David McCoy: 'If we are to improve health care, it must be a global effort'

From the Royal Society of Arts lecture given by the managing editor of Global Health Watch
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The Independent Online

In many developing countries, this has come on top of economic crisis, structural adjustment programmes that have decimated public healthcare systems and have extended the commercialisation of health care to the detriment of equity, accessibility and efficiency.

Unless the multitude of health initiatives across the developing world pull towards a common vision of healthcare systems we will not achieve the health-related millennium development goals that the global community has set itself.

We don't suggest health professionals should take a lead on addressing all the threats to health. But we can recognise potential synergies. For example, the threats to universal access to education and food are in many ways the same as those facing healthcare systems. And when it comes to climate change, health professional associations should do more to lend their authority to the campaigning efforts of organisations such as Greenpeace.

In the UK, NHS organisations could think of institutional responses to the global health crisis by, for example, developing long-term partnerships with counterparts in poor countries that would transfer resources, skills and technology, but also provide a mechanism by which health workers in the UK and the NHS could learn and understand the impact of UK actions and policies on global health.

Or, NHS organisations could put aside a proportion of money to promote global health until such time that we have a mechanism to recompense poor countries for training so many of our health workers here.

Our health colleagues are asking us to become part of a public health movement that transcends national boundaries to promote health for all, and to address the political, social and economic determinants of ill health.

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