Inclusive Health Systems: The Key to Addressing Global Health Challenges
Never before has health been so prominent at a United Nations General Assembly, with three high-level meetings focused on tuberculosis, universal health coverage (UHC), and pandemic prevention and preparedness. The first high-level meeting on health at the UN General Assembly in 2001 was centered on HIV/AIDS.
Friends of the Global Fund Europe approached this sequence from the perspective of the interconnection between these three global health challenges. From our point of view, the fight against tuberculosis plays a crucial role in pandemic prevention and preparedness which should not be limited to future pandemics. The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified drug-resistant tuberculosis as a public health emergency for several years, and its prevalence is increasing, especially in Eastern Europe. The systems built to combat tuberculosis have proven effective in the fight against COVID-19 and are likely to be on the front lines again in the event of an emerging respiratory pathogen pandemic. Prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of tuberculosis and infectious diseases should be part of essential health services accessible under UHC.
The same applies to malaria, a pandemic that could significantly evolve in the coming years due to climate change and its effects, as well as the risks of expanding insecticide, treatment, and diagnostic resistances, particularly in Africa. Malaria elimination is crucial for UHC because of the substantial burden of the disease on the health of children under five and pregnant women in Africa. It also continues to strain health systems and their capacity to respond to other diseases. Furthermore, the tools, services, and human resources established to fight malaria could be instrumental if a new vector-borne disease were to spread in the future.
The event hosted by Friends of the Global Fund Japan, Friends of the Global Fight (US), and Friends of the Global Fund Europe in New York last September connected global health issues through a fundamental common denominator to accelerate progress in health: inclusive and people-centered health systems. Involving patients and communities in disease control programs helps reach the most marginalized people, both geographically and politically, in health systems. The fundamental principle of inclusive governance of the Global Fund brings together government decision-makers, health professionals, technical experts, civil society representatives, and community members to jointly decide on disease control programs and health system strengthening in their regions. Only an approach centered on people and rights can curb an epidemic.
The report on the results of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria published at the same time revealed the state of progress against the three major pandemics. Despite unprecedented results from the Global Fund partnership and increased contributions to health system strengthening and pandemic preparedness, we are still off track for eliminating the three pandemics by 2030. Nevertheless, thanks to scientific advancements, innovation, and people-centered health approaches, it is possible to end these three pandemics. Only multilateralism based on equitable cooperation and solidarity will enable the eradication of existing diseases, adequate preparedness for those to come, and the strengthening of health systems to achieve universal health coverage.
Friends Europe is a political advocacy organization for global health and the fight against HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria. Its mission is to engage European decision-makers in investing and getting involved with the Global Fund: www.friendseurope.org.