Global Health News Last Week


The following announcement, from Eric Williams, calls for any IH section members interested in assisting efforts to address federal global health and HIV/AIDS funding.  Please see the text of the announcement below.  Eric can be contacted by e-mail at

Dear Colleagues,

I’m writing to request assistance in a “grasstops” effort to address federal global health and HIV/AIDS funding. As you are likely well aware, there have been serious threats and concerns regarding global health funding over the last several years. There is a real need to mobilize influential members of our community in an effort to ensure that Congress does not backtrack on our global health commitments.

I am doing some consulting work with amfar and they want to identify experts, donors, high-profile individuals and/or organizations in select states who can reach out to key Senate leadership. We need these individuals/organizations to show and voice their support for continued and sustained commitments for global health.

States of focus include Nevada (Sen. Harry Reid), Iowa (Sen. Tom Harkin), and Washington (Sen. Patty Murray). We believe these senators are in key positions to influence appropriations decisions and sure up support for global health.

The aim of this effort is to:

  1. identify grasstop individuals/organizations and
  2. plan, coordinate, and carry out outreach efforts to Senate leadership in a variety of ways, including state-level meetings, Hill visits, op-eds, sign-on letters, and so forth.

If you are interested or able to provide assistance in helping to identify and/or reach out to the above stakeholders, I would be very interested in speaking. If there is strong support for this I would be happy to facilitate a conference call to discuss in full.

August 19 was World Humanitarian Day.


  • The CDC has made updates to its flu vaccination recommendations aimed at children and people with egg allergies.
  • The United Nations has released a list of 248 organizations from 48 nations that are accredited to attend the UN High Level Meeting (HLM) on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) during September 19-20, 2011.  Meanwhile, as has been widely reported (including here and here), negotiations have stalled over an “outcomes document” that is to be approved at the meeting.
  • The World Health Organization is calling for a ban on a common blood test for TB, saying the test is unreliable.
  • Twenty-two children in Kancheepuram, Indiawho were not allowed to go to school because they are HIV positive have been ordered to return to school after a court ruled in favor of the students.
  • International funding for HIV fell by 10 percent in 2010 from the previous year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation and UNAIDS; activists worry that a continued reduction will undermine progress in global HIV prevention and treatment efforts.




  • The WHO Says Libya is facing a medical supply crisis.
  • The United Nations food agency called on Thursday for long-term aid for farmers in the Horn of Africa, saying constant crises in the region should shame the world.
  • A report by the National Institute of Malaria research in Delhi has found that climate change will enable malaria to move to new areas.
  • New research finds that radiation from the nuclear plant accident in Japanin March reached Californiawithin days, showing how quickly air pollution can travel, but scientists say the radiation will not hurt people.
  • According to an article published in Science, 19 August, cases of Chagas disease are rising outside Latin America, because large numbers of people who are already infected are migrating fromLatin America.
  • Len Rubenstein comments on the attacks on healthcare personnel inBahrain and the recent progress made to protect healthcare workers in conflict zones.


Thanks to Tom Murphy and Mark Leon Goldberg, Larry Johnson (filling in for Tom Paulson), Isobel Hoskins, and Jeff Meer.

Pushing for Polio Eradication: Does a Vertical Approach Make Sense in a Horizontal World?

The global polio eradication effort suffered an unexpected setback this year.  An outbreak began in February in Tajikistan, which had not seen a case of polio in 19 years, and 452 cases have been confirmed as of August 5.1  From there, it has migrated to Russia, where it has infected seven individuals.1,2  Russia’s last confirmed case of polio was in 1996.  This outbreak is a discouraging reality check for a two-decade eradication effort that hovers on the edge of success but cannot quite seem to reach it.

Bill Gates administers an oral polio vaccine to a baby.
Image taken from the 2009 Annual Letter from Bill Gates. Available at:

After the successful eradication of smallpox in 1979, global health organizations have pushed a similar “vertical” approach to eradicate other disease.3  The polio eradication campaign, which began in 1988, has been aggressively carried out with a similar mindset and has been largely successful.  Incidence has been reduced by over 99%, with less than 1,000 cases reported in the year 2000 compared to 350,000 in 1988.  In Africa, ten of the 15 previously polio countries re-infected in 2009 successfully halted their outbreaks.4  It is currently only endemic in Nigeria, India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.2,4  For the last ten years, however, the initiative has “hovered on the verge of victory” without being able to reach it.5  There were 1,604 cases in 2009, and 576 cases have been confirmed globally so far this year.2  The effort has cost approximated $8.2 to date.3 

The long-standing fight against polio has raised an interesting discussion about this and similar approaches to public health: are singularly-focused health efforts such as disease eradication the best way to work toward health improvement?  Large scale donors, such as the Gates Foundation and Rotary, typically prefer these “vertical” strategies because the benefits seem clearer and more immediate; “horizontal” strategies, on the other hand, such as strengthening health systems, training workers, and increasing supplies, have less well-defined goals, and long-term change is much more difficult to measure.3  The ongoing struggle for polio eradication has re-energized this debate.  Global health stakeholders responded in June with a new Strategic Plan, which builds on findings from a recent independent evaluation of the eradication effort and proposes a combined approach of  area-specific strategies to target remaining reservoirs of polio and targeting health system weaknesses.4  This plan will hopefully inspire organizations working in the effort to make the final push toward wiping out polio for good.  When the plan was unveiled in Geneva, however, Dr. Margaret Chan of WHO called on the international funding community “stand tall for polio eradication,” reminding us that the effort can still falter in the face of economic crisis if funding lapses.  It will be interesting to see how much longer smallpox will stand alone on the list of eradicated diseases.