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ss triple helix - spring 2012,  Four steps forward, five steps back

Four steps forward, five steps back

Continuing challenges in global health

Review by Steve Fouch
CMF Head of Allied Professions Ministries

The last year has seen some significant changes relating to global major health problems. We saw that maternal mortality in the developing world was less than had been previously reported, (1) there were improvements in child health (2) and the global community came together over strategies to invest in treatment and prevention of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) (3) and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). (4)

But we have also seen a crisis of confidence in the Global Fund to fight TB, HIV and malaria, partly over corruption allegations (mostly untrue) (5) but largely due to the Eurozone crisis. (6) Most major donors used the allegations as an excuse to renege on funding pledges as they struggled with mounting sovereign debt crises.

During the year Bill Gates has poured more money than most governments into tackling global health issues, and the UK government has kept its status as the second largest bilateral donor to health development. However it is sobering to reflect that the annual funding to eliminate NTDs and NCDs and the three major infectious killers (TB, malaria and HIV) come to little over 1% of the money the UK alone put into bailing out the banks. And this as we languish under a national debt of £1 trillion, fuelled by self-interest and cheap credit. (7)

More recently we learnt that the global malaria situation may be far worse than we thought, (8) that cancer is a bigger killer in the developing world than AIDS (9) and the crisis in midwifery recruitment globally may set back the modest gains in reducing maternal and infant mortality of the last decade. (10)

We know how to tackle these health problems, and many (including our own government, to their credit) are putting in the money and resources to make this happen, but in the face of a worsening global economy, many are pulling out of funding initiatives that could save lives for a fraction of what is being spent to bailout the failing economies of Europe.

God's judgement of Sodom was simply that, 'She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.' (11) Let's be careful the West does not fall into the same judgement.

  1. Lancet 2010;376:1389-1390. (23 October.)
  2. Levels and trends in child mortality, UNICEF 2011
  3. United Nations high-level meeting on non-communicable disease prevention and control reports and papers
  5. AIDSpan Global Fund Observer, Issue 139 27 January 2011
  6. Bloomberg Business Week, 18 January, 2012
  7. Christian Medical Comment, 5 February 2012
  8. Lancet, 2012;379:413-431, (4 February)
  9. Huffington Post 4 Feb 2012,
  10. CMF Blog 2 April 2011
  11. Ezekiel 16:49, 50
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