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Health, Education & Shelter

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Global Health Watch: An Alternative Health Report
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Too often the state of ill-health in poor countries is framed as a problem of geography, bad luck or poor government, rather than an outcome of political and economic choices, says a report by the People's Health Movement, Medact and the Global Equity Gauge Alliance.

Alternative World Health Report Calls for Radical Change

Foreword to Report: Global Health Watch 2

Link to Report: Global Health Watch 2 - People's health Movement, Medact and Global Equity Gauge Alliance

Further Resources

Alternative World Health Report Calls for Radical Change

Civil society organizations and scientists from around the world are calling for ‘a new development paradigm’ to address the toxic combination of climate change, growing poverty and inequality and poor health. 

The new report, Global Health Watch 2, says that unfair social and economic policies combined with bad politics are to blame for the poor state of the health of millions of people in the world.  The report makes stinging criticisms of key global actors, including the World Health Organization, the World Bank and the Gates Foundation. The report calls on governments to stop the Bank from meddling in health politics. 

Global Health Watch 2 provides examples of civil society mobilization across the world for more equitable health care and more health promotion, although more is needed to bring about significant improvements in health. 

The report reveals widespread unease about the immense but unaccountable power and influence of the Gates Foundation.  It says that although the Gates Foundation has injected vast sums of money into global health, it operates in an undemocratic way and reinforces a medical-technical approach.

Among other issues it highlights is the pressure exerted on the World Health Organization by powerful and vested interests that would prefer WHO’s activities and programme to have a more biomedical and less political focus.

Global Health Watch 2 will be launched in London on 16th October, followed by launches in around 20 other countries.

The first edition of Global Health Watch, published in 2005, was hailed for its ground-breaking analysis and mobilising call to action.

Marion Birch, director of the London-based charity, Medact:
 “Priorities set by the rich world damage the health of people thousands of miles away.  Funding for water and sanitation is falling while slum-dwellers in Lagos pay up to 40 times as much for water as residents in downtown New York. Oil extraction in the Niger Delta generates billions of dollars of revenue but local communities lack basic health care.”

Amit Sengupta of the People’s Health Movement in India:
“The World Bank’s job is to help transfer resources from richer to poor countries and it should act accordingly. Its impact on the health systems of poor countries has been largely negative.  Internationally, it has also contributed to the uncoordinated circus of health sector policy-making that makes it difficult for Ministries of Health to function”.

Martin Drewry, director of the charity Health Unlimited:
“The majority world does not want charity – it wants a fairer political and economic system. It needs fewer billionaires; not more. While it is great that Bill Gates is willing to donate his money towards improving health in Africa, he would do far better campaigning for more effective tax systems both nationally and internationally”.

Link to original source  

Foreword to Report: Global Health Watch 2

Reports on the state of the world’s health appear daily in the world’s media. UN agencies, NGOs and academic institutions produce vast amounts of data, statistics and analysis. However, what is lacking is a critical and integrated assessment of both the state of global health and the policies and actions taken to reduce global health inequalities and unacceptable levels of ill-health.

Still too often the state of ill-health in many poor countries is framed as a problem of disease, geography, bad luck or poor government. Rarely is it properly framed as a symptom and outcome of political and economic choices, or the current form of globalisation which has created a deep chasm between a minority of ‘winners’ and a majority of ‘losers’, whilst simultaneously placing the world at the brink of environmental crisis.

Recent years, however, have seen a rise in interest in ‘global health’, prompted by the creation of the Millennium Development Goals. Development assistance for health has increased, the number of new global health initiatives has multiplied and the Gates Foundation has massively increased the amount of private financing for global health.

But in spite of these developments, why is so little improvement being made? The People’s Health Movement, Medact and the Global Equity Gauge
Alliance came together in 2003 to appraise critically the state of global health and to assess the performance and actions of certain key institutions such as the World Health Organization and UNICEF, donor agencies, highincome-country governments, the World Bank, multinational corporations, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization.

This resulted in Global Health Watch 2005–2006, an alternative world health report that highlighted the root causes of poor health and revealed the gap between humanitarian rhetoric and reality. It comprised 22 chapters covering a broad array of subjects on global health and development policy, produced from the contributions of more than 120 individuals and the support of approximately 70 organisations across the world.

GHW 1 was released in July 2005 at the second People’s Health Assembly held in Cuenca, Ecuador. More than twenty-two official ‘launches’ of the
report took place worldwide in more than sixteen countries.

A shorter summary and campaigning document Global Health Action  2005–2006 was also produced and disseminated, and translated and printed in Spanish, French and Arabic. The Watch also stimulated the production of a Latin American Health Watch and a UK Health Watch.

Two advocacy documents (on WHO and health systems) were developed and distributed at various forums and conferences. The release of Global Health Watch 2 coincides with the thirtieth anniversary of the Declaration of Alma Ata. To mark this anniversary, the WHO has released the 2008 World Health Report on the revitalisation of PHC.

This year also sees the release of the report of the Commission on the Social Determinants of Health. We believe GHW 2 is important reading to accompany the official world health report.

However, as with GHW 1, this report has limitations. Many key issues relevant to health have not been covered. With space constraints, a limited
budget and a small secretariat, we were simply unable to cover everything. Some of the data and analyses are also out of date. For example, the crisis around rising food prices occurred after the book was finalised.

Nonetheless, this book covers a range of issues and provides an alternative perspective that is vital to help the world move beyond the currently
inadequate approaches and interventions to ensure that all people have their basic and essential health needs met.

We hope that the Watch provides some small contribution to ensuring that politicians, governments, donor agencies, banks and multilateral institutions are kept honest and held accountable.

Link to original source

Further Resources:

Link to STWR's key facts page on Health, Education and Shelter

Global Health Watch 1- People's Health Movement, Medact and Global Equity Gauge Alliance

Overview of Global Health Watch 2 - People's Health Movement, Medact and Global Equity Gauge Alliance

Improving the Health of the World's Poorest People - Dara Carr, Public Reference Bureau Health Bulletin