Collective Action Will Change the World of Global Health
listed in Guests
Health is fundamental to everything a person does—it’s a critical factor in how well people thrive. That sounds simplistic but it’s true for people worldwide. If you are not at your best, you can’t give your work, your family and your life the best you can offer. I first learned this growing up in the inner-city of Los Angeles but saw it repeated in several countries around the world. It was through these experiences that I realized how much the global community has in common. In fact, focusing more on these similarities rather than our differences could serve us all well.
Take the global health community, for example. “Global health” is an all-encompassing term. It can seem ambiguous and have different meanings for different people. Even talking about improving global health is somewhat nebulous. Where to start? It’s no secret that there are nearly as many global health challenges as there are countries, with an ever-changing priority list depending on urgency, the number of people affected and a variety of other factors. However, I think there are some fundamental truths about global health around which we can be united.
Take, for example, the following global health challenge buckets. There’s the “finish line” category, which includes HIV/AIDS, maternal-child health and polio—we are so painfully close to resolving these but not there quite yet (and the last mile may be the most challenging). In the 1980s, more than 1,000 children were paralyzed each day from polio, but efforts to immunize every child have reduced new polio cases by 99.9%, leaving the world nearly polio-free. There are diseases like Tuberculosis (TB), which has been around since the Victorian era but is still causing major health impacts and death around the globe. TB is still found in every state of the U.S. and there are nearly 10,000 new cases each year, with more than 10 million new cases each year around the world. And there are fast-moving outbreaks that impact global health security. No longer are illnesses confined to one country or geographic area to allow authorities to treat and prevent outbreaks—the ease of global travel means a disease could have spread to multiple countries before the global health community even knows it presents an issue.
Global health security is one of the biggest challenges we face. Knowing the unknown, and by that I mean which disease will cause the next pandemic, may be our greatest challenge. Ideally we, the global health community, can anticipate what will hit next but it is becoming more difficult to stay ahead of things. The human relationship with animals, insects and the environment is constantly changing, and that affects our worldwide vulnerability to new illnesses. We must focus more on preparedness than reaction so the next SARS, Ebola or Zika doesn’t result in crisis.
That’s one of the reasons global health funding and cooperation are so important. The United States is a major contributor to global health and development worldwide, thanks to both government and private foundation support. Global health funding from the U.S. government amounts to less than one percent of the federal budget but has a far greater worldwide impact. For example, more than half of all new global health products (which includes vaccines, drugs, devices and diagnostics) developed between 2000 and 2010 were developed with U.S. support. And the U.S. played a crucial role in controlling and eliminating neglected tropical diseases over the past decade through the cumulative delivery of more than 1.6 billion treatments to more than 743 million people in 31 countries.
Community-based organizations can use U.S. funds to increase their return on investment when combined with other funding. It’s extremely effective to work with people “on the ground,” who are part of the communities and work that is being funded. They usually know what the problems are and what needs to be done to solve them—they may need one more piece to solve the puzzle and an organization like Global Health Council and our members can provide that and help move toward a solution.
Improving global health requires creative problem-solving and innovative partnerships, with which the Hertz Foundation and its Fellows are quite familiar. There’s a role for everyone to take part in improving global health and we can do it. Collectively, the world has made a lot of progress but there is more still to be done. We’ve set very lofty goals, like ending AIDS in our lifetime and eradicating all diseases for which there are vaccines. We’ve made similar achievements in the past so I believe we can do it. But being successful will require collective action. I encourage everyone to get familiar with health issues both in our country and around the world because awareness is the first step. Then take action, whether it’s making a donation to an organization working on an issue that’s important to you, volunteering with a local program or campaign, calling your elected officials to learn what they are doing to help or sharing your knowledge with others. Global Health Council is taking action with our activities at the United Nations General Assembly events this week. World leaders are converging in one location to talk about global issues, discuss progress and make commitments to further action. We will be there, raising our voices so the global health community can be heard and make our own plea for big, bold ideas and goals.
This is an exciting time, as we are on the cusp of change. Nothing drives human beings more than change. Working to improve global health is hard work, really hard work. It seems daunting at times, but I wake up every morning ready to tackle the day’s challenges because someone has to—why not me? I wouldn’t be doing this work and championing this cause if I didn’t think it was possible. I encourage you to raise your level of awareness and take action. By doing your part, you can help ensure we all live in a better, healthier, safer world—and that is a wonderful thing.
Loyce Pace is the President and Executive Director of the Global Health Council. She previously held leadership positions in global policy and strategic partnerships at LIVESTRONG Foundation and the American Cancer Society. She has also worked with Physicians for Human Rights and served as an International Development Fellow for Catholic Relief Services. Loyce has worked on the ground in more than 10 countries delivering health programs and mobilizing advocates. She has championed policies for access to essential medicines, testified for congressional global health appropriations and launched the Non-Communicable Disease Roundtable under GHC, where she has also served as a Board member since 2012. Loyce holds a Bachelor’s degree with Honors in Human Biology from Stanford University and a Master’s degree in Public Health from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.