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By Ceri Jones, Action for Global Health

The APPG on Nutrition for Growth collaborated with Action for Global Health to conven health workers, civil society, parliamentarians and government actors to discuss the UK’s role in helping achieve the ambitious target of health for all by 2030.

Speakers included Theo Clarke MP (Conservative MP for Stafford and Member of the International Development Committee), Mariam Ditipole Mzuzuri (MP for Dodoma constituency, Tanzania), Dr Florence Sibomana (trainee doctor and youth leader for nutrition, RESULTS), Mike Podmore (Director of STOPAIDS) and Darren Welch (Director of Policy, Department for International Development).

The event, “Global Health 2020: A Turning Point for Ending Preventable Deaths” took place in collaboration with 25 co-hosts, including a number of All-Party Parliamentary Groups, allowing for a dialogue on the UK’s opportunity to holistically address issues across the global health spectrum.

“The UK has invested in strengthening health systems around the world, eradicating polio, improving access to family planning interventions, and tackling anti-microbial resistance, to name but a few. But the job isn’t done.” said chair, Theo Clarke MP. “In more recent years, progress on health has been stalling.”

Currently, more than half the world’s population still do not have access to essential healthcare services and the most marginalised are often left furthest behind. Each year, more than 100 million people are pushed into extreme poverty by out-of-pocket health costs. Following commitment’s made at last year’s High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage (UHC), 2020 presents a critical opportunity for the UK address these gaps and leverage its overseas development assistance (ODA) to support countries with their own UHC roadmaps.

With decades of domestic experience delivering publicly funded healthcare, the UK has an important part to play in making sure UHC remains high on the political agenda globally, as well integrating across sectors including comprehensive sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR), water, sanitation and hygiene, and nutrition. Mariam Mzuzuri Ditipole MP and Dr Florence Sibomana both used their speeches to highlight the importance of integrating essential nutrition and SRHR services in the implementation of UHC.

“The UK’s Department for International Development has played a critical role in supporting lifesaving community healthworkers and improving access to sexual and reproductive health services in Rwanda. If we continue to all pull together, we can strengthen our health systems and end preventable deaths.” said Dr Florence Sibomana.

Global health has been a large focus for the Department for International Development and Department for Health and Social Care for many years, but the Ebola Crisis of 2014-2016 brought a new level of urgency to global health security threats; highlighting the weaknesses with health emergency response mechanisms for countries with unstable health systems.

Today, there is growing concern about the huge threat of the COVID-19 pandemic to low- and middle- income countries, particularly those in sub-Saharan African, where health systems are under-resourced, and populations face a myriad of health challenges. On behalf of the Department of International Development, Darren Welch stressed that while this is one of the biggest global challenges we have faced together for generations, it is critical that we highlight the links between health investments and country preparedness.

“At local, national, regional and global levels, COVID-19 is a critical reminder of how important strong health systems and well trained staff really are,” Mike Podmore said. “We welcome the DFID’s action plan on ending preventable deaths and hope it ensures the UK takes a leadership role in global health.”