Dear Colleagues,

Next week’s Symposium on health systems research in Montreux will no doubt take stock of the development related outcomes of the G20 summit in Seoul. Are we indeed going to see a genuine G20 development agenda this weekend, a new “Seoul development consensus for shared growth” even, “beyond aid, but not replacing aid”, as an ODI blog post asserts? The South-Korean President’s opinion in the Washington Post, with his call for “a change in the philosophy of aid, with a new emphasis on investment for the future, particularly in basic infrastructure, human capital and productive capacity”, went in the same direction. For Lee Myung-Bak and many others, growth is a means towards achieving MDG goals. According to Reuters, the blueprint identifies nine areas where action is needed to ease development bottlenecks, including skills training, increased access to finance, expanded investment and improvements to the infrastructure of developing countries. An opinion in theGuardiandoes not necessarily think this new approach is wrong, but would like to see more emphasis on the role that achieving the MDGs can play in promoting growth.


In Washington, the Mhealth summit took place this week, exploring ways for mobile technology to increase access, quality and efficiency of health care to patients around the globe. Bill Gates and Ted Turner showed up – apparently Gates now thinks robots are the way to go – and Julio Frenk said that the full potential of new technologies will only be realized if global health systems are also transformed. “It will be necessary to pursue innovation not only in technology but also in our institutions”. The Economist also paid attention to the summit, as did Nandini Oomman on the CGD website. At the same time though, the Gates Foundation is scaling back its ‘grand’ plan for global health, the Seattle Times reported: the mega-philantropy approach is sharpening its focus on technologies with the biggest health payoffs and near-term applications.



Enjoy your reading.


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


Montreux Symposium

1.Ten background papers for Montreux Global Symposium on Health Systems research

A number of background papers have been commissioned by the World Health Organization for the First Global Symposium on Health Systems Research. You can download them on the Symposium website.


We provide here the executive summary of our colleague (Gorik Ooms)’s background paper on the international political economy of global universal health coverage.



Lancet series on chronic diseases

2. Lancet (Comment) – Chronic diseases: global action must match global evidence

R. Beaglehole & R. Horton;


In September 2011, the UN will hold its first High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on chronic non-communicable diseases. The Lancet’s (Third) Series of papers on chronic diseases is the Lancet’s contribution to preparations for the September meeting. These papers cover a range of diseases and present strategies for substantial health gains, monitoring, and scaling up of interventions. Interesting Series articles are for example the article on the political process to raise the priority of preventing chronic diseases, and an article that sees the prevention and management of chronic disease as a litmus test for health systems strengthening in low-income and middle-income countries.


In this Comment, Beaglehole & Horton claim that our collective failure to address the chronic disease pandemic is a political failure rather than a technical failure, given that proven cost-effective interventions are available. The compelling science base for the prevention of chronic disease contrasts starkly with the limited action in countries where the burden is greatest.


3.Lancet (Comment) –  Mobilising the world for chronic NCDs

Jean Claude Mbanya, SB Squire, Eduardo Cazap, Pekka Puska;

The Federations of the four priority non-communicable diseases (cancers, cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes) as defined by WHO, have united to form the NCD Alliance.


4.Lancet (Comment) – Rethinking health-care systems: a focus on chronicity

Pascale Allotey, Daniel D Reidpath, Shajahan Yasin, Carina K Chan, Ama de-Graft Aikins;

The authors hypothesize that with the urgent financial imperative to consider chronicity, primary health care might have a better chance of success.


A Reuters story  examines what the pharmaceutical industry plans to do for the pricing of drugs for chronic diseases as global number of cases continues to climb. The article includes comments by David Brennan, who expects to see a rethink on drug prices for poor countries and more willingness to do tiered pricing for drugs to treat chronic diseases.

Robin Hood Tax

5.KFF – Letter Asks G20 Leaders To Support Financial Transactions Tax To Help Developing Countries

G20 leaders are being asked to commit to plans for a ‘Robin Hood Tax’ on financial transactions in a letter signed by 183 organisations from 42 countries, including members of the U.K.-based Robin Hood Tax campaign.


Referring in a blog post to a new study by University of Sussex economists on the matter, Owen Barder still doesn’t think such a Robin Hood Tax is a good idea, just like he did in February.


In comparison, an EG4H blog post is more positive about the possible impact of such a tax, although again the author thinks the long-term impact remains to be seen. He especially likes the fact that serious evidence-based discussion of the feasibility of such a taxation scheme has become mainstream.


Global Health

7.Lancet (Comment) – Mobile phones to improve HIV treatment adherence

Benjamin H Chi, Jeffrey SA Stringer ;

Chi & Stringer comment on a new Lancet study (by Lester et al.) that reports on the WelTel Kenya study. SMS messages seem to increase adherence to antiretroviral therapies in Kenya.


On her blog, Karen Grepin also commented on the new study.

8.Owen Barder – Apart from aid, how are we doing?

How do developed countries’ other policies (than aid) affect development? In this blog post, Barder comments on a CGD interactive ranking.


9.Guardian – Migrants send home three times more money than countries receive in development aid, says World Bank

Research into remittances shows that migrant workers and the diaspora make a significant contribution to the poorest countries.

10.    Guardian – If India doesn’t ‘need’ aid, why do foreign governments still give it?

This Poverty matters blog post provides some reasons why aid to India is still a good idea, even if its economy is booming. In the view of the author, “the way the international community provides aid to India is a hint towards a new global aid compact, in which the old top-down donor-recipient relationships are replaced by respectful collaboration between sovereign countries.”


In other India-related news, Irin Plus reports that an EU-India FTA deal could threaten access to essential HIV drugs. Due to data exclusivity requirements, Indian manufacturers might have to do their own clinical trials, if the negotiators strike a deal. 


11.    Lancet (editorial) – Lack of treatment of South Africa’s infants with HIV

According to recent research, many infants in KwaZulu-Natal, infected with HIV, have not been treated with antiretroviral drugs.


12.    Lancet – Defrauding of the Global Fund gives Sweden cold feet

Ann Danaiya Usher;

Sweden has withheld its pledge to the Global Fund because of concerns about the misuse of US$25 million in grants in four African countries. Ann Danaiya Usher reports.


13.    Lancet – US foreign aid restructuring: is it “a very big deal”?

Nellie Bristol;

Is the new US foreign aid restructuring going to be a change for the better? Nellie Bristol has an in-depth look.


No doubt, the Republican victory (and the Tea Party’s big part in it) will have some ramifications on this development policy. Sarah Jane States outlines some potential consequences on theCGD website.


Not exactly an uplifting read, but interesting nonetheless, especially as a backdrop to the newly proclaimed US aid approach, is a recent piece by Easterly

in the New York Review of books, titled ‘Foreign aid for scoundrels’. He dwells on what he calls the “dirty secret” of the international aid system. “Despite much rhetoric to the contrary, the nations and organizations that donate and distribute aid do not care much about democracy and they still actively support dictators.”

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