Strong health systems, the ‘secret ingredient’
Monday, March 24, 2014
In his 2013 State of the Union Address, U.S. President Barack Obama set forth a vision for achieving what would be one of the greatest contributions to human progress — eliminating extreme poverty.
There are many ways in which the global health community can contribute to this bold vision. The U.S. government has honed in on two goals that we know are within reach, achievable and sustainable, and has fully aligned with the U.N. Millennium Development Goals 4, 5 and 6 — ending preventable child and maternal deaths by 2035, and ensuring an AIDS-free generation. Protecting human life and health is one of the best ways to eliminate extreme poverty.
As a global health community, we have the skills and know-how to accomplish these goals, but we must work together and recognize that the ‘secret ingredient’ that binds all of our collective knowledge, skills and interventions is a strong health system. The Lancet Commission on Investing in Health reported this past year that such goals are indeed feasible and would bring about a grand convergence in life expectancy between poor and rich nations in our lifetime. The required investment would pay off 9 to 20 times in full-income returns, and to succeed, half of the resources should be used to strengthen health systems — from human resources to better governance of the sector’s public and private components.