By Meena Daivadanam, Raoul Bermejo & Natalie Eggermont (EVs 2010 & 2012)
Greetings from cold Stockholm! The climate seems to be changing…. and not just for ‘climate change’. Amidst a relatively large Swedish ministerial presence and very much impressed by Richard Horton’s trademark intensity and BBC World journalist Nisha Pillai’s incisive comments, we were part of an eclectic mix of moderators, speakers and participants on the first day of the ‘Global Health – beyond 2015’ conference in Stockholm. “Global health is everyone’s agenda”, the opening video repeatedly highlighted this key message of the global health conference taking place at the Stockholm Waterfront Congress Centre. So, to let you get a flavour of the first day of this global health event, this editorial will be interspersed with relevant tweets, Facebook comments (using or not using quotation marks) and other questions, which kept pouring in throughout the day.
Climate change, inequities and NCDs emerged as prime themes. Climate change and the connection between our planet’s wellbeing and people’s health was emphasised again and again in many presentations and participant questions. ‘Healthy Planet and Healthy People’ seems to be an emerging potential overarching ‘goal’ for health in the social development agenda. How about a Lancet Commission on Planetary Health? Courage and action turned up as watchwords. Richard Horton was also quite passionate in focusing on justice for women and children and hush-hush topics such as safe abortion. Rene Loewenson received rousing applause with her call to break the inverse care law. As she put so rightly, ‘equity’ is talked about everywhere but delivered nowhere. It was a heartening change from the usual rhetoric at such meetings. The big question of course is, whether this wave will grow into something substantial in the coming months, building on the momentum generated here; or fizzle out two days from now. While everybody was talking about breaking down silos the NCD crowd insisted that the best way forward in tackling inequities and other cross-cutting issues … was bizarrely to deal with NCDs.
“Most of the BIG #Global Health solutions, lie outside healthcare or even medicine! Let’s not forget…”
On a different note, the dichotomy between health and human rights was underlined and described as two parallel rivers…. never the twain shall meet, with neither understanding the other. We propose instead a marriage of the two, to give birth to the much-needed revolution in global health. It is time for the global health community to move beyond their comfort zone and also occupy the social and political spaces!
There was a lot of emphasis on health being a ‘global’ agenda, with very little detail on how this global agenda can be contextualised. This was countered to some extent by comments like ‘Can donors respect country priorities?’ or ‘WHO needs to differentiate and set their global, national and country agendas and priorities straight.’ So, “Why does it have to be only global? Why can’t it be ‘glocal’?”
Now, on to more discouraging insights. Global representation was woefully sketchy. While the conference had “global” painted all over it, it turned out to be largely a Swedish conversation with the less than occasional, really sparse LMIC representation. Where were the people living and working with these realities day in and day out?
“Does Global Health exist in LMICs? It might not be popular because LMICs don’t believe that they could influence the global agenda.”
Finally, ‘Beyond 2015’ ended on a rather flat note, hopefully this is not a predictor of things to come. If the placement and speakers of the sessions are an indication, it seems that the “The Way Forward” will be charted by the funders, foundations and research councils, predominantly Swedish, with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation thrown in for good measure; together with a ‘token’ voice representation from governmental bodies (Swedish again!)…
So, our friends out there, this is a time to ponder and wonder…. Is global health just a health sector agenda? Isn’t it time it becomes a health agenda, with all the broad connotations that the word ‘health’ implies? So, all you folks out there, lets “stop the global whining”….. “and global wining… and dining…”…and get down to business.
Adieu from us… Oh! and look out for and contribute to “The Stockholm Declaration on Global Health”…. so that we can make it truly global.
PS: To get a fuller flavour of the two-day conversation, check out the #GH2015 tweets and Facebook comments on ‘Global Health – beyond 2015’.