Summit on global health and water showcases Atlanta’s institutions

By Maria Saporta

Atlanta seized an opportunity Monday to show national and international visitors how the city and its institutions can help improve global health.

The all-day conference at the Ritz Carlton-Buckhead was called: Atlanta Summit: Sustaining American Leadership in Global Health & Water. It was organized by CARE USA, the Center for Strategic & International Studies and the World Affairs Council of Atlanta. And more than a dozen other Atlanta-based organizations participated in the event.

The day was marked by the establishment of “The Atlanta Declaration: U.S. Leadership in Improving the World’s Health.”

The declaration outlined a four-pronged strategy for the next four years:

· Accelerating host-country self-reliance in managing and financing the health sector;

· Working with others wherever possible on problems too great to solve on our own;

· Convincing emerging powers to bring their full potential to the fight against infectious diseases, maternal and neonatal mortality, and chronic diseases; and

· Integrating safe water, sanitation, and hygiene into every aspect of U.S. global health policy.

Helene Gayle, president and CEO of CARE, said the hope is that the summit will “strengthen partnerships among Atlanta institutions” in the area of global health and development.

Several institutions contribute to Atlanta’s role as a center for global health — the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention; the Carter Center; the Task Force for Global Health; MAP International; MedShare and Global Health Action.

Also, there are a host of universities and academic alliances that also have a focus on global issues. Emory University has the Center for Global Safe Water, the Global Health Institute and the Rollins School of Public Health. Georgia State University has the Institute of Public Health and the Center for Ethics and Corporate Responsibility. Others include Georgia Tech and Morehouse School of Medicine — and the Georgia Research Alliance.

Atlanta also has several corporate players that are focusing on global issues, such as water. Two key companies are the Coca-Cola Co. and UPS, and both companies had representatives on panels at the summit.

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia) said Atlanta’s institutions are not only a local asset but a national and international asset.

And when U.S. institutions and corporations improve global health, it has an impact on our nation’s economy, Isakson said.

“It’s important economically to our country,” Isakson said about how global health contributes to an increase in global consumers by helping increase people’s standard of living. “All of these partnerships make a huge difference.”

One of the major topics of the day was how various institutions can forge partnerships and closer collaborations so that they can be more effective on the global stage.

Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, said “Atlanta really is a global center for health,” and it fits well with Atlanta’s “wonderful history for social justice.”

One of the most significant comments came from Cheryl Scott, senior advisor of the global health program for the Seattle-based Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She said there was an opportunity to have “a partnership of ideas” and programs between cities like Atlanta and Seattle.

Towards the end of summit, Mollyann Brodie, vice president and director of public opinion and media research for the Kaiser Family Foundation, released a survey of how Americans view the nation’s role in global health.

A couple of findings: on average, Americans believe that 27 percent of the federal budget is spent on foreign aid. In actuality, it is only 1 percent.

When informed on the correct number, the perception and support for foreign aid improves. Initially, 54 percent of the public said that the nation spends too much on foreign aid. But when told it is only 1 percent of the nation’s budget, 66 percent said that it was either too little or about the right amount to spend on foreign aid.

“A little bit of information goes a long way to effecting openness,” Brodie said.

In her closing remarks, Gayle said the summit was only the beginning of an effort to bring Atlanta’s global health institutions working together.

“It really was part of moving a partnership in this community,” Gayle said of the “incredible wealth of institutions” that exist in Atlanta. “This can be a landmark effort to work on issues of global health and issues.”

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