Ban Ki-Moon

 #Action2015.

More mothers and children under five are surviving, but progress is "uneven across regions and countries, leaving significant gaps", the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon confirmed today, July 6, launching the final Millennium Development Goals Report (2015). Child under-five mortality has been cut in half since 1990 (reduced from 90 to 43 deaths per 1,000 live births) and maternal mortality has been reduced 45 percent -- with much of the reduction occuring since 2000.

According to the UN press release:

Targeted investments in fighting diseases, such as HIV/AIDs and malaria, have brought unprecedented results. Over 6.2 million malaria deaths were averted between 2000 and 2015, while tuberculosis prevention, diagnosis and treatment interventions saved an estimated 37 million lives between 2000 and 2013.

Worldwide, 2.1 billion have gained access to improved sanitation and the proportion of people practicing open defecation has fallen almost by half since 1990.

{Photo credit: Todd Shapera in Rwanda.}Photo credit: Todd Shapera in Rwanda.

Addressing NCDs is critical for global public health, but it will also be good for the economy; for the environment; for the global public good in the broadest sense… If we come together to tackle NCDs, we can do more than heal individuals–we can safeguard our very future.

- UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in his remarks to the UN General Assembly in 2011

Management Sciences for Health (MSH) and the LIVESTRONG Foundation (LIVESTRONG) are proud to sponsor a Congressional staff study tour to Uganda and Rwanda examining the key elements of the countries' health systems with a particular focus on how the countries are addressing non-communicable diseases (NCDs), also known as chronic diseases.

Strong health systems are the most sustainable way of improving health and saving lives at large scale. For a health system to address the needs of its people it must:

{Photo credit: MSH}Photo credit: MSH

This post originally appeared on Devex.com.

The Afghan health system was in shambles after the Taliban government was chased from power in December 2001. Immunization rates had fallen below 20 percent and nine out of ten women were on their own for labor and delivery. Suhaila Seddiqi, newly appointed as public health minister, could have begun her tenure with highly visible and politically popular moves like building hospitals in the major cities. She didn’t. Instead, she led the development of a basic package of essential primary care services and coordinated its delivery to Afghans throughout the country, including remote rural areas. It worked. By 2010, twice as many Afghans had access to family planning, maternal deaths were down by two thirds, and reductions in child mortality had saved 150,000 lives.

Dr. Quick discusses Myanmar’s health system with Dr. Pe Thet Khin, the minister of health. {Photo credit: Myanmar Ministry of Health.}Photo credit: Myanmar Ministry of Health.

In Myanmar, 50 years of military dictatorship left behind a seriously underdeveloped health system, serving barely one in twenty of the country’s 60 million people. You might expect that the first minister of health under civilian rule would be despondent. But on my recent trip I found the opposite: Dr. Pe Thet Khin and his team are aligned around an ambitious vision for building a strong health system for the country.

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