Milena: What are the most urgent health issues for global population worldwide? To which extent are UN agencies doing a good job in reaching health MDGs until 2015? Do you think post MDG agenda will change in terms of health?
Jennifer: Chronic non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes remain the world’s leading health issue, accounting for over half of deaths globally. Apart from chronic diseases, the high (and for many, unaffordable) cost of healthcare and the low quality of health services are worrisome. More worrisome is that over 1 billion people worldwide lacks access to a health care system. That is one-seventh the world’s population that dies of preventable and curable conditions. In 36 African countries, the number of caregivers available is inadequate to deliver even the most basic immunization and maternal health services. An added problem is that there is an uneven distribution of caregivers worldwide: there is an increasing number of health professionals in developed countries, while emerging economies that have the larger proportion of health needs struggle to keep up.
Regarding the Millennium Development Goals, it is well known that they are the most successful anti-poverty push in history. That on its own is admirable. Although the goals in maternal and child health have not been met, the attempt to reach them has resulted in tremendous improvements in patient outcomes. There is definitely more that can be done and we will do good to take inspiration from what has already been accomplished. For instance, collective efforts in global health since 1990 have resulted in 17,000 fewer child deaths globally each day. This global accomplishment should be used as an example in tackling the specific increased proportion of child deaths in sub-Saharan Afria and Southern Asia. Moving resources around can help address the higher incidence of child death in these specific geographical regions. I hope the post-2015 MDG Agenda will focus on just that – reorganizing response to make the most of the resources at hand in improving patient outcomes where they are worst.
Milena: Tell us more about World Health Equity. How did you start it originally and how our MUNers can get involved?Jennifer: World Health Equity (WHE) aims to eliminate health inequity for the world’s vulnerable. In other words, we are working to improve access to healthcare for individuals who have lost the birth lottery and are too poor to afford medical services. WHE started a year and a half ago out of a culmination of experiences and defining moments. Most influential was the fact that I grew up in Sierra Leone, where I witnessed the impact of poor health infrastructure and limited resources on the health, productivity and ultimately the value of an individual to themselves, their family and their community.
My father is a medical doctor and I’ve always been close to the medical community. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to engage in tangible actions to improve healthcare for the vulnerable. About three years ago, it came to my attention that a medically underserved population in northern Sierra Leone needed to travel hours to reach a hospital. My outreach to health organizations in Sierra Leone was not productive. Nobody had the capacity to medically cover the 25,000 villagers. And so I decided to focus my passion, network and determination into helping the villagers myself. With that, World Health Equity was born and a year and a half later, WHE has helped set up a pilot clinic that serves the villagers and has treated 2500 patients and counting.
WHE’s team is small and dedicated. We are excited to grow our group with passionate individuals. If you are interested in contributing toour existing impact or facilitating the expansion of our reach to other countries, get in touch – firstname.lastname@example.org!
Milena: It was fascinating to talk to you about the sustainability of World Health Equity while we were lined up at One Young World opening ceremony as flag bearers. Several days later Lenovo awarded you as a winner of their competition. What does this award mean to you and how would you use these funds and tools for World Health Equity aims?Jennifer:
The award means everything to me and to our team at WHE – it will literally help save lives in northern Sierra Leone! The funds and technology will go toward the establishment of a permanent Community Health Center for the 25,000 villagers who were previously medically underserved. We are talking about preserving a community where individuals died of preventable and curable malaria and typhoid a mere two years ago. Speaking of MDGs, this award will help us take a tiny step toward achieving them and our team at WHE is keen to keep making those steps.
Milena: What are other corporate partners and global organizations that you would like to get on board for your key milestones?
Jennifer: We are honored to be working with our current partners – the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Massachusetts General Hospital, teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. Considering our goals to expand to other parts of the world where healthcare remains inaccessible or unaffordable, WHE will be looking to develop partnerships with Ministries of Health in these areas. WHE will also welcome mutually beneficial partnerships with local organizations.
Milena: Your background is rather intriguing as your parents come from Siera Leone and Ukraine, while you also get educated in the US. Share with us your key impressions about the political and social landscape in these countries, given the recent crisis.
Jennifer: It is obviously hard; having both my countries suffer through the current crises simultaneously.
Sierra Leone, which has just started to recover from the civil war of 10 years ago is now set back another 5 years at least with the economic implications of the Ebola outbreak. Goods are expensive, schools are closed and jobs have been lost. Not mentioning entire families have been wiped out and orphans rendered. Lives will have to be rebuilt from scratch and it will be very hard given the base level of poverty in the country.
Ukraine is in a similar position with the economic setback of declaring independence from Russian influence. It will take years to rebuild the stability we have lost.