News & Commentary

Run, do not walk, to get your shot: Boston Globe, July 2021

Should we fear the Delta variant? Yes, if you are unvaccinated. Rob and Shan implore those who have not yet received their Covid-19 immunization to run to their nearest vaccination site. This Boston Globe article explains that the vaccine is the most effective tool against the rapidly spreading Delta variant.

How to Fix the Covid Vaccine Rollout: NYTimes, January 2021

In this NYTimes op-ed, Pharos President Robert Hecht and Managing Director Shan Soe-Lin argue that after immunizing health workers and the elderly in the first phase of vaccination, US states should target hotspot communities in the immediate next phase to slow transmission of the virus and reopen the economy as soon as possible. Such geographic [..]

States Should Decide When Campuses Reopen: Politico, June 2020

In an op-ed in Politico, Robert Hecht and Shan Soe-Lin argue that due to their enormous “epidemiological footprint”, universities should open in the fall of 2020 in a coordinated and regulated manner with thoughtful oversight from the states and cities where they are located. While empathizing with students, parents, and university administrators and appreciate the [..]

Test the Asymptomatic: NYTimes, April 2020

We need to aggressively search for asymptomatic carriers, particularly among people who have frequent contact with the public and among vulnerable populations, Robert Hecht and Shan Soe-Lin argue in this New York Times op-ed. This includes those who are infectious but will never develop symptoms and those who will develop them days after the test. [..]

Guidance Must Change to Include Face Masks: Boston Globe, March 2020

In an op-ed published in the Boston Globe on March 19th, Pharos Managing Director Shan Soe-Lin and President Robert Hecht explain why the prevailing guidance, in the midst of the current COVID-19 crisis, against wearing masks is wrong. They urge everyone to cover their face outside the home, in addition to washing hands frequently and practicing social distancing.

Shan and Rob argue that the “don’t touch your face” instruction is impossible for most people to follow as the urge to touch is hard-wired in utero. Studies show that humans touch their noses, eyes and mouths on average every 2.5 minutes. COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses cause infection through the mucous membranes on the face. By denying access to the nose, eyes and mouth, coronavirus and other respiratory infections can be prevented. Washable, reusable face masks are a simple way for people to protect themselves from their most direct threat: their own hands.
The op-ed notes that medical masks, including surgical and N95 masks, which are in desperately short supply, should be strictly reserved for health professionals at greatest risk for infection.

Widespread adoption of non-medical masks requires major behavior change and the elimination of stigma against wearing masks, but these challenges can and must be overcome. Masks are an important and badly under-utilized public health tool to protect the public against COVID-19.
Photo Credit: The Boston Globe

Why HTA and Pooled Purchasing Must Be at the Heart of Global Health Transitions, January 2020

In a blog that appeared on January 23, 2020, CGD Director Kalipso Chalkidou and Pharos President Robert Hecht explain the importance of country governments adopting Health Technology Assessment (HTA) and Pooled Purchasing of health commodities, especially in countries undergoing reductions in donor aid for health and simultaneous pressures to increase domestic funding. The authors argue, with multiple examples, that low and middle income countries that build HTA are better able to assess the costs and benefits of investing in different health services and technologies with their own funds and to make wise spending decisions. Similarly, by pooling their purchases of drugs, vaccines, diagnostics, and other health commodities at the national level and with other countries in “buyers clubs”, they can obtain more favorable prices and stretch their scarce health ministry and insurance budgets further to fight major diseases and treat more of their citizens. While some low and middle income countries are starting to use HTA and Pooled Purchasing, many still lack these mechanisms and need to move swiftly to incorporate them in their health budgeting and spending systems.
Photo Credit:USAID

Transitions from Donor Aid: Family Planning Community Needs to Step Up, November 2019

In a blog that appeared on November 28, 2019, on the Center for Global Development website, Pharos President Robert Hecht and Program Associate Devyn Rigsby, along with two colleagues from CGD, examine the challenges to family planning programs in middle-income countries facing simultaneous shifts away from donor health aid in multiple areas including HIV, TB, malaria, and family planning. The authors argue that, unless managed well, looming changes in the donor funding landscape could undermine hard-won gains and threaten progress on family planning—a key contributor to advancing health, gender equality, and women’s economic opportunities. The blog, based on a longer technical research paper from Pharos, concludes that the family planning community must place transition much higher on its agenda and act quickly to prepare for it, sponsoring transition risk assessments and plans in the countries where dramatic changes are expected to occur soon. The blog summarizes key findings and practical recommendations to promote successful transition and sustained progress in family planning.

Morocco Investment Case for Hepatitis C Elimination, January 2019

In an article published on January 28, 2019 in the Journal of Global Health Reports, a team from Pharos including President Robert Hecht and Project Manager Lindsey Hiebert, along with partners from the Paris-based Coalition Plus and the Moroccan Association de Lutte Contre le SIDA, present the health and economic benefits arguments in favor of a large-scale investment in eliminating hepatitis C in the Morocco over the coming decade.

The article entitled “Morocco investment case for hepatitis C: using analysis to drive the translation of political commitment to action” suggests that a phased investment of $650 million over the next 12 years could save more than 50,000 lives and prevent 140,000 new infections, especially among the poorest who are currently not eligible for treatment through publicly-mandated health insurance. As the cost of hepatitis drugs and tests continues to fall worldwide, the overall price tag for hepatitis C elimination could even be lower.

Since the Morocco investment case was discussed with the Minister of Health in 2017 and presented formally to the Government last year, Moroccan health leaders have announced their commitment to purchasing Hepatitis C drugs for a first cohort of 6,500 patients on the road to a large-scale national program.

Donor Transitions from HIV Programs on Vulnerable Populations, December 2018

In a commentary published on the Health Affairs Blog on December 14, and based on a more detailed technical report (available at, Pharos staff and colleagues from Duke University point to the serious risks of declining donor aid in many middle-income countries for the sustained success of HIV programs, especially for stigmatized key populations including men who have sex with men, sex workers, transgender people, and those who inject drugs.

Over $500 billion has been spent on HIV programs in low- and middle-income countries over the past two decades, and major gains have been achieved in lowering new infections, illnesses and deaths, and mitigating other negative impacts of AIDS on society. However, when donor funding ends and countries transition to domestically-funded responses, they often struggle to maintain these programs, particularly for key populations.

Drawing on a series of country examples, we highlight lessons learned and make recommendations that can help countries to mitigate future transition risks and improve the impact of their HIV investments, thereby protecting the health of their populations and safeguarding the gains they have achieved to date in their fight against AIDS.

How India Can Improve its Take Home Rations Program to Boost Child and Maternal Nutrition, October 2018

In a blog article published in Brookings Future Development earlier this week, and based on four policy briefs developed by Pharos (available at, three Pharos staff and Dr. Rajan Sankar (Program Director- Nutrition at Tata Trusts) describe the current state of malnutrition in India and the challenges facing the government’s premier nutrition initiative under the Integrated Child Development Service (ICDS) — the Take-Home Rations (THR) program.

This multi-billion dollar government-financed program has tremendous potential to improve malnutrition across India, yet changes are urgently needed to make the most of it, including steps to improve THR formulation and composition; strengthen the diverse production and distribution systems that currently operate across India’s states; and enhance monitoring and accountability.

If adopted, the recommendations we make in our briefs would provide a more solid foundation for India to achieve its ambitious nutrition Vision 2022 targets and alleviate malnutrition for millions of children and women.

Are tough times ahead for countries graduating from foreign aid? March 2018

In a blog article published on Brookings Future Development and written by Dr. Gavin Yamey and Ipchita Bharali of the Duke University Center for Policy Impact in Global Health, along with three Pharos staff members, we compare countries where foreign aid has wound down with those that are likely to soon stop getting aid. The focus is on health, but the findings may apply to other sectors as well. We find that the upcoming country cohort—which includes Nigeria and Pakistan—appears to be weaker in many dimensions of macroeconomic performance, fiscal capacity, health systems and financing, governance, and equality. These differences may have important implications for country transition (“graduation”) from donor aid, in terms of timing, processes, transitional support, and related donor policies and should be considered by policymakers and the global community.

LEARN MORE about Pharos Global Health Advisors response to the COVID-19 pandemic.