Tackling disease is key to solving global poverty

Ahead of tomorrow’s High Level Panel meeting in London, a reflection on the critical role of health in and beyond the Millennium Development Goals.

Share
Related Topics

Tomorrow in London, David Cameron will co-chair the second meeting of the UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel on the future strategy to fight global poverty. As priorities are juggled with millions of lives in the balance, we must be both realistic and holistic, because people’s health and development are inextricably linked.

We are just 3 years away from the target date for achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agreed by all 123 UN Member states back in 2000 to eradicate global poverty. These 8 goals have given local and global focus to efforts to tackle the big issues: child mortality, infectious diseases including HIV/AIDS and malaria, education, equality, maternal health and environmental sustainability. They have inspired action, with considerable progress being made over the last decade, transforming millions of lives and reducing human suffering.

The MDGs have also inspired innovation. As Bill Gates says: “the Millennium Development Goals can guide the search for new discoveries by showing us where innovation can bring the biggest returns. This is their genius, and I am optimistic about what they can help us accomplish.”

Equally important, they have inspired new financing models, notably the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which now represents over half of all international funding to fight malaria, two-thirds for tackling TB and 21 per cent of international financing against AIDS, making a sizeable step forward towards halting and reversing the spread of these diseases.

1 billion still in poverty

But there is still so much more we need to do. Progress has been uneven, with some goals and some areas falling behind, particularly in fragile and conflict-affected states and in sub-Saharan Africa. The next three years are critical, but we also need to look well beyond 2015, and to reflect on lessons learned, and how to implement and scale up solutions that improve the economic, health, development and equality prospects of all, especially the 1 billion people around the world who still live in extreme poverty.

So what lessons have we learned? By establishing the 8 MDG pillars, we have made them easier to understand, measure and evaluate. But this resulted in oversimplification. Health, for example, which has three specific goals on improving maternal and child health and tackling infectious diseases, is inseparable from many of the other goals. Ill-health is both a consequence and a cause of poverty, and both are interrelated with environment, education and nutrition in complex ways. The danger is that issues are considered only in isolation. This is not real life. 

Health must be recognised in any future framework as an important indicator of progress on multiple issues; but it also needs to be recognised in its own right as a fundamental driver of development. Health goals and targets beyond 2015 should not be weaker than within the current Millennium Development Goals.

Growing challenges

 

They need to build on the existing MDGs, which must be extended, as there is still a huge unfinished agenda. They must also take into account other burgeoning global health challenges, such as non-communicable diseases, mental health and family planning. Progress against these targets must be measured through regular check points which look at both overall and equity of progress – let’s make sure we do not leave behind those who are most vulnerable and excluded.

The UK has a strong track record on driving forward changes in global health, and I am proud that the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine has played its part over many decades and continues to be a catalyst today.  We must remember that these issues affect us all. Diseases have no respect for national borders.

Tomorrow, David Cameron and his co-chairs President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia and President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia will have the power to help to shape the agenda for years to come. It is an unenviable task, but I hope the panel shares the view that global health is a critical priority. Health is at the heart of successful development, intrinsically linked to productivity, growth, equality and sustainable development. 

Despite the progress so far, disease and poverty will not disappear in 2015, and we have much to do to provide a healthier future for all our children and grandchildren.

Peter Piot is director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, Brokerage)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

UNIX Application Support Analyst- Support, UNIX, London

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US  

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Robert Fisk
 

Next they'll say an independent Scotland can't use British clouds...

Mark Steel
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape