Top 5 Global Health Headlines: Obama Budget Proposal, Mutation May Protect from Cancer

BY Talea Miller  February 18, 2011 at 9:40 AM EDT

Obama Proposes Boost to Global Health Funding

President Obama released his fiscal year 2012 budget proposal this week, advocating cuts in foreign aid to some countries, but an increased investment overall for the State Department and the administration’s Global Health Initiative priorities.

About $9.8 billion is requested for the Global Health Initiative, an 11 percent increase, and the State Department is allocated $47 billion, a 1 percent increase over 2010 levels, not including $8.7 billion for operations such as Iraq and Afghanistan programs.

The proposal would cut $115 million in programs in Europe, Eurasia and Central Asia — in countries that are considered graduated out of needing aid.

Congress is gearing up for another budget battle for the remainder of the 2010 fiscal year. Republicans have proposed deep cuts to some State Department programs, including a 41 percent cut in international humanitarian programs.

Dwarfism Gene Could Protect from Cancer

Members of a family in the Ecuadorian Andes carry a gene mutation that leads to dwarfism, but also may protect from age-related disease like cancer and diabetes, according to new research in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

The mutation, which prevents the body from using growth hormones, is found in only about 300 people worldwide, 100 of whom live in Ecuador. Over 22 years, scientists studying the family found that none of the members with the gene mutation developed diabetes — though they had a high rate of obesity — and only one developed (non-lethal) cancer.

Haiti Cholera Epidemic on the Decline

The cholera epidemic that has spread through Haiti for months appears to be slowing overall, the UN said Friday, but the death rate among patients remains high in some areas.

According to Haitian government figures, 231,070 cases and 4,549 deaths have been reported since October. National death rates among patients have dropped to 2 percent, but in some rural areas they remain around 10 percent.

Kenya Rolls Out Pneumococcal Vaccine

Launching a wider global roll out of a new pneumococcal vaccine designed to meet the needs of poor countries, Kenya began its immunization campaign against the deadly disease this week.

The vaccine is the first to be launched simultaneously in rich countries and the developing world, a feat made possible by an “advance market commitment,” which gives pharmaceutical companies incentive to launch vaccines faster to the developing world and for more affordable prices.

The NewsHour wrote about the impact of pneumococcal disease and the vaccine in Rwanda.

Barriers to AIDS Fight in Asia-Pacific

Legal barriers and law enforcement tactics are hampering the fight to curb HIV/AIDS in many Asian and Pacific countries, UNAIDS said this week.

At least 19 countries in the region criminalize same-sex relations and 29 countries criminalize some aspects of sex work, which can make it more difficult for health workers to reach out to these highly-affected communities. Health leaders met in Bangkok Thursday for the first in a series of meetings on the issue.