How to bridge the gap between global health and development

A male nurse administers flu vaccine to a young man in Vietnam. Photo by: CDC Global / CC BY

DAVOS, Switzerland — It may require a culture change, but making the link between global health and development challenges — from education to poverty — is critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

How to move from dialogue to creating a more integrated system was the subject of an event organized by Devex and Johnson & Johnson on Tuesday. While there was an acceptance that the problem was complex, there were several recommendations that emerged, from developing better data, to improving transparency so that platforms and partnerships are not redundant.

Duplication, fragmentation and turf battles, especially as there is a retreat from multilateral institutions, can impede progress and reduce efficiency, said Peter Sands, incoming executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

“It’s glaringly obvious the impact of health on development and economics,” Sands said. But, he added: “We haven’t got health issues embedded into the kind of economic analysis people use when they make decisions.”

The right partnerships will be critical to bridging the gaps and scaling new solutions that can impact health and development. Without collaborations and partnerships, the development of a new product may not be able to scale sufficiently, said Jaak Peeters, the head of global public health at Johnson & Johnson.

“Only when we come together does it work,” he said.

Katja Iversen, president and CEO of Women Deliver, echoed those remarks, saying that her organization’s strategy is to ask first whom they should work with not how they might tackle a problem.

“When you look at the SDGs, it’s not a menu, it’s a roadmap,” she said.

While women and girls drive development and are key to achieving the SDGs, you can’t address the issues without also addressing health: “If you only treat health as health it won’t solve problems,” she said.

Read more Devex coverage on global health.

About the author

  • Adva Saldinger

    Adva Saldinger is a Senior Reporter at Devex, where she covers the intersection of business and international development, as well as U.S. foreign aid policy. From partnerships to trade and social entrepreneurship to impact investing, Adva explores the role the private sector and private capital play in development. A journalist with more than 10 years of experience, she has worked at several newspapers in the U.S. and lived in both Ghana and South Africa.