Dear Colleagues,
We are very happy to offer you this “UHC in the Year of the Dragon viewpoint from two Emerging Voices, live from the PMAC conference in Bangkok on Universal Coverage. (Click on the links to see some pictures from Emerging Voices in Bangkok on Facebook and to follow PMAC news on Twitter.

UHC in the year of the dragon and at Guantanomo Bay
Through the looking glass of invited participants at the 2012 Prince Mahidol Award Conference (PMAC), experiencing Thailand
David Hercot, Kristof Decoster, Josefien Van Olmen, Basile Keugoung and Wim Van Damme


Global Fund

1. Aidspan (new issue) – Kazatchkine resigns

Click here to read the article @ Aidspan

You probably all know by now. Earlier this week, Michel Kazatchkine announced that he will “step down” as Executive Director of the Global Fund by mid-March. He said that his planned resignation resulted from a decision by the GF Board two months ago to appoint a General Manager who will supervise many Global Fund activities and who will report direct to the Board. (the timing of his resignation could have to do something with a big Global Fund event in France, in February).


2. Aidspan (Commentary) – The Transformation of the Global Fund – Concerns and Opportunities

David Mc Coy; Aidspan article

“This is a significant and even bewildering time for the Global Fund</em>,” says Dr David McCoy. “ It is undergoing not just a financial and fiduciary crisis, but also a process of transformation. And multiple agendas are in play… While it is too early to predict the final impact of all the changes, given their unclear (and, at times, contradictory) nature, there is still opportunity to shape the eventual outcomes of the transformation.”

3. Gates foundation – Annual letter

Annual letter @

In his yearly letter, Gates pays a lot of attention to global health, including the Global Fund, as well as to one of his other pet projects: innovation and research for agriculture. In Davos, he also pledged 750 million to the GF, dismissing claims of misuse. Needless to say, a much needed boost for the GF.

Lots of other influential global health voices already commented on the Global Fund news. In the Guardian, Sarah Boseley wonders whether this implies the Fund will become less multilateral (and thus more American). There were also quick but thorough reactions from Laurie Garrett on her blog, and from Jack Chow on the Global Health Governance blog.

Meanwhile, however, far away from Davos, the picture is bleak:

4. Science Speaks (blog) – MSF reports “horrific” HIV treatment access in Congo

Meredith Mazzotta;

“The conditions surrounding access to care for people living with HIV/AIDS in DRC are horrific,” according to a press release issued Wednesday from MSF.

PMAC conference in Bangkok

As you might have guessed, the PMAC conference is still in full swing. Apparently, the whole city is covered in a ‘dragon’ atmosphere.

5. IHP blog – Monitoring UHC: will providers bear the burden?

David Hercot;

Plenty of colleagues and Emerging Voices are in Bangkok, as you already noticed in the guest-editorial. We hope to offer more insights from sessions, next week. For now, David already wrote this contribution on a session he attended.

The ‘UHC forward’ blog also features a conversation with dr. Suwit Wibulpolprasert, on lessons from the Thai experience.

WHO reform

Last week we already reported on the WHO Executive Board session. Some more comments and news:

6. MMI – The World Health Organization, its reform and its future relevance

Remco van de Pas;

Whether WHO will be relevant or not for member states will not so much be determined by a process of reform, but rather if there will be (a threat of) a pandemic viral outbreak in the coming decade, according to van de Pas.

And according to the Times of India, India seems to have played an important role in getting mental health on the agenda.

Health policy and financing

7. BMJ (news) – UK launches new initiative against neglected tropical diseases

Peter Moszynski;

The UK government has announced a fivefold increase in spending on combating neglected tropical diseases as part of an international effort to help rid the world of a group of infectious diseases that currently affect one billion people and kill more than half a million every year. The move comes ahead of a conference hosted by the Gates Foundation in London on 30 January, when governments, charities, multilateral organisations, and the private sector will unite “to help consign the diseases to history.”

Karen Grepin dedicated a blog post to this joyful news.

8. Foreign Policy Assocation (blog) – Update on “Totally Drug Resistant” Tuberculosis

Julia Robinson;

Julia Robinson thinks drug resistance is a serious, emerging issue that may very well define the next stage of global health.

A ‘Smart Global Health’ blog post also dwells on drug-resistant TB – what is it, why is it here, and how should we respond?

9. CGD (blog ) – Love Thy Neighbor(s): The Need for Herd Immunity

Denizhan Duran;

In a post related to the good news on polio in India, CGD’s Denizhan Duran reckons vaccination should be perceived as a global public good across the world; achieving herd immunity requires coordinated action to increase vaccination levels.

CSIS also published a new report on polio eradication in India.

10. BMJ (news) – Momentum to tackle non-communicable diseases must be maintained

Matthew Limb;

World bodies and national governments should act urgently and work harder to engage the public in a global fight against non-communicable diseases, a conference of experts has heard. The Cambridge Post-UN Summit Conference on Non-Communicable Diseases and Mental Health in Developing Countries was hosted by Cambridge University on 20 January.

In related NCD news, Project Syndicate featured an op-ed on the ‘Non-Communicable Disease Paradox’. (We reckon, if you want to reach the average citizen, Project Syndicate is a great tool.)

11. European Journal of Public Health – There is an alternative: public health professionals must not remain silent at a time of financial crisis

David Stuckler &amp; Martin McKee;

By way of exception – normally we don’t cover Europe in this newsletter, but these are extraordinary times in the Eurozone – we provide this excellent viewpoint from two of the most outspoken global health voices.

In the Christmas edition of BMJ they also published a very nice perspective, by the way, in which they watched “aghast as American examples are followed to destroy the European model of the welfare state”. To be followed on our tv screens and in our newspapers, every day. It’s up to all of us to not let this happen. Alternatively, we could set up a new welfare state on the moon.

Finally we also want to draw your attention to this delightful blog post (by Richard Smith) on the influence of feminism in global health, on the BMJ website.


12. Global Public Health – Human rights in health systems frameworks: What is there, what is missing and why does it matter?

Sofia Gruskin et al.;

Building on recent work assessing the extent to which features compatible with the right to health are incorporated into national health systems, the authors examine how health systems frameworks have thus far integrated human rights concepts and human rights-based approaches to health in their conceptualisation.

13. Social Science &amp; Medicine – The implementation of a Global Fund Grant in Lesotho: applying a framework on knowledge absorptive capacity

Regien Bisma et al.;

For this case study, the authors applied Cuellar and Gallivan’s framework on knowledge absorptive capacity. The grant applied to Round 5.

14. Global Health Europe – The Case for Europe as a Leader in Research and Innovation for Global Health

Samantha Batthams et al.;

This working paper from November 2011 explores the potential and makes recommendations for Europe’s role in research and innovation to improve global health. It highlights the need for coherence between Horizon 2020 and other key EU policies, including that on the EU’s role in global health, and the potential for global health research to play an instrumental role in achieving Europe 2020 goals of growth, innovation and social inclusion. The paper was presented at a session at the World Health Summit, Berlin, October 2011, and is – after some finetuning – now finalized.

Development & Aid

15. Global Dashboard (briefing paper) – Sustainable Development Goals – a useful outcome from Rio+20?

Alex Evans and David Steven;

Recent months have seen increasing interest in the idea that Rio+20 could be the launch pad for a new set of ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDGs). But what would SDGs cover, what would a process to define and then implement them look like, and what would some of the key political challenges be? This short briefing sets out a short summary of current thinking the issue, followed by thoughts about the way forward.

Obviously, there’s still some time to go till Rio+20.

Global attention is focused this week on the yearly ‘World Economic Forum’ event in the Swiss winter resort Davos. And guess what; ‘Davos man’ feels a bit ‘dystopic’, these days, not unlike much of the rest of the world population. ‘Capitalism is in crisis’, was the title of a special series in the Financial Times a few weeks ago, and most of the big shots in Davos seem to agree – they all read the FT. As for how to overcome this crisis, opinions are less unanimous (if not clueless). Some people even say Davos is not really the place (anymore) to be if you want to get a handle on the global economy. Nevertheless, it’s still a place of quiet, rational and occasionally sharp debate, at least when compared to the Republican presidential candidates’ freaky “reality show”. Even Fidel Castro thinks he’s never seen anything as dumb, we read somewhere.

Anyway, from a global health angle, Bill Gates stole the limelight, not for the first time, in Davos – with his annual letter and pledge to the Global Fund. As for Bill’s emphasis on more research for agriculture, you might want to read this ODI blog post.

According to a gloomy Gideon Rachman in Foreign Policy, the ‘win-win world’ is over, at least for a while. Global Dashboard also has a great post on the need for globalisation 3.0.

Finally, the Guardian’s Poverty matters blog again had lots of great stuff this week. We were struck by this piece, for example. Aid alone is not enough to pay for the MDGs; transparency and accountability are equally essential if tax revenues are to be used to plug the financing gap.

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