- By Neil Squires
- Chair of FPH’s International Committee – soon to be renamed the Global Health Commmittee
There was a real buzz about Global Health in the Faculty of Public Health when I chaired a meeting of the International Committee on the 1st of June. The Faculty Board has approved a five-year Global Health Strategy (2015-2020), which will be launched in the pre-conference session on 23rd June, at the annual FPH Conference in Gateshead.
A survey of FPH members in 2014 highlighted that the majority of Faculty Members are interested in and commitment to supporting FPH’s engagement in Global Health, prompting a period of intensive work by the International Committee to develop the strategy.
The benefits of thinking globally and acting locally to improve the public’s health have long been recognised, but the mutual benefits of supporting global action on health to protect health abroad and at home have never been more apparent than during the fight against Ebola.
The Global Health agenda is not new. It was recognised in the Department of Health’s, Health is Global outcomes framework for global health (2011-1015) that investment in Global Health is needed. Public Health England responded to the challenge in 2014, with the launch of its Global Health Strategy (2014-2019), setting out priorities for action. But 2015, the target year for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), is the milestone year in which FPH will launch its strategy. The Strategy is an affirmation of the FPH’s commitment to Global Health and the Conference launch could not have been better timed.
Much of my public health career, before moving to Public Health England in 2014 and taking up the chair of the International Committee this year, has been spent working on global health for the Department for International Development (DFID).The priorities for global health which shaped UK international health priorities over the last 15 years have, in large part, been framed by the eight Millennium Development Goals, thee of which (MDGs 4, 5 and 6) focused directly on health.
The next 15 years, will see a shift in focus to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a much broader set of goals intended to be relevant to all countries, not just the poorest. The SDGs have just one health specific goal, but under this sit a broad range of health targets and indicators.
The health related targets aim to build on progress achieved against communicable diseases and add the rising burden of non-communicable disease, addressing health system challenges and working beyond the health sector to address the broader determinants of health to list of priorities. The arguments put forward for including a target on universal health coverage in debates on the SDGs have been a very clear attempt to address inequality, which remains a major challenge to global health.
In developing the FPH Global Health Strategy, the priority was to identify the comparative strengths of thFPH and its membership, and address FPH’s strategic goal ‘to actively contribute to the improvement of global public health, through the organised efforts of FPH members’.
The strategy is built around a set of four core functions of FPH: advocacy, standards, building workforce capacity, and knowledge, which are set out below.
The strategy will be delivered through a number of Special Interest Groups (SIGs), which will be meeting in Gateshead on the morning of the 23rd, immediately after the launch of the Strategy. Special Interest Groups for Africa, India and Pakistan are all looking to recruit new members, and identify anyone with an interest in, and willingness to commit time to supporting action. Each group will be agreeing clear terms of reference and seeking to map current activities against the strategic priority areas set out in the Strategy.
If FPH is to have an impact at the global level, then it will be important to focus its activities on a limited set of priorities where there is a real potential to leverage action and change. Exciting opportunities to engage FPH members in India, Pakistan and in various countries in Africa are already being developed.
Other key news linked to the Board approval of the Strategy was agreement that the International Committee will change its name to the Global Health Committee (GHC). The GHC will also be reaching out to other Royal Colleges in order to build support for more coordinated action on global health by taking on the chair of International Forum of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges.
Again, a name change is proposed, with the hope that the Forum will become the Global Health Action Forum making real progress to coordinate approaches and work together on a range of global health issues.
So, the Global Health buzz is growing louder and I hope that rising levels of energy and enthusiasm generated developing the Strategy will galvanise Members with an interest to engage in one of the SIGs and help ratchet up FPH capacity to contribute effectively to improving global health.