A ‘re­lent­less’ pro­moter of health as a hu­man right

The Washington Times Daily - - DECADE OF LEADERSHIP: UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY - G - By Dr. Mar­garet Chan Mar­garet Chan, M.D., is the sev­enth di­rec­tor-gen­eral of the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Over the past decade, health is­sues have at­tained an un­prece­dented promi­nence at the United Na­tions. Three health is­sues have risen to the high­est level of dis­cus­sion: non­com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases, such as di­a­betes, can­cer and heart dis­ease; the Ebola out­break in West Africa; and on Sept. 21, the lead­ers of 193 coun­tries came to­gether to ad­dress one of the most press­ing public health crises of to­day — the wan­ing ef­fec­tive­ness of an­tibi­otics and other an­timi­cro­bials.

If no ac­tion is taken, AMR (an­timi­cro­bial re­sis­tance) could kill as many as 10 mil­lion peo­ple glob­ally ev­ery year by 2050, with a cu­mu­la­tive cost to the world econ­omy as high as $100 tril­lion, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent re­view com­mis­sioned by the United King­dom gov­ern­ment.

The fo­cus on health in three U.N. high-level meet­ings il­lus­trates the pro­found lead­er­ship and broad im­pact we have seen un­der the cur­rent U.N. Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon.

When he took of­fice in 2007, nearly 9 mil­lion chil­dren died an­nu­ally be­fore their fifth birth­day from con­di­tions that could be pre­vented or treated with ac­cess to sim­ple af­ford­able in­ter­ven­tions. As he leaves of­fice, the world is in a dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tion. Ma­jor progress has been made in sav­ing the lives of mothers and chil­dren, thanks to the Ev­ery Woman Ev­ery Child ini­tia­tive that he launched in 2010. To­day, fewer than 6 mil­lion chil­dren die be­fore their fifth birth­day.

Progress has also been achieved in turn­ing around the malaria, HIV/AIDS and tu­ber­cu­lo­sis epi­demics; in com­bat­ting global health crises, such as those caused by the H1N1, Ebola and Zika viruses; and in po­lio erad­i­ca­tion.

The sec­re­tary-gen­eral has cat­alyzed en­gage­ment on global health at in­ter­na­tional and na­tional lev­els. He has re­lent­lessly pro­moted health as a hu­man right, ad­vo­cat­ing for in­creased ac­cess to medicines and health care for the most vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties in the world, and called for greater ac­count­abil­ity in global health. He con­vened the United Na­tions High-Level Panel on Ac­cess to Medicines, a Com­mis­sion on In­for­ma­tion and Ac­count­abil­ity for Women’s and Chil­dren’s Health, and a Com­mis­sion on Health Em­ploy­ment and Eco­nomic Growth to help find solutions on these is­sues.

In ad­di­tion, Ban Ki-moon has broadened the scope of health as a mul­ti­sec­toral con­cern po­si­tion­ing ma­jor health is­sues as a re­spon­si­bil­ity be­yond med­i­cal and sci­ence com­mu­ni­ties to engage all parts of gov­ern­ment that sus­tain de­vel­op­ment and progress of coun­tries. This is why AMR is on the agenda at the G20, the World Bank and the U.N. Gen­eral Assem­bly.

The sec­re­tary-gen­eral’s con­cern for health ca­pac­ity at the lo­cal level and his sup­port for the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion’s work have been demon­strated nu­mer­ous times when he joined me on coun­try vis­its to im­pov­er­ished com­mu­ni­ties and health care fa­cil­i­ties. Specif­i­cally, his per­sonal in­volve­ment in the po­lio-erad­i­ca­tion cam­paign has been ad­mirable. When­ever I had po­lit­i­cally sen­si­tive de­ci­sions to make, I knew he would al­ways be there to take my call and give me pro­foundly wise ad­vice.

On Dec. 31, Ban Ki-moon will pass the ba­ton to his suc­ces­sor, and with it many health chal­lenges that WHO and other U.N. agen­cies are still work­ing to ad­dress. Health work­ers are still a tar­get in many con­flict zones to­day. Dis­ease out­breaks that pose a risk of spread­ing quickly through in­ter­na­tional trade and travel will con­tinue to threaten global se­cu­rity. Non­com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases have over­taken in­fec­tious dis­eases as the No. 1 killers world­wide.

These chal­leng­ing health is­sues re­main, but Ban Ki-moon has pro­vided a way for­ward to ad­dress all of them. The Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals adopted by the U.N. Gen­eral Assem­bly in Septem­ber 2015 give the in­ter­na­tional

When he took of­fice in 2007, nearly 9 mil­lion chil­dren died an­nu­ally be­fore their fifth birth­day from con­di­tions that could be pre­vented or treated with ac­cess to sim­ple af­ford­able in­ter­ven­tions. As he leaves of­fice, the world is in a dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tion. Ma­jor progress has been made in sav­ing the lives of mothers and chil­dren, thanks to the Ev­ery Woman Ev­ery Child ini­tia­tive that he launched in 2010.

com­mu­nity an op­por­tu­nity to work to­gether across all sec­tors to im­prove the well-be­ing of hu­man­ity. The cur­rent sec­re­tary-gen­eral has set a new bar for U.N. en­gage­ment in health is­sues. It will be es­sen­tial for years to come.

Dr. Mar­garet Chan, di­rec­tor-gen­eral of the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion, and U.N. Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon met with vac­cine man­u­fac­tur­ers dur­ing the 62nd World Health Assem­bly in 2009, where they dis­cussed med­i­cal re­sponses to the H1N1 in­fluenza pan­demic. Im­age cour­tesy of the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion.

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