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“Turmoil and Hope”: Future of Global Health Discussed at 70th UN General Assembly

Linh Do

Image credit: Linh Do, Flickr Creative Commons.

Eighty per cent of all people globally have little to no access to healthcare. That’s 5.8 billion people.

Bleak as this sounds, there has actually been a vast improvement in global healthcare compared to 25 years ago. Globally, the number of deaths of children under 5 years of age fell from 12.7 million in 1990 to 6.3 million in 2013. New HIV infections declined by 38% between 2001 and 2013.

The progress that has been made so far is in large part thanks to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were set in September 2000 at the Millennium Summit, the largest gathering of world leaders seen in history.

The MDGs were set up to commit all nations to reduce extreme poverty and mortality, and to set out a series of time-bound objectives to be met by 2015.

Now that it’s 2015, it’s time to take stock of the MDGs. More importantly, it’s time to set new goals for the future, as there clearly remains a lot to be done.

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This week, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) will convene at the UN Headquarters in New York. World leaders and major healthcare providers from around the globe will meet to discuss the current state of healthcare, and work together to find solutions to the most pressing healthcare problems affecting the world today.

At this year’s Assembly, the 70th in the UN’s history, UN chief Ban Ki-moon has said that the meeting comes at a time of “turmoil and hope”.

The UN chief praised the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, set to take place Friday September 25th, that “embodies the yearnings of people everywhere for lives of dignity on a healthy planet” and which “shows what Member States can achieve when they work together.”

A new set of goals will be established, called the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Their aim is to carry the work done to meet the MDGs well past 2015, and to meet a new set of humanitarian challenges facing the globe.

Terri Bresenham, CEO of GE Healthcare’s Sustainable Healthcare Solutions (SHS) business, gave insights into the state of global healthcare today, and how GE Healthcare’s efforts and collaborations are well aligned with the SDGs, and will continue to be in the future.

“Sustainable Healthcare Solutions is a business that is focused on making affordable, high-quality healthcare accessible to the majority of the world’s population, partnering with public and private healthcare providers,” she said.

At UNGA this week, SHS announced the investment of $300 million as part of a multi-phase effort to develop a more robust affordable healthcare portfolio – high-value, low-cost technologies and healthcare delivery solutions across multiple care settings.

The company has a long track-record of partnering with ministries of health, private healthcare providers and NGOs alike to help improve healthcare systems around the world. Progress is impossible without teamwork. “Making healthcare affordable and accessible to the world will not be possible without the participation and collaboration of the larger ecosystem which includes NGO’s, funding agencies, donors, healthcare providers, government, start-ups and other corporates,” remarked Bresenham.

But getting medical technology to those who need it most is far from easy. Market forces, lack of education and disparate resources only add to the challenge. What’s more, healthcare systems are being asked to do more, with less, for more people.


Image credit: H.L.I.T., Flickr Creative Commons.

Healthcare providers and ministries of health have therefore had to take a more comprehensive approach, disrupting every process in the chain, from manufacturing to distribution through to training, making today’s world ready for tomorrow’s advancements in healthcare.

“According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 2.4 million doctors, nurses, and midwives are needed worldwide,” added Bresenham. “Investment in the education of doctors, nurses, and midwives remains modest, with total global expenditure on health professional education representing a mere 1.8% of total global expenditure on health.”

By the year 2020, GE Healthcare is planning to train over two million healthcare professionals around the world. Put another way, three times as many healthcare workers will be trained in the next five years than were trained in the last five.

Here is a retrospective on the lifesaving work that has so far been done to meet and exceed the MDGs, as we transition to the SDGs.

Is Education the Best Medicine?

Estimating that the average healthcare professional treats 30 patients per year (a number which can often be much higher), this program has the potential to impact more than 300 million patients by 2020. Physicians, radiologists, technologists, midwives, biomedical engineers, nurses, and other healthcare professionals around the world will be equipped with the skills they need to improve the lives of everyone they treat. Read More

Help for Africa’s Mothers

A woman in sub-Saharan Africa has a 1 in 16 chance of dying from complications in childbirth. Children and babies are tragically losing their mothers to conditions that are quickly and easily treated in the developed world, where the chances of death from childbirth complications are close to 1 in 4,000. In Africa, those children who lose their mothers are ten times more likely to die within two years. Read More

New Portable Ultrasound for Developing Nations Launched at World Health Assembly

Mother and child mortality is one of the biggest healthcare challenges in the world today. Although global estimates have been falling by around 1.4% every year for the last twenty years, there is still much work to be done before Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 can be declared complete. Read More

World Health Assembly Gathers in Geneva: What’s next for the Millennium Development Goals?

Though vast progress has been made, as the world’s population continues to grow and resources in developing nations continue to be stretched, ministries of health and healthcare companies must continue to collaborate to make quality healthcare accessible to more people worldwide. Read More

Making Kenya’s Vision a Reality

Africa’s healthcare landscape is changing fast. While diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria, schistosomiasis and Chikungunya are still grave causes for concern, there is a growing burden from so-called ‘developed world’ diseases: non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like heart disease, cancer and diabetes that typically accompany industrialization and globalization. Read More

Getting Puskesmas Online: The Next Frontier for Indonesian Healthcare

According to the World Health Organization, despite considerable global progress in reducing child mortality, recent estimates indicate that in 2008 about 8.8 million children died. Indonesia has continued to face challenges in providing care to its population, and the rise of non-communicable diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer puts further pressure on an already strained system. Read More

More Information

GE Healthcare’s 2030 SDG Commitment 

GE Healthcare Announces $300 Million Commitment to Support Emerging Market Health

General Assembly of the United Nations