Call to Action: Get Involved, Be Heard

Following  a warm welcome by conference host, Tim Brewer, an outstanding of panel chaired by Jody Heymann focused on the intersection of government and global health.

Keith Martin, a Canadian member of Parliament and physician, noted one of the greatest challenges in global health is gaining the ability to scale up the knowledge we have to address the gross inequities that exist in the world. He implored universities to take the leadership role in addressing inequities by bridging the gap between knowledge and practice. 

He encouraged the audience to be heard and to influence the beast of government by becoming social entrepreneurs and focus on the rate of return to save lives. One way to accomplish this is for global health advocates to build partnerships with the private sector and to use social networking tools to form alliances.  “You must appeal to hearts and minds of the public and political leaders.  No one has ever been motivated by a pie chart.”

Ambassador Eric Goosby, US Global AIDS Coordinator, US Department of State presented data showing the unprecedented progress of PEPFAR to save lives.  New infections in key African countries have plummeted due to PEPFAR.  He restated Secretary Clinton’s recent comments that treatment for prevention is the key for further reductions in HIV, and is a major priority for PEPFAR.

He also discussed the need to build the health workforce through partnerships with US and international medical schools and universities. Through the MEPI (medical education partnership initiative) initiative, medical institutions throughout sub-Saharan Africa are leading efforts to redesign medical education curricula and programs.   

Ambassador Goosby also discussed a plan between PEPFAR and the Peace Corps to accept US clinical educators as volunteers in order to provide training to expand medical capacity in developing countries.  Potential partners that could contribute to such a public private partnership could include foundations, professional associations, and US and partner country universities.

“We are in a moment globally where global health is on everyone’s radar screen,” Goosby said.  “Your voice is different because you have evidence-based research on how our work is making a difference for people in developing countries.  The time to break down barriers between academic and political world is now.”

Finally, Lieutenant General Romeo Dallaire provided inspiring remarks about the realities of genocide and the need to have humanitarian efforts to save lives and manage conflicts throughout the world.  The outlined the massive scale of abuses throughout the world, from war to slave labor to genocide. He challenged the audience to treat all humans equally.  “Why is a Canadian child’s life worth saving and not a child in Sudan?”   He argued that unrest and conflict impacts stability and health internationally, and the use of force is necessary to protect the world. 

“The will to intervene is the crux of the problem.  Global health is part of the solution.  Put humanitarianism before self interest and get involved.”

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