Key points: A group of business leaders launched the MDG Health Alliance, which is aimed at reaching specific goals in reducing deaths of children and mothers.
The Alliance has seven pillars that will each focus on specific targets.
Many of the pillars will focus work in specific countries that have the highest numbers of preventable deaths.
The deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is fast approaching – less than three years away. And many of the targets seem so far out of reach. What to do?
A group of business leaders announced at the GBCHealth Conference a way forward to reach those goals: They launched the MDG Health Alliance.
The new private sector organization, which was brought together by MDG Advocate Raymond G. Chambers, has identified specific areas where large gains are possible to reduce maternal and child mortality and to address other pressing health issues by the end of 2015.
The seven “pillars” are: 1) improve child health; 2) improve maternal health; 3) achieve near-zero malaria deaths; 4) achieve near-zero transmission of HIV from mother to child; 5) recruit, train, and equip one million community health workers; 6) save one million lives from TB-HIV co-infection; and 7) ensure universal access to reproductive health.
“It really begins with focusing on where the burdens of the MDGs are, where are most of the problems, and where can we do most of the interventions,” said moderator Ambassador Mark R. Dybul, former U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and Co-Director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University.
Leith Greenslade, Co-Chair of the MDG Health Alliance’s Child Health Pillar and Co-Founder and Co-Chair of Isha Koach fund, called the task “an enormous challenge” to reduce the current estimated toll of 7.6 million preventable child deaths to 4 million by 2015.
Her response for the Child Health Pillar: Focus on the biggest killers (pneumonia, diarrhea, neonatal death, and malaria) in the countries with the highest death tolls (India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan, and Ethiopia).
“That’s it,” she said. “Everything else we view as a distraction.”
Naveen Rao, Co-Chair of the , MDG Health Alliance’s Maternal Health Pillar and the head of Merck for Mothers, Merck & Co., also said the goal to reduce maternal mortality by 75 percent by 2015 would require focus. His pillar’s five countries: India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and Uganda.
He quoted a colleague who said something to the effect of: “When a mother dies, it’s almost like a house catches fire.” Rao said: “Most houses don’t catch fire … but for those 15 percent when that house catches fire, we need a full fire station on standby. The concept of a fire station with all-systems-go is the kind of mindset we have.”
John F. Megrue, Chair of MDG Health Alliance’s PMTCT Pillar and CEO, U.S, Apax Partners, L.P., said it was imperative to bring new champions to support the effort. He said for those who get involved, there is great passion to do the work. “This is something that constantly pulls us back,” he said. “Everywhere I go, every business person I talk to, you can see the light bulb go on.”
And Jeffrey C. Walker, Chair of MDG Health Alliance’s Frontline Health Workers Pillar and former Chairman and CEO of CCMP Capital Advisors, LLC, said much more effort needs to be placed on finding efficiencies in rolling out targeted initiatives. He said the Alliance could help uncover those cost-saving ideas. “People want to help and want to work together,” he said. “We don’t have all the answers, but we might be able to help convene the people who do.” He added, “Don’t think of this as corporate responsibility. Think of this as strategy. Approach it as helping yourself as you help others.”