Dear Colleagues,

In this week’s guest editorial, Anneleen De Keukelaere and Bridget Lloyd provide some information on the third People’s Health Assembly, scheduled for July. They write on behalf of the People’s Health Movement and hope to welcome many of you in Cape Town.

Enjoy your reading.

David Hercot,Kristof Decoster,Josefien Van Olmen, Basile Keugoung &Wim Van Damme


Editorial – Less than 4 months to go before the Third People’s Health Assembly

Approximately every 5 years, the People’s Health Movement (PHM) organises a People’s Health Assembly (PHA). This year from 6-11 July 2012, the Third People’s Health Assembly will take place at the University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa bringing health activists, civil society, academics, communities, health professionals, networks and individuals from across the world together to analyse global health and to strategise jointly towards Health for All.

Read the rest of this editorial here

Anneleen De Keukelaere and Bridget Lloyd, on behalf of PHM



Theme issue Lancet on China

1. Lancet (editorial) – What can be learned from China’s health system?

This week’s themed issue of the Lancet looks at how China has moved closer to its goal of universal, equitable, and sustainable health care, and reviews the challenges that still lie ahead and adjustments needed for successful reform. The issue coincides with the third anniversary of the country’s 2009 health reform plan, and a conference — Preventing NCDs in China: national agenda and local commitments—organised by the Shanghai Jiaotong University School of Medicine.


2. Lancet (Comment) – Trends in China’s reforms: the Rashomon effect

Lincoln Chen & Dong Xu;

The authors explore why the two pictures emerging about the Chinese health care system are so different. On the one hand, you have the rather positive assessments by people like Qun Meng and Winnie Yip  (both have articles in the Lancet’s themed issue). A markedly different picture is offered by Yanzhong Huang in Foreign Affairs. The article ‘Sick man of Asia: China’s Health Crisis’ paints a decidedly gloomy picture of the sector.


HIV/AIDS & Global Fund


3. GFO – new issue

Check out the following news in the new GFO issue: pressure continues to build on the Global Fund and donors to come up with additional funding to enable the Fund to approve new grants sooner than the current projection of 2014. There are signs that the donors and the Global Fund are listening.

Josef Decosas and David Mc Coy also wrote a Commentary on the flawed GF approach to Community Systems Strengthening (CSS).


4.  CSIS report – Righting the Global Fund

J. Stephen Morrison & Todd Summers;

The authors take a candid, fair-minded look back at the root causes of the Fund’s travails, and combine this with a positive but realistic look forward, focused on the emerging, fragile path to the Fund’s restabilization.


This Washington Post article is also a nice read – on how colonialism helped launch the HIV epidemic a century ago.



5. Lancet (editorial) – Counterfeit drugs: a growing global threat

A Lancet editorial published last week pointed out that counterfeit drugs are a growing global threat.

6. Pharma Times – Novartis explains stance over India patent law challenge

Keving Grogan;

Novartis has spoken out following criticism about its challenge to India’s patent laws, insisting that access to life-saving drugs is not under peril by the move.


On the Science Speaks blog, you can read why global health activists are so fired up about Novartis.


7. Plos Neglected Tropical Diseases – Improving Access to Medicines for Neglected Tropical Diseases in Developing Countries: Lessons from Three Emerging Economies

Francesca Holt et al.;

Currently, the dominant strategy for ensuring access to medicines for NTDs is drug donation from Western pharmaceutical companies. The authors claim a more sustainable approach is required. Unlike many developing countries, the emerging economies not only have a large NTD burden, but they are also beginning to show us a means of improving access to medicines for NTDs in a more sustainable fashion. They are developing their own policies of innovation, their own pharmaceutical industries, and their own medical solutions to NTDs. Their experiential knowledge can help to guide developing countries towards sustainable strategies to control NTDs.

The new WHO Bulletin (March) issue features an editorial on global shortages of medicines.


US & global health


8. Lancet – Offline: Is CDC a science-based organisation?

Richard Horton;

Richard Horton obviously knows the answer. In this Offline article he also dwells on the political bickering on UHC in India.


Speaking of political bickering, the US still trumps all other “democracies”. In Foreign Policy, Jack Chow wrote this article on Rick Santorum, claiming he would make a good global health president. (If that is really the case, we hope Rick will find the time to read up on the ‘ten condom commandments’ (see Irin).)


The Gates Foundation calls for innovative ways to say ‘that aid works’, in other words, advocacy. That is, in itself, innovative for the Gates Foundation ‘Grand Challenges’ Exploration program.


At a congressional briefing, global health leaders discussed the need for global health innovation. In another Congress (subcommittee) meeting, Hillary Clinton did not provide much detail on global health budget requests. Grumpy mood, perhaps.


Health policy & financing


9. Lancet (Correspondence) – The good news about cancer in developing countries—pathology answers the call

Drucilla Jane Roberts et al.;

The authors disagree with a Lancet Editorial and report stating that sub-Saharan Africa cannot offer adequate pathology and laboratory services and, therefore, institutions in resource-rich countries should provide them. Instead, with the new focus on NCDs, a major priority should be improvement of pathology and laboratory services globally.

10.    BMJ (Analysis) – Scientific evidence alone is not sufficient basis for health policy

Keith Humphreys & Peter Piot;

Keith Humphreys and Peter Piot argue that basing health policy solely on evidence is inherently contrary to the essence of policy development and even potentially dangerous. (however, basing health policy on everything but evidence is also not the way forward, we think).


11.    Plos – Why Does Mental Health Not Get the Attention It Deserves? An Application of the Shiffman and Smith Framework

Mark Tomlinson & Crick Lund;

The authors analyze why mental health does not garner the international attention, political priority, or funding that it deserves, and offer suggestions to improve the visibility of global mental health. (Perhaps it’s time for a global mental health ‘champion’? Anybody who feels like writing a blog on possible candidates?)


12.    Financial Times – Charity health campaign wound down

Andrew Jack;,Authorised=false.html?

The Switzerland-based Millennium Foundation, a UNITAID-funded campaign to solicit donations for health projects from airline travelers, “is being wound down after spending nearly $20 million to generate less than $300,000 over the past four years,” the Financial Times reports. “The lack of successful fundraising sparked concerns from health campaigners over the waste of scarce resources at a time when funding is declining and millions of people around the world are dying each year from HIV, tuberculosis and malaria,” the newspaper writes.


(As Metallica would have it: “Sad but true”.)


13.    Sarah Boseley – Tackling the last taboo

A simple test for pregnant women and immediate antibiotics could spell the end of congenital syphilis, which kills around a million babies every year. A new group was launched in London earlier this week to ensure that this test and treatment get to the women who need it. The Global Congenital Syphilis Partnership includes major players such as the Gates foundation, Save the Children, WHO and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, whose scientists developed the test.  (How about getting Rick on board?)

14.    Economist Intelligence Unit – The future of health care in Africa

“A wholesale restructuring of Africa’s healthcare systems will be necessary over the next ten years, including measures to expand access to healthcare, to focus on primary care and prevention, and to manage chronic conditions. These reforms can be achieved by giving local communities more control over their healthcare, by using mobile technologies, and by committing countries to a form of universal healthcare coverage.” These are the key findings of a new Economist Intelligence Unit report on “The future of healthcare in Africa”.


Obviously, it would help if health was included in the Rio+20 outcome document, as this AFGH blog post advocates.



15.    Cochrane Review –   Paying for performance to improve the delivery of health interventions in low- and middle-income countries

Sophie Witter et al;

The authors conclude: “The current evidence base is too weak to draw general conclusions; more robust and also comprehensive studies are needed. Performance-based funding is not a uniform intervention, but rather a range of approaches. Its effects depend on the interaction of several variables, including the design of the intervention (e.g. who receives payments, the magnitude of the incentives, the targets and how they are measured), the amount of additional funding, other ancillary components such as technical support, and contextual factors, including the organisational context in which it is implemented.”

16.    BMJ (news) – “Academic spring” sees widening boycott of Elsevier

Keith Epstein;

Elsevier has withdrawn its support for controversial US legislation that would have strengthened the company’s online paywall after a growing online boycott by thousands of researchers complaining of profit taking by scientific journals at their expense.



Some more research related news:


  • The WHO Country Planning Cycle database presents a country-by-country overview of national planning, health programmatic and project cycles together with information on donor involvement and technical support. The aim is to improve coordination and synchronization of country health system planning efforts. The database is developed and maintained by WHO in collaboration with partners. (This database might be interesting for those of us interested in alignment to country processes).
  • A new HP&P Review examines the evidence on integrating microfinance and health strategies.
  • On UHC: check out a new HP&P supplement on “Research to support universal coverage reforms in Africa: the SHIELD project”, edited by Diane McIntyre & Anne Mills  (focusing on UHC in Ghana, South-Africa and Tanzania). Check out also three other  UHC success stories, according to WHO’s  Providing for health (Burundi, Rwanda, and again Ghana). By ‘success stories’ they mean ‘works in progress, but on the right track towards UHC’.

Development & Aid


Before we give a round-up of the Development & Aid news that caught our attention this week, we would like to encourage you to register for a Newsletter on Development & Aid by the Antwerp Institute IOB ( Institute of Development Policy and Management ). It’s called ‘Friday Update’, and you can register here. Highly recommended! Every week they provide a selection of the most relevant development & aid related news. You find some of the people involved in this newsletter here.



As for development news we found interesting, relevant and/or provocative this week:

  • Jonathan Glennie reckons the dependency theory is still relevant today, in the Guardian.
  • The World Bank probably thinks otherwise, but then again, the WB is in the midst of a selection process for a new boss, so who knows what “the Bank” will think in the near future. Jeffrey Sachs points out what a WB for a new world should look like, in a Project Syndicate op-ed.  Some people think he would make an excellent WB leader himself, check out for example this blog on The Hill. Not everybody is convinced, though. (This week, a new WB report also claimed that the MDG goal of halving poverty has been met.)
  • In the run-up to a G20 summit in Mexico (in June), a CFR article by Patrick Stewart explores what the G20 should do.
  • An ODI background note (by Harry Jones) aims to promote evidence-based decision making in development agencies.
  • We haven’t managed to read this new report on Energy Security yet, but it looks like fascinating material. The Corner House published the report, titled: “Energy Security, for what, for whom?”
  • Charles Kenny wrote another intriguing article this week, in Foreign Policy, claiming that we’re all the 1 Percent. That is, Western middle class. Interesting read, although we do not agree – discourse should focus much more on the 0.1 % rather than the 1 %, for example.
  • Charles also spent some time on contemplating the MDGs 2.0, over the last fortnight. He thinks the new goals will still need numbers.  Unlike for power (with equally important hard and soft power), soft goals are a risk.

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