Innovative public-private partnerships and funding mechanisms are the focus of an invitation-only event in Oslo this week that brings together some of the world’s leading aid officials and businesspeople at the intersection of global health and technology.
The event, titled “New African Connections,” centers on the idea that adequate health care, especially for women and children, and access to financial services to pay for it, have become increasingly important as African economies grow and nearly one billion people who live on less than $2 per day embrace opportunities for better lives.
Improving health care across Africa is “part of building a population that is productive, and therefore [it] is a better basis for economic development and for business investment,” said Gro Harlem Brundtland, the former Norwegian prime minister and secretary-general of the World health Organization who now serves on the board of the United Nations Foundation.
Brundtland and CARE Norway Secretary General Torild Skogsholm spoke with Devex Monday (June 20) about the 2-day gathering, which is co-hosted by UNF and CARE as well as several Norwegian government institutions and the country’s largest financial institution.
In her conversation with Devex, Brundtland highlighted the Pledge Guarantee for Health as one example for an innovative, collaborative financing mechanism that made it possible for thousands of anti-malaria bednets to be delivered to Zambian families months ahead of schedule earlier this year, preventing what some experts had predicted could have become a health crisis there.
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Research and technology remain key to improving health care and development around the globe, Brundtland and Skogsholm agreed.
“The need for investment in this area is not as huge as it used to be just a few years ago, because the technology is there and the penetration of the mobile phone is much higher now than it used to be,” said Skogsholm, referring to a number of recent technological advances that have allowed health workers to, for instance, use the cell phone as a way to practice.
But, how strong is the business case for global health innovations?
“When it comes to health, it’s a bit different,” said Skogsholm, referring to the strong business case made in recent years in other areas of international development, such as microfinance. “You need some health services in place, and you can’t have a business case as such compared to, let’s say, banking. So, health is more challenging.”
We are at an inflection point now, she added, where lessons learned in global health care delivery can be turned into initiatives that require less investment to reach larger numbers of people.
“Will there be a business case when it comes to health? The answer is, not the same way as we can see in other sectors, because health is the kind of work that needs to be cared about in another way,” Skogsholm said. “So, we need, obviously, some fundamental financing that will still be there; but the thing is, you can do it more wisely and cheaper than you could before. And you can reach much, much more people than you did before.”
Added Brundtland: “And it will benefit the business sector and the countries they invest in. So, it’s part of an improved infrastructure for all.”
Co-hosting “New African Connections” are the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Norwegian Investment Fund for Developing Countries, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation and DnB NOR, Norway’s largest bank. The event features presentations and panel discussions with UNF founder Ted Turner, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan as well as Lois Quam, executive director of the U.S. Global Health Initiative, among others.
Want to read more about innovative financing mechanisms for health? Check www.devex.com for our exclusive interview with one of the world’s premier global health experts, Liberian Health and Social Welfare Minister Walter Gwenigale, later this week!