What is global health?
It’s a big year for global health so ONE is going to be talking about it a lot. But before we jump into the nitty gritty statistics or the importance of getting funding for the world’s most innovative partnerships, let’s talk about what global health actually is!
Global health is about improving people’s health worldwide, reducing inequality and, protecting societies from global threats, such as preventable diseases, that don’t stop at national borders.
So why is it important?
We are at a tipping point. In 2017, nearly one million people died from AIDS-related causes globally and another 1.8 million contracted HIV. After 10 years of steady decline, malaria is back on the rise, especially among children under 5 years old, who account for two-thirds of all malaria deaths. Though more than 10 million people contract TB every year, nearly 40% of those are “missed” – that is almost 4 million people left undiagnosed, untreated, and therefore, contagious.
As a global community, we all benefit when our neighbours are healthy. Access to prevention and treatment should be a right, not a privilege. Yet, so many of our community members cannot enjoy this right because of prohibitive costs, distance, or stigma and discrimination.
If people can access affordable healthcare, they can invest in bettering their community: kids can attend school, adults can pursue careers, families can enjoy their time together, the list goes on. Quality of life skyrockets when prevention and treatment are affordable and accessible.
Human rights always come first. But it is important to realize that ensuring our global community is healthy, educated and empowered has another benefit: economic growth. Failing to protect health could quickly thwart this potential. The 2014 Ebola epidemic is a staggering illustration of the economic consequences of just one outbreak of disease: in 2015, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone lost US$2.2 billion in gross domestic product, threatening economic stability and private sector growth in the region.
We know that investments made in health today will pay dividends tomorrow.
- Every US$1 invested in immunisation, for example, leads to a return of US$60.
- Every US$1 invested in reducing malaria infections delivers a return of US$36.
- Every US$1 invested in health spending for the world’s poorest leads to a return of US$13.
Simply put, health is a smart investment with big returns.
Where do we go from here?
Health has been one of the most recognised and celebrated success stories in global development since the turn of the 21st century. This progress has not happened by accident. It has been driven largely by new public-private collaborations, breakthrough commitments to increase investments in health alongside greater investment from national governments, and passionate citizen activism.
This is a proud legacy that should be celebrated as a benchmark for what is possible. But it stops well short of being an indicator for future gains. Progress will not continue, and could go into reverse, if our global community, including world leaders, do not commit to looking out for our neighbours.
The Global Fund is one of the best weapons we have to fight AIDS, TB and malaria. The Fund supports programs run by local experts in the countries and communities that need it most – helping to save 27 million lives so far. To help save another 16 million lives between 2021-2023, the Global Fund needs to raise at least US$14 billion by its Replenishment Conference this October.
We must not stall progress now. Are you up for the challenge?