For many years, the G8 was a great place for global health. In 2010, the G8 committed to US$ 5 billion for maternal, newborn and child health that grew into the US$ 40 billion Global Strategy on Women’s and Children’s Health. In 2007, G8 members made a $1.5 billion pledge “to reduce the gaps in … maternal and child health care and voluntary planning.” In 2005, leaders agreed to provide “universal access to anti-HIV drugs in Africa.” And in 2001, the G8 created the Global Fund on AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Not all the pledges were met, but the meetings kept the attention on key global health issues and played some role in mobilizing aid agency responses. On balance, this consistency paid off – health aid quadrupled between 1992 and 2009, with G8 members providing more than 75% of all bilateral aid for health in 2009. In turn, health results have also been transformational.
Yet last year, the G8 dropped global health off the agenda. While some people said that was no big deal because the G20 was what mattered, global health never made it on the G20 agenda either. And now, as we look to the US-hosted G8 meeting in 2012, global health is still nowhere to be found. Instead, the G20 issues like food security are being discussed.
What happened? Are global health needs fully met? Has the U.S. lost interest?
Nope. The job still isn’t done; in fact, the Global Fund needs a healthy replenishment to meet global HIV, malaria and TB control targets. And there are pressing issues like drug resistance and emerging infectious diseases that demand a coordinated global response. Further, the U.S. remains strong on global health, spending more than any other country in the world on global health issues and even hosting a Global Call to Action on Ending Preventable Child Deaths during the same month as the G8 summit.
It seems to me that someone at the top just didn’t connect the dots. As G8 budgets decline, the meeting is a unique opportunity to discuss cooperation on global health with the G8+5 leaders from emerging economies. I hope we’ll see better news in this area soon.