PITTSBURGH — Tonight marked the end of a whirlwind week for leaders and advocates. Between events at the UN in New York and the G20 in Pittsburgh, much ground has been covered. Unfortunately, global health was not a focal point of the leaders’ discussions, particularly at the G20 Summit here.
Economic security is inextricably linked to health. The G20’s economic goals can only be enhanced with a renewed commitment to improving the health of the world’s poorest people. As Global Health Council President and CEO Jeffrey L. Sturchio said, “Finance, food and climate change – three of the main G20 agenda items – cannot be considered in isolation from global health. The challenge for global leaders is to find ways to address these challenges more holistically – because that’s how they affect the lives of the most vulnerable, who bear the brunt of ill health, poverty and environmental degradation around the world.”
In the final statement of the G20 leaders, health did come out briefly in Points 34-37 of 50 points under the heading “Strengthening Support for the Most Vulnerable”:
“We note with concern the adverse impact of the global crisis on low income countries’ (LICs) capacity to protect critical core spending in areas such as health, education, safety nets, and infrastructure,” says the statement. “The UN’s new Global Impact Vulnerability Alert System will help our efforts to monitor the impact of the crisis on the most vulnerable. We share a collective responsibility to mitigate the social impact of the crisis and to assure that all parts of the globe participate in the recovery.”
And the leaders reaffirmed previous commitments much as they did at the last G8 in Italy in July: ” We reaffirm our historic commitment to meet the Millennium Development Goals and our respective Official Development Assistance (ODA) pledges, including commitments on Aid for Trade, debt relief, and those made at Gleneagles, especially to sub-Saharan Africa, to 2010 and beyond.”
A glimmer of hope from the Pittsburgh Summit is that the next gathering, originally planned as a G8, will include a second meeting with all the nations that comprise the G20. Moreover, China, India and Brazil will also take part. Though these transitional countries have growing economies, they face tremendous health challenges – AIDS, maternal mortality and child health among them. This might create an opportunity for engagement in advancing the cause of global health at the next Summit, which will be held in Canada.
Some question our presence at a Summit that doesn’t highlight global health issues. But as my colleague David Olson points out, that’s all the more reason we need to be here.