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World

Jim Campbell : "It is high time to stop viewing public health as nothing but expense: it is an economic motor"

Translated Saturday 24 October 2015, by Adrian Jordan

By Jim Campbell, Executive Director, Global Health Workforce Alliance, (GHWA) and Director of the Health Workforce Department, at the World Health Organization (HWF/WHO)

In its 28 September 2015 edition, recounting the adoption of sustainable development goals (SDGs) by the United Nations, L’Humanité rightly considers that no issue is isolated, which is confirmed by SDGs themselves, and adds that obstacles to development have not been studied.

It is true that SDGs are an ambitious project. They put the credibility of the international community to the test. It, however, would not be correct to state that the UN is not interested in the cause of underdevelopment. Much to the contrary, scientific studies, aimed at establishing these causes and finding their indicators and so turn the situation around, have multiplied.

In the sphere of health for example, for decades, the international community has, in good faith, launched initiatives to fight health issues in the developing world. In sub-Saharan Africa, some of these have not really hit the mark due to demographic pressures, some misguided reforms and other public health problems.

The information collected and the research undertaken, amongst others under the aegis of the UN, has shown that health is not a cost but one of the most judicious investments that a government could make. Properly trained, well located, health care professionals allow developing and industrialised states alike, to fight against unemployment and poverty, to encourage female autonomy, provide development opportunities for their economies and strengthen their legitimacy.

In certain areas, constraints made on budgets have resulted in a drop in health services, which is not without consequence. From the perspective of SDGs, it is high time to stop viewing public health as nothing but an expense: it is an economic motor. Poor health services, both in the northern and southern hemispheres, unduly weigh on the economy: every euro invested in training, remuneration, deployment and retention of healthcare professionals is a euro well spent.

The Ebola epidemic, like others before, showed that a robust health system, conceived with foresight and properly managed by the state, is the best line of defence against epidemics to which the most vulnerable people are victim.

The international community should support efforts made by sub-Saharan countries, and others, seeking to reinforce their health system, like others, under the auspices of SDGs. WHO supports these efforts with schemes, notably through the new Global Strategy on Human Resources for Health for 2030. We will promote this program next year at the World Health Assembly, right up to 2030 and beyond.

Jim Campbell

Executive Director, Global Health Workforce Alliance, and Director of the Health Workforce Department, at the World Health Organization.


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