Dear Colleagues,
This week we started an evaluation of our weekly newsletter. We randomly selected a number of subscribers, and hope many of them will give us their feedback in the coming days. Some of them have already done so, thanks a lot for this. As for the subscribers that didn’t get an explicit request for feedback, please remember that we always welcome spontaneous feedback. So feel free to let us know what we can improve, what we should cover more (or less) in our newsletter, whether you think we’d better refrain from taking too explicit stances, etc.
In his weekly Offline Lancet article, Richard Horton is characteristically undiplomatic. This time DFID is being singled out: “DFID’s approach to science is alarming universities tendering for research contracts. The central charge is that DFID is not committed to serious science, only to mediocre policy work. Independent panels of expert scientists are not the norm at DFID when it reviews research proposals. Its processes seem neither rigorous nor transparent. DFID is not interested in engaging with scientists about their work. Officials do not follow tried and tested best practices of peer review. Scoring errors are not infrequent. Conflicts of interest seem to be poorly managed. All in all, DFID undervalues the very institutions of science that could help most in strengthening the value (for money) of its work.” That must come from deep inside…
In the US, last weekend’s budget compromise and Obama’s speech on the gargantuan budget fight that looms ahead, were big news. Looks like the president is, at last, drawing a line in the sand, and gearing up for a proper fight. Meanwhile, in the debate about budget cuts, global health is obviously not the only target. Even the right of women to control their fertility is being attacked, albeit it in a stealth way. Argumentation doesn’t need to be factual in the congress apparently, although we don’t share Gail Collins’ surprise at this.
The new WB development report, on conflict security and development, was also published this week, and welcomed in many parts of the aid community. Some early assessments you can find here (from the Guardian’s Jonathan Glennie) and here (ODI blog post – ‘not business as usual at the bank’).
Finally, we also want to draw your attention to the ICASA 2011 conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa, scheduled for December, in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia. 31 May is the deadline for submitting abstracts. We hope to see many of you over there.
Enjoy your reading.
David Hercot, Kristof Decoster, Josefien Van Olmen, Basile Keugong & Wim Van Damme



1.       Lancet series on stillbirth

Despite advances in medical and health technology about 2.6 million third trimester stillbirths worldwide occur every year with Africa being the worst hit, a new report has shown. This means, globally, every day more than 7,300 babies are stillborn.Endorsed by WHO, the report is the first comprehensive set of stillbirth estimates published, within a special series in the medical journal The Lancet.
We recommend you to read the Comment by Mullan & Horton. Most articles are freely available online: and sbs2 and 3 …
Sarah Boseley comments on this Lancet series, and argues that fear of the anti-abortion lobby was partly to blame for delayed action on stillbirths. For KarenGrepin, the take-home message is: “The main set of interventions that likely reduce stillbirths are exactly the same ones that are needed to address both maternal and child health.”

2.      SAMSS – the Sub-Saharan African Medical Schools Study

A SAMSS  (Sub-Saharan African Medical Schools Study)  report has been released, with an examination of the state of medical education in Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as various recommendations.

3.      Aidspan – a Beginner’s guide to the Global Fund – 2nd edition

There’s a new issue of the Global Fund Observer, with among others an article (by David Garmaise) on the fact that the Global Fund is working with national and international agencies to collaborate on ways to take concerted actions to stem drug thefts.
Aidspan also updated its Beginner’s guide to the Global Fund.

4.      IHP+ 2010 Performance results

The latest IHP+Results   report (PDF) was launched on 6 April. It provides a first systematic review of IHP+ progress based on a set of standard measures that have been agreed by the IHP+ signatories, which are based on the Paris Declaration indicators.
Is the IHP+ preparing a turn? Since its inception in 2007, the IHP+ has earned lots of comments from the global health community and from development countries officials, some positive, but mostly sceptical or even negative ones. The intention was no doubt good, applying the Paris declaration principles to health aid, but it has often been confronted to realpolitik. Among the findings: there is a considerable momentum around supporting a health plan based on a country’s own priorities; yet, on strengthening and using country systems to manage resources, less progress has been recorded.
The IHP  executive team will meet shortly and discuss the future of the IHP+. This is perhaps a good occasion for you to give your point of view. If you share your ideas with us, we’ll forward the information to the civil society representative at the IHP+. So please do not hesitate to comment online.

5.      Plos Global Health Philanthropy and Institutional Relationships: How Should Conflicts of Interest Be Addressed?

David Stuckler, Sanjay Basu, Martin McKee;
Stuckler et al. examine five large private global health foundations and report on the scope of relationships between these tax-exempt foundations and for-profit corporations, including major food and pharmaceutical companies.

6.      TMIH (viewpoint) – Achieving STOP TB Partnership goals: perspectives on development of new diagnostics, drugs and vaccines for tuberculosis

This viewpoint critically summarises the promising portfolio of more accurate TB diagnostics, new TB drugs and vaccines that have been endorsed by the STOP TB Partnership.

7.      Plos Perspective – The Quality of Medical Care in Low-Income Countries: From Providers to Markets

While problems of access are certainly salient for particular disadvantaged populations, quality is likely the constraining factor for the majority.


8.      Journal of social medicine (editorial) – Colombia’s New Health Reform: Keeping the Financial Sector Healthy

Mario Hernández Álvarez, Mauricio Torres-Tovar
Emerging voice Mauricio Torres-Tovar is co-author of this editorial in the Journal of social Medicine with an assessment of Colombia’s new health reform.
Another Emerging voice, Lalit Narayan, is co-author of this piece in the Lancet, on health professionals’ education.


9.      CGD –Vaccine Financing:Assessing Progress and Envisioning future Directions

Amanda Glassman & Katie Stein;
Glassman and Stein attended a CGD panel reflecting on progress and lessons learned in financing GAVI since 2001, and exploring implications for the next decade.

10.   Lancet – Development assistance for health: trends and prospects

Murray et al. give an update on development assistance for health in recent years and sketch likely trends for the near future.  Their conclusion: “Growth in global health spending will probably slow and might contract in 2011. We will enter a period of dramatically intensified competition for resources among the many important global health priorities. Although the global health community is unlikely to influence the politics of fiscal contraction, it can take on two specific challenges: provide compelling evidence that past and continuing investments are making an impact; and show that resources devoted to health programmes are an effective means to advance health and broader development goals.”
BMC also features an article on the effects of the global financial crisis on funding for health development in nineteen countries of the WHO African region.

11.   Let’s talk development (WB blog) – Health reform: A consensus emerging in Asia?

In the words of Wagstaff: “My sense is that while we health-reform aficionados are berating one another in the blogosphere, policymakers in Asia are quietly iterating toward something of a consensus on a whole swathe of key issues on health reform.” He mentions four issues in particular.

12.   AFGH – The road to Busan: making health aid work better

A new AFGH report (PDF) calls on Europe to do much more in terms of aid for the health sector. They need to do three things in particular: (1) improve health aid coordination through an appropriate mix of funding mechanisms; (2) directly support community systems strengthening; (3) managing for results (often misinterpreted as financing by results) and align with country efforts towards long term goals.

13.   Science Speaks – Fiscal Year 2011 budget deal takes hit at PEPFAR and NIH

The budget deal cut between House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Barack Obama calls for a 0.2 percent across-the-board cut in non-defense discretionary programs and contains further reductions for PEPFAR.
In other HIV/AIDS news, Elizabeth Lombina reports on the Poverty Change website that USAID has been financing HIV criminalization laws within Africa. The program is entitled Action for West Africa Region HIV-AIDS program (AWARE). Not a bad name, if you ask us.
14. Science speaks – Civil society compiles ‘asks’ for UN AIDS meeting; Orgs urge Obama to personally attend
A group of national, regional, global and constituency-based organizations have developed a civil society “zero draft” declaration to assist in coordinated advocacy with UN participating governments in advance of the upcoming UN high-level meeting on AIDS.


15.   Foreign Policy – The war on Soft Power

Even the U.S. military doesn’t want to cut the State Department and foreign aid budget. So why is Congress playing a dangerous game with America’s global influence, Nye, the inventor of the concept of ‘soft power’, wonders.
The 2011 budget deal overhauls federal funding for US foreign aid programmes, and bigger cuts are in train for next year, according to the Guardian’s ClaireProvost.

16.   Guardian – Robin Hood tax: 1,000 economists urge G20 to accept Tobin tax

G20 finance ministers are being urged by experts from 53 countries to tax City speculators to help the world’s poor. With among them, economists like Sachs, Rodrik and Ha-Joon Chang.
On Duncan Green’s blog, Max Lawson gives an update on the global discourse and stances on the FTT.
In the UK, the two big ideas from DFID – value for money, and increasing aid to fragile states – seem destined for collision, according to the Guardian’s MadeleineBunting.  Andy Sumner also has a blog post on this, on the Global Dashboard site.
Finally, ODI published a new background note on eight lessons for impact evaluations that make a difference.


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