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Kristof Decoster

ITM
 

Blogs

When are you fully ‘Emerged’?

As many of you know, one of the perennial questions around the ‘Emerging Voices’ venture is this one: when are you actually ‘Emerged’?  (+ grin) I don’t have a clue – feeling at times closer to a Drowning/Imploding Voice, especially on Friday mornings – but nevertheless thought it might be good to speculate a bit, even we all agre...

A steep learning curve ahead for Peter Sands in the SDG era

It always surprises me when people who are obviously at least three times smarter than I am fail to see the blatantly obvious, even if at the same time you somehow understand it, given the corners these people are frequenting and their background. No, I won’t go here into the current commotion around the Global Fund’s murky partnership with ...

A question for Dr. Tedros and other global health leaders ahead of Davos

This year Dr Tedros will attend the Davos meeting, together with many other heads of state and leaders of international organizations, as well as civil society representatives and many other “leaders” in various sectors. While I understand this fits in his focus on a boosted WHO presence at international global policy fora, I personally thin...

Heading for a not so Grand Convergence

In 2013, The Lancet Commission on Investing in Health showed that a ‘Grand Convergence in global health’ was possible by 2035, i.e. “within one generation”, by boosting focused health sector investments. Infectious, child & maternal deaths can all be reduced to the levels of the best-performing middle-income countries by then, was the me...

Cheerful despair

This morning, I learnt from a somewhat similar-minded but slightly older colleague that the School of Life has ‘cheerful despair’ badges. They seem to sell well in our times. On a chilly December day like today, I tend to think we could use a few of these in global health as well. Indeed, our world has become so unpredictable and looks so d...

WHO ready for the fake news era? Yes Sir!

While awaiting some real & in-depth analysis of what exactly went wrong before the weekend in the unsavoury Mugabe-story, as well as what triggered the rescinding of the goodwill ambassadorship by Sunday afternoon –  we hope with many this was just a one-off gaffe, but only time will tell …- below you find a fictitious conversation among WHO c...

Tedros’ new Arsenal side in Geneva

Earlier this week Mark Dybul likened Tedros’ team in Ethiopia, while he was Minister of Health, to Arsenal (the football powerhouse), “because they were young, dynamic – and incredibly effective.”  You can’t do much wrong with that – Arsenal were indeed a stunning team back then. Since the mid-2000s, though, Arsenal (and its coach) ...

Blown away by Wonder Woman. Less so by Bloomberg.

Last weekend I was blown away by ‘Wonder Woman’. The movie, that is. Well, at least the first 120 minutes of it (and even the last 20 minutes the toddler in me enjoyed). True, I was also blown away by Gal Gadot, the female protagonist, but perhaps less than my two companions, my teenage son & one of my nephews (With these companions, I had b...

The Macron momentum in Europe & the global health community

It always surprises me how easily some pundits get carried away, as if they’re politicians trying to frame the debate along lines they prefer. Give them a few “new trends”, let them compare these trends with some rather questionable “benchmarks” and hey, we wake up in a bright new world, with a ‘new golden decade’ just around the c...

UHC and global health security: Two sides of the same coin?

Sometimes a couple of tweets and quotes are all you need to discern a new global health mantra (or is it framing?).   So below I’ll just list a couple of tweets & quotes from the last week which for some reason pushed my buttons (Granted, that isn’t too hard).  I’ll leave you guessing who came up with these quotes, but it wasn’t Joe S...

The next WHO DG needs to be a planetary health champion, first and foremost

Global health security is again on everybody’s minds, with the latest Ebola outbreak in the DRC. As Laurie Garrett put it in Foreign Policy, the  “new Ebola outbreak in the DRC Congo puts WHO and the global health system post-2014 reforms to the test”.   It is thus quite likely that the DRC crisis (and the way WHO & others in the syste...

A few suggestions to boost the likelihood of planetary health within the timeframe needed

Last week, at the Consortium of Universities for Global Health conference in Washington DC, planetary health was one of the key themes, I hear. The inaugural issue of the Lancet Planetary Health was launched and Richard Horton himself told attendees in a keynote speech,  “What climate change is about is the fate of civilization,”. “We hav...

Bill Gates teaches Donald Trump on the many merits of foreign aid for America – Lesson 1

So far not much has leaked out from the (second) meeting between Bill Gates and Donald Trump on Monday, apart from an ultra-short announcement by White House spokesman Sean Spicer  who said the two spoke about their “shared commitment to finding and stopping disease outbreaks around the world”  and a statement by Sarah Logan, a spokeswoman...

A European global health strategy? Certainly not now

Last weekend I read with interest the article ‘If not now, when’ – Time for the European Union to define a global health strategy’ in the Lancet Global Health. Some people (like Ilona Kickbusch) already commented on the viewpoint via Twitter – I suspect some people sleep next to their Twitter feed – and no doubt the piece will spark more...

Time for a disruptive financing model for the Global Fund?

It hasn’t been the best week for the Global Fund so far, to say the least. But perhaps this was to be expected in the new “Trumpean era”.  With hindsight, the last replenishment round in Montréal, in September 2016, might have been the swansong of the old “MDG-style” Global Fund. At least financing in the SDG era and the relationship...

Monday musings on a theme for the Liverpool symposium in 2018

Granted, the Liverpool HSR symposium in 2018 still feels far away, especially in a world in turmoil and full of “alternative facts” (not to mention the toddler fun one can have with #jesuisIKEA  tweets or ‘tiny Trump’ pictures on social media 🙂 ). But the deadline for sharing ideas for a theme for the 5th Global HSR Symposium (  28t...

Guns, Germs and Steel in the Trump era

I hate to break it to all of you but after just a few days of “executive orders” (and linked nauseous pictures), it’s clear that with the Donald we can just about forget about global health, let alone planetary health. Sorry Richard. There’s just no way you can frame global health appropriately for the new times, in order to “get his o...

A couple of global health frames & dodgy tactics for the Trump era

I hate to say it, but the “president-elect” will soon be the real president of the US.  Can’t wait. So, while I, in line with many others in the ‘la la liberal’ world, await the climate disaster and nuclear Armageddon that might accompany Trump’s first (and hopefully also last) term, here are some tips and tricks for surviving the n...

Global health and the T-word

I know Christmas is approaching and so we’re supposed to become a bit more introspective and all that, but hey, it’s still one week! So allow me to share one last frustration (#rant) with you before we all enjoy some time off. As you might have guessed, the “T-word” has something to do with it. I’m not exactly frequenting the corridors...

UHC Day in the North: sequencing the battle of hearts and minds

As much as I sympathize with WHO’s Agnes Soucat when she urges Donald Trump to expand Obamacare and ensure all Americans have access to healthcare, and with Rob Yates when he shouts (not for the first time), on Twitter, that UHC can only be reached through PUBLIC financing, I guess at least in the North (Europe & US), we first of all will have...

Post-fact post-truth world

Last week, at the global conference on health promotion in Shanghai, Margaret Chan used,  as far as I know at least, for the first time the (increasingly familiar) term “post-fact, post-truth” world to describe the world in which ‘health for all/UHC/…’ as well as scientific knowledge now have to be defended. We all have our work cut o...

Excerpts from a discussion on resilient health systems with the new 2016 EV batch

Over the past few weeks a couple of thematic discussions were organized for the new cohort of Emerging Voices. One of them focused on resilience, the resilience “discourse” and resilient health systems more in particular. After going through a few background readings (including Kruk et al (2015), Kutzin & Sparkes (2016),  Gebauer (2016), am...

The next WHO DG: how about a tough cookie with a bold transformative vision?

Over the weekend, Laurie Garrett rightly noted that the upcoming WHO DG (s)election might be the first one that will also play out on social media. Still, she acknowledged social media probably won’t have much impact on the outcome, as  the “MOH vote is based on deals not tweets” .  Assuming that social media might just have a tiny bit o...

Rooting for ‘SDG Bill’

Like many others, I enjoyed Sophie Harman’s recent paper on the legitimacy of the Gates foundation in global health governance (GHG). I’m not sure I understood everything (I’m one of these people who see their IQ decrease by at least 1 % with every year that passes, unfortunately), so I won’t attempt a review of the paper here. I hope So...

Open versus closed: a question for the cosmopolitans among us

Last week, the Economist spotted a new  political divide, at least in the US and many European countries, between  “open” versus “closed” types, or pro-globalization and anti-globalization politicians (and voters). As the globalization backlash in “rich countries” (in outdated Economist jargon) is now pretty clear for everybody, wi...

A gloomy view from the continent on the Brexit

Just a day after it turns out England should as soon as possible “strategically purchase”  Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne ànd Antonio Conte if “Albion” ever wants to play a decent football tournament, like many people I’m still wondering about the global ramifications of the Brexit, both in the short term and medium to long term. But f...

Yet another bigoted view on Brexit & the US election campaign

As a Belgian citizen, I only follow the Brexit debate & US election campaign from a distance, I admit. Still, apart from the haircut of some of the protagonists, I see at least one other important similarity between these two high-profile political battles: too many people on the left will once again “settle” for the so called lesser evil, a...

Donald Trump at the launch of the UHC 2030 Alliance in Nevada

A beaming Trump, surrounded by hundreds of fans:   “Oh boy. We love UHC. We love UHC. Thank you. Thank you. Oh this is a great place to be. Thank you very much. Great evening. We will be celebrating for a long time tonight. Have a good time. Have a good time, folks. You know we weren’t expecting—a couple of years ago, we weren’t expecting ...

The EU resembles more and more the World Health Organization: time for a position switch ?

Confronted with the myriad of (interconnected) crises in Europe, people all over the continent are increasingly starting to wonder whether the EU is still ‘fit for purpose’. The reluctant remaining fans acknowledge that “if the EU didn’t exist, it would probably have to be invented again” (to help deal with 21st century global challeng...

WHO statement on the first meeting of the International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee on the populist/xenophobic “America first and to hell with the rest of the world!” virus

    (Margaret Chan, at a press conference running 50 minutes late)   Today I convened an Emergency Committee, under the International Health Regulations, to gather advice on the severity of the health threat associated with the continuing spread of silly (and thus downright dangerous) American GOP presidential candidates, also known as the ‘Am...

Why Angela Merkel was perhaps not the best choice for Time’s person of the year

While I understand why Angela Merkel was chosen by  Time as 2015’s person of the year, I think it was a mistake, even if I (like many others) appreciate her somewhat surprising moral leadership in the refugee crisis and the – for journalists – irresistible appeal of a catchphrase like ‘Wir Schaffen das’.  (PS: after this weekend, I w...

Simple Trump logic

When I was a student in high school, I had plenty of math. I also (not very fondly) remember the “If-Then” structure in programming classes. Bet many people in global health share a similar (analytical) background, even if we didn’t end up as a Steve Jobs of sorts.  Can’t all become entrepreneurs, hey? Well, these days remind me a bit o...

Staying healthy at the 2015 World Health Summit in Berlin

I’m just back from the 2015 World Health Summit (WHS) in a (rather cold) Berlin, and still recovering from a nasty cold. It was the first time I attended the event, so I’m perhaps not the best placed person to give you an overall account and/or comprehensive analysis of everything that happened between 11-13 October. So instead of doing that...

SDG game changer

This morning, I noticed a paratrooper in full dress near the Central Station loo in Antwerp (the guy was looking somewhat menacingly in my direction, probably because I was mumbling WTF). So I didn’t waste much time in that place, and headed towards ITM – at a brisker pace than usual. Nevertheless, on the way to my institute, a 20 minute-wal...

RIP global health conference (air) travel

This morning the article “Have tenured academic position, will travel (frequently)” in the Sydney Morning Herald caught my attention via Twitter. The issues pointed out in the article, summarized aptly in the introductory paragraph as ‘Academics’ travel to overseas conferences is expensive and environmentally damaging but many see it as a ...

Are these the global health leaders who will save humanity?

I recently started reading the book ‘To save humanity’ (edited by Julio Frenk & Steven Hoffman), after receiving it as a present from my colleague Gorik Ooms. It’s a collection of essays, and I’m not far yet. Witnessing the almost criminal “spectacle” over the last weeks and especially days in Brussels, one cannot help but wonder whe...

“Innovative” financing

In a recent article in Foreign Policy, Philippe Douste-Blazy (quoted in the piece) champions once again ‘innovative financing’, a familiar concept for the global health community.  Among others, he refers to the airline levy implemented by a number of countries, which has raised “more than $2 billion to help fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, ...

Any lessons for global health from the Greek disaster ?

It’s interesting to see how even in a left-leaning institution like ITM,  people have very different views on the Greek crisis, aka ”The Endgame”, as it is now called: from the almost rational to conspiracy thinking & the nearly paranoid. The fact that it’s extremely hard these days to distinguish between these extremes shows the sorry ...

Be the change you want to see

(warning: push the Boris Johnson button in your brain before you read this) I just learnt that “Resilient and responsive health systems for a changing world” was chosen as the theme for the Fourth Global Symposium on Health Systems Research, which will be held on November 14–18, 2016 in Vancouver, Canada. Great idea. Under the motto “Be ...

Targeted survey of the IHP newsletter: “A bit more of ‘less is more’ will take you to the next level…”

Recently we did a ‘targeted survey’ of the IHP newsletter among 100 subscribers we consider as more or less representative of the (multiple) target audiences we aim for with the weekly IHP newsletter.  The response rate was more than decent (47 out of 100 filled in the survey). By now we duly wrote a proper, short & “action-oriented” re...

On being resilient at the World Health Assembly

I’m about to leave Geneva, after my first  ever “immersion” in the World Health Assembly.  The assembly is not even halfway, and so I have absolutely no intention of giving key messages so far. But the main reason for being cautious is this one: I agree wholeheartedly with the assessment given to me by a senior Swiss lady who has been fo...

The Third World War has indeed begun

As we commemorate the end of the Second World War in Europe and elsewhere, it becomes more and more clear that the Third World War  has indeed started. Not in the way you sometimes read in magazines like Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs or some other glossy international politics journal, that we’re sort of “sleepwalking” into a new World ...

On boat refugees, the Nepal earthquake and the “feel good” factor

Even if you don’t watch ‘The Newsroom’, you know the 24-hour news cycle goes fast. Too fast, more precisely. Last week the boat tragedies in the Mediterranean were on all screens, this week it’s the earthquake in Nepal that is dominating the news (well, there’s still the Greek hero on the beach for the romantic ladies). Both are horrif...

Health System Man

This morning, as we were gathering for one of our (nowadays rather common) “strategic meetings” at the public health department of  this institute, to “boldly go where synergies can be found and preferably costs can be cut”, at some point my colleague Bruno Marchal made an intervention, in trademark Autobahn way. Bruno has just been app...

“Equity, sustainability, dignity”: a proposal for a tripartite post-2015 motto

I’ve been thinking a bit lately on how the post-2015 sustainable development (SDG) agenda could be promoted so that all people in the world would recognize it as their common agenda. I’ve come to the conclusion that, on top of a number of clear and hopefully measurable goals, targets and indicators, for an agenda as broad as this one, we als...

Whistleblowers of our system?

I usually refrain from commenting on a terrible human tragedy, and the crash of a German Wings plane earlier this week is certainly one beyond comprehension. However, this time I make an exception, being triggered by what very much sounds like an experience of synchronicity by a (not so distant) family member of mine around the time of the crash...

Global Health Transformers

There is quite some debate these days on whether the SDG agenda will turn out “transformative” or not, including in the health domain. Pundits differ (that’s why they’re called pundits), other observers say a paradigm shift is indispensable if real transformation and achievement of a broad agenda are to happen, and there is without any d...

Are many sociologists pessimists nowadays?

It struck me last weekend when I read an interview in a Belgian newspaper with Saskia Sassen, a well known sociologist. She recently wrote the book Expulsions: Brutality and complexity in the global economy (which is on my reading list, and probably should be on yours too).  She argues in the book that what we are witnessing now, in the 21st ce...

Some reflections on International Women’s Day from one of the many dumb males on this globe

International Women’s Day (IWD) was celebrated last Sunday, March 8. It’s been again an outburst of female  voices mainly, which is a bit politically correct perhaps, but understandable. No man wants to be slammed down on this day, while making some sort of controversial statement. Still, it would be good to also hear more male voices on IW...

Fifty shades of grey for our times

Valentine is coming, as you might know (or prefer to ignore), and some wicked commercial minds in Belgium have decided that ‘The time is Now’ to release ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, the movie version. As you can imagine, no sensible man wants to see this movie with his partner or lover, so Belgian movie theatres organize ‘Ladies at the Movi...

What is the difference between Richard Branson and Bibi ?

2015 is money time for the sustainable development (SDG) & climate agendas.  Or so we hope. Last week  the campaign  Action/ 2015 kicked off, among others with an open letter by a number of high profile politicians, activists and celebrities. In the letter, they address world politicians, reminding them that the actions they are going to take...

Can the global health mainstream learn something from Kevin Spacey? Not really.

As 2014 draws to a close and 2015 is approaching, a presumably Very Important Year for Humanity, I thought I’d offer a short reflection in line with the harmonious ‘end of the year’ spirit. Deep down, you know, I still dream of a Harmonious World, having lived in Hu Jintao’s wonderfully Harmonious Society for a couple of years. But the w...

Law and disorder: the leftwing mantra for the coming years?

Yesterday, coinciding with the start of the Lima climate change conference, a number of Belgian celebrities and climate activists went to court to sue all governments in this country (and trust me, we have quite a few over here), because Belgium isn’t doing enough to comply with its international climate commitments. (Eat that, Bob Geldof!) As...

Do they know Gates’ time is almost over ?

There’s no escape these days – Band Aid (version 4) is back. I’m a big fan of the cheesy song, so I’m already wandering in the streets of Antwerp to my institute in the morning, humming  the old lyrics from 1984 – I’m stuck in time, I’m afraid. For a rather thorough deconstruction of the new and old lyrics, see this piece in the G...

A causal loop diagram for our times

I’m not a big fan of causal loop diagrams – CLD paintings tend to make me as dizzy as the average Prezi presentation, perhaps my fast increasing brain age has something to do with it (it’s for a reason that I will read with special interest this week’s  Lancet Series on Aging).  But while waiting for the ultimate causal loop diagram of...

Are racist rants unavoidable “collateral damage” in an Ebola crisis?

There are many among us who hope the Ebola crisis will turn out to be a wake-up call for the international community to invest more in global health security, including health systems strengthening in countries with (too) weak health systems. Whether you call it a global “Katrina moment” or a global “SARS moment”, depending on your polit...

Bridging the gap between Hazard pay & hazard pay

If you follow a bit the debate on hazard pay   for medical staff in Liberia, with a monthly hazard pay of less than $ 500 dollar for nurses (which has obviously led to calls for a strike), and contrast this with the (recently boosted) weekly salary of Eden Hazard, Chelsea football player (now 240 000 Euro), you know the world has gone mad. (Di...

Some random thoughts on the Cape Town symposium

Two and a half weeks Cape Town aren’t yet out of my (I’m afraid not so complex) system, but I thought I’d try to put together some thoughts on the third HSR Symposium anyway. Not very systematically, but rather in a random way, the way  Donald Sutherland (not the ‘Hunger games’ actor) started his pitch on Vancouver, the venue for the ...

Time for a 1989 moment for global capitalism?

Tomorrow, in IHP’s Featured Article, my colleague Bruno Meessen will reflect on a particularly bloody day in 1914 and draw some lessons for global health. Yet, it’s increasingly obvious that people don’t seem to be very good at learning any lessons from the past. As the headlines can tell us, modernization and technological advances haven...