Amazing Accomplishments in Global Health in 2015

We get so caught up in the Donald and Hillary and Ted and Bernie shows.  Yet there is so much else going on in the world about which most Americans never hear — such as global health.

Permit me to draw attention to This Week in Global Health (TWiGH) which has been producing weekly live online programming on global health topics since mid-2014.  Hosted by Dr. Greg Martin, editor of Globalization and Health, (an open access journal) it’s compelling and accessible.  Recently, the group asked its experts to identify big accomplishments in global health in 2015.  The list grabbed my attention, so here it is – see the YouTube video as well:

  1. Malaria: After 30 years and $565M, 2015 saw the development of the first-ever malaria vaccine; 50% of world population is at risk at risk and this development just might transform millions of lives for the better.
  1. HIV: The World Health Organization updated its guidelines for HIV treatment recommending that it be universal, and that everyone should be treated as soon as positive test result is made; those on treatment are far less likely to transmit the virus to another person.
  1. Climate change: The Paris Agreement on climate change puts in place the first international brakes on global warming, with 196 participating nations, and legally binding when signed by at least 35 countries.
  1. Bariatric Surgery: Though the spread of this treatment is controversial, it is considered the most important breakthrough in diabetes care since the discovery of insulin, with unrivaled health benefits.
  1. Ebola: We are seeing the beginning of the end of the West African Ebola Crisis – though the ordeal is far from over for 17,000 survivors.
  1. Polio: Last year we saw the elimination of polio from the African continent – the last cases were in Nigeria and in September the WHO said that polio is no longer endemic in Nigeria. Only Afghanistan and Pakistan remain as countries with polio.  Eradication is possible!


  1. Approval of the Sustainable Development Goals: 2015 saw the final approval of new international health and social development goals; compared with the earlier Millennium Development Goals, the SDGs are more comprehensive, more inclusive, and financed to encourage sustainable development.
  1. Research: A Nobel Prize was awarded to researchers for novel therapies for parasitic diseases and malaria, demonstrating the vital role and positive impact of research on global health.
  1. Ending Extreme Poverty: The number of people living in extreme poverty (defined as less than $1.90 per day) is down 10%, down from over 900m in 2012 to under 700 million now; a big MDG goal to end extreme poverty by 2030.
  1. Maternal & Child Health: Infant mortality is down to an all time low, down 54% since 1990 down by to 5.9 million, from 63 deaths per 1000 live births in 1990 to 32 in 2015; maternal mortality is down 44%.
  1. Water – In 2015, 91% of the world’s population had access to an improved drinking-water source, compared with 76% in 1990.

Well, wow!  I didn’t know that! Let’s notice and celebrate real progress for citizens of the world.  Let’s hope that 2016 brings other good news for the world.

The U.S. Chamber of Cancer

I recall sitting in my office in the U.S. Senate’s Hart Office Building in DC between 2008 and 2010 with my desk TV always turned onto one of the cable news channels when the Senate was not in session.  Incessantly, I saw TV ads from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce speaking as the “voice of small business” attacking Democratic efforts to achieve national health reform and universal coverage because of the harm it would cause small business.

Only later, in 2011, did we learn that the entire tab for that endless advertising campaign was paid for by major U.S. health insurance companies and their trade association, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) to the tune of more than $100 million in direct donations.  Later, I had the chance to ask AHIP President Karen Ignagni (who recently stepped down) why these donations had never been disclosed.  “Because no one ever asked us,” she replied.

Today, the New York Times reports a devastating story about the role the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is playing in advancing the interests of the global tobacco industry in thwarting tobacco regulation and smoking prevention efforts in nations all around the globe:

“From Ukraine to Uruguay, Moldova to the Philippines, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its foreign affiliates have become the hammer for the tobacco industry, engaging in a worldwide effort to fight antismoking laws of all kinds, according to interviews with government ministers, lobbyists, lawmakers and public health groups in Asia, Europe, Latin America and the United States.”

Continue reading “The U.S. Chamber of Cancer”