As summer draws to a close, the global community remains focused on addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. With disruptions across every facet of life and business, institutions are adapting to this new reality. For example, for the first time in its 75-year history, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) will be held virtually, with world leaders submitting pre-recorded videos rather than traveling to UN headquarters in New York City; side events will be virtual as well.
This week, we are pleased to provide a preview of Rabin Martin’s UNGA side event, highlights from our team and clients as they tackle an array of global health challenges, and our regular COVID-19 update. Please click here for earlier issues of our COVID-19 Briefings.
Rabin Martin at UNGA
Will a Vaccine Save Us? A Fireside Chat with Dr. Heidi Larson and Dr. Peter Piot
On Wednesday, September 30 at 9:00am ET, Rabin Martin will host a conversation with Dr. Heidi Larson, Director, The Vaccine Confidence Project, and Dr. Peter Piot, Director, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rabin Martin CEO Dr. Jeffrey L. Sturchio will moderate the discussion on lessons learned from the past eight months and predictions on what lies ahead – addressing issues such as equity in care and treatment and the impact of misinformation on vaccine confidence. Please register here.
Innovating to speed time to diagnosis for rare diseases
The three co-chairs of the Global Commission to End the Diagnostic Odyssey for Children with a Rare Disease, an initiative supported by Rabin Martin, published an opinion article in STAT News last week on the importance of innovation to accelerate the time to diagnose rare diseases. The article highlights the rising trend of telehealth consultations, of particular relevance during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Using Telehealth to Revolutionize the Speed of Making Rare Disease Diagnoses,” by Dr. Wolfram Nothaft of Takeda, Dr. Gregory Moore of Microsoft, and Yann Le Cam of EURORDIS-Rare Diseases Europe, features a pilot project at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C. This unusual project, supported by the Global Commission, is using virtual tools such as facial recognition, video appointments, and a triage system to deliver genetic assessments remotely to patients and physicians – significantly reducing waiting times for visits.
Championing equity in maternal healthcare during COVID-19 and beyond
Recognizing the harmful effects of COVID-19 on women’s access to quality maternity care, Merck for Mothers is adapting its programming to achieve its vision of a world where no woman has to die giving life. On August 19, the Milken Institute published an article by Dr. Mary-Ann Etiebet, Lead and Executive Director, Merck for Mothers, about how the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated inequities in maternal health in the United States.
“Maternal Mortality: Reducing the Pandemic’s Effect on Health Inequity” calls for a “radical re-centering [of] our efforts,” arguing that the status quo in maternal healthcare leaves too many women behind, particularly women of color. “Improving maternal health outcomes will require fighting for racial equity,” writes Dr. Etiebet. (Rabin Martin has provided strategic counsel to Merck for Mothers since the initiative’s inception.)
Challenging the status quo for cancer patients
As part of the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Virtual Congress, MSD, with Rabin Martin’s counsel, is hosting a policy symposium entitled “New approaches, old barriers – Will cancer patients get access to the combinations and early treatment they need?” The session will highlight strategies to improve patients’ access to treatment, including combination and early therapies. The panel will feature diverse perspectives from across the patient journey: Dr. Bettina Ryll, Founder, Melanoma Patient Network Europe; Dr. Nils Wilking, Clinical Oncologist, Karolinska Institute; Deepak Khanna, SVP and Regional President, MSD; and Tim Wilsdon, Vice President, Charles River Associates. Following the live event, a recording of the session will be available on-demand to ESMO participants between Monday, September 14 and Tuesday, September 29.
Sharing Perspectives: Center for Global Development
Our team organizes regular “Lunch & Learns” with global health leaders to garner new perspectives and keep up to date with the latest developments in the field. Last week, we spoke with Amanda Glassman, Executive Vice President and Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development and Chief Executive Officer of CGD Europe, who emphasized the importance of measuring and showing progress in health outcomes – and making sure that “the way we provide money is most useful for the country on the receiving end.”
In the context of COVID-19, Amanda expressed concern that the fiscal response in low and middle-income countries has not focused adequately on shoring up health systems – a “lost opportunity.” In response to questions from our team, she commented on the ingredients for program sustainability – including the need to align with government priorities to secure buy-in.
Pivoting to the growing interest in innovative financing mechanisms, Amanda highlighted how more experimentation is needed in areas such as risk-sharing agreements, performance-based contracting, consolidated purchasing, and social impact bonds to solve complex global health challenges.
Finally, we enjoyed her personal reflections on the impressive group of female role models who helped nurture her career as a leader in global health.
Rabin Martin hosts summer Learning Academy
As a learning organization, we conduct a semi-annual Learning Academy – a proprietary professional development program for all staff. We recently completed four virtual sessions to hone our skills in business-critical areas, including mining strategic insights, reflective practice, agility, and inclusive leadership. This summer’s Learning Academy also focused on COVID-19 and the challenges the pandemic presents to the business and global health communities, requiring creative, out-of-the-box solutions. In the final session, our team discussed the impact of the social determinants of health on health equity, examining issues such as the disparities in COVID-19 mortality rates and the urgent need for ethical frameworks to ensure equitable allocation of COVID-19 vaccines when they become available.
Congratulations and best wishes to our two colleagues, Ariel Falconer and Andrea Linden, who have been navigating the challenges of pregnancy and childbirth during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ariel and baby Owen born in June. Good luck, Andrea – due September 8!
COVID-19: An On-Going Crisis
The U.S. accounts for almost a quarter of global cases, reporting 6,125,916 cases and 186,185 deaths.
Since March, the U.S. has led the world in COVID-19 cases and deaths. In the past few months, Brazil, and more recently, India, have seen similar exponential increases resulting in a combined loss of life of 191,156 individuals. The region of the Americas (which includes the U.S. and Brazil) now accounts for over 60 percent of new deaths, even though it represents only 13 percent of the world’s population.
Even in countries that had reached moderate epidemic control, public health experts are concerned that new outbreaks may lead to a second wave. Cases are rising in Europe, with Spain reporting the fastest increase: more than 53,000 new cases were recorded last week. Compared to early June, when the country saw daily case counts hovering around 300, Spain is now experiencing rates of infection similar to the epidemic’s peak in March and April. As measured by per capita infection rate (114 new infections per 100,000 people), the epidemic in Spain is also growing faster than in the U.S. Still, some remain optimistic that having survived the first wave, hospitals and decisionmakers will be able to implement important lessons. “We have a much bigger stock of equipment, we have protocols in place, we are more prepared,” said Dr. María del Mar Vázquez, hospital director in Malaga, Spain. “The hospitals will be full — but we are ready.”
Earlier this week, Dr. Seth Berkley, Chief Executive Officer, Gavi, confirmed that upper-middle and high-income nations, including Japan, Germany, and Norway, have signed on to participate in the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility, an initiative co-led by World Health Organization (WHO), the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to accelerate development, manufacturing, and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. “This is good news,” said Dr. Berkley. “It shows that the COVAX facility is open for business and is attracting the type of interest across the world we had hoped it would.”However, on Tuesday, September 1, the U.S. announced it would not participate in the COVAX Facility. The U.S. decision drew swift criticism from international stakeholders who argued it would threaten U.S. security and perpetuate the epidemic. Urging all nations to join the effort, Dr. John Nkengasong, Director, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said, “We are in this together. No country will be safe if any other country in the world still has cases of COVID-19.”
Promoting equity and efficacy in vaccine distribution remains a top priority for the U.S. On Tuesday, September 1, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine released a preliminary framework (commissioned by the National Institutes of Health and the CDC) to support equitable allocation of a COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. The framework proposes four criteria to help prioritize who will receive a vaccine: risk of acquiring infection, risk of severe morbidity and mortality, risk of negative social impact, and risk of transmitting disease to others. The draft is open for public comment until 11:59 ET on Friday, September 4.
From the Experts
“Eight months into the pandemic, we understand that people are tired and yearn to get on with their lives. We understand that countries want to get their societies and economies going again. That’s what WHO wants too… At the same time, no country can just pretend the pandemic is over.”
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, WHO
Monday, August 31
“I think what we need to figure out… are ways to live with this virus, where we take action to reduce the transmission.”
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, COVID-19 Technical Lead, WHO
Monday, August 31
“COVID-19 is deepening existing inequalities, including gender inequality. Already we are seeing a reversal in decades of limited and fragile progress on gender equality and women’s rights. And without a concerned response, we risk losing a generation or more of gains.”
António Guterres, Secretary-General, UN
Monday, August 31
“For the U.S. to terminate its relationship with the WHO in the middle of a pandemic is going to create an endless stream of self-defeating moments.”
J. Stephen Morrison, Director, Global Health Policy Center,
Center for Strategic and International Studies
Tuesday, September 1
“I really want to use this opportunity [approaching holiday weekend that may lead to spikes] to have a plea to the people in this country to realize that we really still need to get our arms around this.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director,
National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease
Wednesday, September 2
“Despite these hopeful [downward incidence] trends, the human cost of this pandemic remains unacceptably high, with almost 4,000 deaths a day in our region. The scale of this pandemic is unprecedented, and no other group has felt this more acutely than the very men and women who make up our health workforce.”
Dr. Carissa Etienne, Director, Pan American Health Organization
Wednesday, September 2
“We have two choices: vaccine nationalism, where a lot of people are vaccinated in a handful of countries, leaving the world’s majority unprotected; or vaccine multilateralism, where we protect at-risk populations in all countries and keep our economies working.”
Dr. Mariângela Simão, Assistant Secretary-General,
Access to Medicines and Health Products, WHO
Wednesday, September 2
What We’re Reading
Original research by Rabin Martin Associate Emily Chavez, “Inflammation Drives MicroRNAs to Limit Hepatocyte Bile Acid Transport in Murine Biliary Atresia,” was published last month in Journal of Surgical Research. Her findings suggest that in biliary atresia, a loss of bile acid transporters increases liver toxicity, as such, therapies that can enhance bile acid transport may be promising and merit further study. Emily conducted the research while a research associate at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.
- It Has Come to This: Ignore the C.D.C. – Harold Varmus and Rajiv Shah, The New York Times
- The Most American COVID-19 Failure Yet: Contact Tracing Works Almost Everywhere Else. Why Not Here? – Olga Khazan, The Atlantic
- Public Perception Of COVID-19’s Global Health Crisis on Twitter Until 14 Weeks After the Outbreak – Muhammad S Abdo, Ali S Alghonaim, and Bacem A Essam, Oxford Academic Journals
- India’s COVID-19 Crisis Edges Toward the Existential – William Pesek, Forbes
- U.S. Advisory Group Lays Out Detailed Recommendations on How to Prioritize COVID-19 Vaccine – Helen Branswell, STAT News
- How Coronavirus Overpowered the World Health Organization – Betsy McKay and Drew Hinshaw, The Wall Street Journal
- When It Comes to COVID-19, Most of Us Have Risk Exactly Backward – Aaron Carroll, The New York Times
Reports from International Governments and Bodies
- WHO COVID-19 Information and Guidance
- WHO Weekly Epidemiological Update: August 31
- WHO Weekly Operational Update: August 28
- CDC Coronavirus Resource Page
- COVID-19 Health Systems Response Monitor
- NCD Alliance COVID resources relevant to NCDs
Funding and Policy Trackers
- International Monetary Fund Policy Tracker
- Kaiser Family Foundation Coronavirus Policy Tracker
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Corporate Aid Tracker
- Devex Interactive Funding Tracker
Resource Pages and Market Research Literature
- JAMA Resource Center
- The Lancet COVID-19 Resource Centre
- 2019 Novel Coronavirus Research Compendium (NCRC)
- National Academy of Medicine COVID-19 News and Resources
- WIPO COVID-19 IP Policy Tracker
- The COVID Tracking Project
- PharmaIntelligence: Coronavirus – What will the Impact Be?
- Health Affairs Resource Center
- STAT News COVID-19 Tracker
- Global Health NOW’s COVID-19 Expert Reality Check
- International Association of National Public Health Institutes COVID-19 Resources
- Center for Strategic and International Studies The Reopening and Take as Directed Coronavirus Crisis Update Podcast
- Primary Health Care Performance Initiative Forum
- U.S. Global Leadership Coalition COVID-19 Issue Briefs
- Prevent Epidemics Weekly Science Review
- COVID-19 Watch Weekly Updates
For more information or should you have any questions, please contact us.
About Rabin Martin
Rabin Martin is a global health strategy firm working at the intersection of private sector capabilities and unmet public health needs. Rooted in our mission to improve health for underserved populations, we design strategies, programs and partnerships that both deliver public health impact and drive business results. We leverage our deep knowledge and networks across a wide range of geographies and health areas to develop tailored solutions for every client engagement. We have helped many clients create bold global health initiatives and innovative multi-sector partnerships. Our specific areas of expertise include infectious disease and vaccines, non-communicable diseases, rare diseases, maternal and child health, and universal health coverage. Our clients and partners include multinational health care companies, multilateral institutions, government agencies, large foundations and leading NGOs. Rabin Martin is part of the Omnicom Public Relations Group.
About Omnicom Public Relations Group
Omnicom Public Relations Group is a global collective of three of the top global public relations agencies worldwide and eight specialist agencies in public affairs, marketing to women, fashion, global health strategy and corporate social responsibility. It encompasses more than 6,000 public relations professionals in more than 330 offices worldwide who provide their expertise to companies, government agencies, NGOs and nonprofits across a wide range of industries. Omnicom Public Relations Group delivers for clients through a relentless focus on talent, continuous pursuit of innovation and a culture steeped in collaboration. Omnicom Public Relations Group is part of the DAS Group of Companies, a division of Omnicom Group Inc. that includes more than 200 companies in a wide range of marketing disciplines including advertising, public relations, healthcare, customer relationship management, events, promotional marketing, branding and research.