Dear Colleagues,

NCDs are hot, these days, and Bjorn Lomborg from the Copenhagen Consensus reckons they should be even hotter.

We try our best, Bjorn. In this week’s guest editorial, Grace Ku comments on the 4th edition of the Geneva Health Forum. The event focused on “chronic conditions which pose major challenges to health systems in high and low-income countries, in stable and emergency situations.”

Enjoy your reading.

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




“To cure sometimes, to relieve often, to comfort always.”

(Edward Livingstone Trudeau)


Grace Marie V. Ku (Medical Specialist at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City, Philippines & PhD Student at ITM)

The 4th edition of the Geneva Health Forum, attended by an optimal mix of representatives of academia, civil society, researchers, entrepreneurs, media, international organizations, diplomatic missions and the private sector, tackled issues regarding chronic conditions and provided an excellent opportunity to expose policy makers to the grassroots level of caring for chronic conditions. […]

Read the rest of the editorial here


Global Health Policy & Financing


1. Lancet (editorial) – Patient empowerment: who empowers whom?

This editorial comments on the first European Conference on Patient Empowerment, recently held in Copenhagen. Empowerment is vital, not the least in chronic-disease management. “In countries such as China and India, health systems will only be able to cope with the onslaught of chronic disease with patient empowerment”, said Ilona Kickbusch.  (but the American embassay can also help)


2. Lancet (editorial) – Rebalancing the planet

This Lancet editorial ponders the findings of a recent Royal Society report, “People and the planet”, which focuses not only on population growth but also on consumption. The report comes ahead of theRio+20 summit. The Lancet editors emphasize health should be a much bigger priority there, especially given the challenge of population growth.


From that point of view, it’s regrettable that Horton refers (approvingly?) to the words of John Beddington, the UK government chief scientific advisor, in his weekly Offline contribution “… And his warning to scientists not to be politically naive: if science is to command the support of government, scientists will have to prove that their research contributes to economic growth.“  We don’t know how this stance can be combined with one of the focal points of the Royal Society report, i.e. that the developed world should decrease its consumption. It’s not as if politicians are always right.


3. USAID – USAID’s global health strategic framework

This document sets out a strategic framework for USAID’s global health sector for 2012–2016. It incorporates the principles of the Global Health Initiative, which form the foundation of their work, is set within USAID’s core development mission and priorities, and promotes an inclusive and integrated approach to global health across the US Government for a more effective and efficient approach to sustainable global health outcomes.


This week, Foreign Policy also has an interview with USAID boss, Rajiv Shah. The chat goes a bit broader than global health, though.


4. WHO reform – Consolidated report by the Director-General

This report, which forms part of a package of documentation on reform, presents Member States with a comprehensive overview of the reform programme. It is organized in three sections, which address the three substantive areas of WHO reform: programmes and priority setting, governance and management.


5. Reuters – Toilet “taboo” hurts poor, development says expert

Governments are failing to fund projects to improve access to toilets and other sanitation services in poor countries because the subject remains taboo, a director at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said on Monday. (We have a suggestion to overcome this ‘last taboo’; perhaps  Salt N Pepa can make a new version of their eighties hit, “Let’s talk about shit, baby, let’s talk about you and me, …” ? With Bill and Melinda in the video clip ?)


HIV/AIDS & Global Fund


6. Science Speaks – UN: World will fall short of ambitious 2015 HIV/AIDS goals

Meredith Mazzotta;

A new report to the UN General Assembly released on Monday outlines the progress made towards reaching the 2015 HIV/AIDS targets, and the challenges still to overcome to reach them on time. In this blog post, Meredith Mazzotta lists the shortcomings of the fight against AIDS and concludes that more money is definitely needed if we want to reach the 2015 global HIV/AIDS targets.


KFF brought us some good news, though, from a just released study on Rwanda. The study shows that aid for AIDS did not jeopardise the fight against other major diseases in Rwanda. To some extent it even contributed to HSS. This is very much in line with the conceptual model developed by Van Damme et al. on the contribution of disease control programmes to the strengthening of health systems.


But not only money matters. On the regulatory front, we welcome a regional HIV/AIDS bill, passed by East Africa’s Legislative Assembly. The bill seeks to protect the rights of people living with HIV and harmonize regional legislation and policy on the prevention and treatment of HIV.


7. Reuters – Fund fighting killer diseases cuts jobs, to focus on 20 countries

Global Fund General Manager Gabriel Jaramillo said in a statement that the fund has completed a re-organization that rebalances its workforce. In total, staff was reduced by 50 units only, out of 650. But 38% of the positions are moved to grant management instead of supportive functions.


By the way, the first version of the article by Reuters contained serious mistakes and AIDSPAN took the initiative to ask for some corrections,  as the Global Fund itself hadn’t done so. That is a mistake, reckons Bernard Rivers (from GFO), especially given the AP coverage from last year, and how it went viral. You can find some more news on the Fund in the latest issue of the Global Fund observer. Noteworthy is, for example, the decision by France to reserve 5% of its contribution to the fund for Technical Assistance. Who said ownership was part of the Paris declaration?




8. Report from The March of Dimes Foundation, The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, Save the Children and The World Health Organization  – Born too soon

Each year, some 15 million babies in the world, or more than one in 10 births, are born too early, according to the just released report Born too soon: the global action report on preterm birth. 1.1 Million preterm babies die every year, but with inexpensive treatment 75% could survive, the authors of the report argue.


KFF provides an overview of some of the blog posts that addressed the report and its findings. Sarah Boseley also commented.


9. Guttmacher institute – Just the Numbers:
The Impact ofU.S. International Family Planning Assistance

The Guttmacher Institute provides an overview of what could be achieved (or missed) if the $610 million appropriated for U.S. assistance for family planning and reproductive health programs for FY 2012 are disbursed (or withheld).


10.    WSJ (editorial) – What Britain’s Foreign Aid Buys

This WSJ editorial comes back on a recent Guardian article on possible DFID involvement in forced sterilization in India. DFID officials have denied the allegations, and provided some clarification.


Finally, we also want to draw your attention to a Reuters profile of Seth Berkeley, chief executive of GAVI. Where does his drive come from?


Global Health Research


11.    BMJ (news) – Global health research needs to focus on clinical trials to deliver products for patients, says report

Bob Roehr;

The focus of investments into global health research should switch from basic research to clinical trials to translate the findings from the past 10 years into products that benefit people, says a recently published report from two international charities. The US government provided about $12.7bn in global health research over the past decade, 45% of total world investment and 70% of all government investment in the field, says the report.


12.    WHO Bulletin – Securing the public good of health research and development for developing countries

John-Arne Røttingen et al.;

The authors (from the Consultative Expert Working Group on Research and Development Financing and Coordination) give a set of recommendations on global policy efforts to promote R&D relevant to the specific needs of developing countries. They obviously hope these recommendations will be acted upon at the 65th WHA in May.


This article is part of the May issue of WHO Bulletin, which focuses on e-health.


13.    Center for Global Health R&D Policy assessment – WHO Expert Group supports binding convention on health R&D for developing countries

Soma Ghoshal;

Soma Ghoshal interviewed Judit Rius Sanjuan, US Manager of the Access Campaign of MSF to find out more about the origins, significance, and likely impact of the CEWG’s work.


14.    Health & Human Rights – Bridging international law and rights-based litigation: Mapping health-related rights through the development of the Global Health and Human Rights Database

Benjamin Mason Meier et al.;

The O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University, the WHO, and the Lawyers Collective have come together to develop a searchable Global Health and Human Rights Database that maps the intersection of health and human rights in judgments, international and regional instruments, and national constitutions.


Other network news


The People’s Health Movement released its (May) newsletter, and so did the MMI network.


Conferences, workshops & events


* Today is the last day of a Regional Forum on Health Care Financing in Phnom Penh. Delegations from countries of the sub-Mekong region ( + the Philippines and Indonesia) gathered to identify challenges related to progress of their countries towards UHC. The event also marked the launch of a Community of practice dedicated to health care financing in Asia. You can find the power points of the forum at Health Space Asia.  Feel free to join the CoP: http://HCF.HealthSpace.Asia.

* Announcement: the ‘Latin American and Caribbean global health conference’ is scheduled for January 9-11, 2013, and will take place in Santiago, Chile. Invited speakers are, among others, Ronald Labonte, Julio Frenk and Ilona Kickbush.

* You find an account of last week’s COHRED conference in Cape Town on the BMJ blog.


Emerging voices


15.    PLOS – The Midwives Service Scheme in Nigeria

Seye Abimbola et al.;

Seye Abimbola and colleagues describe and evaluate their program in Nigeria of recruiting midwives to rural areas to provide skilled attendance at birth, which is much poorer than in urban areas.


Development & Aid


Some articles that stood out this week:


  • Jonathan Glennie on MDG+ and David Cameron. Apparently the UK leader is a ‘good listener’…
  • Over to the Rio+ 20 preparations then. The talks seem to be rather focused on techno-fixes, reported earlier this week. Yet, the same website also reported yesterday that there is a rush to get a ‘tangible’ SDG outcome (read: targets). The setting of internationally agreed SDGs at the Rio+20 summit has emerged as a dominant likely outcome.
  • Jack Chow wrote an entertaining piece in Foreign Policy on the use of drones for development purposes – like access to antiretroviral drugs. (If that doesn’t get the Republicans on board, then what will?).
  • The Guardian assesses the outcome of the recent UNCTAD conference.
  • Living up to its recent reputation, Canadacut aid (with the exception of aid to middle-income trading partners, that is). Before we start blaming Harper though, it’s good to know that the EU aid is not all that different, according to some British MPs (who examined the UK contribution to EU development assistance). Too much money goes to higher middle income countries.
  • The World Bank dedicated a site to the upcoming World Development Report on Jobs. Check it out.

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