The Best and Worst in Global Health in 2010

On January 3, 2011, in global health, by Karen Grepin

Today is the first day that I have managed to have a few minutes to sit down in my office to get caught up in emails and my blog.  One of the worst things about being a professor is that while the Christmas period is a holiday for most people, it is actually one of my busiest times of the year as I have to cram in a pile of grading, international travel (this year Amsterdam, Boston, Accra, and the Caribbean), and course preparation into a few short weeks.

Although my blogging has slowed a bit this year, mostly due to the arrival of my new son who has been demanding a great deal of my time and energy, my readership has continue to climb.  As others have done, I thought it was appropriate to step back and reflect on 2010 in global health by going through my blog archives for the year.  Both Alanna Shaikh and Tom Paulson have put out lists on best of in global health, so I thought I would as well.  Here is mine – including the Best and the Worst in Global Health in 2010- organized by categories:


Life-Saving Vaccines: When I was in college (or as we say in Canada, in undergrad) studying immunology, one of my professors argued that the low hanging fruit in terms of diseases that could be targeted by vaccines had all been plucked, suggesting that we were not likely to see any new and major breakthroughs in vaccines in the future, but 2010 dispelled this view with the launch of a number of new and important vaccines and new research showing new potential for existing vaccines (here and here).  It was a good year for vaccine development.

A cell phone you can pee on to learn your HIV status…OK – you don’t actually have to pee on your phone, but you could and that just seems wrong.


Integration: it’s back.  Lots of big wigs – from Hilary Clinton to Rajiv Shah and others – have started to throw this word around a lot in the context of HIV programming.  I like this word, although I have argued before that it means too many things to too many people, and I am happy to see real discussions about how recent vertical programs will need to be integrated into existing health systems.  It is just too bad that it took this long.

Universal Health Coverage: As others have argued, I find this term lacks meaning – coverage itself should not be the end goal as it is the outcomes that matter.  Despite that, this word got a lot of play in 2010 including figuring prominently at the Montreux Symposium on Health Systems Research.

Best…Controversy or Debate

Maternal mortality declines: Earlier this year there was a lot of debate regarding new estimates of maternal mortality that were released from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation that sparked a major debate about the way in which these new estimates were produced and it was even suggested that some groups had asked for the new data to be suppressed.  But I think this is one example of where the public debate raised a lot of new awareness for this important issue.

Worst…Controversy or Debate
The Canadian Government inability to decide on the meaning of family planning and whether or not it includes abortion or not. I personally felt that this debate greatly detracted from the key issues in reducing maternal mortality and may have led to less commitment from some donors, which is truly sad.

Best…Conference or Event

I think I am going to have to declare a tie on this one: Women Deliver and the Montreux Global Health Systems Research Conference.  I missed the first – due to the fact that I was a woman who delivered just a few weeks before – but was lucky enough to attend the second.  It was exciting to see so much energy and enthusiasm for important global health topics that rarely get so much attention.

Worst…Conference or Event
Global Fund replenishment meeting: although I think it is fair to say the Global Fund board might have been a bit too optimistic in their funding demands from donors it might also be fair to say that donors came up short.

Best…YouTube Video

Hans Rosling’s 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes: Our favorite Swedish geek gets fancy‬ on the BBC‪…

Worst…YouTube Video
Barack Obama being heckled by AIDS protestors:  I know, free speech and all, but I really feel like Obama is not the enemy here and treating him like it does not help.

Best…Health Priority

Tough call on this one, but I am going to go with surgery.  What was the runner up?  Non-Communicable diseases – but I suspect it will actually be the big winner in 2011.

Worst…Health Priority
Cholera: Hey cholera aren’t you supposed to be on your way out?  Not this year as we saw major breakouts in Kenya, the DRC, and of course Haiti – among other countries.  Clearly treating this disease needs to become a bigger priority for countries around the world.

Best…News Item

Despite the financial crises, international donors appear to have not cut back on development assistance for health with it projected to increase through the end of 2010.

Worst…News Item
More countries are caught stealing from the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria (as I like to jokingly call it the GF “ATM”) – including most recently (that I know of anyway) Mali.


All of the things that were turned red on World AIDS day, including the Empire State Building (picture taken from my apartment).

Worst…Advocacy (aka Badvocacy)
Dying on Twitter: Alicia Keys and friends “died” on twitter to raise awareness for World AIDS day.  Here is Texas in Africa on what was bad about this idea.

Best…Donor Activity

Cash-on-Delivery AID: An idea that has been developed by the wonks at the Center for Global Development is finally starting to see some air play.  Bill Savedoff, Mead Over, and others have specifically been investigating how this new initiative might affect the health sector.  It is still an idea that needs to be proven, but it certainly stands as one of the most innovative new approaches to development assistance.

Worst…Donor Activity
Cutting back funding to GAVI.  Just as things were getting really exciting (see note above on drug development) we are starting to see donors cut back on funding specifically to this organization that has done so much. Boo-urns.


The Pope saying condoms *might* be *OK* under *some* conditions for *some* populations.  You got to start somewhere.

Ban Ki Moon’s declaration that African countries should allocate 15% of their national budgets to HIV…not just health but HIV.  C’mon be realistic….


4:53 p.m. on January 12: Haiti Earthquake.  It was one of the most deadly minutes in the history of the world and one from which that impoverished country is still trying to recover from.

9:11 a.m. on May 6: The moment my son Nicolas was born.  OK, so perhaps this is not the most exciting moment in global health, but it was the most exciting moment of my year!


I am looking forward to another year of blogging and hearing from you all in 2011!

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13 Responses to “The Best and Worst in Global Health in 2010”

  1. Tom Paulson says:

    RT @KarenGrepin: My best and worst in #globalhealth in #2010 (new blog post):

  2. Paul Jones says:

    RT @KarenGrepin: My best and worst in #globalhealth in #2010 (new blog post):

  3. RT @KarenGrepin: My best and worst in #globalhealth in #2010 (new blog post):

  4. RT @KarenGrepin: My best and worst in #globalhealth in #2010 (new blog post):

  5. Yes! But don't like metric RT @pozomarcos Best Health Priority of 2010: #globalsurgery according to @KarenGrepin at

  6. Paul Jones says:

    RT @pozomarcos: Best Health Priority of 2010: #globalsurgery according to @KarenGrepin at @globalsurgeon

  7. Best Health Priority of 2010: #globalsurgery according to @KarenGrepin at @globalsurgeon

  8. IHME at UW says:

    Thanks @karengrepin for including IHME's maternal mortality work in her best/worst of 2010.

  9. Robbo says:

    The Best and Worst in Global Health in 2010

  10. Dr Eileen Natuzzi says:

    Thank you Karen for making surgery your best health priority of 2010. I am a surgeon working in a really needy but invisible country, Solomon Islands. There is no USAID, PEPFAR, GHI or Gates health care funding going to that country despite its >30% incidence of malaria and its untested therefore undiagnosed HIV incidence. A well developed aid and education support program could do a great deal to improve the delivery of surgical care there, which at present is centralized to one hospital on the island of Guadalcanal. Would be delighted to talk with you about what we do.

  11. Arogya World says:

    A post we've really enjoyed from @KarenGrepin: My best and worst in #globalhealth in #2010

  12. Great “best and worst” list Karen, maybe because they resonate with the ones I had identified. I also want to second what Dr.Natuzzi says about the conditions in Solomon Islands. Surprisingly we work in the same invisible country/ region too which operates without any funding from USAID, DFID, Gates or other big donors. Solomons has some of the worst sexual and reproductive health indicators in this region of the world – an area that we work in.

  13. […] Shaikh was one of them, as were Karen Grepin, Tom Paulson, Cynthia Schweer, and Amanda Glassman […]

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