MSH Hosts Panel Discussion on Health for All; Launches New Book on 40 Years of Health Impact

Over 200 people gathered in Cambridge, MA, on October 26, 2011, for "The Next Decade of Global Health: How Do We Achieve Health for All?" -- a panel discussion with international and local global health experts -- and a book launch celebrating MSH's 40 years of improving health. MSH hosted the event at the Sloan School of Management at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) -- the graduate school where MSH founder Ron O'Connor, MD, studied over four decades ago.

Moderated by award-winning global health author and former Boston Globe reporter John Donnelly, the panel featured Her Royal Highness Princess Dina Mired, Honorary Co-President of The Global Task Force on Expanded Access to Cancer Care and Control in Developing Countries (GTFCCC), and Director-General of the King Hussein Cancer Foundation, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan; and Dr. Ariel Pablos-Méndez, Assistant Administrator for Global Health for US Agency for International Development (USAID).

Her Royal Highness Princess Dina Mired – the mother of a child survivor of leukemia -- urged governments to lead the fight against the chronic non-communicable disease (NCD) epidemic -- including allocating spending on health care now -- so that we can "quit counting deaths, and start counting survivors."

"It is simply impossible to ignore the predicament of 36 million souls a year [to cancer, diabetes, lung and heart disease] on this planet and the unthinkable tragedy facing our future generations," she said. "One fact is for sure, we need to stop the 'either/or' mentality and embrace the fact that communicable and non-communicable diseases are equally destructive and equally critical."

The Political Declaration on NCDs, the final document of the UN High Level Summit on NCDs in September, needs to be "strengthened so that the next draft in 2012 is more action-oriented and has measurable targets so that governments are bound to take action," said Princess Dina. She encouraged "multi-stakeholder partnerships involving different organizations, governments and civil society to assist countries in establishing their own NCD plans," and reminded the audience about the achievements of the HIV/AIDS movement. "A once-in-a generation opportunity was seized and political will was converted into action, with targets and resources in place, and we continue to see positive results today."

Dr. Pablos-Méndez delivered a powerful speech rooted in the "power of ideas to change the world". He noted the "proud history of partnership" between MSH and USAID that "has literally transformed the lives of people in far corners of the world. The American people who enabled this work can feel proud" for enabling the global health work of the past years that transcends borders, cultures and language.

Quoting the late Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, Dr. Pablos-Méndez cited the closing tagline of the "Think Different" campaign, "The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do." He continued, "I'd like to think there is a little crazy in all of us who dream of health for all. …Health for all is an attainable goal -- if we maximize partnerships, new technologies and innovations, and harness strong health systems."

Dr. Pablos-Méndez noted the "need to identify, nurture, and invest in innovators...each and every day the investments we make in science and technology keep us on the brink of discoveries that have the potential to improve health."

He also noted that there is unprecedented economic expansion in many current or former aid recipients, despite the dramatic changes in the world economy. The economic growth is driven in part by the "demographic dividend" brought about by family planning and child survival. "For families and nations, fewer children per woman translate to significant savings while the demographic pyramid gets an expansion of its working age strengthened by empowered women joining the workforce."

The default of economic transition of health in many countries is an expansion of unregulated private provision -- and out of pocket payments which now account for 50-80 percent of total health spending in Africa and Asia -- he warned, and are the number one cause of impoverishment around the world.

"The rising cost of health services holds significant implications for the future of health financing and equitable access to appropriate health services around the world…Reform is not about more capital but about reorganizing domestic financing over time."

"How can the global health community achieve health for all?" guided and underscored the panelists' response to these keynotes.
Jonathan D. Quick, MD, MPH, President & CEO at Management Sciences for Health (MSH), said one vital part in achieving health for all is starting with the goal of achieving global universal coverage. "The vision is critical," said Quick. "Out of pocket spending now accounts for 50-80% of total health spending in developing countries."

"We must reduce this devastating burden that is bankrupting many families in poor and developing countries," he said.

Vanessa Bradford Kerry, MD, MSc, said that the health "pyramid" in developing countries is skewed. "Community health workers can do incredibly complex and important things," she said, such as in Rwanda where community health workers are trained to treat heart failure using echo-cardiograms. While the pyramid base of community health workers has expanded, the top of the pyramid -- the doctors, public health practitioners, clinician scientists and innovators -- hasn't grown at the same rate.

Dr. Kerry, Associate Director of Partnerships and Global Initiatives at the Center for Global Health at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), said that they are developing global health scholars to become leaders in their field. Sub-Saharan Africa carries an enormous HIV and AIDS burden. A keyword "HIV" mapping of Pub-Med articles revealed only seven percent of lead authors were from Sub-Saharan Africa. Kerry hopes that MGH programs -- such as the global health scholars program -- will bridge this huge gap. "We must invest in our global health scholars so that they can become world leaders in their field," Kerry said.

Kojo Yeboah-Antwi, MPH, MBBChB, spoke of the progress of health workers in Ghana. "Community health officers are specifically trained to provide services," said Yeboah-Antwi. We are developing complete health workers who can provide all the necessary health services for the Ghanaian people. "It is working fantastic." Yeboah-Antwi is Assistant Professor at the Center for Global Health & Development, Boston University School of Public Health.

"Health has been recognized as a human right -- that is our starting premise" said Donna Barry, RN, NP, MPH, Advocacy and Policy Director at Partners In Health. "We really can't afford to not provide health for all." She noted the need to hold governments accountable toward fulfilling this fundamental right.

"We need cancer care for everyone: better community systems, health centers and hospitals. "We need to get to health -- not just eliminating disease," she said.

New Book Go to the People Launched

Following a lively discussion, guests celebrated the launch of the new MSH book, Go to the People, written by John Donnelly with photographs by Dominic Chavez. Both Donnelly and Chavez were on hand to sign books. MSH founder Dr. O'Connor was recognized by Dr. Quick for his leadership and vision and given a specially commissioned glass globe by artist Josh Simpson. Toasts to MSH were given by Joel Lamstein, co-founder and President of John Snow Inc. and Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Global Health Council; Dan Pellegrom, President of Pathfinder International; Donna Barry of Partners In Health; and Dr. Pablos-Méndez. Guests were treated to the live music of Kina Zore, a world music band organized for the MSH event by the Berklee College of Music.

MSH 40th anniversary events have occurred in Washington, DC, Haiti and South Africa and will be celebrated in Senegal, Ethiopia and Guyana by the end of the year. For more information, visit: http://www.msh.org/40-years-of-impact/events.cfm

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