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Global Health Thought Leader Uncategorized

In the Pursuit of Global Health Equity: Growing the Pie

Russel M. Medford MD, PhD

By Russell M. Medford MD, PhD, Managing Partner, The Salutramed Group, Inc.

Situation:  The global health needs of low- and middle-income countries far exceed the current level of overseas development aid coming from governments and from private philanthropy combined.  These needs also exceed the aid that is likely to be coming from these sources even if they both are scaled up. So there is a clear need for both another source of funding and new and innovative ways to fund and provide stuff, staff, systems and space for improving health and working towards global health equity.

Complication: But the private sector is new to this endeavor and could benefit from partnering from organizations that have worked in global health and we have a better chance of developing innovative programs and products if we put our heads together.

Therefore: There is potential to add a great deal of value by bringing together the global health partners in Atlanta—representing academia, government, non-profit organizations, and the private sector—to work on new ways of funding and innovative approaches to providing goods and services for health.

In our previous blog, we outlined a number of fundamental challenges facing the global health community here in Atlanta and throughout the world. Foremost among them is the recognition that the magnitude of the national and global health problems we face as a nation and world far exceed the government dollars allocated to combat them and that the important and growing role of philanthropy is not now, nor will be in the future, sufficient to fill the gap. The sobering reality is that closing this gap far exceeds the ability of any single organization. We would argue that there is a clear need for the building of a coalition, or alliance, of Atlanta’s national and global health stakeholders, including the private sector, to collectively develop, understand, refine, and implement new and innovative models of collaboration, funding and finance that augment the traditional models used today.

Given the complexities of interdependent societal challenges, priorities and aspirations, one may view each global health organization’s program(s) as but one of multiple “slices” of a fixed, or inadequately growing, pie of today’s traditional national and international resources allocated to health.  To a degree, enhanced competition for limited resources, along with advances in science, technology and communications, will improve the effectiveness of programs to deliver important national and global health outcomes. However, it is also clear that these “fixed pie” improvements are not sufficient to address the full magnitude of the mismatch between available resources and critical issues of national and global health. A sustainable solution must both increase the rigor and effectiveness of these programs but also “grow the pie” by bringing new sources of investment into the national and global health ecosystem.

The value of an alliance of Atlanta’s national and global stakeholders is apparent if one is to collaboratively explore and implement, in a rigorous and multidisciplinary fashion, innovative solutions to “grow the pie”. For example, impact investing is a nascent but increasingly important trend in the for-profit private sector that may have the potential to materially augment current and future national and global health initiatives. Impact investing is an investing approach that intentionally seeks to create both financial return as well as positive social and/or environmental impact that is actively measured.  In its 2014 survey of 125 major impact investment funds, J.P. Morgan and the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) found that this group has 46bn USD under management, has committed USD 10.6bn in 2013 and intends to invest 19% more – USD 12.7bn – in 2014.  While still evolving as a mainstream investment vehicle, multifold growth is expected as impact investments under management represents only .02 percent of the USD 210 trillion global financial market.

Impact investing is but one example illustrating the need for an intentional and proactive partnership between government, philanthropy and the private sector to find new solutions and models if the full resources of society are to be brought to bear on the fundamental issues of human health and well-being, both here and abroad. Through an alliance of its extraordinary national and global health organizations and private-sector financial and corporate institutions, Atlanta is in a unique position to help our nation and the world reach that noble goal.

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