Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Who Are the Health Eight (or H8)?

And why should we care?

The Nieman Global Health Fellows had lunch with Bill Hsiao last Thursday for a wide-ranging talk about global health. Our journalists' ears perked up when he said that eight big global health groups have organized themselves into something akin to the G-8 alliance of world's biggest economies. Hsiao is a favorite amongst the Global Health Fellows because he speaks forthrightly, clearly and on the record.

Here's what the Norwegian Foreign Ministry has to say about the H-8:

Health 8 (H8) is an informal group of eight health-related organisations, WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, UNAIDS, GFATM, GAVI, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the World Bank created in mid-2007 to stimulate a global sense of urgency for reaching the health-related MDGs. It focuses on better ways of working, particularly within institutions, which can lead to the MDGs being achieved more quickly. And it has a remit to ensure systematic and robust knowledge management and learning around the MDGs, and to seize opportunities presented by renewed interest in health systems.

That last part--about health systems--turns out to be key. Hsiao says that there's an ongoing tussle in the global health community over whether to emphasize the shortage of health care workers or the need to strengthen the health systems those doctors, nurses and others should be working in. This is not merely an academic exercise, Hsiao says. It could well determine what health strategies the real G-8 takes on at their next meeting in Tokyo in July.

And as anyone who has covered global health for at least half a minute knows, once a grand strategy gets adopted, whatever money there is often gets diverted in that direction.

Related blog posts:
How Big a Problem is the Brain Drain?

Related external links:
Why Japan sees global health as a good foreign relations initiative
Preparing for the G-8 summit in Tokyo
The health experts of the G-8 meet the H-8


Anonymous said...

ChristinŠµ,...And in what actually a problem? My opinion association of such strong powers will be on advantage to all of us.

Christine Gorman said...

Would you automatically trust the G-8 governments because they are coordinating their efforts in shaping the world's economy?

Coordination of effort is surely a help in making progress in global health. But it does not guarantee benefits. Concentration of power without accountability--in the form of greater transparency and wider public reporting--is a recipe for disaster.

Anonymous said...

>>Concentration of power without accountability--in the form of greater transparency and wider public reporting--is a recipe for disaster.<<
I agree with you!