Reform or Revolution in Global Health?

Precious Matsoso, Paulo Buss, Leigh Kamore Haynes
In Project Syndicate | June 7, 2021

The World Health Organization’s governing body of health ministers has responded to a call from dozens of world leaders for a new international treaty for pandemic preparedness and response, and will hold a special session in November devoted to such a treaty. It is a positive step. But the global response to COVID-19, and adequate preparation for future pandemics, requires much more.

As the COVID-19 crisis has shown, the current global health infrastructure is simply not up to the task of managing – let alone preventing – a pandemic. But the pandemic has also shown that we must not focus only on infectious-disease outbreaks. We must also respond to the pandemic of inequity that the crisis has highlighted.

Every year, more than 16 million people in low- and middle-income countries die from preventable causes. The vast majority are relatively poor, have limited access to education, are marginalized, or live in low-income countries. In other words, as the WHO’s Commission on Social Determinants of Health pointed out more than a dozen years ago, “Social injustice is killing people on a grand scale.”

The only vaccine against this pandemic is a global health infrastructure built on principles of equality and human rights. Beyond dramatically reducing preventable deaths, such an approach would vitally complement the proposed treaty to strengthen global pandemic preparedness and response. That is why we advocate for the Framework Convention on Global Health (FCGH), another proposed treaty, one based on the right to health.

Read the full article in Project Syndicate.

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