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Top 10 Posts of 2012 from CGD’s Global Health Policy Blog

It’s that magical time of the year when we bring you the top 10 most read entries on the CGD Global Health Policy Blog.  Together, these top posts had a total almost 20,000 unique page views. This year the blog asked for your feedback on evaluating the quality of health aid, addressed the debate over entities like the GHI and AMFm, and discussed everything from cash transfers to priority-setting.

What’s in a Pilot? A View from South Africa’s National Health Insurance (NHI)

This is a joint post with Rachel Silverman.

Last week, I attended a conference on South Africa’s national health insurance (NHI), which was hosted in Pretoria by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC). A key recurring theme and consensus emerged: South Africa must develop a clearer plan and strategy for the “piloting” phase of its national health insurance.

Some background: In 2011, the government of South Africa committed itself to providing all of its citizens with “a defined package of comprehensive (health) services” through national health insurance. While the details are still up in the air, the government issued a preliminary policy paper which estimated NHI to cost R255 billion (~US$30 billion) per year by 2025, if implemented as planned over a 14-year period.

“A Chronicle of Hope and Promise”: Observations from Recent Journal Issues on PEPFAR

This month, both Health Affairs and the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (JAIDS) released special thematic issues on the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in which the articles – mainly commentaries but some analyses – provide an exceptionally positive readout on PEPFAR’s past performance and future direction. In principle, this is great – any insights into PEPFAR are always welcome, and it’s clearly valuable to discuss and disseminate lessons learned from the program. If these articles were posted on the PEPFAR website, or released as official PEPFAR reports, we wouldn’t bat an eye. But within scientific, peer-reviewed journals, the articles read more like PEPFAR PR rather than commentary and analysis from independent, third-party observers and stakeholders. A quick skim of the titles in the table of contents illustrates this point (see word cloud of selected title excerpts), and a closer look at the contributors sheds some light on why this may be the case: most authors of the articles are somehow affiliated with PEPFAR or with organizations that have received money from the program.

Getting to Know the Global Fund: Diagnoses from Work in Progress

In this austere budget climate, generating “value for money” (VFM) is a top concern for global health funding agencies and their donors, who want the biggest bang for their buck in terms of lives saved and diseases controlled. To that end, CGD has convened a working group to help shape the VFM agenda with high impact recommendations for reducing costs, increasing impact per dollar spent, and focusing investments on the highest impact interventions among the most affected populations. Since our first meeting in April, we’ve been hard at work collecting evidence, consulting with global health agencies, and identifying the most promising areas for further investigation. The main funding agency under our VFM microscope: the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Contraception: Necessary but Not Sufficient

Family planning is back with a bang, thanks to this week’s London Summit. The event, several months in the making, was the brainchild of the UK government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in partnership with the UNFPA. According to early reports, the Summit was a resounding success, raising $4.6 billion in commitments from government donors, NGOs, and international foundations. With these funds, donors have pledged to provide access to contraceptives for an additional 120 million women and girls, which they believe could prevent 200,000 maternal deaths, and stop 3 million infants from dying in their first year of life.

Failure to Launch: A Post-Mortem of GHI 1.0

Announced in May 2009 by President Obama, the Global Health Initiative (GHI) promised a new way for the United States to do business in global health. Fragmented U.S. programs would be united under a single banner; vertical structures would be dismantled in favor of an integrated approach; and narrow, disease-focused programs would transition toward a focus on broader health challenges, such as maternal health, child survival, and health systems’ strengthening.

How Does HIV/AIDS Funding Affect a Country’s Health System?

Recently, the American Journal of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene published a paper by Shepard et al. evaluating the impact of HIV/AIDS funding on Rwanda’s health system. The headline of the press release was catchy and assertive: “Six-year Study in Rwanda Finds Influx of HIV/AIDS Funding Does Not Undermine Health Care Services for Other Diseases. Study Addresses Long-standing Debate about Funding Imbalances for Global Diseases.”

If the Global Health Donors Were Your Parents: A (Whimsical) Comparative Perspective

Navigating the global health funding landscape can be confusing even for global health veterans; there are scores of donors and multilateral funding mechanisms, each with its own particular structure, personality, and philosophy. For the uninitiated, PEPFAR, GAVI, PMI, WHO, the Global Fund, UNITAID, and the Gates Foundation can all appear obscure and intimidating. But if your head is spinning from acronym-induced vertigo, fear not! We are here to help you make sense of it all. How, you ask? With a clear method for donor identification: comparing the donors to your parents.

Getting It Right: USAID and the President’s Malaria Initiative

This is a joint post with Victoria Fan.

While PEPFAR and the Global Health Initiative (GHI) have dominated the global health community’s attention over the past few years, the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) has largely flown under the radar. Surprisingly little had been written about the PMI; still the few available materials painted a reasonably positive picture. But just this month, the PMI released the results of an external evaluation which confirms what we’ve long suspected: PMI is doing a remarkably good job and generating “value for money” in U.S. global health efforts. Such results are all the more impressive in light of the common criticisms of USAID past and present – that it is ineffective, incompetent, and hampered by a complex and arcane bureaucracy. The PMI is a USAID success story that helps validate its ongoing efforts to reform and rebuild into the U.S.’s premier development agency.

Originally conceived in 2005 as a five-year, $1.2 billion scale-up of America’s malaria control efforts, the PMI was extended and expanded by the 2008 Lantos-Hyde Act, receiving $625 million in funding for FY2011. While its funding pales in comparison to PEPFAR, which received almost $7 billion for the same period, the PMI is among the largest global donors for malaria, aiming to halve the burden of malaria for 70 percent of at-risk populations in sub-Saharan Africa. Led by USAID under a U.S. Global Malaria Coordinator, the PMI is jointly implemented with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

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