Dear Colleagues,

Plenty of news this week, or as François Hollande might say, “l’embarras du choix”. In the guest-editorial, Raoul Bermejo reflects on the Regional Forum on Health Care Financing in Pnomh Penh, Cambodia. A CoP on Health Care Financing in Asia was launched there, but the event also inspired Raoul and many other participants in a number of other ways.   


Enjoy your reading.

David Hercot,Kristof Decoster, Ildikó Bokros,Josefien Van Olmen, Basile Keugoung & Wim Van Damme 




Where three rivers meet


Raoul Bermejo

Emerging voice from the Philippines & PhD student at ITM

Changkes mouy bach kach min bak.  –Khmer saying

(A bundle of sticks cannot be broken.)


One of the most striking discussions during the Regional Forum on Health Care Financing in Phnom Penh on May 2-4, 2012 was the proliferation in the Mekong sub-region of financing schemes aimed to improve access to quality health services.

Read the rest of the editorial here



New episodes in ongoing global health debates


a. Millennium Villages


1. Lancet (Comment) – The Millennium Villages project

Grace Malenga et al.;

Good news on the Millennium Villages’ impact on child mortality, according to a new study by Paul Pronyk and colleagues in the Lancet. Malenga et al. comment.


Jeffrey Sachs obviously wanted to get the message out (in the Huffington Post ), and the inevitable Michael Clemens had his say in Nature. Tom Paulson (from Humanosphere) reckons the shouting between the two camps will continue.


b. Fungibility


2. Plos – Does Development Assistance for Health Really Displace Government Health Spending? Reassessing the Evidence

Rajaie Batniji et al.;

Rajaie Batniji and Eran Bendavid dispute recent suggestions that health aid to developing countries leads to a displacement of government spending and instead argue that current evidence about aid displacement cannot be used to guide policy.


The two new articles on health statistics inspired Andrew Harmer. He wonders whether health statisticians are the new post-modernists. Recommended reading.


c. Funding imbalances for global diseases


3. CGD (blog) – How Does HIV/AIDS Funding Affect a Country’s Health System?

Victoria Fan;

Fan comes back on the recently published paper by Shepard et al. (in American Journal of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene) evaluating the impact of HIV/AIDS funding on Rwanda’s health system. “Bottom line: The jury is still out on whether HIV/AIDS funding has displaced or improved efforts on other disease control priorities.”


WHO reform


4. Nature medicine – The WHO must reform for its own health

Tikki Pang & Laurie Garrett;

The WHO is facing an unprecedented crisis that threatens its position as the premier international health agency. To ensure its leading role, it must rethink its internal governance and revamp its financing mechanisms, according to the authors.


Tom Paulson called Laurie Garrett about the piece, and he got five reasons from her why the world needs a (revamped) WHO. Meanwhile, American voters seem to support the WHO, according to a recent survey. (we are baffled that 9 out of 10 American voters say it’s important for the US to support the global health efforts of the WHO, as this would imply that even more Americans know what the WHO is).


5. The European Union’s voice and influence on global health and the reform of the World Health Organisation: the role of diplomacy

Samantha Battams et al.;

This paper explores the implications of the Lisbon Treaty for the EU role in global health. It also considers the EU position at the WHO and specifically on the reform debate where the WHO’s core business, financing, governance and management operations are under review.


Global Fund


6. Irin Plus – HIV/AIDS: Global Fund will have US$1.6 billion more

The Global Fund has announced that it will have US$1.6 billion more to invest in life-saving programmes between 2012 and 2014. (Let’s call it the “Jaramillo wave”.)

A new GFO issue covers this cheerful news, and also pays attention to the role of CSOs after the managing reform, and audits in Ethiopia.


Finally, the Global Fund started its own newsletter. Was about time.


Family planning and population growth


7. Newsweek – Melinda Gates’ New Crusade: Investing Billions in Women’s Health

Melinda plans to use (part of) the Gates Foundation’s billions to revolutionize contraception worldwide. The Catholic right is pushing back. Is she ready for the political firestorm ahead, Newsweek wonders.


As you know, it’s Mother’s day this weekend. Former supermodel Christy Turlington Burns argues moms should skip Mother’s day this year, referring to the dire situation in countries like Niger (ranked as the worst country to be a mother, according to a recent Save the Children report).


A new KFF issue brief provides the statutory requirements & policies governing U.S. Global Family Planning and Reproductive Health Efforts.


8. CGD – People and the Planet

John May;

John May has joined CGD recently. In this blog post he comes back on the new report ‘People and the Planet’ by the Royal Society. We hope you also find the time to read his splendid book – World Population Policies.


9. KFF – Copenhagen Consensus Report Argues For Expanding Family Planning Programs In ‘High-Fertility’ Countries

Expanding family-planning services to all women with unmet needs — 215 million women — would require an annual expenditure of $6.7 billion.


Child mortality


10.   Lancet (online) – Global child survival: beyond numbers

Zulfiqar A. Bhutta;

Bhutta comments on the new Lancet study by Liu et al. on child mortality. With just 3 years left for the MDG 4 targets, there is an urgent need to go beyond the numbers, the author argues. Do mere numbers and proportions give sufficient detail about causes of mortality? A pathway analysis to understand the determinants and issues related to mortality is urgently needed.


Nevertheless, commenting on another new (WB) study, Michael Clemens reckons  African child health is thé success story in development. Child mortality rates are declining in a number of countries, and the decrease is accelerating.


Health Policy & financing


11.   KFF – Increased Investment In Nurses Will Help Strengthen Health Systems Worldwide

Sheila Davis, director of global nursing at Partners In Health, writes the following in a Huffington Post “Impact Blog” opinion piece, noting this is International Nurses Week. “But although nurses deliver 90 percent of all health care services worldwide, they remain largely invisible at decision-making tables in national capitals and international agencies. Their absence constitutes a global health crisis.

We totally agree, so it’s a pity the Lancet editorial on International Nurses Day (‘Science for action-based nursing’) carefully avoids this tricky governance issue.


12.   Humanosphere – Why the global health council closed

Paulson reposts a Devex blog post that gives some reasons for the end of the Global Health Council. Cynthia Schweer has another theory on the closure.


13.   Lancet (Offline) – 25×25—the survival of the leanest

Richard Horton;

At a symposium held last week in London to launch the new Centre for Global Non-Communicable diseases, Ruth Bonita pointed to the need for a clear goal: 25 × 25, a 25% reduction in non-communicable disease mortality rates by 2025.

(Nice target, but we wonder when the global health community will start using the one set of figures that actually matters – 1 vs 99 %.)


14.   New Internationalist – The flip side to Bill Gates’ charity billions

Andrew Bowman

To get a bit in the “1 vs 99 %” mood, we recommend this article – nothing new, perhaps, but interesting nevertheless. David McCoy and Devi Sridhar are being quoted.


The Global May manifesto of the Occupy Movement is also out. Tomorrow is the day.


Before you take to the streets tomorrow, make sure you read this essay, ‘Capitalism: a ghost story’, by Arundathi Roy. It already appeared in the Indian magazine Outlook in March, but it blew us away this week.


15.   CGD – Quantifying the Quality of Health Aid: Health QuODA

Amanda Glassman and Denizhan Duran;

Back to the more mundane world of health aid, then. This brief summarizes and updates results of the Quality of Official Development Assistance (QuODA) index applied to health aid and compares these results to the overall QuODA assessment.


16.   Lancet (World Perspective): FDA maps out global strategy

Susan Jaffe;

The US Food and Drug Administration is calling for greater reliance on global partners to improve the safety of America’s foreign imports. Susan Jaffe reports from Washington, DC.


17.   Epianalysis – An update on global access to medicines

Sanjay Basu;

Basu provides an update on access to medicines, Trips, compulsory licenses, etc.


18.   Health Diplomacy Monitor (May issue)

The new Health Diplomacy Monitor has editorials on the reform of the WHO and the new WB boss. Other artices tackle the upcoming WHA, and the need to keep the momentum on NCDs.


Finally, some US news (other than the news on gay marriages –  you probably already know by now that Obama is pro, and that Romney was involved in some anti-gay pranks as a teenager, no surprises there):


  • The (current) House pretty much lived up to its reputation, with a draft of the FY 2013 appropriations bill  (think ‘axes’, Paul Ryan, …).
  • CGD gathers this mood isn’t going to change anytime soon, and this led to the following report : ‘Engagement amid austerity – a bipartisan approach to reorienting the international affairs budget’ (with a number of concrete suggestions, also for PEPFAR). Speaking of PEPFAR, check out also its 8th annual report to Congress.


Second global Symposium on HSR in Beijing – preparations


  • The Symposium secretariat has extended the deadline of film proposals to 15 May. Films can be submitted through the same website as the abstract submissions (but abstracts can no longer be submitted). The films do not have to be professionally made, be of a certain length or a specific “genre”. They should document examples of health systems strengthening or illustrate health systems research. If you have any questions regarding the film submission process, you can write to the Symposium mail box ( with the subject title “FILMS”.
  • Some more (commissioned) background papers  were put online on the Alliance website to provide a conceptual underpinning for the WHO Global Strategy on Health Systems Research that is currently under development.

ITM was involved in one of the papers – a health systems research mapping exercise in 26 LMICs, with narratives from policy makers, policy brokers and health systems researchers. Country teams of Emerging Voices and ITM alumni provided the indispensable feet (and interviewers) on the ground. Many thanks to all of them!


Development & Aid


Rio+20 and post-MDGs

  •  This week, ODI launched a new website on the post2015 preparations.  The site already features this opinion by Claire Melamed – “Rio+20 must do the impossible”. On the ODI website, you can also find an ODI background note on the need to bring environment and development back together in Rio.
  •  Two more heads of state were appointed in the development goals panel: Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Indonesia’s Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.


Other D&A news


  • As you probably already know, the Gates foundation is trying to find out whether the advertising industry can give aid a much needed makeover.
  • In the UK, the Cameron-Cleg government will not enshrine the 0.7 % ODA commitment into a bill, at least for now.
  • Worrying news on the water front, according to the first U.S. Intelligence Community Assessment of Global Water Security. (an assessment of the report by Patrick Stewart, CFR fellow, in the Atlantic).
  • The Africa Progress panel (chaired by Kofi Annan) has released its new report (“Jobs, Justice and Equity”). African leaders are urged to launch a ‘big push’ towards meeting the MDGs.  Mark Tran reports in the Guardian.

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