What Global Health Experts Could Learn From Bankers

Bankers may not be held in the highest regard but they could teach the global health world a thing or two about speedy data collection.

Peter Sands, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, told a briefing of journalists at the World Health Summit in Berlin, that efforts to control malaria were being hampered by the slow pace at which information on the disease was made available.

He said that if he could get quarterly information on the number and location of malaria cases around the world, the fund could double its impact.

Mr Sands took on his role at the fund in March this year after a stint heading up the international bank, Standard Chartered.

“One of the revelations coming from the financial services world is that the feedback loop on outcomes data [in global health] goes at a glacial pace, relative to what one is used to in the financial services,” he said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) annual report on malaria is due out in the next few months but the figures will be out of date even before they’re published.

He added: “The WHO has not yet published the global malaria report for 2017 – we need much more frequent data reports.”

Mr Sands added that while the world has been successful in bringing the number of cases of malaria down progress has stalled in recent years.

“We’re not doing enough to change the dynamics of the disease. We have normalised the fact that the best part of 600,000 people – many of them children – are dying every year from a disease we know perfectly well how to prevent,” he said.

But while only $3 billion is spent controlling malaria every year, Mr Sands said that in comparison, TB was even more neglected, describing it as the “poor cousin” of malaria and HIV.

“The big issue with TB is a simple one  we only diagnose and treat around six million people a year but we know that 10 million people fall ill. There’s got to be a massive effort to reach out to those people,” he said.

He welcomed the spotlight the recent United Nations high level meeting on TB shone on the disease but said governments had to be held to account.

“The proof in the pudding is what happens now. The UN high level meeting was successful in that it mobilised a degree of visibility and debate about TB we haven’t seen for a very long time. But the real test will be what happens now,” he said.

In 2019 the Global Fund will launch its next replenishment conference, held every three years and where donors and recipient countries pledge money to fight the three diseases.

Gayle Smith, president of the One Campaign advocacy group, told journalists that more money was needed to meet the targets on eradication set by the sustainable development goals, many of which are not on track.

“Our message to donors is don’t stop now. They need to keep going and make the investments that are to be needed between now and 2030,” she said.

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Culled: The Telegraph News 2018

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