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The End of the Era of Generosity? Global Health Amid Economic Crisis

Authors: Kammerle Schneider, and Laurie Garrett, Senior Fellow for Global Health
January 30, 2009
Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine

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Abstract

In the past decade donor commitments to health have increased by 200 percent. Correspondingly, there has been a swell of new players in the global health landscape. The unprecedented, global response to a single disease, HIV/AIDS, has been responsible for a substantial portion of this boon. Numerous health success have followed this windfall of funding and attention, yet the food, fuel, and economic crises of 2008 have shown the vulnerabilities of health and development initiatives focused on short term wins and reliant on a constant flow of foreign funding. For too long, the international community has responded to global health and development challenges with emergency solutions that often reflect the donor's priorities, values, and political leanings, rather than funding durable health systems that can withstand crises. Progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals has stalled in many countries. Disease specific initiatives have weakened health systems and limited efforts to improve maternal and child health. As we enter this era of scarce resources, there is a need to return to the foundations of the Alma Ata Declaration signed thirty years ago with the goal of providing universal access to primary healthcare. The global health community must now objectively evaluate how we can most effectively respond to the crises of 2008 and take advantage of this moment of extraordinary attention for global health and translate it into long term, sustainable health improvements for all.

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