Dear Colleagues,

Nature dealt a horrible blow to Haiti this week. Once again, pictures of horrendous suffering and utter chaos are reaching us. As might be expected, opinion makers are quick to frame the disaster. People on both sides of the political spectrum are wondering where the current predicament comes from and what can be done about it. Columns from the Guardian and the New York Time seem to agree on one thing: this is not just a natural disaster.

On a more positive note, nature failed to inflict substantial damage in the case of swine flu. Inevitably, this is starting to lead to some serious questioning by policymakers (like the German parliamentarian Wolfgang Wodarg) and international institutions (WHO for example). In a vitriolic opinion piece, Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins says the real danger seems to be the ‘mad scientists syndrome’. We tend to agree.

Enjoy your reading.

David Hercot, Kristof Decoster, Josefien Van Olmen, Wim Van Damme and Peter S. Hill

Global Health Initiatives

This week, the Lancet publishes a UNICEF-commissioned evaluation of its Accelerated Child Survival and Development programme. It turned out UNICEF was in for a nasty surprise…

1. Lancet online – Evaluation: the top priority for global health

In a related online editorial, the Lancet calls for more evaluation of large- scale global health programmes. Evaluation should become the top priority for global health (instead of just being an afterthought as is too often the case).

2. Lancet online– Assessing the scale-up of child survival interventions

Stefan Peterson ;

Peterson argues that the priority for child survival is implementation research on scale-up issues in complex health systems (in order to bridge the know-do gap), while current research funding favours development of new technologies over implementation research.

3. WHO Bulletin – The mixed health systems syndrome

Sania Nishtar ;

In a WHO bulletin Perspective, Nishtar argues that the poor performance that typifies many mixed health systems is due to interplay between three factors: insufficient state funding for health, a regulatory environment that enables the private sector to deliver social services without an appropriate regulatory framework, and lack of transparency in governance. She speaks of a ‘mixed health systems syndrome’, when a public and private mix of health-care delivery shows symptoms of compromised quality and equity. She wants Global Health Initiatives to play a role in turning those poorly performing mixed health systems into functioning mixed health systems.

4. CGD – Evaluation, Evaluation Everywhere: IOM Progress on Evaluating the Impact of PEPFAR

David Wendt ;

In 2008, the US Institute of Medicine (IOM) was mandated to evaluate the impact of PEPFAR. Wendt assesses the progress so far and wonders why activists that are usually so vocal on AIDS issues aren’t following this up.

Global Health Policy

5. GHE – Event Report – Nobel Forum Seminar on the EU as a Global Health Actor

David Gleicher (Global Health Europe) ;

Early December, the Swedish Presidency of the EU convened a meeting of high level European global health stakeholders in Stockholm. The objective of the seminar was to feed the EC’s present work towards a new EU policy on Global Health. Key messages were “to broaden the scope of health research in the EU beyond the bio medical to support public health through focus on implementation studies rather than new technologies and the support of research in the social sciences for a better understanding of the interconnections of health and other policies as well as the social and political determinants of health.”

6. CGD – The End of Exile for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

Rachel Nugent ;

Nugent is optimistic after attending Hillary Clinton’s recent speech at the State Department. The Secretary of State did not mince words on the revival of sexual and reproductive rights in US foreign policy.

7. European Review – Investing in Health: A Contribution to the Achievement of the Lisbon Agenda

Martin McKEE and Marc SUHRCKE ;

The authors assess the evidence whether investment in health should be part and parcel of the (recently updated) Lisbon Agenda to become the most competitive economy in the world.

American health care reform:

8. NYT – Obama and Lawmakers Seek Accord on Health Care (= last update, as of Thursday)

Robert Pear and Sheryl Gay Stolberg ;

The NYT provides the latest on American health care reform. Congress is now gearing up for a game of ping pong between Senate and House (with Obama as referee?). Elsewhere, the Economist reckons that the reform process was emblematic of America’s dysfunctional politics. Four main defects are being sketched: the “undemocratic” Senate, the extreme partisanship of the parties, the lobbying of well-heeled pressure groups and the lure of the pork-barrel.

9. What History Can Tell Us About the Future EXODUS of Public Health

Amy L. Fairchild, David Rosner, James Colgrove, Ronald Bayer, and Linda P. Fried;

Some historical background on the American shifting public health profession’s mission, from last century all the way to the current health care reform. Public health should reclaim its place as part of an emerging reform movement and integrate power and agency into the models for promoting the public’s health.

‘Miscellaneous’: Chinese involvement in Africa

The Chinese involvement and investment in Africa has been hotly debated in recent years. We provide two recent contributions to this discussion, that assess some of the key aspects of this involvement (and the way they are being perceived in the West). Chinese health aid to African countries is only addressed marginally though.

10. Asia-Pacific Journal – Trade, Investment, Power and the China-in-Africa Discourse

Barry Sautman ;

11. What the West Can Learn From Chinese Investment in Africa

Deborah Brautigam ; Foreign Affairs online

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