The inclusion of health on the post-2015 global development agenda was the topic of a panel discussion held today as part of the 52nd Directing Council of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
The panel of experts who presented and discussed the topic at the plenary session included Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO); Dr. Joy St. John, Chief Medical Officer, Ministry of Health of Barbados; Dr. José Ignacio Carreño, executive director of PROCOSI, a network of Bolivian nongovernmental organizations; and Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, PAHO’s Director.
“Without education and health, no country will have the human capital necessary to achieve a sustainable future,” Chan noted after explaining the international context of the consultation process to frame a new set of global development goals that will replace the Millennium Development Goals 2000–2015 (MDGs).
According to Chan, today’s health challenges are much more complex than they were in 2000 and she noted that health systems strengthening will be an essential ingredient to the achievement of sustainable development, adding that, in this sense, universal health care is both a means and an end.
Dr. St. John shared her perceptions of the way the Region of the Americas has approached the MDGs. “Health has had many measurable successes and we need to applaud and celebrate that fact,” she said, adding that political leaders understand more and more that healthy populations are necessary to advance in development.
Among other achievements in the Americas, she highlighted that child and mortality rates have fallen; fewer people are dying from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria; more people have access to safe water and sanitation; and people are living longer lives. Nevertheless, she emphasized that the Americas is a region of inequities and that “the gains of some may never last until we make them the gains of all.”
The delegate from Barbados also emphasized that “we must cement our gains and critically analyze how the Region in the Americas can include health in all policies.”
Dr. Carreño presented the results of a civil society consultation in Bolivia that analyzed progress in implementing the health-related MDGs and lessons learned, and identified criteria for “the future we want” post-2015. He noted that maternal and child mortality and the annual parasite index for malaria and Chagas’ disease have declined.
During the consultation, Bolivia’s civil society sector identified the following challenges: access to health services, health services’ quality, and respectful treatment; sexual and reproductive health; youth-friendly health care; continued reductions in maternal mortality; and the promotion of intersectoral networks of traditional medicine.
For her part, PAHO’s Director reemphasized that “sustainable development is about human development” and that “health is at the core of human development.”
Dr. Etienne pointed out that the Region of the Americas can boast that it will meet most of the MDGs except for maternal mortality. However, she explained, as indicated by leaders at the community and local levels, large portions of the population remain that will not meet the MDGs.
She stated that poverty is the greatest challenge in meeting MDGs and the post-2015 development agenda. “We believe that poverty creates ill health,” she said. “We must measure poverty and how people are moving out of poverty, but not necessarily only by using economic indicators.”
The PAHO Director also explained that Member States had expressed the need to increase the visibility of noncommunicable diseases and youth, particularly young males, on the post-2015 development agenda. The need to work with multiple sectors was cited as being more important than ever in achieving these goals. Dr. Etienne emphasized the need to work with the Region’s ministries of foreign affairs and to ensure that they are “fully aware of the role of health in sustainable development and that health forms a very central part of this.”
Delegates to the 52nd Directing Council also shared the progress made in their countries toward achieving the MDGs and health challenges lying ahead. They highlighted the need to continue working on the MDGs that have not been reached and include universal health care access on the new global development agenda.