Dear Colleagues,

Last Monday the fall of the Berlin Wall was commemorated with due pomp. Commentators around the world reflected on how much the world has changed since 1989. They only agreed on one thing: we live in a very different world now, with new and huge challenges. Environmental health activists got the hint: they have been campaigning recently for public health aspects of climate change to be incorporated in the deal that world leaders should strike in Copenhagen next month. As we all know, chances that a comprehensive climate agreement will be reached are slim. The fact that public opinion is shifting on the issue, as the Economist noted, does not help. The climate mood among activists is thus a bit glum. Luckily, they can all go to a nearby movie theatre this weekend to watch ‘2012’, the new Hollywood blockbuster. Impeccable timing, you got to admit it.

Enjoy your reading.

David Hercot, Kristof Decoster, Josefien Van Olmen & on behalf of Wim Van Damme

Global Health

1. New USAID Chief Faces Internal Skepticism

The selection of a new USAID chief, Rajiv Shah, after almost 11 months waiting, is not uncontroversial, not even within the Agency itself. Critics point out this could indicate an American shift from nation building/good governance to health care and food security initiatives.

2. BMJ – Greater equality and greater health

Pickett K E & Wilkinson R G;

An editorial in BMJ elaborates on the links between inequality and health. It sketches two rival explanations for the link between inequality and health, a ‘compositional’ explanation and a ‘contextual’ one.

3. WHO – Tackling global health risks prevents premature deaths

The report provides statistics on 24 global health risks, and is interesting as current global priorities, as expected, do not match the global health risks completely. In the report, we find for example that non communicable diseases are a major burden in all parts of the world.

Health Financing

4. AFGH – Aid effectiveness in the health sector – field assessments

AfGH ; Ethiopia, Zambia, Nepal and Cambodia

Action for Global Health has conducted three case studies in Ethiopia, Zambia and Nepal to explore progress in terms of Aid Effectiveness. The main findings highlighted that despite some progresses made towards alignment, harmonisation between donors and government, there are areas of great concern such as the restriction of freedom of civil society organisations and their lack of participation in health policies. AfGH also presents findings from Cambodia.

5. AFGH – France’s diplomatic efforts pave the way for the creation of a financial transaction tax for development


A taskforce to look at the feasibility of a financial transaction tax for development was officially launched on October 22nd in Paris. Gordon Brown raised the issue on the G20 summit last week.

6. JAIDS – International Health Financing and the Response to AIDS

Samuel Lieberman, , Pablo Gottret, Ethan Yeh, , Joy de Beyer, Robert Oelrichs, and Debrework Zewdie ; JAIDS

In this article, authors review the aid flows in the health sector and try to map the impact of AIDS financing on health financing. According to their findings, AIDS has not displaced health financing at the global level. There has been an increase in overall health aid, not only for AIDS. AIDS activism has fostered attention to the health sector, they suggest.


7. The Lancet – Comments on “Lessons and myths in the HIV/AIDS response.”

Roger England ; Ann M Starrs ;

Roger England comments on the article by Piot et al. by arguing that HIV is at present not the main killer in Africa. Granted, it is a major problem in some countries or parts of countries, notably in southern Africa but it is definitely not the first killer in the remainder of Africa. Ann Starrs calls for more funding for health care in a comprehensive way if one wants to achieve health for all.

8. The Lancet – Mobilising the community in the fight against HIV/AIDS

E Wouters ;

In this short letter, our colleague comments on Geffen’s article on the role of civil society in South Africa’s fight against AIDS, published earlier this year. Edwin argues that on top of active support from civil society, there is also a need for health-enabling communities.

Family Planning

9. The Lancet – Where next for family planning?

Davidson R Gwatkin ;

Gwatkin suggests that family planning might be on the verge of a comeback, and rightly so.

World Food summit

10. MSF report on funding for malnutrition

MSF press release :

The report, released in advance of the World Food Summit in Rome, analyses how a global effort to prevent childhood malnutrition has lacked sufficient funding. Rich countries only spend an annual US$350 million out of US$12.5 billion, the figure which the World Bank estimates is required to adequately combat malnutrition in 36 high-burden and 32 high-prevalence countries.

11. KFF – Food Summit Draft Declaration Omits Hunger Eradication Deadline


FAO is claiming 17% of ODA for food aid, as opposed to the current 5%. Most rich countries opposed the idea of putting a deadline on the eradication of hunger.


12. The Lancet – The Global Health Research and Innovation System (GHRIS)

Stephen A Matlin, Gill MR Samuels ;

The authors tried to map the system of health research that addresses specific health challenges in low-income and middle-income countries. Several hundreds of entities now occupy the landscape of research for the health of people who are poor.

13. The Lancet – Time for fair trade in research data

Elizabeth Pisani, James Whitworth, Basia Zaba, Carla Abou-Zahr ;

The authors argue that the time has come to share more extensively data in the field of biomedical research and public health data. They plead for fair trade though, not for free trade.

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