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Global Health News

Getting to Zero: Saving Children’s lives with Vaccines

A global health policy roundtable, hosted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, discussed widespread vaccinations to reduce childhood mortality and the importance of vaccines in global child survival efforts.

“We do see the possibility of lowering our mortality rate to that of rich countries,” said Ariel Pablos-Mendez, USAID Assistant Administrator for Global Health. Mendez was particularly optimistic about project plans for broad mobilization of vaccines in Nigeria, India, Ethiopia and the Middle East.

Child survival rates are an important indicator not only for the health of children but for the country,” touching upon the fact with health advances taking place it reflects the behavior and direction of the country. According to Carolyn Miles, President and CEO of Save the Children, even with countries meeting the deadline for the 2015 MDGs, there is still a lot to be done, especially for newborns which account for 43% of deaths among 5 years old and younger. Having trained frontline workers is essential to help get through the last stretch of reaching the milestone.

Seth Berkley, CEO of The GAVI Alliance, emphasized the importance of ensuring efforts did not slow down. Health needs to remain a top priority. Although the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 12 vaccines for children, there are about only 2-4% of nations who have administered all. Global consensus on vaccines must be to have every child be a “fully immunized child.”

“Obviously the progress has been very dramatic…vaccines account for 30% of preventable child death worldwide,” said Amanda Glassman, Director of Global Health Policy at the Center for Global Development. Aid is becoming less and less important but countries must prioritize their finances, because there are still 22 million children who remained unvaccinated.

Looking towards 2015, all experts agreed it is necessary to show how vaccines benefit marginalized populations with respect to the global polio eradication efforts. The public must be educated about what vaccinations are really for.” Pablos-Mendez referred to the possibility of actually ending child and maternal preventable deaths in our generation. Progress can only be made if budgets support our policies, “We have to make our budgets reflect our policy.”

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Working Faster and Reaching Farther:
Strengthening Public Sector-NGO Partnerships in the AIDS Response

A series of talks organized by USAID and held at the Ronald Reagan Center focused on the AIDS response. Jason Wright, U.S. Director, at the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, moderated a discussion about strengthening the partnerships and relationships between NGOs and civil society organizations to help areas greatly affected by AIDS.

“These things take time, they don’t happen overnight” said Elden Chamberlain, independent international consultant and expert in key populations and community systems strengthening.

At first, stakeholders involved will not want to partner together. He touched upon the fact that civil society organizations need to “lead these [health initiatives] themselves,” a reference to a bottom-up approach, recognizing that the national government won’t be able to have as much effect as local grass roots, movements. Pertaining to challenges, Chamberlain acknowledged it’s hard to bring people together when there’s distrust between the government and its people.

“How do organizations maintain legitimacy and get people to trust you?”

Malik Jaffer, Deputy Director for Health Systems Strengthening and Human Resources for Health, Capacity Plus Project, IntraHealth International discussed the idea of working “with the government” as opposed to “for the government” which yields faster, greater results. There’s a disparity where some regions are wealthier and instead of fostering partnerships, funders make decisions to push towards programs and ideas that may not be as responsive to the local health needs.

A major challenge Jaffer mentioned was the distrust for NGOs. An animosity exists because people aren’t sure what NGOs are really doing. Jaffer believes civil societies can be more effective, but they need to collaborate more. The partnership dynamic is changing, and there’s a shift towards open source information and increased cooperation. It’s no longer about who gets the biggest slice of the pie but how partners will do it bigger and better.

In the Middle East where HIV/AIDS is not acknowledged as an existent issue, any intervention is often strongly opposed. Jennifer Mason, health advisor for USAID’s Asia and the Middle East Bureaus, believes capacity building is a tool that can link civil society health institutions and NGOs, but it is “patient, time consuming day-today work.” She said there is no familiar relationship in the Middle East with civil societies, and there is no representation of the issue at discussions with many key populations distrusting their government for help. It is imperative to work with civil societies as a way to help them determine their true vision and the purpose of their endeavors.

An important takeaway message stated that even with financial opportunities, if there is no passion from each organization, progress will be greatly stunted.