Dear Colleagues,


As the world has already paid enough attention to the latest Republican (so-called) gaffe, let’s kick off with a few announcements this week. 

  • Our ihpnetwork-email account ( ) had some trouble in recent weeks, but now the IT guys have sorted things out. So if you sent us an important message recently, perhaps it’s better to send it again.
  • An announcement for the journalists among you (or if you happen to know a journalist from a low or middle-income country, please forward): the 2nd Global Symposium on Health Systems Research invites journalists from LMICs to apply for travel support, expenses and registration to attend the upcoming Health Systems Research Symposium in Beijing ( scheduled from October 31 to November 3). The event will focus on ‘Inclusion and Innovation towards Universal Health Coverage and will showcase research on the way health systems do and don’t work. August 31, 2012 is the deadline for applications. Application forms and information are available on the Symposium website in the media section.

Given recent public health news on India (see last week’s newsletter), we invited a few knowledgeable colleagues to write something on the latest events and trends in the country. 

Enjoy your reading.

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





Universal health coverage in India: muddling through the quagmire

by Prashanth NS, Upendra Bhojani & Werner Soors (India desk at ITM)

Ever since the Indian government’s Planning Commission’s (PC) high-level expert group (HLEG) came out with their 300-odd page report on universal health coverage in October last year, how to reach that much desired universal health coverage has become the central question. The HLEG report made clear statements about existing policy alternatives, distancing itself from insurance in spite of ambitious insurance schemes being piloted all and sundry in various Indian states, instead unequivocally calling for a government guarantee for cashless primary, secondary and tertiary care. This position was repeated last week by the chairman of the expert group. However, the HLEG stopped short of providing a more detailed roadmap. This, it left to the PC and ultimately to the policymakers.

Read the rest of the editorial here


Ecological public health


1.     BMJ (Analysis) – Ecological public health: the 21st century’s big idea? An essay by Tim Lang and Geof Rayner

Tim Lang & Geof Rayner;

Public health thinking requires an overhaul. Tim Lang and Geof Rayner outline five models and traditions, and argue that ecological public health—which integrates the material, biological, social, and cultural aspects of public health—is the way forward for the 21st century.

2.     BMJ (Analysis) – Why corporate power is a public health priority

Gerard Hastings;

The marketing campaigns of multinational corporations are harming our physical, mental, and collective wellbeing. Gerard Hastings urges the public health movement to take action.

Speaking of the corporate sector, a Lancet editorial zooms in on last week’s (rather encouraging) news on tobacco control from Australia.


3.     IHP Blog – Global health is no longer bipartisan in the US, whether we like it or not.

Kristof Decoster;

Given the urgent climate threat, I argue that global health is no longer bipartisan in the US (but I might be just another ignorant EuropeanJ).  Many people think the 2010s is the crucial decade if we still want to avert the worst climate change scenarios (aka “runaway climate change”). The political implication is that a Romney/Ryan Administration should be avoided at all cost, given the current GOP profile. A Republican administration would not only refrain from taking the lead on climate change, it would probably even obstruct global climate change policy and negotiations ( a couple of examples: Americans eating less hamburgers? ( that would be no doubt “un-American”); Supporting the Green climate fund ? Setting America on a low-carbon path? (see how the Republicans behaved at the time of Obama’s Recovery Act, when he tried to do that) .

There are numerous global heal aims to be addressed in this and the coming decades, but trying to avert catastrophic climate change is probably the most important one, and time is running out. If we fail, chances are that UHC will be an afterthought by 2030.  (Remark: you can safely skip the first paragraph on Paul “not known for flipflopping” Ryan: as soon as he was on the ticket, he began flipflopping – Romney is obviously contagious).




4.     BMJ (news) – Romney’s running mate backtracks on plans to slash health insurance cover for older people

Janice Hopkins Tanne;

Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan has vowed to protect Medicare, the federal health insurance programme for older people, for people over 55, and those already on the scheme, but said he will reform the scheme in the future.

A NYT article zoomed in on truth and lies about Medicare.

As for Medicaid, you can find a nice visualization of the programme now, and the role it would play under ACA, in  JAMA  (KFF analysis).

This week, JAMA also offers a Perspective on national medical research policy in the States, and confronts it with Asian countries’ national medical research policies (like China, Taiwan, …).


5.     CSIS global health policy center (report) – Investing in a safer United States: what is global health security and why does it matter?

Rebecca Millar & Scott F. Dowell;

Leaders in the US increasingly recognize the importance of investing in global health security.


Gender issues & reproductive health


6.     Lancet (Editorial) – Opening the door on gender-based violence

This Lancet editorial applauds the US’s first ever “Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally”.


7.     Open Democracy – An HIV-free generation: human sciences vs plumbing

Alice Welbourn;

The top down medical bio-fix behind the new Global Plan for an AIDS-free generation will not work without shifting the status quo to include women’s rights and generally involve women more, this author argues.  The focus of this article is on ‘Treatment as Prevention’ and problems with it, from the perspective of women diagnosed with HIV.


8.     Lancet (Comment) – 40 years of innovation in sexual and reproductive health

Michael T. Mbizvo et al.;

The authors explore the 40 years of activity so far of the Human Reproduction Unit (HPR). The unit started within WHO, but in 1988 the UN Development Programme, UN Population Fund, and the World Bank joined WHO as official co-sponsors of HRP.


9.     WHO Bulletin (early online ) – Women, abortion and the new technical and policy guidance from WHO

Mahmoud F Fathalla & Rebecca J Cook;

WHO updated its 2003 publication “Safe abortion: technical and policy guidance for health systems” recently. The authors comment.


10. Sarah Boseley – Misoprostol – a pill that saves women’s lives or an excuse not to give them care?

The evidence for the safety and efficacy of misoprostol, used to prevent or stop haemorrage of women in childbirth, continues to be furiously contested. A new article in the Journal of the Royal Society of medicine claims it doesn’t work. Reaction to the article is already fierce.

Other news related to women’s health: Brazilian women increasingly fight the (over)use of C-section.



Health Policy & Financing



11. TMIH (Editorial ) – Poor-quality medical products: time to address substandards, not only counterfeits

Raffaella M. Ravinetto, Marleen Boelaert, Jan Jacobs, Corinne Pouget, Christophe Luyckx ;

Over recent years, a growing number of global initiatives have been launched to fight the illegal counterfeit medicines, which have become quite a well-known issue, also for the general public and lay press. Conversely, substandards have remained poorly or not addressed, despite being a more widespread problem, highly prevalent in resource-poor settings and at least as dangerous as counterfeits.


12. Journal of Public Health Policy – Global oral public health – the current situation and recent developments

Kenneth A. Eaton.;

Eaton explores the current global oral public health situation, including its link with the rise of NCDs on the international agenda.

The same journal, Journal of Public Health Policy, also has a special section with an HIV-AIDS policy roundtable discussion.


13. IRIN Plus – HIV/AIDS: Religion not a barrier to HIV treatment

Recent research suggests that religious beliefs may not be a barrier to ART treatment,” IRIN/Plus News reports. “A survey published in the medical journal HIV Medicine in June found that strong religious beliefs about faith and healing among black Africans living in London were unlikely to act as a barrier to accessing HIV testing and ARV treatment.” The results seem to reinforce previous African studies, which found that the decision to start treatment is usually based on the level of education and knowledge of ARVs, rather than religion.


14. OSISA & OSF report – The First to Go: How communities are being affected by the Global Fund Crisis

The Global Fund’s cancellation of Round 11 came at a pivotal time in southern Africa, this report from the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) and the Open Society Foundations (OSF) says. Examining the impacts of the cancellation of Round 11 on efforts in Malawi, Swaziland and Zimbabwe, the report says support for civil society efforts was the first to go, but also notes that the cancellation had system wide impacts and lost opportunities.


15. Global Health Observer

At the 3rd People’s Health Assembly members of the INCO-GHIs consortium organized a session on accountability, entitled “Global Health Initiatives, Civil Society and the Evolution of Accountability: Building responsive health related organisations by promoting accountability beyond financial transparency”. It focused on accountability issues of responsiveness and representation in the context of increased civil society interaction in global and country agenda setting, governance and policy implementation with particular attention to new Global health initiatives, given their role in enhancing NGO/CSO participation.


16. Clinical Medicine – Austerity: a failed experiment on the people of Europe

Martin McKee et al.;

Austerity policies in the eurozone have not only been an economic failure, they’re also a health disaster. McKee and co-authors compare with the US stimulus policy.


Global health bits and pieces


  •  WHO released the 2012 Verbal Autopsy instrument, a major new global resource for systematically recording the details of deaths.
  •  You probably also heard about the new mysterious HIV-style disease affecting Asians (not contagious apparently).
  •  Humanosphere focuses on a new way to make money for malaria control and raise awareness, using celebrities.
  •  GM mosquitoes are released on a massive scale to counter dengue fever in Brazil and other countries, but profit seems to be even more important.




We would like to draw your attention to a number of recent publications:

  • BMC Public Health  – Implementing new health interventions in developing countries: why do we lose a decade or more? (by Alan Brooks et al.)  The authors undertook an analysis of the time required to begin implementation of four vaccines and three malaria interventions. They evaluated five milestones for each intervention, and assessed if the milestones were associated with beginning implementation. They screened WHO databases to determine the number of years between first regulatory approval of interventions, and countries beginning implementation.
  • Plos Medicine –  An Alternative Framework for Analyzing Financial Protection in Health (by Jennifer Prah Ruger). Ruger argues for a more multi-dimensional assessment of financial protection in health, which can better capture health expenditures and the full burden of health cost burdens.
  • JECH – A new typology of policies to tackle health inequalities and scenarios of impact based on Rose’s population approach (by Joan Benach et al.)
  • Global Health Action  – Assessing research activity on priority interventions for non-communicable disease prevention in low- and middle-income countries: a bibliometric analysis (by Amanda C. Jones et al.)


Development & Aid


17. (UN) World Economic and social survey 2012 – In search of new development finance

The 2012 World Economic and Social Survey confirms the potential of innovative development financing, but concludes that realizing this potential will require new types of international agreements and changes in global governance. This document gives a nice overview of the ‘innovative development financing’ options.


18. UN thematic think pieces on post-2015

This ODI webpage offers a list of the thematic think pieces produced by the UN System Task Team on some of the key issues of the post-2015 development agenda.


South Africa mining massacre

An Open Democracy article (by Roger Southall) zooms in on unions, politicians, the police and employers.


Meles Zenawi

  • The Sahel blog gives a roundup of the reactions to the death of Ethiopian prime minister Meles Zenawi.
  • Other articles you might want to read include Mark Tran’s assessment of Zenawi’s legacy (in the Guardian) and an older post by Owen Barder, on why we should ask the Ethiopians themselves what the future will bring, not Western observers.


  • a couple of interesting blogs by CGD’s John May (here and here) on population and fertility issues, and their link with an increase in inequity.
  • The UN’s Green Climate Fund met for the first time yesterday, in Geneva. An IPS article sketches some of the problems.
  • Three ODI background notes (on US, UK & Japan) map some of the different ways in which public finance from the United States, UK and Japan is mobilising private investment in climate compatible development, and identify some early emerging trends.  (see
  • Owen Barder has a blog post on the importance of scrutinizing illicit financial flows, with a view on developing countries. Obviously he was inspired by the new (looser) tax rules for British MNCs by Osbourne.
  • Simon Maxwell comes back on the hunger summit, and gives the summit five stars!
  • Devex gives an overview of the most powerful women in development.
  • Simon Johnson argues that the US is an exceptional country, even when it comes to fiscal conservatism (on the Project Syndicate website).
  • Another excellent Project Syndicate Op-Ed zooms in on the work of Thomas Piketty, a French economist. Might slow growth and rising inequality be connected? (an important hypothesis for developed countries)
  • Now that the Occupy Wall Street movement is fading away, political scientists try to interpret the movement. In this Dissent article you can find four possible explanations for OWS, and an assessment which ones are more likely.
  • Finally, the World Bank’s Edward Carr has an interesting post on country graduation from IDA (International Development Association, a WB branch focused on assistance to the world’s poorest countries) eligibility.

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