London, 30 March 2009 - Investing in health yields financial returns and benefits poor people in the developing world. That is the main message at a high level conference hosted by the International Business Leaders Forum (IBLF) and the GAVI Alliance in London today.
By bringing together successful public-private partnerships, GAVI and IBLF aim to show the impact on global health that can be made by joining forces - especially in times of economic crisis. More than 80 leading experts from governments, business, and NGOs gathered to share their expertise and recommendations on how to improve access to affordable healthcare.
From promoting research for and access to immunisation and preventing HIV to ensuring good nutrition, the participants explored innovative public-private initiatives to address fundamental global health needs.
Referring to the current economic climate, GAVI's CEO Dr Julian Lob-Levyt said that health partnerships should uphold their ambitions.
"The GAVI Alliance is a proven public-private model for development financing and the demand for immunisation assistance from countries is only growing. Our partnership with IBLF is one way we can share innovative and results-based approaches while at the same time learn more from the private sector."
IBLF's CEO Adam Leach added, "Such partnerships can be literally life-saving, as the work of GAVI and others have demonstrated. We believe the business world has core skills that can and should be harnessed. We must find ways to translate these business competencies into demonstrable benefits in terms of human health and security and economic prosperity."
DFID supports public-private approach
The British Secretary of State for International Development, Douglas Alexander, supported the public-private approach.
"GAVI has helped to galvanise political will, strengthen health systems and create a credible and predictable vaccine market for developing countries," he said at the event. Through GAVI's efforts, more than 200 million children have been immunised and almost 3.5 million premature deaths have been prevented.
But what is good for development can also be good for business: vaccinating children in developing countries can not only save millions of lives but also help to create a healthier workforce - which in turn attracts investment in growing economies.
Look at Africa - the continent is just eight miles from Europe, and is home to some 900 million producers and consumers. The challenge for businesses is to recognise the real potential of these opportunities."
Mr Alexander re-affirmed the intention of his government not to let the current economic crisis impede international development funding. "It is vital that we keep the promises we have made if we are to prevent the economic from becoming a human crisis."
New estimates by the UN suggest that the economic crisis could lead to an increase of between 200,000 and 400,000 in infant deaths.
Business must play its part
Dame Graça Machel, former Education Minister of Mozambique and president of the Mozambican community-based organisation FDC, encouraged business people to become active in Africa.
"Throughout Africa and in Mozambique I have seen the impact and results that health investments have made. Mozambique was the first country to receive GAVI-funded vaccines. Before we began working with GAVI, 203 out of 1000 children died each year, before reaching their fifth birthday. Today this number has decreased to 138. This year, Mozambique will roll out a pentavalent vaccine that includes antigens against haemophilus influenzae type b (hib), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and hepatitis B. This will further reduce child mortality by around four percent."
Dame Graça Machel's appeal to the business and public sectors to sustain investment in the health sector is echoed by the GAVI Alliance and IBLF.
"Protecting a child against five major diseases costs an average of just US$ 20 and the benefits to the individual and society are many fold," Dr Julian Lob-Levyt, GAVI CEO, explained.
"It is less expensive to prevent disease than to treat a person for the rest of his or her life. Preventive healthcare saves not only family health expenses, but enables parents to be more productive as they are freed from caring for sick children. All this directly helps break the vicious cycle of poverty."
Dame Graça Machel added, "We need all public and private sectors to work together to share their skills and expertise if we want to fulfil the fundamental right to good health for every child, every human-being, in the world."
Widespread endorsement for public-private collaboration
Experts from PATH, Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), the International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM), the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and Applied Strategies endorse this public-private approach. At specialist roundtable sessions (for key messages see extended note) they will share examples of successful interventions made possible due to new technologies - such as the HPV vaccine against cervical cancer - and of how existing basic interventions like making bed nets available to whole populations can save lives.
Notes for the Editor
The GAVI Alliance is a Geneva-based public-private partnership aimed at improving health in the world's poorest countries. The Alliance brings together developing country and donor governments, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry in both industrialized and developing countries, research and technical agencies, NGOs, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private philanthropists.
GAVI support consists of providing life-saving vaccines and strengthening health systems. Since 2000, 213 million children have been vaccinated and 3.4 million premature deaths averted thanks to GAVI-funded programmes. GAVI has also been recognised for developing innovative financing mechanisms like the International Finance Facility for Immunisation (IFFIm) and the Advance Market Commitments. For more information, please visit: www.gavi.org.
The International Business Leaders Forum was founded in 1990 by The Prince of Wales as an independent, not-for-profit organisation, and is currently supported by over 100 of the world's leading companies. IBLF has worked in more than 90 countries to raise sustainable business standards, improve prospects for enterprise and employment, and enable companies to contribute to health and human development issues. Further information on IBLF: http://www.iblf.org
Extended Note on key messages of the four roundtable sessions:
1.Bringing new health technologies to women
International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI)
The fight against HIV and AIDS is not yet won: for every two people put on antiretroviral therapy, another five become newly infected with HIV. There is no doubt that expanding access to treatment is a crucial priority but if we want to reverse the pandemic we need better prevention, and that includes better options for women to protect themselves and their children from HIV infection. A preventive vaccine could achieve this, and scientific efforts today are providing an ever stronger foundation for its development. The innovation needed now to develop such a vaccine in the shortest time possible requires the sustained commitment of governments, businesses, scientists, philanthropists and communities.
Dr Seth Berkley, CEO and President of IAVI said: "We have gained significant knowledge about HIV over the past years. We need new technologies, expertise and resources from the private sector to help us turn science into a safe and effective AIDS vaccine. It is going to take time and money, but will ultimately provide future generations with the best chance to end the AIDS pandemic."
Further information on IAVI: http://www.iavi.org
International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM)
Microbicide science reached a milestone last month with new clinical trial results that may support the concept that a topical gel can prevent HIV infection in women. Now is the time for the public and private sectors to redouble their efforts to develop tools that give women the power to protect themselves from HIV. No one can do it alone. Given the size and scope of the HIV epidemic, we need a comprehensive approach to prevention that combines the resources and expertise of many different institutions. Product development partnerships, which synchronize the efforts of organizations across the public and private sectors, can fast track the development of highly promising technologies like microbicides for women in urgent need of HIV-prevention options.
Dr Zeda Rosenberg, Chief Executive Officer of IPM, said: "The quest to develop microbicides provides a textbook example of how the public and private sectors can work together to empower women and provide them with HIV prevention tools that they can initiate."
Further information on IPM: http://www.ipm-microbicides.org
Cervical cancer kills about 270,000 women each year, with 85% of deaths in the developing world. New technologies, such as highly effective HPV vaccines for girls, and innovative approaches to screening and treating adult women for pre-cancer, bring new hope to these low-resource settings. Comprehensive cervical cancer prevention programmes-combining screening and vaccination-would save many of those mothers and grandmothers, adults whose deaths negatively impact the entire family both emotionally and economically. Orphans are more likely to drop out of school and become ensnared in cycles of poverty, so reducing cervical cancer mortality creates benefits well beyond the individual.
Dr Chris Elias, President of PATH said: "The health inequalities among women in developing countries impact the health of whole communities and economies. PATH is committed to working with decision-makers, vaccine producers, global distributors, and developing-country governments to ensure that health innovations reach the women who need them. Vaccines, along with other new technology and access to affordable healthcare, will play a major role in decreasing the burden of poor health and improving the lives of women."
Further information on PATH: http://www.path.org
2.Managing Malaria: can business skills support the success story?
Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV)
• Malaria is a totally preventable disease and yet each year it kills over 700,000 children under 5 and affects millions of lives, communities, economies and businesses.
• Combining innovative business thinking with existing public health knowledge could significantly enhance malaria management.
• By sharing expertise in communications, project management, procurement, training and evaluation, businesses can contribute to the international goal of eradicating malaria.
Dr Christopher Hentschel, President and CEO of MMV said: "MMV continues to work successfully with over 100 pharmaceutical, academic, and endemic-country partners across the world. We have proved that business methods and knowhow are critical to the work of not-for-profit product development partnerships such as MMV. Expertise from both public and private sectors has helped us build the largest ever antimalarial drug portfolio, and launch our first co-sponsored product - a dispersible, sweet-tasting paediatric formulation, Coartem® Dispersible - in January 2009. The challenge now is to ensure that this and other effective life-saving drugs are accessible to those who need them most. We believe that the deep knowledge pool in the business community will help us facilitate access to these medicines and improve the lives of the millions of people affected by malaria."
3. Highly effective partnerships for improved nutrition
The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN)
• Malnutrition is preventable and cost-effective to treat; investments in health are compromised by poor nutrition.
• Food and nutrition are largely delivered by the private sector; clearly business can and should play a role in addressing the long term food, hunger faced by more than 900,000 million people and the nutritional crisis faced by the 2 billion people suffering from vitamin and mineral deficiencies globally.
• Some solutions are already available to us; food fortification is cost-effective, sustainable, and can be delivered at scale, and lessons can be applied to developing complementary feeding approaches.
Marc Van Ameringen, Executive Director of GAIN said: "Nutrition is a key building block to improving the human condition; increasingly we understand that without significant attention to this foundation, progress in achieving goals in health and economic productivity are severely compromised, as one third of child mortality is now attributed to poor nutrition, and globally between US $20-30 billion per year are lost in productivity and income."
Further information on GAIN: http://www.gainhealth.org
4. Technology-based solutions to strengthen global health decision-making
• In an era of unprecedented access to information, the global health community is challenged with the monumental task of interpreting significant volumes of data and weighing multiple perspectives to inform policy decisions. Combining private sector expertise with technological innovation can help improve the decision-making process by organizing data and providing meaningful analysis to those who need it most.
• The spirit of this conference reflects what we need in addressing each of the MDGs - working together to understand the complexity of the issues from the different perspectives of private business and public organizations, framing the challenges, and using our best practices and technological tools to create achievable solutions.
• It is an honour to participate in this dialogue and be able to share what we have learned using technological tools to analyze complex problems and ensure sound decisions. Our work with global health organizations on vaccine investment strategies, strategic demand forecasting, and global market valuations would not be possible without technology-based solutions.
Sandy Wrobel, CEO of Applied Strategies said: "The global health community is facing significant challenges, and private sector expertise and technology tools can create a common framework for decision-making from which stakeholders can work toward the measurable impact we are all seeking to achieve with the health-related MDGs."
Further information on Applied Strategies: http://www.appliedstrategies.com/