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In Latest Report, Professors Propose Health Investment Framework

By Arjun S. Byju, Contributing Writer

A global public health report co-authored by University professor Lawrence H. Summers, School of Public Health Dean Julio Frenk, and Public Health professor Sue J. Goldie, among others, proposes an unprecedented investment framework to significantly reduce health disparities between the poorest and the wealthiest nations.

The report, entitled “Global Health 2035: A World Converging within a Generation,” was published this week in The Lancet and lays out a series of recommendations on issues ranging from research and development spending to increased taxes on tobacco and other harmful goods.

The goal of the report is “to make the case for why investing in health is a prerequisite for building strong societies and why investing in health should be a top development priority,” Goldie said.

The report promotes the tackling of infectious diseases like malaria, AIDS, and tuberculosis, as well as non-communicable diseases caused by poor diet and exercise. The report also argues in favor of taxes on alcohol, tobacco, and sugar in order to reduce the frequency of these so-called “lifestyle” diseases.

The major goal of the report is to reach a point of “grand convergence” of health worldwide, which Summers described as “a once in human history chance to bring global mortality near industrial country levels.”

The three main goals of 2035 are to reduce mortality of children under five to 16 per 1,000 live births, annual AIDS deaths to 8 per 100,000 people, and annual tuberculosis deaths to 4 per 100,000. The authors contend that if the guidelines set forth in the report are adopted, 10 million deaths could be averted in 2035.

However, the success of the ambitious global health campaign requires political support. The biggest obstacle facing the implementation of the report’s suggestions is “finding political will,” Summers said in an emailed statement. The report estimates how much the plan would cost low-income and lower-middle-income countries each year if it were to be adopted.

The authors have been working on the report for nearly a year and have had major meetings in Boston, Norway, and Rwanda, according to Goldie. The project was designed as a follow-up to the World Development Report of 1993 and is intended for a broad audience.

“The primary target audiences for the report are decision-makers who play a key role in choices about social investments and allocation of funding—ranging from ministers of finance at the national level to development banks at the regional level, to…international health agencies at the global level,” Goldie said.

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