Canada's G8 leadership must address catastrophic failure in progress towards Millennium Development Goals

September 23, 2009

The baton of G8 leadership will soon to pass to Canada, and in a Comment published Online First Lancet Editor Dr Richard Horton says the most prominent issue Canada must tackle is the catastrophic failure in progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). He also proposes the creation of a Canadian Health Action Network for Global Equity (CHANGE), to help channel the voices of Canada's health community into a team to further the country's G8 agenda.

Dr Horton says: "Integrating funding for maternal, newborn, and child health into the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief is urgently needed if MDG targets are to be met in 2015."

He says that, beyond rebalancing existing programmes, Canada can make important contributions in five key areas. First, broaden G8 commitments to health system strengthening. Second, drive forward the climate change agenda. Third, peace through health--as suffering escalates in zones of conflict such as Afghanistan, embedding health in political thinking is critical to promote peace and reconstruction. Fourth, Indigenous Health--Canada's voice--as a country with an important indigenous population--has the potential to command respect and influence. Finally, the creation of CHANGE. As well as boosting the efforts of the G8 agenda itself, CHANGE could also offer a mechanism for sustained follow-up and continuity--between different political parties and as the G8 chair rotates between nations.

Dr Horton says: "Canada's political leadership now recognises that the institutions that govern the world today need to become more democratic and representative."

He concludes: "A long-forgotten but exemplary Canadian public health leader, Charles Hodgetts, once wrote about 'health as a foundation of Government'. This is as true today in a global context as it was in Canada a century ago. It is up to the Canadian health community to seize the opportunity that 2010 now offers."
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