CSOs and private sector gather as Global Strategy consultations kick off
Improving health is everyone’s business
Dr Naveen Rao, head of Merck for Mothers, said that the private sector has shareholder responsibilities, but also social and humanitarian responsibilities. Pharmaceutical companies, he said, provide drugs used by women throughout 364 days of the year, and “can’t look away during those 24 hours when a woman is most at risk”, referring to the persisting dangers that childbirth still poses for many women around the world.
Nand Wadhwani, Founding Trustee of the Mother and Child Health and Education Fund, described the efforts of HealthPhone in reaching women via text message with health-improving and life-saving information. HealthPhone has an extensive library of over 2500 videos in 77 languages that provide information on nutrition, hand washing, and how expectant mothers should prepare for childbirth. “The role of education in saving many lives has been underutilized,” said Mr Wadhwani, a point that clearly resonates with EWEC stakeholders who will be discussing how the updated Global Strategy can work more closely with health-enhancing sectors, such as education.
Katja Iverson, CEO of Women Deliver, stressed that “improving the health of women and children is everyone’s business, and can’t be business as usual.” She emphasized that all stakeholders – including the private sector, CSOs, and adolescents – must come together to draft an updated Global Strategy that is truly owned by all partners.
Mr CK Mishra, Additional Secretary & Mission Director for the Health Mission, Government of India, built on this point. The Global Strategy, he said, is of critical importance because “no public-private partnership works without a robust policy background.”
GBCHealth also released a new research report during the private sector session, highlighting how and where 23 leading Indian companies are investing in the health sector through CSR and philanthropy.
Civil Society speaks out
Across town, over 60 members of prominent civil society from India and around the world gathered to discuss how civil society can best engage in the renewal of the Global Strategy and ensure that their priorities and concerns are reflected. They were reminded by speakers like UN Assistant Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, to build on the successes of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and claim their roles as strong partners, assisting governments to properly prioritize their country development goals.
Throughout the day, it became clear, that the world has collectively made significant strides in declines in maternal and child mortality and morbidity. India, particularly, has seen consistent progress in maternal and infant mortality reductions. However, these gains are not automatic, nor guaranteed and the CSOs play a major role in raising ambitions.
Dr Rakesh Kumar, Joint Secretary for the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, presented the priorities of the Indian government. To accelerate progress to meet the MDGs goals in the last 309 days, the Indian government plans on focusing on high impact interventions, simple solutions at delivery, focusing on small and sick newborns, scaling up routine immunization, and addressing pneumonia and diarrhea.
Meeting participants discussed the inclusion of adolescents in the updated Global Strategy, and how overwhelming evidence shows that by investing in the health needs of young people, countries can achieve their long-term health goals.
To this end, health systems need to properly reach out to adolescents, communicate and educate in their language, address their health needs – including mental health, nutrition and substance abuse – and respond. CSOs are the ideal partner to bring new solutions and perspectives to the table.
Recommendations from both the private sector and CSO sessions will be fed into the consultations on the Global Strategy over the coming days as progress is reviewed, and the way ahead boldly charted.