Global Health and Beyond 2015 Conference, Stockholm, Sweden

By Janine Ewen:

This April, a remarkable conference was held involving people from many levels of practice and a variety of professionals to mark the 1000 day countdown to the Millennium Development goals.

The Global Health and Beyond 2015 Conference, held in Stockholm, the Swedish capital, was above expectations. People left with knowledge about how the world has approached health in the wrong way….using a “top down” approach.

There were 1,300 delegates from across the world with an impressive speaker-list. The line-up included the passionate Richard Horton, Editor of the medical journal The Lancet, Hans Rosling, a Swedish epidemiology Professor made famous for his sensational YouTube talks on Global Health and development, and the dynamic NCD duo from New Zealand, Professors Robert Beaglehole and Ruth Bonita. The audience saw the coming together of health, environment and development scientists and practitioners, politicians, economists and business leaders.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) knows that, as a world leading organisation, it is accountable for improving health. The “down up approach” has officially been presented as the secure way to deal with global health problems. One woman, working in the field of human rights in Stockholm, shouted loud and clear during the conference: “Write to Margaret Chan now! Tell her to start sharing the budgets held by WHO. Let’s share accountability and stop channelling responsibility so far up.” That sentiment was received favourably from a panel of senior professionals.

For those who work every day in global health, giving up is not an option now. Furthermore, efforts are finally going in the right direction. I am not suggesting, in any way, that the next 30 years are going to be easy. The changes are still to come, but now we know that our efforts are being counted and we are clear about some of our future focuses – women and violence and climate change, for example.

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The conference allowed leading professionals to enlighten delegates on what they have been working on and the newly implemented Millennium Development Goal targets: more readily available Global Health data for all audiences, new campaigns targeting non-communicable diseases, improved communication at all levels, more readily available scholarships for educational programmes and much, much more.

On the second day of the conference, a workshop organised by the Swedish Society of Medicine, one of the oldest medical organisations in Europe, encouraged students to engage in detailed discussions about where we see future global health priorities going in terms of specific targets in health and if this is at all possible. Sweden has committed so much time and education to Global Health; I can only hope other countries will follow suit.

Another part of the conference saw students having an open discussion in a series of workshops. The main points raised were: stop looking at government positions and, instead, look at local level opportunities; reduce the gap altogether between poverty and extreme poverty; look at the bigger picture of economic development; look at the global health business model and see how it can work to generate fair and equal income in a faster way; and urge the international community to realise that extreme poverty reproduces itself.

The conference and workshop were informative and inspirational. Now it is time to share this news and empower each other.