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"Planning for the world's health – 2015 and beyond"
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"Planning for the world's health – 2015 and beyond"

Tamara McKayleHealth Ministers from the Commonwealth’s 53 nations met in Geneva last month to discuss global health issues. Tamara McKayle, 24, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Jamaica spoke with Deodat Maharaj, Deputy Secretary-General of the Commonwealth about looking beyond the 2015 Millennium Development Goals deadline and shaping health issues for the Post-2015 agenda.

On Millennium Development Goals – Health

TM: One of the Millennium Development Goals, number 5, is on improving maternal health with target number 5b on achieving universal access to reproductive health – so what are the targets that were made today in terms of this? Is it that you’re planning to change the MDGs and replace them with new targets about the public health system?

DM: Even though we haven’t been fully successful with some of the (MDG) goals, the fact is that a lot of progress indeed has been made.

The Ministerial Head noted that for MDG goals 4, 5 and 6, we want to continue the discussions. Now that we’re now talking about the Post-2015 goals in terms of the development agenda and the issues and goals which were not achieved, we want to have sustained focus on those goals to ensure that those can be achieved. For example, India is now polio free like the rest of Southeast Asia. What the MDG want to do is to identify clear goals to ensure resources are allocated towards these goals and to ensure that major progress is made.

On non-communicable diseases and nutrition

DM: One important discussion that came across quite clearly in today’s meeting: it had to do with the issue of non-communicable diseases…this is a major health issue for those in the Caribbean and it has to do with our lifestyle, we think that was a really, really major issue.

TM: Our own Minister of Health in recent times has been saying much in the media that obesity is one of the major problems that women in Jamaica are facing, and I want to quickly add that the World Health Organization is saying that 7 million are dying annually from coronary heart disease….so what kind of partnerships are being forged? For example, do you see the Health Minister internationally forging ties with their National Agricultural Ministries, that kind of partnership to provide less expensive nutritious … is there any plan to ensure that this issue of non-communicable diseases can be cut down?

DM: We had a wonderful presentation by the Minister of Health from South Africa who spoke about this. He spoke about the issue of salt intake, the issue of food that’s not nutritious, and we had Singapore speaking about the transition of people not cooking at home to buying food at work. Singapore is trying to make sure that when people go to work that they would get food that’s actually healthy and that healthy options are provided. The South African Minister of Health also made a very interesting observation. He said that in terms of children, in terms of providing/supplementing in the nutrition, you do so in schools. And he spoke about the first 1000 days where you have to focus a lot of your energies on this when the kids haven’t started school as yet, that’s a really important point.

Moving forward….

DM: I want to end with this, that we would like to establish a Global Commonwealth Health Hub. The position is to make all the health practitioners, all the Ministries of Health, all the key institutions and Centres of Excellence put their issues there. We want to provide virtual information to facilitate that (so) that the Health issues that Jamaica is concerned about and the rest of the Caribbean, they can access the information in virtual real time instantaneously.

Our goal moving forward is for affordable health care and our next Commonwealth meeting will be focusing on Universal Health coverage. The issue is not just about availability of health care because you can go to a private consultant and get the best medical help, right? The issue is about affordability of health and in the Commonwealth it’s a deep development issue. We want (universal health coverage), and in terms of the services that we provide as a Commonwealth, we want to do it in a cohesive and fully integrated way.

This interview has been edited for length. For more information check out the Ministerial statement from the meeting at http://thecommonwealth.org/media/news/commonwealth-health-ministers-meeting-2014-ministerial-statement

photo credit: Gates Foundation via photopin cc

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About me:

I am a television writer, producer and presenter, and also specialize in Public Relations. Currently I’m a National Mentor for the Respect Agenda Campaign and a former Jamaica Youth Ambassador for Disabilities. I hold a Bachelors of Arts Degree in Media and Communications with a minor in International Relations from the University of the West Indies, Mona.

I have a passion for writing, inspiring and volunteering. Like Ghandi said “be the change you want to see in the world.”

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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