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Copenhagen Consensus Center

Post-2015 Consensus: Health Viewpoint, Natuzzi

Viewpoint Paper

Eileen Natuzzi, a public health surgeon working in the Solomon Islands, makes a plea for overall health system strengthening as one of the greatest needs for future sustainable development. When the Millennium Development Goals focused health aid on TB, malaria and HIV/AIDs only, it set the stage for a skewing of health aid. The net effect of these vertical health aid programs, which also included child and maternal mortality goals, has been a weakening of already rudimentary health systems. The Ebola virus outbreak in western Africa is a graphic example of this aid distortion, with the USA spending over a billion dollars in short term aid in Liberia, far more than the cost of establishing a properly functioning health system.

A strong health system keeps the entire population healthy, not just children and mothers. In most cultures the breadwinner of the family is the father, and in order to work men need to be healthy too; and healthy children stay in school. But this is not just about diseases; worldwide injury and trauma kills more young people during the most productive period of their lives, 15-50 years old, than AIDs, malaria and TB combined. The current approach has created islands of excellence amid a sea of dysfunction. Creating a health system takes sustained effort, which is why is a good fit for the Sustainable Development Goals.