In 2000, one in three Peruvian children under 5-years-old suffered from chronic malnutrition. Several years later despite high economic growth and hundreds of millions of dollars spent in nutrition programs, the stunting rate barely inched down. Then, something happened.
Figure 1. Stunting Rate, Peru 2000-2015 (% of under-5 children)
I wanted to take this opportunity to wish you a Happy New Year, and reflect on several notable events from 2015 - a year of remarkable progress in global health, and remarkable expansion for the World Bank Group's health, nutrition and population portfolio, which grew to more than $10 billion.
La adopción de los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible (ODS) durante las reuniones de la Asamblea General de las Naciones Unidas celebradas recientemente fue una noticia digna de festejo: el futuro al que aspiramos ahora incluye oficialmente la cobertura sanitaria universal, tal como se define en el ODS 3, meta 8. (i) Esa misma semana, también nos enteramos de que un grupo de economistas de 44 países había manifestado públicamente (i) que “la cobertura de salud universal tiene sentido desde el punto de vista económico”. Según parece, la marea ha cambiado en favor de brindar atención médica esencial a todo aquel que la necesita, sin generar dificultades financieras.
L’adoption des Objectifs de développement durable (ODD) lors de la récente assemblée générale des Nations Unies a apporté une excellente nouvelle : désormais, l’avenir que nous voulons inclut, entre autres, la couverture santé universelle, telle que définie par l’ODD n° 3, cible 8. La même semaine, un groupe d’économistes venant de 44 pays a déclaré publiquement (a) que la couverture santé universelle était « économiquement justifiée ». Il semble donc qu’un changement de cap s’opère pour permettre à tous ceux qui en ont besoin d’accéder à des soins de santé sans rencontrer de difficultés financières.
The launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the recent U.N. General Assembly meetings brought especially welcome news: The future we want now officially includes universal health coverage (UHC), as defined under SDG 3, target 8. We also heard, the same week, from a group of economists from 44 countries, who publicly stated that “UHC makes economic sense.” It seems the tide has turned toward making essential health care available to all who need it, without creating financial hardship.
I consider myself a pretty lucky person. I often work across the beautiful islands of the Caribbean, with their glistening turquoise seas, the lush greenery, fresh tropical fruit… I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Paradise is not always perfect, however: Beneath the postcard views is an often not-so-perfect public health system.
A recent “close encounter” in the Caribbean served as a stark reminder of this truth. Different from the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, it didn’t involve little green men nor giant floating spaceships, but something just as unknown, at least to me: chikungunya, a viral disease transmitted by the bite of infected mosquitoes.
Unfortunately, I was infected with chikungunya a little over a year ago during a work trip to the Eastern Caribbean in support a results-based financing project for the health sector. Our team was de-briefing near the ocean when it happened: I felt a quick sting from a mosquito bite, but didn’t think much of it. I felt unusually tired that evening, and by the next morning a number of other symptoms appeared – it was indeed chikungunya.
Anybody who has been through the California school system, like me, will immediately recognize the phrase, “Stop, Duck, and Cover” to mean one thing – EARTHQUAKE! On a lucky day, it would be a drill, but we’d often get the real deal. Not that we didn’t learn other things in school, but preparing for natural disasters, in our case earthquakes, was an integral part of our education in California. As soon as I would hear this phrase, I knew to stop what I was doing, duck down under my school desk, and clasp my hands together and cover the back of my neck to protect it from falling debris.
June is almost upon us, and in many parts of the world that means graduation ceremonies. While graduation may elicit images of black robes, flat square caps, and the flipping of tassels, in the Toledo District of Belize, this June, graduation will be all about medical kits, scales, and growth monitoring tools because … the community health workers (CHWs) are graduating!