Posted by: drollason | 10/12/2010

South Africa leads the way in health and development

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – Representatives from the private and non-profit sectors, foundations, academia, multilateral organizations, U.S. government, numerous ministries of health and more descended on South Africa this week in the name of global health. Monday marked the beginning of the three-day Global Business Coalition Conference on TB, HIV-TB Co-infection and Global Fund Partnership. On Wednesday the revised Stop TB Global Plan will be launched and the week will be rounded out with a two-day Stop TB Coordinating Board meeting – all of which will be covered by the Global Health Council.

In her keynote address to conference attendees on Monday morning, Minister of Social Development Ms Bomo Edna Molewa stated clearly that health care is at the heart of sustainable development in South Africa. In the morning’s “Leaders Panel: Challenges and Opportunities for Partnership,” panelist Tina Eboka, director of group corporate affairs at Standard Bank, took the sentiments of the minister a step further saying that sustainable development must be integrated across issues (health, education, economic development and infrastructure) and sectors (private, public and nonprofit).

The panel of distinguished guests addressed the economic impact of public health, the impact of issue-specific interventions on strengthening the health system and the impact of health on economic development. There were certainly various points of view on how interventions should be designed – horizontal, vertical, even diagonal – but one thing was certain: Scaling up primary health care is essential.

Global Business Coalition President and CEO John Tedstrom pointedly asked Ms. Precious Matsoso, director general of the South African National Department of Health if the Ministry of Health had targeted the business community for the scale up of the country’s health system: “Are you resourced and staffed to build these partnerships?”

The director general indirectly responded, yes, addressing aid effectiveness and pointing to a coordinating mechanism meeting in November that would bring together representatives from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), U.K. Department for International Development (DFID), the private sector and multilaterals like UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO). But there was no mention of civil society and looking back on the session, the panel itself lacked civil society representation except from that of the audience.

The private sector’s interest in partnership and concern for the health of its employees and the broader community they work in is evident. With representation from more than 25 corporations and examples like AngloGold Ashanti that are literally putting people first. AngloGold Ashanti CEO Mark Cutifani outlined the process the company recently went through to think about the value of their business that led them to create an important new value statement: People are the Business.

“Those that can make our business a special business are the people. We care, we share, we do” said Cutifani. AngloGold focuses on the employee such that each individual feels valued and that they are making an important contribution to the company, the company acknowledges that there are some negative impacts of the business they’re in, but strives to go above and beyond the standard corporate social responsibility to ensure that it’s overall role is positive.

Tuberculosis and co-infection with HIV remains a consistent topic throughout the first day of sessions. Sheila Tlou, UNAIDS regional director for Eastern and Southern Africa, addressed the importance of knowing both your HIV and TB status in the opening session and Joel Spicer, senior strategist at the Stop TB Partnership, gave us a glimpse of what to expect in the revised Stop TB Global Plan. We anticipate updates on TB/HIV co-infection, the spread of multi-drug resistant TB, an increased emphasis on the importance of laboratories and the health system and last, but certainly not least, research and development for new diagnostics, treatment and vaccines.

The day’s meetings concluded with a session titled “What the Latest TB Research and Development Means for Your Company.” Presentations from Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation, Global Alliance for TB Drug Development and Becton Dickinson highlighted their successes to date, current or previous partnerships as well as the needs for the future.

This is an exciting time for TB, not just this week, but also the coming years. There’s not doubt that the need for involvement, be it programming, advocacy, research and more from all sectors is imperative. Stay tuned for more information when the revised Stop TB Global Plan is launched later this week and please share any comments below.

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