Reading the recent speech by President of the World Bank Group, Jim Yong Kim, to the World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva I felt the passion in his words…. “A generation must rise that will drive poverty from the earth. A generation must rise that will end the scourge of inequality that divides and destabilizes societies. We can be that generation.” His call to action to drive poverty from the earth and bring effective health services to every person, every community, every country in the world is inspiring.
The truth is, each and every generation is “that generation.” We should and can be active participants for change. Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) also talked about the need to work together for humanity. For me, two key messages emerged – the need to be bold in our commitment to help each other and the need to collaborate to bring the changes we want/need to build healthier societies. Universal truths!
What has been achieved by WHO is remarkable; its work brings benefits that extend beyond health. By championing increased fairness in access to care and equity in health outcomes, it helps society at large. According to the recent WHO Health Statistics report, the past 20 years have seen dramatic improvements in health in the world’s poorest countries and progress has been just as dramatic in narrowing the gap between countries with the best and worst health outcomes.
This is exemplified by the WHO Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and efforts being made to achieve them, which are already reaping many rewards. This is especially true for women’s and children’s health. Since 1990 the child mortality rate has fallen 40 percent and a new integrated global action plan is set to revolutionize child survival with new vaccines, new antibiotics and time tested basics like breastfeeding and nutrition. All will help save lives. HIV is another example of success – today more than nine million people living with HIV are seeing their lives improved and prolonged by antiretroviral therapy compared with just 200,000 people 11 years ago.
While great progress is being made, we are also facing the rise of new diseases such as novel corona virus and avian influenza, as well as the threat of tuberculosis and malaria as a result of the spread of resistance mainstay medicines.
Right now the world is sitting on a global pandemic in viral hepatitis. So little is known about this silent killer. It’s going to need some of that bold determination and collaboration if we are going to successfully address this significant health problem.
The need to stimulate the development of new medicines to deal with these problems is going to be critically important, as is the need to inform and educate people. Fortunately, true to the spirit of the WHO, a global effort is in motion and great examples of WHO best practices are there to guide us on our way.