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

Nursery Manager

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Nursery Manager Long term Ran...

Sales Consultant – Permanent – West Sussex – £24-£25k plus commission and other benefits

£24000 - £25000 Per Annum plus company car and commission: Clearwater People S...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£45 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply SEN Support Jobs in Bris...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£45 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply SEN Support Jobs in Glou...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Party chairman Grant Shapps at the Tory conference  

Nastiness thrives in Tory Britain but voters won’t put up with it any more

Andreas Whittam Smith
This year marks the centenary of the First World War  

Muslims remember too: The poppy hijab will combat hatred on both sides

Sughra Ahmed
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain