IHP news #447 (December 1, 2017)

The 7 billion target

By on December 1, 2017

Dear Colleagues,

This week, another “Global Health Lab” took place in London  aiming to  offer bold ideas to WHO (and boss Tedros). As Dr. Tedros already received plenty of good ideas in recent months (including a few crazy ones, by his own account)), one more or less won’t make the difference, we reckon.

As was suggested last week on Twitter, it seems about time the global health community in general (and not just the NCD community) focuses (far) more on SDG 12 (sustainable consumption and production patterns) and its interlinkages with SDG 3, the health SDG.  Of course, with many of you already looking for a Christmas tree to put in your living room, you know there are links between health and pretty much every SDG (albeit in some cases, rather indirect ones). Still, SDG 12 requires special attention, certainly if you adopt the (new?) planetary health paradigm.  As some background, we recommend the recent (blog) exchange between Jason Hickel and Branko Milanovic on ‘de-growth’ (see  here,   here,   here and  here ); the terms ‘post-growth economy’ and post-consumerism  are perhaps a bit more appealing to millennials & other citizens. From another angle, what’s the point of growth anyway if eventually, it mostly ends up in the pockets of Michael, Bill, Jeff, Jack & others?  It’s #PocketingTuesday for them every week.

And so we hope that progressive political parties in countries of a certain income level will increasingly think “beyond growth” and put this truly “bold idea” forward in their manifestoes.  Indeed, whether we like it or not, bar geoengineering or other Pandora box recipes, living within planetary boundaries will require, among others, “Moderation & Rationing For All”. Peter Singer might want to call it the ‘7 billion target’.  Starting with the 0.01 % obviously, but also going much beyond them, certainly including the middle classes around the globe.  Thus, more accurately, perhaps: a 2 billion target that will “really” positively impact the health of 7 billion people. (WHO staff holding the pen for the 13th GPW, do take note : ) )

Against that backdrop, wouldn’t it be nice if global health “champions” like Michael Bloomberg, Bill Gates, Angela Merkel…  and yes, also Dr. Tedros himself, started bringing this vital SDG 12 related message, instead of just going with the flow of the many ‘green growth’ fans in powerful institutions and positions, who keep on emphasizing (correctly) the abundant “win-wins” of a new green economy, unfortunately without also stressing the need to keep in check some of our seemingly endless individual ‘freedoms’. You can’t just count on pope Francis to convey such a message of living within our means (especially now that even the pope seems to have some trade-offs  in his papal messaging to consider …).

So if I were Tedros, aiming to become the “People’s DG for the planetary health era”, I would certainly not shy away from SDG 12 & what that goal really implies for the middle classes (& above) around the globe, in some of the candid speeches which are fast becoming his trademark. Should be a key focus of WHO’s work in high-income & upper-middle income countries, in my opinion, in view of WHO’s overall mission, to ‘Promote health – keep the world safe – serve the vulnerable’. With all the political, advertising & mass media  implications such a ‘paradigm shift’ entails. If they’re serious about health for all (including for future generations), Tedros & his team should take the lead in this respect, even if it comes at the expense of fundraising in the short term.  For now, it sounds perhaps like a crazy idea. But give it a decade, and it’ll be common sense.

Having said that, World AIDS Day and a rather worrying new World Malaria Report will get most of the attention in this week’s newsletter.

Enjoy your reading.

The editorial team



(you find the pdf-version of the newsletter here: IHPn447pdf )

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