Rachel Wilson is senior director for policy and advocacy at PATH.
Last month the UN Secretary General’s High-Level Panel released its report on the future of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of targets that have guided work in global development since 2000. Health advocates everywhere breathed a sigh of relief. The panel’s consultative approach yielded what we’d been working toward: “Ensure healthy lives” emerged as goal 4, which means health will likely maintain its prominent place on the global development agenda.
But with two years remaining until the United Nations finalizes the new framework set out by its panel, we must not sit back in satisfaction. We must ensure that new goals are designed to achieve the greatest gains in health everywhere.
At PATH, collaborating across sectors and developing technologies to prevent, diagnose, and treat disease have taught us that there are two essential components to achieving better health for all: innovation and integration.
The panel’s report proposes an ambitious and inspiring framework for development once the original goals pass their target completion date in 2015. The framework addresses many of the biggest challenges in international development during the last decade, including:
- Reaching the poorest and most marginalized people.
- Ensuring accountability of governments and other actors.
- Leveraging the capacity of all sectors to advance international development.
Perhaps even more importantly, the report outlines two principles that should guide global policy-making. First, like HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, health problems are clearly linked to and build upon one another. And second, progress will come only when we integrate the programs that address these problems and strengthen the health systems that deliver solutions.
Innovations in technology play a critical role in improving health around the world. Polio, for example, has been eliminated from most of the world and eradication is within reach thanks to the development and delivery of safe, effective vaccines. Still, infectious diseases claim the lives of nearly 9 million people each year, and emerging health threats, such as drug resistance, could set all of us back unless we develop new tools to safeguard health.
Keeping pace with health development challenges like these is an evolving process. We not only must focus on how existing technologies can help, but also maximize public and private partnerships to pursue development, introduction, and scaling of new technologies to meet new and persistent challenges.
Innovations can also help us sustain our momentum toward achieving the MDGs even as we begin to set our sights beyond 2015. We must continue to work toward the 2015 targets, and health innovations can help accelerate that process. The UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities identified 13 products that can significantly improve the health and well-being of women and children everywhere—but only if we improve access.
Increasingly, we recognize that integration in everything from service delivery to policy approaches provides a better way to meet the needs of individuals and health systems. It can also lead to increased support for health issues that aren’t the priorities of funders right now.
Often, accurate information is the missing link in pinpointing a health need or opportunity that can benefit from increased integration of services. We need a “data revolution”—as the panel put it—to fill this gap and support better decision-making and integration across sectors, disease areas, and countries.
Global contributions drive success
The UN panel has provided us with a tremendous opportunity. Using an open, consultative process, the panel captured the priorities of global civil society and development experts in a report that not only reflects consensus, but also manages to be bold.
If realized, the framework the panel developed will raise the bar we set for ourselves when it comes to development goals. To ensure success, it’s essential that investments in innovative health tools and integrated health programming and services are at the forefront of our shared global road map.
- See the report of the High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda on the United Nations website.