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 July 2005 Global Notebook

World Health Organization Initiative to Develop Consensus Guidelines to Improve Health Information Systems

A new global initiative launched by the World Health Organization aims to improve public health decision-making through better health information. The Health Metrics Network, a partnership comprised of countries, multilateral and bilateral development agencies, foundations, global health initiatives and technical experts, will increase the availability and use of timely, reliable health information through shared agreement on goals and coordinated investments in core health information systems. HMN partners have agreed to align their individual efforts around a common health information framework to reduce redundant and duplicative demands that have hindered information systems in developing countries in the past. HMN believes that enhancing the availability, quality, consistency, and use of health data requires greater harmonization among stakeholders around agreed technical standards. To meet its objectives, HMN will pursue the development of consensus-based guidelines to align partners around agreed-upon standards, methods, and analyses, support developing countries in applying and adapting these guidelines to improve their health information systems, and be the catalyst that leads to the joint funding of these efforts, and encourage widespread use of health information through policies, systems, and incentives. By 2011, HMN expects that at least 80 countries will be able to report on agreed-upon, standardized global health goals and indicators in a timely and sound manner.

CPSC Opens Dialogue on Chinese Imports and Draft Program Plan with China

To improve the safety of consumer products imported to the United States from China, the staff of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has developed a draft International Consumer Product Safety Program Plan that proposes a number of specific activities to help identify and improve products that do not meet CPSC safety standards. To further this effort, CPSC held an Open Dialogue on Chinese Imports on June 1 in Bethesda, Md., to give experts and stakeholders an opportunity to provide information and ideas on how consumer product safety in the U.S. can be maintained and improved for consumer products manufactured in China. The meeting provided a sounding board for CPSC staff and helped them gain a better understanding of the realities surrounding China’s manufacturing policies and practices. CPSC’s Chairman Hal Stratton and Minister Li Changjiang of the Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine for the People’s Republic of China recently signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate in consumer product areas of mutual concern. In order to conduct the activities under the MOU, CPSC and AQSIQ committed to develop a “Plan of Action on Cooperation” to outline the scope and details of collaborative activities.

USDA and FDA Propose General Principles for Food Standards

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and the Food and Drug Administration have issued a joint proposed rule to establish a set of general principles for food standards that define what a given food product is, its name, and the ingredients used in the manufacture of the food. As the two agencies responsible for ensuring that food labels are truthful and not misleading (FSIS regulates the labeling of meat and poultry products, while FDA regulates the labeling of nearly all other foods), FSIS and the FDA use standards to ensure that products sold under particular names have the characteristics expected by consumers. According to a May 20 Federal Register notice, the proposed general principles will establish the criteria that the agencies will use in considering whether a petition to establish, revise, or eliminate a food standard will be the basis for a proposed rule. In addition, each agency may propose to establish, revise, or eliminate a food standard on its own initiative or may propose revisions to a food standard in addition to those a petitioner has requested. All written comments should be submitted by August 19 to FSIS Docket Clerk – Docket # 95-051P, USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, Room 102, Cotton Annex, 300 12th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20250.

U.S. Commerce Department Releases National Export Strategy

According to the new 2005 National Export Strategy recently released by the U.S. Department of Commerce, 30 percent of U.S. small and medium-sized businesses that do not export would do so if they had more information about markets, potential customers and procedures. To help these enterprises take advantage of market openings in a world economy that is expected to grow four percent in 2005, the Export Strategy lays out a plan to focus U.S. government trade promotion program efforts, and improve outreach to U.S. industry to promote market-driven standards. As part of this plan, improved coordination between the Commerce Department, the International Trade Administration, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the U.S. Trade representative and other federal agencies will increase and advance dialogue with foreign governments on standards-related issues. DOC also intends to partner with U.S. industry to more effectively promote the virtues of an open, transparent, and impartial approach to standards development and implementation to foreign markets and governments worldwide. This complements tactics outlined in the draft U.S. Standards Strategy, currently under revision by members of the U.S. standardization community and expected to be released by the end of the year.

Screw Threads to Make Landmark History

The second of five American Society of Mechanical Engineers 125th-anniversary landmark ceremonies took place in Philadelphia during ASME’s Summer Annual Meeting in June. ASME designated the William Sellers screw-thread standards and the Franklin Institute as an ASME Mechanical Engineering Heritage Site. ASME’s heritage is entwined with Benjamin Franklin’s early development of standards and leadership in the mechanical arts, which will be celebrated. In 1864, an American maker of machine tools, William Sellers, developed a comprehensive system for the design of screw threads for machine bolts and hex nuts. Within the year, Sellers’s system had been endorsed by Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute, then America’s leading research and development organization in mechanical engineering. //

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