Clinical research can save lives. In a world where outbreaks of novel infectious diseases are increasing, we urgently need to speed up the development of effective vaccines, therapies, diagnostics and treatment protocols. The horrific loss of life from the 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak in West Africa is a haunting reminder of what is at stake if we do not move fast enough.
The East Asia and Pacific region is vital to global pandemic preparedness. The region has been the epicenter of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases. China and Southeast Asia alone accounted for approximately 90 percent of SARS cases and two-thirds of the human cases of avian influenza in the world. These outbreaks are driven by several socio-economic, demographic, environmental, and ecological factors, including close contact between humans and animals, encroachment with wildlife, high population density, rapid urbanization, high growth rates, and climate change.
Many countries around the world are working to ensure that all people can access the quality health services they need without suffering financial hardship. Countries have committed to reaching universal health coverage (UHC) by 2030 as part of the global Sustainable Development Goals.
In the sustainable development goals (SDGs) era, the imperative to finance the development agenda from domestic resources has been amplified. Irrespective of a government’s best intentions to achieve universal health coverage (UHC), without adequate financing from its national budget, minimal progress will be made. This is in stark contrast to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) era (from 2000- 2015) where emphasis was on effective development cooperation (EDC). And when it comes to achieving UHC, financing is actually only part of the role ministries of finance can play. Indeed, in a recent Lancet article, H.E Taro Aso, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister of Japan, pointed out that the finance ministry’s “crucial role in Japan’s UHC achievement has not been adequately highlighted”.
World Health Day this year is focused on universal health coverage (UHC) and the urgent need for #HealthforAll. Taking place on April 7, it’s an opportune time to call on world leaders to commit to concrete steps to work towards and support financing for UHC. Many countries have made great strides towards UHC, but it’s not still enough.
Earlier this month, we attended the 17th World Conference on Tobacco or Health , held in Cape Town, South Africa--the first time on the African continent. While we celebrated the effort made by the global community to implement the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) over the past decade, it was sobering to realize that a greatly intensified and sustained effort is required in the future. Business as usual will not suffice.
At the recent Delhi End TB Summit, Sudeshwar Singh, 40, a tuberculosis (TB) survivor, took to the stage to share his story, not just about the physical hardship of his diagnosis but also the stigma and fear that plagued his family and threatened to crush his spirit. Sudeshwar’s story, however, ends with a victory and a call for optimism for the fight against TB; he completed his treatment, and became an activist, raising TB awareness in his home state of Bihar.
The global community is coming together to tackle an ancient disease that still inflicts interminable human suffering. Globally, one person dies of TB every 20 seconds. While progress has been made over the past decade much remains to be done. Annually, there are still 10.4 million new cases and 1.7 million deaths. One of the key challenges is to find the 4 million missing cases, individuals who develop TB but are missed by health systems and continue to transmit the disease. With the global commitment to end TB, there is a renewed sense of hope in the battle against TB.
This blog first appeared on Joint Learning Network for Universal Health Coverage
Adam Smith, the 18th century social philosopher and political economist, renowned as the father of modern economics, observed in his seminal work “The Wealth of Nations” that “sugar, rum, and tobacco are commodities which are nowhere necessaries of life, [but] which are ... objects of almost universal consumption, and which are therefore extremely proper subjects of taxation.”