Monday, January 28, 2008

Health Systems and the Emerging International Health Architecture

Host: Center for Global Development
Date: January 23, 2008
Speaker: Julian Schweitzer
UNDP-USA Representative: Saphonia Foster

In a discussion concerning health systems and collaborative efforts to improve international health initiatives, the World Bank’s Director of Health, Nutrition and Population, Julian Schweitzer, emphasized the need for horizontal integration. He stated that stakeholders in worldwide healthcare projects including the Gates Foundation, the European Union, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and other major global actors would be more effective if they fused their efforts into a simpler, joint system. Major actors such as the World Health Organization, the African Development Bank, and UNICEF, have signed this new inter-agency agreement called the International Health Partnership (IHP).

He stated that the too many fragmented global health organizations undermines the ability actors to relieve some of the world’s most ailing problems. IHP is a step forward to combating this stark reality.

The discussion was framed around, arguably, the most prominent driving force in international development today: the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). With under-five death rates as a proxy measurement, Schweitzer illustrated that if progress toward the MDGs were to continue at the trends trailing back from 1960, then the world’s poor, including those in Asia, Africa, and other less developed regions, would still be plagued by preventable problems. This travesty calls for change.

In addition to convoluted programs that inhibit efficiency and lack of commitment to the MDGs, unpredictable funding flows also greatly undermine health care program success. To mitigate these setbacks, Schweitzer proposed a re-emphasis to the principles of the Paris Declaration. He noted that a clear shift in mentality where partnership, stable investment, and harmony between the different actors involved in international health issues should approach these problems from a similar mindset where achieving better health systems is the objective. This must include paying service to the priority of strengthening on the ground actors with grants, the potential for growth and innovation, the capacity to improve practices, and increased knowledge. This optimistic plan, the IHP, is possible only with support from a global alliance. This means calls for a commitment in civil society to work toward a stronger collaborative approach in improving health care worldwide.

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