US Global Health Policy

U.S. Global Health Policy

{Photo credit: Warren Zelman, Democratic Republic of the Congo}Photo credit: Warren Zelman, Democratic Republic of the Congo

This post originally appeared on the Frontline Health Workers Coalition blog.

I grew up in a village in northwestern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and although I’m now a doctor and live in Kinshasa, I remember those days well.

I know what it’s like to live 23 kilometers from the nearest health center and to navigate forests and floods to get there. I know how a lack of something simple like antibiotics can cause a quick death. I’ve lost many peers from the village over the years and a lot of family members.

In fact, that’s why I became a physician.

 {Photo credit: Michele Alexander/MSH}Speakers on the Social Good Summit stage discuss AIDS activism.Photo credit: Michele Alexander/MSH

Every September, New York City transforms into a hub of development activity as thousands of representatives from governments, non-governmental organizations, civil society, and the private sector gather for the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). This September was no exception as the 70th UNGA kicked off by inaugurating the world’s new sustainable development goals (the SDGs or Global Goals).

On September 27 and 28, I joined hundreds of others in New York City for the Social Good Summit, an exciting two-day conference examining the impact of technology and new media on social good initiatives around the world. Hosted by Mashable, the UN Foundation, UNDP, and 92Y, this annual event brings together notables from all sectors from celebrities to government leaders. Some of the most impactful speakers included Nelson Mandela’s grandson Ndaba Mandela discussing AIDS activism; Facebook’s Naomi Gleit sharing how social media played a key role in connecting people and mobilizing support immediately following the April 25, 2015 Nepal earthquake; and UNFPA’s Babatunde Osotimehin and celebrity advocate Ashley Judd highlighting the importance of access to reproductive health services.

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{Photo credit: Frank Smith/MSH}Photo credit: Frank Smith/MSH

On Sunday, September 27, 2015, Management Sciences for Health (MSH), and its partners Save the Children US and International Medical Corps (IMC), along with African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET), committed to bringing together key partners from the global public health, private, public, and civil society sectors to build the No More Epidemics™ campaign that will advocate for stronger health systems with better disease surveillance and epidemic preparedness capabilities to ensure local disease outbreaks do not become major epidemics.

Launching later this year, the No More Epidemics campaign will build a broad and inclusive partnership that will engage multiple sectors to share knowledge and expertise and provide the public information and political support for the right policies and the increased funding to ensure people everywhere are better protected from infectious diseases.

The Global Goals for Sustainable Development

After two years of negotiations, 193 Member States of the United Nations reached agreement last month on the new sustainable development agenda that will be formerly adopted later this week at the 70th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York City.

The Member States agreed to 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) with a total of 169 targets. The SDGs will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that expire this year and will influence development priorities and funding for the next 15 years.

About the New Development Agenda

The agenda, entitled Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, is composed of five parts: The Preamble; Chapter 1: The Declaration; Chapter 2: The Sustainable Development Goals; Chapter 3: Means of implementation and the Global Partnership; and, Chapter 4: Follow up and review.

{Photo credit: Mark Tuschman.}Photo credit: Mark Tuschman.

As the 70th United Nations General Assembly convenes later this week in New York, NY to endorse the 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Management Sciences for Health (MSH) is leading conversations on universal health coverage, resilient health systems, noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), partnerships, and women's and children's health.

{Photo credit: MSH staff}Photo credit: MSH staff

The teenage years. Changes seem to happen overnight. Puberty. Your first crush. Fighting with a parent. Discovering your identity, your purpose, and your role in the community. A confusing and challenging, yet rewarding, coming of age... an emerging adult.

Half the world’s population is under 30 years old. About 1.8 billion people, the largest generation of youth in history, are between the ages of 10 and 24. In most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, people ages 15 to 29 will continue to comprise about half of the population for the next four decades. How does this unprecedented proportion of young people impact public health, and a community and country’s sustainable development?

Sustainable health outcomes will depend on how we engage and empower our youth.

 {Photo credit: Matthieu Koy Matili/MSH}Elene O. and her baby, Omedji village, Benadibele health zone.Photo credit: Matthieu Koy Matili/MSH

Breastfeeding is a human right, and critical for the health of both newborn and mother. Newborns benefit from early skin-to-skin contact and the antibodies in the mother’s first milk, plus factors that protect against later obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes and asthma. Mothers benefit because early breastfeeding assists in uterine shrinkage and helps prevent postpartum bleeding. In addition, frequent, exclusive, breastfeeding reduces the likelihood of an immediate new pregnancy.

Optimal breastfeeding is most advantageous when started within an hour of birth and continued exclusively for six months; research shows that it could save 800,00 children’s lives. Yet, globally, only 38 percent of infants are breastfed exclusively.

World Breastfeeding Week 2015 (August 1-7) focuses on supporting women breastfeeding at the workplace (“Let’s make it work”).

For many women, especially in the developing world, barriers to breastfeeding start in the home or even the health facility -- before returning to work in her household, community, or workplace.

 {Photo credit: Michele Alexander/MSH}MSH staff link arms in support of healthy moms and babies.Photo credit: Michele Alexander/MSH

UPDATE: The Reach Every Mother and Child Act of 2015, S.1911, was introduced in the US Senate by Senators Susan Collins and Chris Coons on July 30, 2015.

Since 1990, nearly 100 million children around the world have been saved due to global efforts to reduce child mortality, and maternal deaths have been cut nearly in half. The US government has played a large role in this great success story.

Yet still, each day, more than 17,000 children’s lives and nearly 800 mothers’ lives are lost due mostly to preventable causes. If you’re like us, you think this is unacceptable. The good news is, history has shown us what we can do when we work together -- and research has backed it up.

We can end preventable maternal, newborn, and child deaths within a generation. But we must all play our role to make it happen!

The opportunity: A more coordinated US strategy

This week, the Reach Every Mother and Child Act (PDF) will be introduced in Congress, calling for the scaling up of simple solutions and requiring a coordinated, streamlined strategy to end preventable maternal, newborn, and child deaths by 2035.

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