The challenges present in global health are well recognized. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer have taken their places in the pantheon of scourges alongside the age-old challenges of infectious diseases, maternal and child health, sanitation and clean water. Donor and recipient governments, multinational agencies, NGOs and health workers all combine their efforts to combat global health issues. Can we affect the rate of these efforts in a positive fashion?
In the field of chemistry the addition of a catalyst to a chemical reaction increases the rate of reaction. Catalysts allow reactions to occur using less energy than the corresponding uncatalyzed reaction. Catalysts are not consumed in the reaction and thus they may participate in the acceleration of multiple reactions. The discovery and use of catalysts in manufacturing has revolutionized many technologies creating a rapidly growing industry. The principles of catalysis can be applied to the human condition and thus the identification of “catalysts for global health” is critical in affecting changes in the rate of implementing global health solutions. This issue of Global Health and Diplomacy highlights individuals and advances that are helping to accelerate our global efforts to improve the health of all.
Advances in technology are important catalysts for reducing mortality and morbidity. Efforts such as the Child Survival Call to Action have accelerated the distribution of vaccines and medications to prevent childhood mortality from pneumonia and diarrhea potentially saving hundreds of thousands of lives over the next several years. Initiatives to bring oral rehydration solutions with low osmolarity zinc supplementation to rural areas offers the opportunity to increase the use of a highly effective, yet potentially low cost, treatment of diarrhea.
Catalysts for changes in global health are also individuals. Many global leaders work tirelessly to accelerate the improvement in standards of health care within their home countries. His Excellency Macky Sall, President of Senegal, reviews the remarkable reductions in neonatal and under five mortality achieved through strategic planning and effective partnership. Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, President of Sierra Leone, outlines his commitment to the expansion of the Free Health Care Initiative that creates a roadmap for creating a sustainable healthcare network to provide for the people of Sierra Leone. Its progress in increasing access and utilization of healthcare services including obstetrical care and the identification and treatment of malnutrition is remarkable.
The activity of catalysts can be affected by other substances including those that inhibit their activity. One of the great challenges to the achievement of universal health coverage in all countries is the potentially enormous costs. Recognition of these inhibitors can lead to development of policies that both limit their impact and create solutions. An example is the use of taxes on items such as cigarettes that can both generate income for the health care system while creating a negative reinforcement for unhealthy behaviors.
Promoters are substances that increase the activity of a catalyst. In fact all of the contributors to this edition of GHD are promoters of global health. Their innovative ideas, commitment and perseverance should serve as an inspiration.