Monday, July 6, 2009

Getting Health on the G-8 Agenda

ROME, Italy -- Judging by the numbers of people I saw frolicking in Trevi Fountain and on the Spanish Steps as I arrived here yesterday on a sun-drenched summer afternoon, you would not think the industrialized countries of the world are in the throes of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. But that is exactly what will be on the minds of the heads of state of the G-8 when they come here later this week for their annual attempt to find some common ground for making the world a better place not only for the rich countries of the world, but also for the poor.

See the G-8 L'Aquila website at

And that is why I am here - - to add the voice of the Global Health Council to other representatives of civil society, largely European, to try to keep global health from getting lost in the many other pressing issues of the day, such as the recession, Iran, climate change, food security in Africa, Middle East peace and trade.

It will not be easy: In the Civil Society Meeting that begins here in Rome on Monday, immediately preceding the Summit which begins on Wednesday, health is hard to find on the agenda. The meeting is comprised entirely of four roundtables on Food, World Economy and Finance, Climate Change and something called "Public Goods" which, presumably, might include something about health. But that is not at all clear, and my job here is to ensure that global health -- and particularly reproductive, maternal and child health - get a fair hearing as access to these health areas -- and lack thereof -- have enormous effects on the poor's ability to make progress in the other areas of concern to this G-8 Summit.