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GHC Participates in Delegation to CDC
Last week, Global Health Council (GHC) co-led a small delegation of 15 members and partners to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. Over the course of two days, delegates met with CDC leadership, participated in discussions with division directors, and toured the laboratories to learn more about CDC’s global health work and priorities. Read more about CDC’s accomplishments over the last several decades as well as the agency’s current activities.

Johnson & Johnson Launches New Social Venture Competition
Today at the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) Congress in Toronto, Canada, Johnson & Johnson will officially open the GenH Challenge, a global social venture competition designed to seek out and incentivize novel, breakthrough solutions to persistent health challenges. The GenH Challenge builds on a legacy of innovating and developing solutions for people on the front lines of care. With 1 million USD in prizes, winning teams will receive not only financial resources, but technical assistance from Johnson & Johnson to ensure that they are able to turn ideas and vision into reality. Learn more.

Stakeholders Renew Commitments to Eradicate Polio
Since 1985, global incidence of polio has plummeted from 350,000 cases annually to just 37 new infections reported in 2016. As of June 2017, transmission of the highly contagious virus has been eliminated in all but four countries: Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Last week, at the Rotary International Convention held in Atlanta, Georgia, global leaders and international foundations pledged 1.2 billion USD to wipe out polio. These contributions will go towards funding surveillance and immunizations in 70 at-risk countries, under the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). Learn more.

The Global Inequality of Blood Supplies
On June 14World Blood Donor DayThe Economist published a new chart which brings to light the staggeringly low rates of blood donation in low- and middle-income countries, compared to wealthier nations. The data analyzed reveals that nearly 30% of global blood donations occur in Europe, which contains about a tenth of the world’s population. Sub-Saharan Africa, home to nearly a billion people, accounts for less than 5% of global blood supplies. World Blood Donor Day, officially recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO), is commemorated each year to encourage and foster a global culture of voluntary blood donation. View the chart.

Seeking Today’s Midwifery Pioneers for Johnson & Johnson’s GenH Challenge 

This post was written by Alice Lin Fabiano, Johnson & Johnson Global Community Impact.

A good idea can come from anyone, anywhere.

Looking at the history of midwifery, we see that good ideas often come from people providing care every day in communities and clinics around the world. The ways in which midwives have pioneered a new idea or adapted an approach – and augmented health and wellness as a result – cannot be overlooked.

It was Marie-Anne Boivin, a French midwife, who invented the speculum used to assist childbirth. She also wrote multiple textbooks that became standard for midwifery students, and is cited as the first person to use a stethoscope to listen to the fetal heartbeat. And Mary Breckinridge, a nurse-midwife in the rural United States, saw the need for training and increased standards of care, and acted to create the Frontier Nursing Service. FNS went on to train hundreds of midwives and strengthened the concept and practice of nurse-midwifery in the United States.

These midwifery pioneers saw a need, and based on their intimate knowledge of both community and care, they acted and created something new to meet local health needs. They innovated.

We know that today, more and more women and infants are getting the care they need to survive and thrive. Still, every day, 800 women and nearly 8,000 newborns die from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. There is much more that can – and must – happen to support and champion midwives as they save even more lives.

The question is: what will it take to get there?

At Johnson & Johnson, we know the ingenuity required to change the trajectory of health for communities will not come from the boardroom; it will come from the delivery room, the classroom, the clinic, or even a household. To change the realities of health, the world needs the insight, leadership, and creativity of everyday innovators on the front lines of care. In short, the world needs midwives.

Today at ICM, Johnson & Johnson is proud to open the GenH Challenge – a global social venture competition designed to seek out and incentivize novel, breakthrough solutions to persistent health challenges. As of today, the submission period is open – and we need the partnership of many great minds and hearts at ICM to make this happen. We’re calling on midwives, as front line changemakers, to share locally-tailored, globally- scalable ideas as together we seek to create the healthiest generation – “GenH.”

Executive Director Alice Lin Fabiano demonstrates mMitra, a mobile health innovation platform developed in partnership with ARMMAN, USAID, Johnson & Johnson, United Nations Foundation & BabyCenter.

Midwives played an integral role in the development of the GenH Challenge. Last year, I met with 20 midwives in Nairobi to discuss the challenges and opportunities they experienced while delivering care in their communities. We heard stories of the difficulties midwives working in low-resource settings experience. We also heard great stories of triumph and perseverance.  Stories about delivering quality care against all odds, and efforts to inspire young women to pursue midwifery. Midwives told us about their desire to not only be heard, but to be empowered to implement change.

We’ve listened to you, and we are excited to help provide the spark of investment you need to advance that vision of change. The GenH Challenge requires that all teams submitting ideas include a representative from the front lines of care. This specific prerequisite is because we fundamentally believe no sustainable change will be reached without the insight and knowledge individuals like midwives provide.

Quite simply, you are why the GenH Challenge is placing its big bet on the power that lives on the front lines of care.

In our 130 years, we’ve learned that the next big idea can come from anyone. The GenH Challenge builds on a legacy of innovating and developing solutions for people on the front lines of care. With $1 million in prizes, winning teams will receive not only financial resources, but technical assistance from Johnson & Johnson to ensure that you, the changemakers, are able to turn ideas and vision into reality. We invite our fellow pioneers of ingenuity to apply their entrepreneurial spirit as the lever to achieve health equity.

So what’s your answer to our question? Tell us.

Advocacy Update – June 19, 2017

This post was written by Danielle Heiberg, Senior Advocacy Manager, Global Health Council.

FY18 Hearings and USAID Administrator Nomination Hearing Part of Busy Week on Capitol Hill

Last week was a busy one on Capitol Hill. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson testified at four separate hearings on the proposed FY18 budget for the State Department (including USAID’s budget). He appeared before the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee in the House and Senate, as well as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) and the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC). Secretary Price testified before the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee to answer questions on the proposed budget for the Department of Health and Human Services.

Later in the week, Mark Green appeared before SFRC regarding his nomination to serve as Administrator of USAID.

Finally, the Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations subcommittee of HFAC marked up the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act (H.R.1415).

Tillerson Testifies on FY18 Budget for State and USAID

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson faced four different committees (State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee in the House and Senate, as well as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) and the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC)) last week to answer question on the administration’s proposed FY18 budget for the Department of State and USAID.

Republicans and Democrats alike lambasted the proposed cuts, of up to a third, to the foreign affairs budget. Citing multiple humanitarian crises, ISIS, and global health concerns, Chairman Lindsay Graham (R-SC) pointed out that these cuts would put lives at risk. Secretary Tillerson defended the cuts by stating that “Our budget will never determine our ability to be effective. Our people will.” He also stressed the need for other countries to do more.

Since the hearings focused on the entire budget for State and USAID, global health was only a small part of the hearings. Members raised questions about cuts to PEPFAR, maternal and child health programs, as well as the zeroing out of family planning funding. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Congressman Ami Bera (D-CA) both raised questions about the expansion of the Mexico City Policy to cover all global health funding and the impact the expansion would have. Tillerson stated that the expansion would be minimal and that the State Department would assess in six months.

Price Testifies on FY18 Budget for Department of Health and Human Services

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price testified before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services on Thursday to answer questions about the FY18 budget for the Department of Health and Human Services, which includes funding for NIH and CDC. While much of the focus was on Republican-led legislation to replace Obamacare, several Senators did voice opposition to cuts to NIH and CDC and expressed support for the two agencies.

Green Nomination to Lead USAID Advances to Full Senate for Vote

Last Thursday, the Honorable Mark Green testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on his nomination to serve as Administrator of USAID. Green is a former Ambassador to Tanzania and a former Congressman representing Wisconsin.

With the Trump administration recommending cuts of up to one-third for the foreign affairs budget, questions regarding the President’s proposed FY18 budget were a critical part of the hearing. Green stated that the organizing principle of foreign assistance should be on ending its need to exist, he assured the Committee that “USAID will not walk away from our commitment to humanitarian assistance, and we will always stand with people everywhere when disaster strikes.”

Senators also raised questions regarding the possible restructuring of USAID and the State Department, including the possibility that the two could be merged. When asked about restructuring, Green responded, “I believe that the State Department and USAID need to be closely aligned, but I believe they have different cultures.”

Green’s nomination was passed by the Committee and now advances to the full Senate.  

NTDs Bill Marked Up

Late last week the Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee marked up the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act (H.R.1415). Introduced by Congressmen Christopher Smith (R-NJ) and Gregory Meeks (D-NY), the legislation would implement R&D and implementation activities to end neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Overall the Committee was supportive of the bill, recognizing that diseases no know borders, and passed the legislation without amendment. The bill now advances to the full Committee for consideration. Since Title II falls under the jurisdiction of the Energy and Commerce Committee, the bill will also need to be considered and passed by that Committee.

Educating Communities on the Importance of Menstrual Hygiene

This blog post was written by Lanice Williams, Policy Associate, Global Health Council. 

Girls at Kula Amuka Primary School in Anaka, Uganda, hold up sanitary pads that will help them stay in school. © 2012 Caroline Nguyen/GLOBEMED AT UCLA, Courtesy of Photoshare

Have you ever imagined not having access to a toilet or running water during your period? Or not having access to sanitary menstrual items? Or how to deal with the feelings of shame, embarrassment, or isolation due to your period? These are situations that many of us do not think about, but they are the reality for many women and girls living in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

On any given day, more than 800 million women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 are menstruating anywhere from two to seven days. While menstruation is a normal and integral part of life, in many regions of the world menstruating women and girls are often viewed as “impure” and “contaminated.” Many of the views that individuals, including men and boys, have about menstruation are due to lack of knowledge on menstruation, cultural practices, religious beliefs, and social myths about interacting with women during their period.  This is especially common in rural areas where women are prohibited from touching food that others may eat, isolated from their family home, and not allowed to attend school due to the shame associated with their menstruation.  In addition to the negative cultural attitudes and taboos, there are additional challenges associated with menstruation ranging from personal management of periods to issues such as reproductive and sexual health and gender-based violence, which affect girls and women and their roles in their communities.

A number of organizations, governments, and individuals are addressing the issues related to menstrual health by mobilizing others to get involved, breaking practices that at times violate the rights of women, and ensuring that more awareness and education are provided on menstruation.

One country that has deep cultural taboos around menstrual hygiene is Nepal. In the far western region of the country, the harmful tradition of “chhaupadi” — when menstruating women and girls are isolated into separate huts or cowsheds – is practiced. This practice is harmful because many women and girls are denied nutritious food, prevented from bathing and accessing clean water sources used by villagers, and vulnerable to the heightened risk of sexual assault. Although the Nepal Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that chhaupadi was illegal, there are some remote districts in the country where the ruling is rarely enforced. However, several organizations are working within rural communities in Nepal to ensure that this practice is fully abolished.

One such organization is Restless Development Nepal, who, along with its partners KIRDARC and PEACEWIN, addresses discrimination against menstruating females by raising awareness among community leaders, men, and boys. Through the organization’s programmatic approach designed to reduce the prevalence of chhaupadi and provide social support and education to women during their menstruation, employees have trained over 130 peer educators, reduced the prevalence of women sleeping in chhaupadi huts from 20 percent to 5 percent, and provided educational activities to over 20,000 women and girls as well as 15,000 boys and men.

Other organizations such as Plan International, AFRIpads, and Days for Girls work in various countries, such as Uganda and India, to ensure that effective menstrual hygiene management includes a comprehensive approach of addressing women’s immediate needs of sanitary products and menstrual health-appropriate sanitation and hygiene facilities. These approaches in turn lead to women managing their menstrual health free of shame and guilt.

As a community we must ensure that menstrual hygiene management and education are incorporated more into water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), education and sexual and reproductive health programs in LMICs. Doing so allows women and girls to become more confident in managing their menstrual hygiene; helps them stay in school to further their education and economic trajectory in society; and allows them to have a future free from discrimination.

While Menstrual Hygiene Day is recognized each year on May 28, it should not only be limited to this day. We must ensure that education about menstruation and the removal of the stigma around menstruation continues to occur around the world daily. To learn more, join the conversation on Twitter using #MenstruationMatters.


GHC’s Collective Voice Converges in Geneva for WHA70 
Last week the Seventieth World Health Assembly (WHA70) concluded in Geneva, Switzerland. It was a whirlwind WHA with a WHO Director-General election, and several agenda items – from Health Systems to Communicable Diseases – addressed. Global Health Council (GHC) sent a robust delegation of 70 members to WHA70, representing multiple health priorities. Many of GHC’s WHA delegates took part in daily huddles, read statements to the Assembly, and partnered on side-events. Although these voices were diverse, they were united in celebrating the power of civil society. Check out some highlights from the blogs of our WHA delegates and advocates, or view the GHC WHA70 Storify.

Spotlight on the 141st Session of the WHO Executive Board
Following the recently concluded Seventieth World Health Assembly (WHA70) in Geneva, Switzerland, members of the WHO Executive Board convened between June 1 – 2 to give effect to the decisions and resolutions reached at WHA70. A small group of GHC delegates attended the 141st WHO Executive Board Session (EB141), where they tracked and reported on some of the priority agenda items that were discussed. Agenda Item 6:1, Eradication of Malaria, generated conversations that took center stage at the meeting, with several member states pushing for increased efforts and integrated approaches to boost malaria prevention and control globally. Watch recordings of the full proceedings at the EB141 Session.

Explore Planetary Health with Child Family Health International 
Thanks to technological improvements and the use of planetary resources, human health has improved tremendously in recent decades, with great improvements in life expectancy, as well as maternal and infant health. Unprecedented environmental changes threaten to undermine this progress and jeopardize future generations. With a range of new planetary health programs and placements, Child Family Health International (CFHI) aims to foster education about planetary health, food waste reduction, diets with low environmental impact, efficient use of water, and ending deforestation. These programs are designed to equip participants with a better understanding of the intrinsic connection between the health of humans, health of animals, and the health of the ecosystem. To learn more about CFHI programs with planetary health themes.

A Call to Action for Gender Equality in Global Health Leadership
After a year of analysis and over 15 global dialogues, Women in Global Health (WGH) has identified a comprehensive list of commitments that the global health community, particularly at the organizational and institutional level, need to fulfill in order to achieve the goal of greater gender equity in global health leadership. Further, WGH is developing tools in partnership with key stakeholders to better facilitate the translation of these commitments to action. As a partner of Women in Global Health, under the Women Leaders in Global Health Initiative, GHC invites members of the global health community to join the movement to advance gender equity at all levels of global health leadership. Learn more.

Upcoming Workshop on Combating Antimicrobial Resistance 
The Forum on Microbial Threats will host a public workshop, “Combating Antimicrobial Resistance: A One Health Approach to a Global Threat,” on June 20 – 21. The workshop will examine the key areas in human, animal, and environmental health that contribute to the emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance through a One Health approach, and present the complexities and potential strategies of bridging the different sectors and disciplines to counter this global threat. Workshop speakers and discussants will contribute perspectives from government, academia, private, and nonprofit sectors at the global, national, and local levels. This two-day workshop will be held at the Keck Center in Washington, DC. Please RSVP to join in-person or attend via webcast.