Posted by: shigman | 07/20/2009

Global Health Council’s Policy Agenda

On May 26, 2009 at GHC’s Annual International Conference, Director of Government Relations Smita Baruah presented the 2009-2010 policy agenda. The goal of the presentation was to garner member feedback about GHC’s direction and priorities, and to discuss ways in which members can be involved over the coming year.

The overall policy goals are:

  • To  develop a comprehensive approach to global health policy
  • To continue to have impact in current priority areas: child health, women’s health, HIV/AIDS, infectious disease
  • To facilitate the inclusion of research findings into the policy agenda
  • To integrate health systems and health equity into the policy agenda
  • To strategically expand portfolio into other global health issues

The main modalities used to achieve these goals include:

  • Bridging health and other development sectors
  • Convening members through Roundtables and other forums
  • Developing and disseminating information that provides the evidence for  policy positions  

The comments from members present contained both approval for and questions about GHC’s agenda. Many of the questions reflect both ongoing discussions at GHC and broader issues with which the global health community are grappling. A few of the most compelling questions were:

Inherent in this agenda is the tension between gaining ground through GHC’s current disease-and population-based structure, and promoting a comprehensive approach to global health policy. Limited funding too often fosters competition among advocates, program managers and practitioners. How can we grow the funding available for ALL of global health? How can these very different approaches (comprehensive versus disease- and population-specific) be reconciled in an effective manner to achieve the overall goal of improved global health?

Another inherent tension is balancing the traditional global health needs (e.g., immunization and HIV prevention efforts) with broader goals that are directly or indirectly related to health. For example, clean water and sanitation interventions reduce infectious diseases, but these tools may not be included in intervention packages. How can GHC work for both without losing focus or becoming too disparate to be truly effective?

A third issue raised was the importance of moving beyond rhetoric to practical and feasible solutions to global health problems. This requires linking those who are doing the research with those who are implementing programs; those who are in country with those in adjacent countries; and those with medical or health backgrounds with those who have backgrounds in management, finance, education, politics, law and other fields needed to fully address global health issues. How can health be incorporated into the development agenda yet still maintain a prominent position.

There are no clear answers to these questions, as there are pros and cons, costs and benefits, for each side of the debate. Global health funding has never been higher or from a more diverse group of actors. The main objective of the community (and GHC) is finding ways to seize the opportunity and maximize impact. The questions raised here present us with decisions that need to be made. Hopefully, we will make the best choices.

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