IHP news #511 (March 1, 2019)

In rapidly changing times, Global Health could end up “Left Behind” itself

By on March 1, 2019



Dear Colleagues,

We start our weekly intro by flagging two must-reads, a blog by Andrew Harmer – “Climate action for global health”  (in which he rightly stresses that Andy Haines et al are (still) too cautious/conservative with respect to what might lie ahead if we don’t go for an all-out planetary health response soon), and an equally hard-hitting Lancet Comment by Rachel Thompson & Silvia Garry, “The political economy of NCDs, and the limits of global health”. In the piece, they argue    “…As opposed to the long-established principles and practice of public health, which focus on collective population health to reduce inequalities, global health is a product of a specific time and place where neoliberalism currently dominates; wonder whether global health, “… as part of the global political economy itself, can effectively protect itself from forces that may undermine equity-based approaches?…”,  and emphasize in their conclusion that “…Global health actors must … work more closely with economists and political scientists to find solutions for how the current global political economy could be adapted to help achieve health for all. Global health and its institutions can, and must, evolve to succeed in reducing inequities. If not, global health could well find itself among the left behind, as the next generation steps up to tackle the interconnected challenges for climate, food systems, and health ahead. “  Well said.

Global health ( always full of talk of “innovation” anyway 🙂 ) indeed has to adapt urgently, if it doesn’t want to become irrelevant in an era that increasingly challenges neoliberalism – and that’s putting it mildly, if even the FT nowadays runs op-eds, titled,  “The future belongs to the left, not the right”. Whether global health will indeed adapt soon, is another question, though. As long as the global health community embraces philanthro-capitalists such as Gates & Bloomberg (not to mention the army of McKinsey & Boston Consulting Group consultants), probably not.  So here’s a suggestion for the Emerging Voices: we need an uncompromising & “telling it like it is” global health version of Greta Thunberg, to roam from Geneva to New York, over Washington, London, Seattle & a number of other global health power places & corridors.  I can certainly think of a few good candidates to “tell truth to Global Health power”. If you like taking the train, that’s a plus 😊.

Meanwhile, geopolitics is back in town, already for a while so, actually. With the increased tension between India & Pakistan (plus the unavoidable chest thumping on both sides), chances are health care won’t be a major issue in the upcoming elections in India. Let’s hope this doesn’t really get out of hand, and that the abundant yoga posturing of the past few years also inspires Mr Modi to some real wisdom.

Over to the other side of the globe then. This week, UK readers probably began to feel a bit more optimistic about Brexit (and especially the likelihood of a no-deal Brexit (still) to happen). Coincidentally, a number of UK researchers assessed in a Lancet Health Policy article, How will Brexit affect health services in the UK? An updated evaluation, the impact of possible scenarios on the NHS, using the WHO health system building blocks framework.  If Brexit indeed still materializes in the coming months (or say, by 2050), I hope African health policy researchers will also tackle the issue (#decolonizeHPSR ). On one condition: Kingdon’s name should not, I repeat NOT, come up 🙂

In other global health related news from this week, preparations for the UN High-Level Meeting on UHC   in New York (September) are now in full swing; the first ever worldwide estimates suggest     that nearly one in two children with cancer are left undiagnosed and untreated; last weekend’s Oscar ceremony paid attention to menstruation ( and the stigma around it). Unfortunately, there’s again  worrying news from the Ebola DRC outbreak (including on the funding situation and increasing distrust). A Global Fund for Hepatitis  is preparing for its roll-out in the coming months, and Mali’s president finished off the Bamako Initiative. As for global health events, the WHO Health Taxes Partner’s Meeting   took place this week (26-27 Feb), as well as the 4th Global Digital Health Partnership Summit  in Delhi. This weekend it’s also World Hearing Day (3 March). Enter a new Lancet Commission 😊.

Last but not least, no doubt many of you are now gearing up for the AHAIC conference  in Kigali, next week (5-7 March), and the launch of the second Global Health 50/50 report in Addis (7 March). More on both in next week’s issue!

Enjoy your reading.

Kristof Decoster



(you find the pdf of the full newsletter here: IHPn511 )

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