Dean Jamison

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The cure for global poverty: Health | 

Mother and child, Madhya Pradesh, India
Mother and child, Madhya Pradesh, India
Flickr, DFID

Researchers Discover Powerful Cure for Poverty and Inequality – Health

If you could only do one thing to reduce poverty and inequity around the world, say experts in global development, the best thing you could do is reduce the disproportionate burden of disease on those living in the poorest communities.

Improving health, according to a relatively new and perhaps still under-appreciated report written by a blue-ribbon panel, remains the most powerful tool for improving lives and reducing extreme poverty worldwide.

But it’s still a woefully underused tool that, as Humanosphere will report on tomorrow, is actually losing ground on the anti-poverty agenda even as the evidence of its import swells.

Dean Jamison
Dean Jamison

“We have an unprecedented opportunity, unlike any time before in human history, to significantly reduce the level of inequity in the world,” said Dean Jamison, a health policy expert at the University of Washington and, with Harvard University’s Lawrence Summers, one of the lead authors of the report, dubbed Global Health 2035.

“Even in the United States, the single largest cause of poverty is medical expenditures, usually due to some health crisis,” Jamison said. “Europeans have a hard time understanding this, because for the most part they don’t experience medical bankruptcies. But the connection between illness and poverty is also especially the case for the poor in developing and middle-income countries.”

Not everyone agrees, of course, that improving health should be at the top of the anti-poverty agenda.

Some say improving governance, human rights or business development are more powerful means for fighting poverty. Some say we need less targeted efforts and an agenda that emphasizes sustainable development (whatever that means….). The aid and development community, it should be noted, argues about almost everything. Continue reading

Why 2035? The year Bill Gates predicted (almost) no more poor countries | 

Earlier this week, Bill Gates issued his annual letter and one of the main take-aways that got attention was his prediction that by the year 2035 the traditional distinction we make between rich and poor nations – developed vs. developing – will no longer be meaningful.

CNBC Bill Gates: There will be no poor countries by 2035

Independent No poor countries by 2035

NPR Almost no poor countries by 2035

Why pick the year 2035? And what exactly will happen to make nearly every nation rich or middle income? As we noted yesterday in our annual review of Bill’s annual letter, the overall wealth of a country is not necessarily the best measure of whether or not life is better for individuals. And Gates doesn’t exactly explain how all nation boats will rise on this tide. He just extrapolates from the trajectory of progress seen so far and says:

Almost all countries will be what we now call lower-middle income or richer. Countries will learn from their most productive neighbors and benefit from innovations like new vaccines, better seeds, and the digital revolution. Their labor forces, buoyed by expanded education, will attract new investments.

Technological improvements in health, agriculture, communications and more/better education are critical to ending poor nation states by 2035. Sounds a bit kitchen sinkish.

But earlier in the letter, Gates points to what the philanthropy has long believed is one of the most critical drivers of progress in Africa at least – health. Without the massive gains made on the health front in sub-Saharan Africa (especially in curbing the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS), it would be hard to imagine much progress achieved on other fronts.

Put simply, Gates believes improving health is one of the most powerful – maybe the most powerful – means of fighting poverty. And he’s backed up by data.

Dean Jamison
Dean Jamison

“People argue about how much, but there’s no question having healthier people contributes to economic growth,” said Dean Jamison, an economist at the University of Washington and co-author with Harvard’s Larry Summers of a ground-breaking new report entitled Global Health 2035: A World Converging Within a Generation.

The report, which was partly funded by the Gates Foundation, is stunning in both its economic analysis and its ambitious prescription for the future. Continue reading

UN summit on global health: Making a longer list or better strategy? | 

Flickr

I’m in New York this week for a special meeting at the United Nations on matters of global health.

It’s a potentially important meeting, one in which some hope to re-direct the global health agenda. So I’m going to focus on covering, and reporting, out of the meeting. News Rounds will just have to take a break.

The last time the UN held a special meeting devoted to global health, out of it came the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria — arguably one of the most significant and successful efforts in the history of international health.

That was a decade ago. At the time, there was fairly strong consensus that the world needed to do something to respond to the global HIV/AIDS pandemic.

The spread of HIV had come under greater control in much of the rich world thanks to new drugs. But in sub-Saharan Africa and many other parts of the developing world, the virus was still burning a deadly swath. It was an intolerably unjust situation.

So the Global Fund was created to fight AIDS and two other top killers, TB and malaria, in poor countries. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest private donor to the Global Fund, was on the scene but really just getting started reinvigorating (and remaking) the global health landscape. President George W. Bush jumped in as well, launching Pepfar to fight AIDS in Africa. The global economy, generally speaking, was good.

Those were heady, hopeful days.

Expanding the global health agenda while tightening its belt

Today is the first day of the unfortunately named UN High-Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases. I’ve already said why it’s a bad name. More importantly than its branding problem, this meeting faces a number of challenges the UN AIDS summit 10 years ago did not. Continue reading