Concept of unified governance system for global health informs debate on ways to achieve health-related development coals, as DPI/NGO Conference continues
(Melbourne, Australia) - With the advantages of pooling efforts to create a unified and effective governance system for global health gaining traction, the DPI/NGO Conference today examined this concept in the context of strengthening an integrated and systems approach to achieving the health-related Millennium Development Goals.
Panellists from China, South Africa, Nigeria and Pakistan, in a discussion moderated by Tim Costello, the Chief Executive Officer of World Vision Australia, underscored the growing demand for a new governance architecture for global health, given the enduring challenges to institutions, health governance and humankind.
Triggering debate, Mr Costello said that integration of health systems was profoundly difficult. Schichuo Li, Chairman of the China Association for Science & Technology, UN Consultative Committee on Life Science & Human Health, said “everyone wants to coordinate, but no one wants to be coordinated”. Nevertheless, he favoured an integrated health system, since he was of the view that with global health recognized as a core element of the human development agenda, it was time to integrate “policies, priorities and performances”.
Mr Li drew attention to a new concept introduced in Canada: “One World, One Health”. The features of such an integrated health system should protect the fundamental, overall, long-term interests of the people; be comprehensive and multidimensional; be practical and operational; prioritize major health threats; be ready to respond to health emergencies; and encourage sustainable development. His recipe for setting up an integrated approach to such a health system was, first and foremost, to establish partnerships among organizations and, among other things, to promote evidence-based policy making.
There had been great progress in global health, but there were also some problems to overcome, he said. Clearly, globalization had significantly impacted human health when an emergency happened in one place and the world quickly sprang to action. There was a lesson in that for non-governmental organizations, which had expertise in specific areas, flexibility, low to no cost operations and high efficiency. They also had close relationships with grassroots organizations. With that, he urged them to undertake more activities towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. As for the Millennium Development Goals, those should be based on “real” needs and not be donor-driven.
The Health Coordinator at the Grass-Root Organization for Human Development in Lahore, Pakistan, Samina Naz, suggested that it was the media that set the agenda for political campaigns and that partnership between the media, non-governmental organizations and civil society would raise awareness of the various health issues and related Millennium Development Goals. In Pakistan, FM radio transmission was limited to the big cities, but with the help of national funding, it could be used as a tool to raise awareness about various health and reproductive issues, as well as about combating extremism and terrorism.
Ms Naz spoke in detail, through an unofficial translator, about the major health challenges in her country, before and during the flooding. There would be a “vicious cycle of unhealthy generations” and progress towards achieving the health-relating Millennium Development Goals in the country would be stalled.
She also explained that most of Pakistan’s population lived in remote areas, where it was difficult to provide basic health centres. It was also hard to convince trained medical staff in big cities to serve in the outlying areas. Given the importance of having a cost-effective system of health services in remote areas, she suggested that mosques could play a significant role. People visited mosques for their prayers five times a day and, traditionally, mosques were in remote and rural areas. They could be used as health centres.
Girls’ education was more important in Pakistan than ever, she stressed, adding that an educated girl became an educated mother, and engendered both an educated family and an educated society. Schools had been opened up especially for girls, and even women came there to be educated as well. She felt that education would lead to fulfilment of the Millennium Development Goals.
Another firm believer in women’s achievement and empowerment was Kenneth Ndubuisi Okoh of Nigeria – author, educator and women’s rights advocate. If women were given the chance, the world would be “more peaceful and advanced,” he said. As for the internationally-agreed development Goals, he said it was Governments that had met and decided to pursue them, and he wondered why they were not achieving them. His message throughout the afternoon was that it was imperative to make those Governments accountable, and he called on the non-governmental organizations to mount a serious advocacy campaign in that regard. Related to government accountability, he said, was the need to fight corruption.
The Conference will meet again at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, 1 September, to convene a fourth roundtable discussion on achieving the development Goals in a changing world.