Global Health Council Conference

It was an exciting and insightful week of discussions at this month’s Global Health Council meeting on how to address the drastically growing burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as cancers, diabetes, and heart and lung disease, in advance of the UN High Level Summit on NCDs in September. Speakers made a strong case for including NCDs as a priority on the global health agenda. The intertwining of these diseases with communicable diseases such as HIV, TB and malaria are striking. Julio Frenk, MD, MPH, Dean of the Harvard School of Public Health described the commonalities:

The theme of this year’s Global Health Council annual conference was Securing a Healthier Future in a Changing World. As populations are shifting, so are their health priorities. Increasing urbanization has led to more people living in and around cities, creating a series of problems that are new to public health professionals. Nutritional challenges, the need for improved water and sanitation infrastructure, and addressing the issue of unregulated health care providers are all problems facing governments, ministries, NGOs, donors, and populations. In addition, non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, and mental illness, are adding a new strain to many already resource constrained health systems. Of course, immunization, malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea, and maternal death are all still very serious challenges in many of these systems and remain key priorities.

At the Global Health Council Conference, I attended an interesting event, “Impact of Schistosomiasis and Polyparasitic Infections on Anemia, Growth and Physical Fitness in Children in Coastal Kenya” presented by  Dr. Amaya Bustinduy of Case Western Reserve University which focused on neglected tropical diseases (NTD).

Schistosomiasis remains one of the most serious and prevalent neglected tropical diseases worldwide.  According to Bustinduy, the WHO estimated that there are 235 million cases of schistosomiasis with 732 million to be at risk for contraction. 89% of  all cases live in the less-developed areas of rural sub-Saharan Africa and South America.

Schistosomiasis is associated with diseases such as anemia, growth impairment in children, and mental retardation.  The focus of Dr. Bustinduy’s ongoing study in Kenya is to “address those morbidities as part of a larger study examining the ecology of transmission of Schistosomiasis.”

“Songs brought by foreigners do not last long at the dance.”  So goes a Kenyan proverb that supports the concept that countries should own their development. The development community knows this, but we aren’t yet making it happen on a broad scale. On the opening day of the Global Health Council conference last week, Management Sciences for Health (MSH) teamed up with Oxfam America to host a panel on country ownership and how to successfully achieve it.

To a standing room only audience the panelists from civil society, NGOs, local government, and US government discussed country ownership models from a varied perspectives. Highlights from the interesting conversation are below:

Today, the 37th annual Global Health Council Conference “Goals and Metrics” begins in Washington, DC. MSH is pleased to be a Silver Sponsor of the conference.

MSH is sponsoring two auxiliary events:

“Can Country Ownership Work?  Field Perspectives on Health Systems Strengthening”
Today, June 14, 2-4pm, Governors Room, Omni Shoreham Hotel, Washington, DC
A panel discussion co-hosted by MSH and Oxfam on how “country ownership”—the management of donor funds by a national government—works in practice. The panel will feature first-hand perspectives from government and civil society health providers from Cambodia, Mozambique, and Nigeria.
The event is open and free to the public.
A live webcast will also be available:  http://www.ustream.tv/channel/can-country-ownership-work

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