the variability in coffee intake, and many other factors (beneficial or harmful) may still confound the relatively weak associations observed. Avoiding or reducing coffee consumption in response to deteriorating health, for instance, may explain an apparent beneficial effect of coffee intake, but this reverse causation can be difficult to examine in observational studies. »

Public Health Nutrition – Sugar-sweetened beverage taxation: an update on the year that was 2017

K Backholer et al; https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/public-health-nutrition/article/sugarsweetened-beverage-taxation-an-update-on-the-year-that-was-2017/613B1B139D15C1F152EA5920DD357E2B#

It has now been four years since the implementation of the Mexican sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) tax at the beginning of 2014 – the first substantial, nationwide tax on SSB for health-related reasons. The enactment of this SSB tax, its robust evaluation and positive effects on reducing SSB purchases set a path for increasing global action in the years to follow. The implementation of SSB taxes as part of wider efforts to address obesity and diet-related chronic diseases was recognized to be at a tipping point in 2016.”  “… Here we provide an updated timeline of action and highlight evidence and lessons for the year that was 2017…

The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology – December issue


The December issue is now online, featuring among others ‘how to address NCDs in urban Africa?’   “…In recognition of the need for intersectoral approaches to address these urban health challenges, a gathering of urbanists and health experts from across Africa was convened in Cape Town, South Africa, in February, 2017.”

NYT – Sugar Industry Long Downplayed Potential Harms


The sugar industry funded animal research in the 1960s that looked into the effects of sugar consumption on cardiovascular health — and then buried the data when it suggested that sugar could be harmful, according to newly released historical documents. The internal industry documents were uncovered by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, and described in a new report in the journal PLOS Biology…”

Tobacco companies could be sued for billions in healthcare costs, experts warn


Health experts are urging Australian governments to sue international tobacco companies for billions of dollars in healthcare costs for treating smoking-related illnesses. Canadian provincial governments have launched several lawsuits against tobacco giants in recent years, and experts suggest Australia should follow Canada’s lead.”  This could be a nice global trend (see also a similar campaign in Holland)

NYT – What if You Knew Alzheimer’s Was Coming for You?


Scientists say they are on the cusp of developing blood tests that could detect the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s damage in people in their 40s and 50s who have no obvious symptoms. Today, finding out whether dangerous plaques are building up in your brain requires either a PET scan at a cost of about $4,000 or a spinal tap. And while genetic tests can help predict risk, they don’t tell us anything about the current state of your brain. Effective blood tests could reveal thousands — even millions — of people who are now living with a “pre-Alzheimer’s” condition.”

Which could, with a bit of luck, spark an Alzheimer social movement (unlike before, when people only found out they had Alzheimer when it was too late (to get organized)).

NCD Alliance (blog) – Is there a healthy intersection to leverage between food industry and public health interests?

Anita George; https://ncdalliance.org/news-events/blog/is-there-a-healthy-intersection-to-leverage-between-food-industry-and-public-health-interests#.Wg4XTtflf7Z.twitter

Recommended analysis. “Exploration of this intersection does not mean that industry and public health should ‘work together’ in terms of collaborating or entering into partnerships or policy-setting, but rather seeks to identify how shared objectives can be leveraged and further developed to advance the interests of both actors.”


SR/Mat/neonatal & child health

World Children’s Day

Guardian – Children in the UK feel more disempowered than those in India


A poll of children from 14 countries reveals how deeply worried they are about terrorism, poverty and poor education, and how mistrustful of adults and leaders in making good decisions for them. Children in Britain and South Africa feel the most disenfranchised when it comes to decisions made that affect them, while those in India feel the most empowered, according to the Unicef survey. Analysis by the UN agency, released on Monday, also found that despite global progress, one in 12 children – or 180 million worldwide – still live in countries where their futures look bleaker than those of their parents.”… “The research was carried out for World Children’s Day, which marks the anniversary of the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

South Africa: Loophole Could Protect South African Organisations From U.S. Gag Rule On Abortions


A controversial United States policy that prohibits foreign organisations it funds from offering or promoting abortions has sparked fear among South African healthcare workers. But activists say there is a loophole in the policy that may offer a lifeline of sorts to local organisations that provide family planning advice. …

Devex: U.S. pushes caveats at U.N. on condemning violence against women, children


The Trump administration is pushing for language in two separate U.N. resolutions on women and children that would only condemn violence in certain ‘unlawful’ circumstances rather than a blanket statement of ‘all forms’ of violence. The move is isolating the United States in the U.N. General Assembly and has prompted stern criticism from human rights and health organizations, including the International Women’s Health Coalition…”

UN slams Brazil bill that would ban all abortions


The United Nations [on Monday] voiced concern over a bill under consideration by Brazil’s congress that would ban access to all abortions, even in cases of rape and women whose lives are in danger. The bill “poses an increased risk to women’s health,” the UN Population Fund’s Brazil office said in a statement. Women in Brazil currently only have access to abortions when the pregnancy is a result of rape, their health is at risk, or in cases of the fetus having severe medical defects such as anencephaly, when most of the unborn child’s brain is missing. The new bill, which was green-lighted by a congressional committee two weeks ago, is seen as a “Trojan horse” by pro-choice activists….”

Lancet Child and Adolescent Health (review) – Preventive mental health interventions for refugee children and adolescents in high-income settings

M Fazel et al; http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanchi/article/PIIS2352-4642(17)30147-5/fulltext

The mental health of refugee children and adolescents is a multifaceted phenomenon that needs to be understood and addressed across multiple sectors that influence all potential determinants of health, including housing, education, economic opportunities, and the larger policy and political context including immigration. The current state of interventions to address mental health problems in refugee children is limited and even more so for prevention programmes. This Review describes interventions of note that are delivered to individuals as well as parenting and school interventions, and broader socioeconomic and cultural interventions. Few studies aim to assess impact across multiple domains of the refugee experience. The multidimensional and collective character of challenges facing refugee children and families calls for comprehensive psychosocial interventions through which healing the psychological wounds of war is complemented by restoring and supporting the social and physical environment so that it is one in which children and their families can thrive.”

Conflict & Health – Understanding the unique experiences, perspectives and sexual and reproductive health needs of very young adolescents: Somali refugees in Ethiopia

L Ortiz-Echevarria et al; https://conflictandhealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13031-017-0129-6

(from a Supplement)  “Kobe Refugee camp hosts roughly 39,000 refugees displaced from Somalia during the 2011–2012 Horn of Africa Crisis. Sexual and reproductive health, as with the greater issues of health and well-being for adolescents displaced from this crisis remain largely unknown and neglected. In 2013, the Women’s Refugee Commission, Johns Hopkins University, and International Medical Corps in Ethiopia, implemented qualitative and quantitative research to explore the factors and risks that impact the health of very young adolescents (VYAs), those 10–14 years of age, in this setting. This paper presents findings from the qualitative effort.”

Do you have to be cold to be cool? Canada joins the Nordics as a world leader on rights.

Duncan Green; Oxfam Blogs

Duncan Green assesses Canada’s current leadership on rights. Opinion blog after a visit to the Human Rights Museum: “First, indigenous rights. What rapidly became clear was that Canada is living through a painful period of introspection about its treatment of its native peoples. A court case brought by some of the estimated 150,000 people removed from their families as kids and sent to grim Residential Schools (the last one closed in 1996) led to a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, whose report in 2015 has galvanized the whole debate. Second, women’s rights. In June 2017, Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, launched Canada’s new Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP), echoing Sweden’s Feminist Foreign Policy…. ”



Access to medicines

MSF access – India: Unmerited Pfizer patent on pneumonia vaccine limits access for children


Pfizer does not deserve the patent it was granted in August on its pneumonia vaccine, said Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). MSF is set to argue [tomorrow] in the High Court of Delhi, India that it should be overturned because the patent doesn’t meet the standards laid out in India’s Patents Act. The U.S.-based drug corporation’s unmerited patent prevents vaccine manufacturers in India from developing the vaccine until 2026, depriving countless children of the opportunity to be protected against pneumonia, which kills 2,500 kids per day….

Forbes – WHO Conference Enables India’s Deadly Blame Game

Roger Bate; https://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2017/11/20/who-conference-enables-indias-deadly-blame-game/amp/

A (rather biased) account of the stakes at another important event that took place this week, the 1st World Conference on Access to Medical Products and International Laws for trade & health in the context of the 2030 Agenda (Delhi, 21-23 November)

Bate: “This event appears to have a noble cause. Co-hosted by the World Health Organization and the Indian government, its announced goal is improving access to needed medications in middle- and low-income countries. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find a sleight of hand. The conference is anchored by a focus on the role of patents, with organizers pushing the tired narrative that drug companies abuse intellectual property law to limit cheaper alternatives, leaving them free to charge excessively high prices for needed medications. Sick patients, in India and everywhere else, aren’t getting treated because of greed….”

For more on the conference, see http://www.worldsdg2030.org/


Human Resources for Health

HP&P – How to do (or not to do)… Measuring health worker motivation in surveys in low- and middle-income countries

J Borghi et al; https://academic.oup.com/heapol/advance-article/doi/10.1093/heapol/czx153/4641879

A health system’s ability to deliver quality health care depends on the availability of motivated health workers, which are insufficient in many low income settings. Increasing policy and researcher attention is directed towards understanding what drives health worker motivation and how different policy interventions affect motivation, as motivation is key to performance and quality of care outcomes. As a result, there is growing interest among researchers in measuring motivation within health worker surveys. However, there is currently limited guidance on how to conceptualize and approach measurement and how to validate or analyse motivation data collected from health worker surveys, resulting in inconsistent and sometimes poor quality measures. This paper begins by discussing how motivation can be conceptualized, then sets out the steps in developing questions to measure motivation within health worker surveys and in ensuring data quality through validity and reliability tests. The paper also discusses analysis of the resulting motivation measure/s. This paper aims to promote high quality research that will generate policy relevant and useful evidence.”

HP&P- ‘The money can be a motivator, to me a little, but mostly PBF just helps me to do better in my job.’ An exploration of the motivational mechanisms of performance-based financing for health workers in Malawi

J Lohman, M de Allegri et al; https://academic.oup.com/heapol/advance-article/doi/10.1093/heapol/czx156/4641880

Performance-based financing (PBF) is assumed to improve health care delivery by motivating health workers to enhance their work performance. However, the exact motivational mechanisms through which PBF is assumed to produce such changes are poorly understood to date. Although PBF is increasingly recognized as a complex health systems intervention, its motivational effect for individual health workers is still often reduced to financial ‘carrots and sticks’ in the literature and discourse. Aiming to contribute to the development of a more comprehensive understanding of the motivational mechanisms, we explored how PBF impacted health worker motivation in the context of the Malawian Results-based Financing for Maternal and Newborn Health (RBF4MNH) Initiative. … …  Six categories of motivational mechanisms emerged: RBF4MNH motivated health workers to improve their performance (1) by acting as a periodic wake-up call to deficiencies in their day-to-day practice; (2) by providing direction and goals to work towards; (3) by strengthening perceived ability to perform successfully at work and triggering a sense of accomplishment; (4) by instilling feelings of recognition; (5) by altering social dynamics, improving team work towards a common goal, but also introducing social pressure; and (6) by offering a ‘nice to have’ opportunity to earn extra income. However, respondents also perceived weaknesses of the intervention design, implementation-related challenges and contextual constraints that kept RBF4MNH from developing its full motivating potential. Our results underline PBF’s potential to affect health workers’ motivation in ways which go far beyond the direct effects of financial rewards to individuals. We strongly recommend considering all motivational mechanisms more explicitly in future PBF design to fully exploit the approach’s capacity for enhancing health worker performance.”



CGD (essay) – Billions to Trillions? Issues on the Role of Development Banks in Mobilizing Private Finance

Nancy Lee; https://www.cgdev.org/publication/billions-trillions-issues-role-development-banks-mobilizing-private-finance


CGD Notes – Toward Better Multilateral Development Banks: Can the United States and China Lead Together?

Nancy Lee; https://www.cgdev.org/publication/toward-better-multilateral-development-banks-can-united-states-and-china-lead-together

“… The purpose of this note is to provide a realistic analysis of where MDBs have made progress in improving performance and governance, the risks and challenges they and their shareholders confront today, possible areas of US-China collaboration, and a specific recommendation for a joint effort. This note draws heavily from a recent Center for Global Development Panel Report…”

Guardian – British risk complicity in Yemen ‘famine crime’, says Alex de Waal


Britain is in danger of becoming complicit in the use of starvation as a weapon of war in Yemen, academic and author Alex de Waal has said. “The UK and the US, and others on the security council risk becoming accessories to the worst famine crime of this decade,” said De Waal….”

New Times – Kagame confers National Order of Outstanding Friendship medals


Including Paul Farmer.

What is Common Goal: Juan Mata’s new charitable initiative explained


The Manchester United star is leading a drive to donate a percentage of footballers’ earnings to good causes around the world.”

Euractiv – Creativity is the new mantra in development aid


(recommended analysis) “The lines defining aid have become increasingly blurred in recent years. Reluctance among donor countries to hit the 0.7% target has led them to get creative.”  “The latest meeting of aid donors in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris on 30-31 October marked the latest battle between countries wanting Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) to include the cost of migration controls against those who want to target funds on economic development….

Guardian –  Aid given in cash improves health and spurs school attendance, say researchers


Foreign aid in the form of cash transfers with no strings attached can improve health and increase school attendance, a study has found. … … But a review published this week flies in the face of criticism from the anti-aid brigade, showing that cash handouts have measurable benefits for some of the world’s poorest people.”

Devex – Côte D’Ivoire, Egypt, and Togo lead Africa on development progress


The rate of progress on human development has slowed over the past five years, according to the 2017 Ibrahim Index of African Governance, released [today]. The report found that progress in education has “nearly ground to a halt” and the public is also losing faith in the ability of their governments to handle improving basic health services….”

IDS (Working paper) – Theories of Change for Promoting Empowerment and Accountability in Fragile and Conflict-Affected Settings

Duncan Green; IDS;

This paper explores the current state of thinking among a range of aid actors (multilaterals, bilateral, applied scholars and international non-governmental organisations) on how to promote empowerment and accountability in fragile, conflict and violence affected settings. It seeks to identify trends, gaps and weaknesses in that thinking, and propose research questions and hypotheses to test. Three underlying sources of confusion are identified that are hindering progress on both understanding empowerment and accountability in fragile, conflict and violence affected settings, and taking helpful action to promote it. They are: (1 ) Theory of endogenous change (e.g. on how empowerment and accountability arise in situ) versus the theory of action of an external intervention; (2) Fragility versus conflict: there is no clear justification for combining these different aspects into a single category; and (3) Empowerment versus accountability: donor analysis and practice has been overwhelmingly weighted towards accountability, exhibiting limited understanding or interest in the nature of power.”

Devex – We need a new way of doing development, says Alexander De Croo


We put our minister – a rising star in global development circles – right where he belongs: at the bottom of this newsletter.  Thankfully, the article is gated too.



BMJ Open – Authorship, plagiarism and conflict of interest: views and practices from low/middle-income country health researchers

A Rohwer et al; http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/7/11/e018467.full?ijkey=3ZnH19PoCQRpCoX&keytype=ref

This article documents low/middle-income country (LMIC) health researchers’ views about authorship, redundant publication, plagiarism and conflicts of interest and how common poor practice was in their institutions.   Conclusions: “LMIC researchers report that guest authorship is widely accepted and common. While respondents report that plagiarism and undeclared conflicts of interest are unacceptable in practice, they appear common. Determinants of poor practice relate to academic status and power, fuelled by institutional norms and culture.”

African Affairs – The potential and pitfalls of collaborating with development organizations and policy makers in Africa

Susan Dodsworth et al; https://academic.oup.com/afraf/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/afraf/adx041/4626916?redirectedFrom=fulltext

A growing number of academics are engaging in collaborative research projects with development organizations and policy makers. Increasingly, this includes efforts to co-produce research, rather than simply share information. These new ways of doing research raise important ethical and practical issues that are rarely discussed but deserve attention. Sub-Saharan Africa is the region of the world in which these new approaches are particularly prevalent, and one where the challenges created by those approaches tend to manifest in distinct or acute ways. In this Research Note, we draw on a collaborative research project with the Westminster Foundation for Democracy to illuminate these difficulties. We also offer suggestions for how to manage the challenges that arise when academics conduct research with policy makers and development organizations. Ensuring that such collaborations are both effective and ethical is not easy, but it must be done if we are to develop better informed policy and scholarship.”

Social Science & Medicine – The possible worlds of global health research: An ethics-focused discourse analysis

B Brisbois et al; https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953617306998

« Representations of the world enable global health research (GHR), discursively constructing sites in which studies can legitimately take place. Depoliticized portrayals of the global South frequently obscure messy legacies of colonialism and motivate technical responses to health problems with political and economic root causes. Such problematic representations of the world have not yet been rigorously examined in relation to global health ethics, a major site of scholarly effort towards GHR that promotes justice and fairness. We carried out a discourse analysis of four guidance documents relevant to the ethical practice of GHR, purposively selecting texts covering different genres (UN documents and journal articles) and prominent GHR foci (HIV and clinical trials). In light of increasing acknowledgement of the lessons Indigenous health scholarship holds for global health ethics, the four analyzed texts also included a set of principles developed to support Indigenous nation-building. Three of four documents featured global disparities as reasons for ethical caution. These inequalities appeared without explanation or causes, with generation of new scientific knowledge following as a logical response to such disparities. The fourth – Indigenous health-focused – document clearly identified ‘colonialism’ as a reason for both inequities in society, and related harmful research practices. Solutions to disparities in this text did not necessarily involve cutting-edge research, but focused instead on empowerment and responsiveness to community priorities and needs. These contrasting representations of the world were accomplished in ways that depended on texts’ ‘participants’, or the people they represented; specific vocabularies or language usages; intertextual relationships to prior texts; and overall objectives or intentions of the author(s). Our results illustrate how ethics and other guidance documents serve as an important terrain for constructing, naturalizing or contesting problematic representations of the world of GHR. »

HP&P – Treatment of tuberculosis in complex emergencies in developing countries: a scoping review

G Munn-Mace et al; https://academic.oup.com/heapol/advance-article/doi/10.1093/heapol/czx157/4641881

« Almost 172 million people live in complex emergencies globally resulting from political and/or economic instability. The provision and continuity of health care in complex emergencies remain a significant challenge. Health agencies are often hesitant to implement tuberculosis programmes in particular because its treatment requires a longer commitment than most acute diseases. However, not treating tuberculosis promptly increases mortality and untreated tuberculosis further increases the incidence of tuberculosis. Given that complex emergencies are increasing globally, there is an urgent need to analyse the available evidence to improve our understanding of how best to deliver tuberculosis programmes in such settings. Using a scoping review method, we selected and analysed 15 studies on tuberculosis programmes in complex emergencies. We found that despite the challenges, tuberculosis programmes have been successful in complex emergencies. We identified seven cross-cutting factors that were found to be important: service providers and treatment regime, training and supervision, donor support, adherence, leadership and coordination, monitoring and government and community support. In general, programmes showed greater creativity and flexibility to adapt to the local conditions and at times, it also meant diverting from the WHO guidelines. We identify areas of further research including the need to study the effectiveness of programmes that divert from the WHO guidelines and their implication on drug resistance.”

SS&M – Health Policy: a Reflection and look forward

Winnie Yip; https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953617306573

“… Compared to most existing health policy and health system journals, SSM-HP distinguishes itself with its focus on scholarly investigation of health policy and system issues that is centrally grounded in social science theories and methodologies. It has therefore served as a unique and fertile platform for applied social scientists to publish their research in health policy and health systems. In addition to economics, which has traditionally played a strong role in health policy research, SSM-HP has attracted high quality and original research from the disciplines of political science, political economy, organizational behavior, institutional economics and, to a lesser extent, sociology and psychology. Selected Special Issues provide partial testimony to this achievement… …”

This piece also offers SS&M plans for the future (in terms of health policy related articles).

WHO Bulletin – Policy implications of big data in the health sector

E Vayena et al; http://www.who.int/bulletin/online_first/BLT.17.197426.pdf?ua=1

Worth a read.