Progress on global health is one of the greatest success stories in development since 2000. Nowhere have these advances been more dramatic than in sub-Saharan Africa, between 2000 and 2015: maternal mortality fell by 15%, children dying under the age of five years old declined by nearly one-third, AIDS-related deaths dropped by nearly 40%, and life expectancy increased in every country in the region.
It’s critical that we keep up the momentum and maintain the progress that has been made to date on global health. At the World Health Summit in Berlin (14-16 October), ONE recommended ways for the world’s experts and leaders to overcome some of the biggest challenges in global health.
Here are excerpts from their discussion, highlighting what we’re calling on world leaders, experts, and citizens alike to do to save lives and eradicate preventable diseases. Be sure to check out their full conversation on Facebook Live!
Q: ONE has an upcoming report calling for a new radical global health action plan. What would that look like?
Smith explained, “We know that through the work of organizations like Gavi, with effective governance, with investments of government dollars, we’re getting a real return.” She continued, “We can change the lives of people, prevent diseases, and ultimately save lives.”
But we need to do more. The health gains of the past 15 years are a proud legacy and benchmark for what is possible, but they stop well short of being an indicator for future gains. Progress will not continue, and could even go into reverse, without new, radical commitments, activism, and innovation. To get back on track, traditional and new partners must mobilize more money for health and deliver more health for the money.
As Smith noted, in order to create the real, lasting impact we want to see, “It takes moving on multiple fronts — it takes vaccines, it takes maternal and child health, it takes education, it takes resources.”
Q: Germany is not only hosting the World Health Summit this year but has been a global health champion for years, for example hosting the 2015 Gavi Replenishment Conference and launching a plan for global pandemic preparedness. What else should Germany be doing as a leader in global health?
“Germany has been a tremendous leader and, I know, the ONE Campaign celebrated with great enthusiasm, Germany’s commitment to Gavi,” Smith answered. She also pointed out that we need to “keep the resources flowing, to gradually increase where it is possible to do so… We’re winning against these diseases, but we’ll lose if we slow down.”
In the next two years, the Global Fund and Gavi will both host important replenishments – meetings that aim to raise new funds and mobilize partners – providing a great opportunity for donors, governments and the private sector to recommit to the fight.
Smith also called on Germany to “maintain its leadership” and “meet the robust promises” it has made in supporting Gavi and the Global Fund in their missions. This is crucial because other donors look to Germany’s leadership in this area.
Q: Around the world, there is a growing issue with confidence in vaccines. We are seeing outbreaks of measles in Europe, for example, and worry that the diseases, as well as the pandemic of misinformation, will spread. As an advocate for vaccines, what should we do to reverse these trends?
Vaccines are arguably one of the best health technologies we have in our global health toolbox. Smith noted that despite pushback against vaccines in some places, they are still “embraced all across the developing world as real game changers in terms of saving people’s lives.” Gavi is on track to immunise 700 million children and save 10 million lives by the end of 2018. “I think we can drive home those numbers.”
As for the pushback, Smith points out that it takes “community leaders getting out there and telling people that these things work and save lives” to address the pandemic of misinformation. “Whether it’s mothers in a village, whether it’s faith leaders, whether it’s political leaders who can gain the confidence and trust, whether it’s a young medical student: we need validators for the kinds of health interventions that make a difference, whether it’s in the developed world or the developing world.”
The successes in global health show us what is possible. But our success in previous years doesn’t guarantee that progress will continue. We need to revive the energy and commitments that have driven so much progress on health to date because the stakes today are higher than ever. World leaders need to translate commitments into concrete action and support full replenishments for Gavi and the Global Fund.
You can help make that happen by becoming a ONE member and joining the fight against extreme poverty and preventable diseases.