Secretary Blinken’s Call with Colombian Foreign Minister Blum

29 Jan

Office of the Spokesperson

The below is attributable to Spokesperson Ned Price:

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke today with Colombian Foreign Minister Claudia Blum.  The Secretary expressed his appreciation for the longstanding U.S.-Colombia partnership, and expressed his condolences on the recent death of Minister of Defense Carlos Holmes Trujillo García, a great statesman and close friend of the United States.  Secretary Blinken conveyed that the Biden administration looks forward to continuing our cooperation to promote a democratic hemisphere, and to reinvigorate our economies in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Secretary expressed the United States’ strong support for peace in Colombia.  He pledged to partner closely with the Colombian government as it extends the benefits of peace throughout the country, ensure the protection of human rights, and defeat the narcotraffickers and transnational criminal groups that threaten regional security.  The Secretary and Foreign Minister Blum also discussed their shared commitment to the restoration of democracy and economic stability in Venezuela, and the importance of efforts to meet the humanitarian needs of Venezuelan migrants in Colombia and throughout the region.

Secretary Blinken’s Call with Sweden’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Linde 

29 Jan

Office of the Spokesperson

The following is attributable to Spokesperson Ned Price:

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke today with Sweden’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Ann Linde to discuss how to maintain a spotlight on Russia’s actions in Ukraine, address the ongoing post-election crisis in Belarus, and advance the Minsk Group Co-Chair process to help Armenia and Azerbaijan negotiate a lasting and sustainable political settlement.

Secretary Blinken expressed U.S. support for Sweden’s OSCE Chairpersonship and its focus on achieving progress on the OSCE region’s protracted conflicts, strengthening climate security, and defending democratic principles.  Ahead of Foreign Minister Linde’s visit to Moscow, Secretary Blinken expressed concern for Russia’s continued efforts to suppress peaceful assembly and the arrest of opposition figure Aleksey Navalny.  He thanked Foreign Minister Linde for Sweden’s strong commitment to defending OSCE principles.

Department of State Named 2020 Government Employer of the Year by CAREERS& the disABLED Magazine

29 Jan

Office of the Spokesperson

The U.S. Department of State is dedicated to advancing workforce diversity, and we are proud to announce that for the second straight year CAREERS & the disABLED Magazine has recognized the Department with its Government Employer of the Year award for the Department’s commitment to empowering employees with disabilities.  The December 2020 issue of the magazine also features a written interview of Kim L. Davis, a Reasonable Accommodations Analyst in the Bureau of Global Talent Management’s Office of Accessibility and Accommodations.

As the federal government’s largest foreign affairs agency, the Department of State works to promote peace and stability, helps to develop thriving economies, and provides Consular services to U.S. citizens and foreign nationals worldwide.

In pursuit of its goal to remain an employer of choice, the Department opened its Access Center in December 2020, a state-of-the-art facility that provides cutting-edge assistive technology solutions to Department employees with disabilities.  The Access Center serves as a showcase for accessibility best practices, for the federal government as well as the diplomatic community and foreign missions in Washington, D.C.  As a result, the center will have a global impact on individuals with disabilities.

The 2020 Government Employer of the Year award recognizes the Department of State’s long-term commitment to ensuring its workforce represents the diversity of America.

Visit careers.state.gov to learn more about Foreign and Civil Service careers, the Consular Fellows Program, and internship opportunities.  Connect with DOSCareers on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Instagram.

WHO publishes new Essential Diagnostics List and urges countries to prioritize investments in testing

29 Jan

To address the lack of access to tests and testing services in multiple countries, WHO since 2018 has published a yearly essential diagnostics list (EDL), a basket of recommended in vitro diagnostics that should be available at point-of-care and in laboratories in all countries to increase timely and life-saving diagnoses.

The latest edition, published today, includes WHO-recommended COVID-19 tests (PCR and Antigen), expands the suite of tests for vaccine-preventable and infectious diseases and non-communicable diseases (such as cancer and diabetes), and introduces a section on endocrinology, which is important for reproductive and women’s health. For the first time, the list includes tests that should not be supplied in countries, either because they are not cost-effective, are unreliable or have been surpassed by newer, easier to use technologies.

‘Access to quality tests and laboratory services is like having a good radar system that gets you where you need to go. Without it, you’re flying blind,’ said WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. ‘All countries should pay particular attention to the diagnostics space and use the essential list to promote better health, keep their populations safe, and serve the vulnerable.’

The use of accurate, quality diagnostics is the first step in the development and implementation of strategies for treatment, control, and in many cases prevention of disease and outbreaks. Their critical role in the health system has been brought into sharp focus by the current COVID-19 pandemic.

‘Testing affects the majority of medical decisions,’ said Dr Mariângela Simão, WHO Assistant-Director General for Access to Medicines and Health Products. ‘In all countries, the use of appropriate diagnostic tests can help inform evidence-based treatment and responsible use of medicines, resulting in improved allocation of resources and better health outcomes.’

The EDL is an evidence-based guide that looks at disease prevalence globally and for each condition recommends the appropriate test. That guidance aims not only to improve the health system’s capacity to reach accurate diagnoses, it also saves precious health resources that would otherwise be wasted on inappropriate treatment or lengthy hospital stays.

As well as tests intended for use in laboratories, the EDL recommends numerous diagnostics that should be available at primary care or community level. This is particularly important for rural areas in low- and middle-income countries, where medical facilities and equipment may be lacking and health providers are often forced to make treatment decisions based solely on patient symptoms.

The recommendations in the list are based on robust evidence and take into account country suitability. The process is overseen by the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on In Vitro Diagnostics (SAGE IVD), a group of specialists from around the world with long standing experience in the field of IVDs and their implementation, their use, regulation and evaluation. The experts evaluate data on the usefulness, impact and accuracy of each test considered in order to decide which should be recommended.

The EDL is not prescriptive – it is intended as a policy tool for countries to create their own national lists based on their local context and needs. WHO will shortly also publish a step-by-step guide to aid countries wishing to develop a national list. So far, WHO has worked with Nigeria, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan to support the development of their national EDLs and is currently in discussions with additional mostly African countries that have requested assistance to boost their diagnostic services.

Four years on, the Global Observatory on Health R&D continues to identify gaps and new trends in the health R&D space

29 Jan

It is now more crucial than ever to take stock of where the world is in terms of health research and development (R&D). This is important for the worlds’ ability to address and improve all health conditions, not just for emergency preparedness. The global COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on decision making in almost all aspects of life; it has emphasized the importance of adequate and appropriately-allocated funding; health R&D capacity and infrastructure; and the ability to carry out R&D at a local level yet have the opportunity for information sharing & collaboration so as to achieve equitable population health. 

On 17 January 2017, the World Health Organization launched the Global Observatory on Health R&D (hereafter referred to as the “R&D Observatory”) to gather and analyse R&D data and information and so help governments, funders and researchers make better decisions on investments and policy making priorities in terms of R&D and identify where the greatest needs for capacity strengthening lie. In the four years since then, the R&D Observatory has continued to identify striking gaps and inequalities in investments – both between countries and between health issues, with frequent disconnects between disease burden and level of research activity. 

Its yearly analysis and monitoring builds on a wide range of existing information and is done in close collaboration with WHO technical departments and external partners. Its output, provided in the form of interactive data visualizations that allow users to explore data further, often shows little or no improvement in addressing gaps in many important areas. 

Some key findings from the R&D Observatory’s analyses since its launch are highlighted below.

Distribution of biomedical research funding

While the total investment on grants for biomedical research for 2018 across the 10 funders that reported data to World RePORT amounted to approx. US$ 33 billion:

  • most grants were awarded for research (65%). A far smaller proportion of grants went to training (17%) and core support (8%);
  • low-income countries only received 0.2% of all grants (with the majority of these low-income recipient countries being in the WHO Africa region);
  • most (two-thirds) of all the grants were awarded for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs); a quarter of all investments in this area were for research relating to malignant neoplasms;
  • only a tiny proportion of grants target a WHO neglected tropical disease (approx. 1%) or R&D Blueprint pathogen (approx. 0.6%).

Collaboration patterns among research institutions around the world

Analysis of biomedical research grants across the 10 funders that reported data to World RePORT for 2018:

  • 69.4% of collaborations resulted from direct grants awarded by the United States of America’s National Institutes of Health (NIH); this institution also gave the highest average grant duration;
  • collaborations were most likely to be with others in the same income group. For example, grant recipients in high-income countries were most likely to collaborate with others in high-income countries;
  • overall, the United Kingdom is top of the list of countries with which grant recipients collaborated.

What disease areas are being funded?

An exploration of which products are in the pipeline, what clinical trials are being conducted or what research grants are being awarded, shows that most R&D investments are going towards research on NCDs. Mirroring the funding pattern mentioned above, only a tiny proportion of active products in the pipeline target a WHO neglected tropical disease (less than 0.5%) or a WHO R&D Blueprint pathogen (less than 0.4%).

There is some evidence of reactive research funding; for example, in 2018 around 80% of all grants for WHO R&D Blueprint pathogens were for Ebola virus disease (45%), followed by Zika virus disease (25%) and Lassa fever (9%). (Exceptionally, perhaps, the Policy Cures Research COVID-19 tracker shows that by the end of 2020, around 9 billion US$ were pledged for COVID-19 R&D worldwide.)

How do countries compare on domestic R&D investments against global targets?

In this analysis, domestic R&D investments were measured against benchmarks (using the most recent data available by country):

  • based on available evidence (from 81 countries), the data show large variations between countries. Many countries did not meet the target for their income group, while a few countries exceeded the target;
  • for example, out of 29 high-income countries, only eight met or exceeded the target for high-income countries. Interestingly, Kenya (a lower middle-income country), and South Africa (an upper middle-income country) met this target – although they are the only countries in their income groups to do so.

What is the distribution of higher education institutions offering disciplines related to research for health?

This analysis explores the relationships between country income, population, higher education institutions and opportunities for [or availability of] training in research for health: 

  • the number of institutions in a country is more closely related to the country’s income level than its population size or density;
  • the vast majority of institutions offering a relevant discipline in 2019 were created more than 20 years ago (reflecting institutional experience). Only a small percentage of these are in the WHO Africa region (4%), the WHO Eastern Mediterranean region (4%) or the WHO South-East Asia region (8%);
  • the number of institutions that offer disciplines related to research for health and provide an opportunity for research training linked to obtaining an advanced/postgraduate degree varies widely. For example, in Madagascar none of the 25 higher education institutions provide this opportunity, while in Nigeria (also in the WHO Africa region), 76 higher education institutions (62.8%) do so.

Such information helps countries explore where they are with respect to their own targets and to other countries; it also allows countries to monitor progress towards strengthening R&D capacity. Ultimately, this will optimize delivery of health interventions and improve access to equitable and quality health services for people across the world and so allow progress towards achieving universal health coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals.

 

General Assembly Takes Note of Secretary-General’s Report, as It Concludes Debate on Organization’s Work, Priorities for 2021

29 Jan

The General Assembly concluded its discussion of the Secretary-General’s report on the work of the United Nations today, taking note of his report (document A/75/1), as delegates resoundingly called for a renewed multilateralism that prioritizes the needs of countries in varying degrees of distress as they struggle to emerge stronger than ever from the onslaught of COVID-19.