Dear Colleagues,


The political turmoil in Ivory Coast continues, as the world watches in despair. On the Humanosphere website, Tom Paulson reminds us that there is always public health “collateral damage” in cases like this, far away from the cameras but equally deadly.

In the US, the Republicans took control of the House on Wednesday. The new speaker, John Boehner promised to run America’s “Corporate” House (not his words, obviously, but the NYT’s) in a more business-like way. Well, I guess you could say that. Among other things, it will be interesting to see what happens with the American health care reform in round 2, or withforeign aid and Obama’s Global Health Initiative. As always when the Grand Old Party is in charge and in a jubilant mood, be prepared for the worst. It remains to be seen whether voices like Serra Sippel’s, president of the Center for Health and Gender Equity, who wrote that global health should be an important foreign policy issue in 2011, will be heard. As Sippel mentions, global health might end up being politicized all over again, in particular women’s health.

Richard Horton, on the other hand, is distinctly more upbeat than last week in his weekly Offline contribution, writing “It is encouraging news that the US and UK governments are putting maternal health at the heart of their development policy. What should those of us outside government do to help shape that policy? Jo Cox, Director of the Maternal Mortality Campaign, has some valuable thoughts. Maternal health faces stiff competition. 2011 is the year for non-communicable diseases. Although maternal survival is now a global priority, what those political commitments actually mean remains vague. Fragile too, given continuing economic constraints. And where is the leadership for maternal health? Jo Cox identifies several priorities. First, focus on delivery (and accountability for that delivery). Second, develop a straightforward and popular narrative for maternal health as part of an integrated strategy for health (that is, don’t try and directly compete with other programmes). Third, focus especially on financing for health care and health workers (and don’t give up on the role of the Global Fund for women and children’s health). Finally, build new alliances—with reproductive health, nutrition, and human rights communities.” These sound like some good new year’s resolutions to us.


Finally, we would like to draw your attention to an article in Foreign Policy with some “unconventional wisdom” by well-known scholars. The piece is not directly related to global health, but definitely worth a read, as these insights, if they happen to be true, will shape our world in the 21st century.  


Enjoy your reading.


David Hercot, Kristof Decoster, Josefien Van Olmen, Basile Keugong & Wim Van Damme

Global Health policy and financing

1.Health Research Policy and Systems – A checklist for health research priority setting: nine common themes of good practice

Roderik F Viergever, Sylvie Olifson, Abdul Ghaffar and Robert F Terry;

The authors propose a checklist for health research priority setting that allows for informed choices on different approaches and outlines nine common themes of good practice.


2.WHO Bulletin – Violence against women: an urgent public health priority

Claudia Garcia-Moreno & Charlotte Watts;

WHO Bulletin would like to invite submissions of papers describing research that addresses violence against women.


Not exactly dealing with (direct) violence against women, but related news anyway, is Karen Grepin’s blog post on the use of transactional sex to cope with health shocks, in Kenya. She reports on a new research paper on this topic.


3.WHO Bulletin – Evidence summaries tailored to health policy-makers in low- and middle-income countries

Sarah E Rosenbaum et al;

The authors describe how the SUPPORT collaboration developed a short summary format for presenting the results of systematic reviews to policy-makers in LMICs.


Check out the new WHO Bulletin issue, for example the article on the public health implications of medical tourism.


4.WHO Bulletin (online) – Health transition in Africa: practical policy proposals for primary care

D Maher et al;

The authors put forward practical policy proposals to improve the primary-care response to the problems posed by the health transition in Africa.


5.End the neglect (blog) – Strengthening the Strategy: A Call for Integrated Efforts with HIV/AIDS in NTD Control & Elimination Initiatives

Emma Apatu & Rebecca Miller;

Apatu & Miller insist that policy makers should work to broaden the scope of historically established HIV/AIDS policies to include NTD control and elimination efforts.


6.TMIH (viewpoint) – How much longer will Africa have to depend on western nations for support of its capacity- building efforts for biomedical research?

Emmanuel Philip Laabes et al;

In the current financial circumstances, Africa needs to look inwards in its quest to train good biomedical researchers and to secure funding for its capacity-building needs.


7.Health Research Policy & Systems – Social sciences research in neglected tropical diseases 3: Investment in social science research in neglected diseases of poverty: a case study of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Subhash Pokhrel, Daniel Reidpath and Pascale Allotey;

Funding on NTD social science research by the Gates foundation compared to basic and translational research is not as low as is commonly thought, but there is scope for improvement.


8.Lancet (comment) – Male circumcision and HPV transmission to female partners

Anna R. Giuliano et al;

Giuliano et al. comment on a new randomized trial by Wawer and colleagues which shows that circumcision reduces incidence and prevalence of high-risk HPV in female partners of circumcised men.


9.Lancet (editorial) – Two new year resolutions for DFID

A Lancet editorial comments on the two recently launched UK policy initiatives on malaria and maternal and child health.


Simon Wright also pays attention to the new UK strategy for reproductive maternal and newborn health on the Save the Children blog.

An interview on the Global Health Europe website deals with Norway‘s approach to global health and Norway’s WHO strategy. The interview was conducted with Dr. Björn-Inge Larsen, the Norwegian Representative to WHO Executive Board.


10.    Lancet – WHO recommends against inaccurate tuberculosis tests

Kelly Morris;

Misleading serology tests for tuberculosis could be worsening the epidemic in some high-burden countries. WHO will be issuing policy advice against their use in early 2011. Kelly Morris reports.

Drugs, innovation and vaccines


11.    Lancet (editorial) – Where will new drugs come from?

The Lancet looks back on 2010 and concludes it was a bleak year for new drug development. The journal also suggests a few ways to reverse the declining trend.


12.    Health Affairs – New Strategies For Innovation In Global Health: A Pharmaceutical Industry Perspective

Andrew Witty;

In the new Health Affairs issue, GSK chief Andrew Witty sketches new strategies for innovation in global health, obviously from his perspective.


In related news, Seattle biotech companies seem to jump into global health these days. And the Scientist also reports on a collision of drug development and altruism. There is a rise in collaborations between non-profit pharmaceutical companies and for-profit groups.


13.    KFF – Indian Government Rejects Abbott’s Patent Application For Second-Line ARV

India‘s patent office has rejected American drug maker Abbott Laboratories’ patent application for an HIV combination drug, allowing low-cost local drug makers to make and sell their generic versions in India and other countries where the medicine is not patented.


Sarah Boseley comments on the issue: the drug company’s loss could be Africa’s gain, as the decision might enable the manufacture of cheap versions of a key AIDS drug.


Global health in 2010 and 2011


14.    The Sidney Morning Herald – Need for the UN is greater than ever

Ban Ki Moon;

In an Op-Ed, Ban Ki Moon stresses that the UN is now needed more than ever. He also dwells on the somewhat awkward relationship between the UN and the G20. IPS reports on the fact that the UN chief seems to have forgotten about the new UN Women agency in his year-end op-ed piece. Paula Donovan, a co-director of AIDS-Free World, and one of the early active campaigners for the new agency, is one of the people who think this is a telling omission.  


In related news, a New York Times article provided a breakdown of the current structure of the UN, and wondered whether the institutions could be reformed in order to make them work in a smarter way.


Year-end lists: lots of people reflected on the year 2010 and some of the big global health stories of last year.


Alanna Shaikh was one of them, as were Karen Grepin, Tom Paulson, Cynthia Schweer, and Amanda Glassman (CGD). 


Wish-lists for 2011: obviously, many people also looked ahead. What will 2011 bring for global health? 


Amanda Glassman was one of these people.

ODI’s Alison Evans did both (reflecting on 2010 as well as peering into the near future) and is cautiously optimistic for 2011, at least for development issues. 


Google N-Gram viewer: popular search terms


To end this section, the latest toy in Development and Global Health circles – but not only there, we assume – is theGoogle N-gram viewer, which allows you to type in some search terms. The tool then spits out how often those terms appear in Google Books by year of publication.  


Karen Grepin found that the term ‘international health’ has become less popular in recent years, whereas the opposite is true for ‘global health’. Amanda Glassman did a similar exercise for the ‘World Bank’ and the ‘WHO’, as well as for ‘health systems’ and ‘AIDS’.


Science speaks reported on a recent scientific study which wondered where all the AIDS news coverage has gone.


Global Development & global challenges

15.    Newsweek – Welcome to Welfare 2.0 for the World’s Poor

Newsweek reported on “Welfare 2.0” for the poor in developing and middle-income countries. “If the safety net is under siege in the richest (and now most indebted) countries, it is just beginning to expand in the rest of the world.” The latter want to avoid some of the former’s problems though.


16.    The Scientist – The Coming Health Crisis

Samuel S. Myers and Aaron Bernstein;

The Coming Health Crisis – The Scientist – Magazine of the Life Sciences 

Indirect effects of global climate change threaten the health of hundreds of millions of people.

The CGD provides a new working paper by Pritchett et al. on capability traps and the mechanisms of persistent implementation failure.


The US government recently developed a new website in response to calls for greater transparency in foreign aid. According to the site: “the Foreign Assistance Dashboard provides a view of U.S. Government foreign assistance funds and enables users to examine, research, and track aid investments in a standard and easy-to-understand format. On the site, you can see information based on financing for sectors broken down by categories (including slightly more than $1.12 billion for child and maternal health).”


Bill Easterly couldn’t refrain from commenting on the initiative. Some things haven’t changed in 2011.


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