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WHO highlights health in the 2015 development blueprint

The World Health Organization (WHO) today underlined the need to urgently tackle the health issues highlighted in the Millennium Project's "Investing in Development" report. The report provides detailed recommendations on how the world must immediately and massively increase the investment in health programmes to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This includes programmes to deliver AIDS treatment, to improve maternal and child health, to control and treat tuberculosis and malaria, and to make more medicines affordable.

The Millennium Project-- an independent advisory body to the United Nations -- presented its report to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on 17 January in New York. It is the result of a three-year consultation process involving 265 of the world’s leading development experts. In the action plan, the Project proposes a package of specific cost-effective measures that could cut extreme poverty in half and radically improve the lives of at least one billion people in poor developing countries by 2015.

For the health sector, the Millennium Project and Dr LEE Jong-wook, Director-General of the WHO, both conclude that investing in proven solutions will turn the tide to help achieve the goals. “We have the means to achieve those goals. We have the technology. What we need are the resources and the political will. We cannot wait any longer to do what we have promised to achieve in the coming decade,” said Dr Lee at the health launch of the Report in Geneva.

Endorsing the report’s recommendations, Dr. Lee noted that the Millennium Project report echoes the health challenges and recommendations identified by WHO. These will be discussed at this week’s Executive Board meeting in Geneva and are presented in the WHO Status report on the Achievement of health-related MDGs.

Both the WHO MDG Status Report and “Investing in Development” call for:

  • A massive scale-up of existing health programmes, and in particular, a significant new investment in public health, strengthening health systems and health human resources, a recommendation repeated by the Millennium Project’s health-related task forces;
  • That health strategies be at the heart of national poverty reduction and development strategies,
  • That high-income countries increase official development aid to 0.7 percent by 2015, implement the Doha Development Agenda, underlining the need for the harmonization of aid;
  • That coordination be strengthened between the UN and its agencies, funds and programmes to support the MDGs;
  • That gender, equity and environmental factors under-pin all health issues, strategies and policies, and that special attention to given to women’s and girls health.

The Millennium Project’s ten task forces produced several health-related reports on the following issues: child and maternal health, HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, access to medicines, water and sanitation and another on hunger, which is tied to health. They recommend immediate scale up in several WHO initiatives and strategies already in place:

  • The 3 by 5 initiative, to bring antiretroviral treatment to three million people living with HIV/AIDS in developing countries by the end of 2005;
  • Malaria interventions, in particular the mass distribution of insecticide-treated nets and malaria drugs;
  • TB care and treatment through DOTS—the internationally-recognized treatment strategy;
  • Child and maternal health, which focus on stronger health systems and access to reproductive health and skilled attendants at delivery;
  • Providing better nutrition, safe water and sanitation;
  • Addressing trade, research and donor issues to provide cheap drugs.

Dr Lee, who has just returned from visiting the tsunami disaster zone in Asia, said that such emergencies result in immediate action. “The generous response to the tsunami shows that ordinary people care deeply about providing aid and relief. We must also work to overcome the health tragedies which touch poor people in all parts of the globe on a day-to-day basis.”

Three out of the eight goals relate to health, as well as eight out of 18 targets, and 18 of 48 indicators (see chart: Health in the Millennium Development Goals). 189 world leaders met in September 2000 and agreed to the Millennium Declaration, followed by the road map of the Millennium Development Goals. The UN Millennium Project report leads off a yearlong series of global initiatives focussed on the MDGs, including The United Kingdom's attempt to bring development to the fore at the G8 in July and a Millennium +5 Summit of world leaders at the UN in September 2005.

More than one billion people--one sixth of the world’s population - live in extreme poverty, lacking the safe water, proper nutrition, basic health care and social services needed to survive. Almost 11 million children die each year, six million of them under five from preventable diseases, 500 000 thousand women do not survive pregnancy or childbirth, and there are presently 40 million people living with HIV/AIDS.

For more information contact:

Jacqueline Toupin
Communications Officer - MDGs
Telephone: +41 22 791 4738
Mobile phone: +41 79 505 7564

Chart: health in the Millennium Development Goals

Targets and indicators related to health