Dear Colleagues,

After the Egyptian ecstacy of last week, this week’s events in Bahrain, Yemen or Libya proved yet again that deposing a dictator is easier said than done. As for the Sub-Saharan countries, Museveni’s election quote “we don’t do Egypt over here” probably said it all.  He’ll probably win the elections this weekend hands down. Whether the events in North-Africa and the Middle-East will eventually inspire people in Sub-Saharan African countries, former Soviet republics or even Russia and China, is anybody’s guess for the moment.

Although some people are saying ours is currently a G0 world, this weekend a G20  summit is scheduled in France. Our neighbours will host the finance ministers and heads of the central banks of the G20 bloc of developed and major emerging economies. And yes, the Financial Transactions Tax should be part of the agenda, Action for Global Health argues. Meanwhile, there are rising food prices, global social turmoil and inequity that worries even the IMF, …  2011 could be an interesting year; and Europe will be no exception. Angela Merkel’s plans for “harmonising” socio-economic policy in EU member states makes one wonder about ‘ownership’ in countries like Belgium  (not that we care, we just broke a world record).

Finally, in his weekly Offline piece in the Lancet, Richard Horton comments on the new KFF  report on the prospects for global health journalism.  He attended a meeting with physicans and health advocates at the British Museum. “ The outlook, concluded Nellie Bristol and John Donnelly, was quite bleak. Economic recession, parochialism, and lack of interest seemed to be eroding the mainstream media’s capacity to report on important trends in international health. Were we depressed? Not yet. Some of us tweet, while others do Facebook. As old media decline, new media grow. We find that global health has a vibrant and compelling life among these new networks. Indeed, you will find some of the sharpest and most intelligent comment and critique on Twitter. Skim your newspaper, perhaps, but pay more serious attention to your tweets. This is the future of mass mobilisation for global health.”   In other words: if mainstream media don’t do their job, let’s go for an “Egypt-style” social network inspired revolution in global health. So if one of these days you see Horton on Trafalgar Square, you know why.

Enjoy your reading.

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

Global Health Policy & Financing

1.People’s Health Movement on WSF – Dakar : The World Social Forum on Health to undertake major initiatives

Bernard Teper;

Bernard Teper, Director of the Popular Education Section of UFAL International Health, looks back on the World Social Forum. It is more than time to fight back, he claims. The time for change is now.

2.HP&P (Comment) – Health systems

Thomas J Bossert;

Bossert comments on the recent new buzz word of the global health community: health systems strengthening. He discusses how the health policy researchers’ community should take advantage of this situation and try to maximise benefit for the patients. He lists some of the major frameworks that have been used in health systems and health systems reform lately. Apparently he’s not aware of a recent review on the same topic by some of our ITM colleagues.

3.WHO Bulletin – Global cost of child survival: estimates from country-level validation

Liselore van Ekdom, Karin Stenberg, Robert W Scherpbierc & Louis W Niessend ;

The authors of this paper have tried to validate the 2007 WHO modelling estimates of the cost of achieving MDG4. This paper makes clear – unsurprisingly – that global modelling is a tall order. Just ask Chris Murray’s team. New estimates, based on country validation, are 80% ( or US$ 33 billion) higher than the figures of the original model. Interestingly, a large part of the increased cost comes from community health workers; earlier we commented that these were neglected in the WHO model. Unfortunately it is unlikely that countries will have the required funds for all this to happen. Choices will have to be made.

4.Lancet – Health care for urban poor falls through the gap

Priya Shetty ;

While governments and donors focus on health care for those living in rural poverty in developing countries, the residents of the world’s slums are being neglected, writes Priya Shetty.

5.Science Speaks – House bill threatens global health funding

Christine Lubinski;

The House Appropriations Committee has proposed a bill that would set funding levels for fiscal year (FY) 2011 in the US. The bill, supported by the Republican leadership in the House, would devastate global health programs, reducing funding for these programs by 11 %. PEPFAR and the Global Fund would suffer the most. As of Friday, it seemed likely that the Republican-dominated House would pass the bill.

Humanosphere points out there’s not much to cut, relatively speaking, as far as foreign aid is concerned. A pie chart is very revealing in that respect – especially for non-US readers of this newsletter.

6.Science Speaks – USAID Administrator discusses “transformational goals” to include curing 2.4 million infected with TB

Meredith Mazzotta;

In a prestigious lecture to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) scientific community Tuesday, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah spoke about efficiencies that can be gained under the Global Health Initiative and a renewed focus on “facilitating a continuum of invention and innovation from bench to bush,” at the agency

7.Guardian – Government defends £1bn of aid to India

UK aid for India will in the future be targeted at India’s three least developed states – Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar.

In related (BRIC) news, Russia seems to want to increase its global clout with a soft power campaign of aid.

8.Seattle Times –  Gates Foundation’s director of global health is retiring

Sandi Doughton;

The Seattle Times reports on the legacy of the retiring Gates Foundation’s director of global health, Yamada.

Disease Control

9.NYT – Can Polio Be Eradicated? A Skeptic Now Thinks So

Donald g. Mcneil jr.;

Dr. Henderson, who contributed to the eradication of Smallpox decades ago, has long been sceptical on the eradication of polio. No doubt Gates was happy to learn that the man has recently changed his mind. Apparently changes in the institutional arrangements, rather than the (rather limited) changes in the biological and technical field, explain his change of heart.

10.   BMJ (news) – A pneumococcal vaccine is launched in Africa to cut child deaths

Peter Moszynski;

BMJ reports on the launch of the pneumococcal vaccine in Kenya and comes back on the institutional arrangements under the Advanced Market Commitment that made this breakthrough possible. The journal also pays attention to the criticism voiced by MSF on AMC. 

11.   KFF – Report Finds Neglected Diseases Research Funding Up In 2009, Funding For Related Non-Profits Down

A rise in global funding for research into neglected diseases needs to be matched by a continued focus on delivering practical new ways to curb sickness in the developing world,” according to the third annual report by the Global Funding of Innovation for Neglected Diseases (G-FINDER) released on Wednesday.

Virginia Barbour comments on this report on the Plos blog ‘Speaking of medicine’.

12.   Science Speaks – Gates Foundation’s Dr. Bertozzi talks about what’s to come for HIV and TB

John Donnelly;

Stefano Bertozzi, director of HIV and tuberculosis programs at the Gates Foundation, spoke with Science Speaks about what he saw as the key developments in HIV/AIDS and TB in the last year and a half, as well as important trends coming up.


13.   Nature (news) – A new method of drug discovery

Daniel Cressey ;

The early stages of drug development could be freed from the shackles of intellectual property under a proposal to be tabled at a meeting of leading pharmaceutical players [in Toronto] this week,” Nature News writes in an article that outlines pieces of the proposal, as envisioned by Oxford scientist Chas Bountra. Bountra “envisions a global initiative worth about $200 million a year that would focus solely on new therapeutic targets. The initiative would rush these through to phase II clinical trials – the stage at which drugs are given to larger groups of people, but before the huge phase III trials that represent a drug’s final hurdle before reaching the market. … If drug candidates proved successful, they would then be made available for the initiative’s commercial sponsors to buy and bring to market“.

Aid and Development , China in Africa and US education reform

14.   AfGH – Budget Support – Auditors tell the Commission to do more and better to ensure it works

Frazer Goodwin;  

The European Court of Auditors has analysed whether the Commission’s management of general budget support in African, Latin American and Asian countries is effective. The overall conclusion is that the Commission has made

considerable efforts to develop and improve its approach to budget support. However, there are still weaknesses in how it sets up and manages its programmes. Effectiveness could thus be improved. You can find  the report (PDF) here.

15.   Other articles of interest

In The Broker’s new issue, an interesting article sheds light on current development policies of several Western donors. They have begun to gear their development policies towards a changing global society. The key question is, will these policies be restricted by national self-interests or will they take the interests of the global poor to heart?

China expert Deborah Brautigan just published an article “China in Africa: seven myths”.

In an article in Dissent, Joanne Barkan sketches the education debate and reform in the US, and the influence of philanthropy (including the inevitable Gates foundation) on them. She’s quite critical. “How billionaires rule our schools” is the title of her piece. Recommended reading for the (non-US) health community.

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