A hopeful and inspiring atmosphere filled the room during the ‘Challenges in Global Health conference -2015 and beyond’.
“Joy commeth in the morning” is what Michael Kane, Labour MP began his speech with, focusing on various positives in light of the many global health challenges around the world associated with civil unrest, natural disasters, new epidemics and more.
The overall aim of the talk was to reflect on the progress achieved regarding global health as well as to underline the setbacks, new and continuing challenges. The next Parliament will be a crucial time for global health; the final negotiations on the next set of global development goals will be one of the first tasks for the new government.
The representatives on the panel discussed the negotiations and their approach to a range of interconnected crises and trends. As the debate unfolded, the people in the room were once more overwhelmed by the layers and layers of intertwined issues in different sectors which challenge global health experts to this day.
The academics and those with first-hand experience reinforced key global health truths at the table. The fact that throwing money at a developing country will not simply solve the health problems associated with poverty. Moreover, the schemes should maintain a ‘bottom up’ approach, be culturally sensitive, sustainable and realistic.
All political parties promised to commit to the national Official Development Assistance (ODA) of 0.7% of the Gross National Income. Moreover, the way it is being spent needs more regulation; investing in more sustainable projects that logistically encourage the own development of the countries’ economies as to invest more in their own healthcare. An interesting point was brought up in discussion by a professor of Tropical Medicine in London. In spite of all the development abroad, the UK NHS has many lessons to learn from other countries such as Cuba, a health system that seems to strive given its low economy.
Action for Global Health (AfGH), a network of development and health organisations, and international NGO, Wateraid are both involved in discussions on how the post 2015 framework can best deliver improved health outcomes around the world. Their focus is providing clean Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) as a basic human right as we are all aware of the associated health impacts. Poor hygiene practises and a lack of clean water have resulted in high childhood mortality rates in rural areas. A broad, multi sectorial approach is needed, with the health systems having a leading role in ensuring policy coherence as well as leading cross-sectorial action on WASH as an inseparable part of its overall efforts to improve population health.
An interesting question was raised on the provision of vaccines as a major preventative measure for disease. Conservative MP, Nick Herbert seemed convinced that if more research and efforts were put into finding a vaccine for TB, there would be one by now, but there is no incentive from pharmaceutical companies, therefore more effort and leadership is required from central government.
From a sexual and reproductive health point of view, similar themes were brought up from the APPG that Sexpression were invited to in September. The Vision 20:20 campaign aims to prioritise sexual and reproductive health into policies internationally with the overall aim of empowering women. On a positive note in the past 20 years globally, females have gained 6 years of life on average. In spite of this, there is still huge headway to go in a variety of issues, such as female genital mutilation, lack of trained skilled birth attendants (SBAs), lack of or no access to contraception and a lack of safe abortion clinics. There are still millions of women around the world who would use different methods of contraception if they had access to it and due to recent legislation in international law, there are still setbacks occurring with family planning.
The human rights agenda was touched upon briefly. More specifically, how to address the needs of those marginalised groups of society that are more vulnerable to risk. There seems to be a long way to go in regards to the LGBTQIA agenda. Though Labour MP Michael Kane, seemed ambitious to keep advocating and fighting this agenda in international development. It is important for the countries such as the UK, who are moving closer to ending discrimination amongst the several ‘left behind groups’ to pave the way for other countries and be an example of how looking after these groups will benefit the population as a whole as well as meet global health targets.
This is obviously something that Sexpression and similar groups help advocate, especially currently, during National HIV testing week and World AIDs day on the 1st December.
Eliza Anyangwe of the Guardian and chair to the debate, concluded with a note of realism. Does the political cycle make these issues impossible to make a great deal of change? The answer to which seemed fair. Although to bring an issue forward to light takes time, the research, the implementation and the monitoring of change in practice also takes time. Although political change occurs, we aim to make sure our international development goals regarding health are maintained.
When asked to summarize each party’s main priorities alongside the discussed on goings, the Liberal Democrats aim to improve prevention by resilience and capacity so that countries are able to deal with epidemics. Labour’s main message was that human dignity and solidarity is the principle foundation that will allow efficient growth in areas which are most relevant to that country. The conservative party’s main message was to tackle persistent economic failures in development and invest money strategically so that the country’s economy will allow growth and development in their own healthcare.