Reshaping the global health architecture

Reshaping the global health architecture

The German government is responding to the world’s health challenges with a new Global Health Strategy, which takes a human rights–based approach to providing barrier-free health structures and services to all

In recent years, human health has been massively affected by global challenges, including the Covid-19 pandemic, antimicrobial resistance and climate change. This is a worrying trend, to which the international community must mount a joint response. And the only response can be the concept of global health. That concept centres on forward-looking, coordinated action across all sectors and disciplines to protect and promote the health of people worldwide. That is why Germany is channelling increased efforts into global health and championing more international cooperation, including through its current presidency of the G7.

Half the world’s population, if not more, have no access to essential health services. Worst hit are women and children, poor people, marginalised groups and those living in conflict situations. The German government has responded by adopting a Global Health Strategy, which draws on the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals as the overarching framework. This is a human rights–based approach, aimed at non-discriminatory, gender-sensitive, inclusive and barrier-free health structures and services.

The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted what diverse and complex impacts health crises can have on politics, the economy and society across the entire world. Through lockdowns, many people had only limited access to health services, so health conditions were not spotted or properly treated. Millions of children did not receive routine vaccinations because the vaccine supply chains had broken down and because health professionals had to focus instead on treating people with Covid-19. In low-income economies, disruptions to basic health services led to spikes in maternal and child mortality. The pandemic also compromised people’s access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), which opened the door to outbreaks of other infectious diseases such as cholera.

Support for health systems

This goes to show that we need more decisive and preventive action against future pandemics and their possible consequences. That will only succeed if strong, robust health systems are in place. Germany’s goal in its development cooperation is therefore to create health systems that are resilient and accessible to all. We will be offering our partner countries even more support in establishing health insurance schemes, providing basic and advanced training to healthcare staff, and improving the quality of essential health services and access to those services. At the multilateral level, Germany is making financial contributions to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, and is actively involved in their governing bodies.

Health feeds into and grows out of sustainable development. The only way to achieve lasting improvements in global health, then, is to approach health-related and development-related goals in combination. That is why Germany’s Development Ministry (BMZ) is strengthening its cooperation with its partner countries on health, WASH, social protection and rights-based family planning, promoting an intersectoral approach. Ultimately, it aims to recognise how health and other policy areas play into each other and to adopt policies in all areas that are conducive to health. So how does that look in practice? The World Health Organization has identified WASH deficits among the main global risk factors for disease. That is why reliable access to safe WASH provision in healthcare facilities is crucial to a functioning health system. And in daily life, it is one of the most powerful preventive measures, for example in maternal and child health.

Risk factors and focus areas

Other factors posing a risk to global health are infectious diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis, neglected tropical diseases and AMR. To spot these risks early on and prevent them from becoming a reality, BMZ increasingly focuses on the One Health approach, a holistic view of human and animal health and environmental protection, including climate change. This means better reflecting the interdependency between humans, animals and the environment in health, agriculture, food, climate, biodiversity, the environment and water resource management so as to generate synergies. To ensure the One Health approach can take root, it is particularly important for international organisations to link up more with each other and for our partner countries to integrate it into their development strategies. The annual World Health Summit plays its part in this.

The international community can only achieve global health if we succeed in completely reshaping the entire global health architecture. When it comes to fighting pandemics, that means prevention, preparedness and response. My ministry is working through a wide spectrum of activities, including from disease surveillance to training for local professionals, from strengthening digital innovation to improving water and sanitation provision, including systematic wastewater monitoring. We will start supporting the Financial Intermediary Fund for Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response this year.

Another key focus is feminist development policy. Its aim is, not least, to enable women and girls to make informed decisions that enable them to take control of their own lives. Strengthening sexual and reproductive health and rights is one major aspect of Germany’s work. Through the bilateral Initiative on Rights-Based Family Planning and Maternal Health, BMZ is providing support in more than 20 partner countries for such issues as safe childbirth, rights-based family planning and maternal health. Sexual and reproductive health also includes the issue of menstrual health and hygiene. Worldwide, millions of women and girls experience exclusion and discrimination because they menstruate, holding them back from achieving their full potential. What a shocking violation of human rights! German development cooperation supports women and girls in the global South through education, improved access to gender-responsive water and sanitation infrastructure and affordable hygiene products and also through global partnerships. Only if women and girls participate equally in society – no matter where they are in the world – can the 17 SDGs be reached.

The G7 presidency

Many of these aspects have been integrated into the programme of Germany’s G7 presidency. I am very pleased that the G7 has committed to achieving universal health coverage as a priority, particularly regarding women and girls, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and improved water supply and sanitation. To achieve these aims, we in the G7 want to help strengthen health systems and assist the GPEI and Gavi in their efforts to fight polio.

While the German government ardently focuses on addressing pressing global health challenges through its new Global Health Strategy, it’s crucial to acknowledge the diverse facets of contemporary society. As we navigate the complexities of health crises, it’s also notable that individuals seek various forms of recreation and entertainment. In the digital realm, platforms catering to German players, such as this one, offer a distinct space for leisure and engagement with top-notch casino games. As nations collaborate for a healthier world, it’s a reminder that societies are multifaceted, and individuals find enjoyment through different avenues. This highlights the importance of recognizing diverse interests within the broader context of global well-being, striking a balance between addressing health challenges and acknowledging the varied pursuits that contribute to the overall fabric of society.

We G7 health and development ministers also delivered strong evidence of our support for the continued fight against the Covid-19 pandemic with our G7 Pact for Pandemic Readiness. Through this pact we want to provide greater support to low-income and middle-income countries. We also aim to step up vaccine manufacture in Africa. Local manufacture of vaccines is also important for diseases other than Covid-19. An mRNA vaccine against malaria is currently being developed, for example, which could be manufactured right where it is needed most.

Ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages – that is a priority of the German government and German development policy. Only when all people have access to quality essential healthcare services and affordable essential medicines and vaccines can we truly say that universal health coverage has been achieved.