Lead In Our Environment is a Major Cause of Global Health Inequity

LeadLead In Our Environment is a Major Cause of Global Health Inequity

I believe we need a global treaty, like the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), to ensure that basic health is a right that every citizen enjoys, no matter where they live and no matter how poor or rich their families might be. There are vast health inequities that separate various countries and various communities within countries. It is for this reason that several of us from around the globe have come together in a call for the governments around the world to agree to a Framework Convention on Global Health (FCGH).

Science and medicine is frustratingly known for its “good news, bad news” stories on a daily basis, as a recent Kristin Anderson Moore blog reveals. She referred to data in America that show a significant decline in teen birth rate from 55.6 births per 1,000 females ages 15-19 in 1975 to 24.2 in 2014. There was also a decline in overall youth violence (in spite of an upsurge in the 1990s). For example, rate of serious violent crime among juveniles ages 12-17 declined from almost 40 per 100,000 in the early 1980s to 7.6 in 2015 and the homicide rate among youth ages 18-24 fell substantially.

There are scientific studies that link these significant declines in teen pregnancies and in youth violence to the reduction of lead toxicity in American communities. This is the good news. The bad news? Lead continues to be a serious environmental risk factor for health. Indeed, lead exposure is another inequity that people face around the world. Children and women of reproductive age in certain parts of the world are more exposed to lead than their counterparts in other parts of the world.

Lead is a toxic, deadly chemical, causing serious illnesses and accounting for far too many deaths around the world. It is one of the major causes of cognitive deficits in children everywhere. We have known this for many decades and many countries have laws and regulations that restrict the use of lead. Yet after many decades since its deadly consequences became known, lead continues to be a persistent environmental hazard. One of the major sources of lead poisoning is our transport system. For example lead gasoline is still in use in many countries around the world.

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I knew I needed to get involved in the FCGH…

needed to get involved
Join the FCGH Alliance at WHO / WHA May 2018

In May of 2016 as a delegate at the World Health Assembly in Geneva Switzerland, I had the privilege of presenting the Framework Convention on Global Health (FCGH) on behalf of the Platform for an FCGH.

This was my first introduction to the FCGH, and as I read the statement to the ministers and delegates of member states, the words on the paper resonated with me deeply:
Achieving the health goals in the Sustainable Development Agenda requires acting through the right to health. The right demands non-discrimination – whether against indigenous populations or refugees and undocumented migrants – without which there can be no universal health coverage. It entails maximal domestic financing efforts towards health and other rights, with genuine international cooperation, the only way to ensure robust universal health coverage for all people, everywhere.

From that experience, I knew I needed to get involved in the FCGH and help turn this vision into reality. You can read the full statement here, and I hope you too will consider joining us in ensuring that all people everywhere have access to high quality health care as a basic human right.

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WHO DG’s highest priority: a Global Treaty on the Right to Health

PriorityThe next WHO Director-General’s highest priority: a Global Treaty on the Human Right to Health

(From The Lancet, 13.10.2016)   The next WHO Director-General faces major challenges:1 operational responsibilities for epidemic response, universal health coverage (UHC), and the rise of non- communicable diseases. Given the vast gap between daunting health challenges and WHO funding, what should be the Director-General’s foremost priority? The answer lies in the organisation’s main constitutional pillar, the right of everyone to the highest attainable standard of health. WHO’s next leader should bring human rights to the forefront, ensuring the universal right to health.

A Framework Convention on Global Health (FCGH)2— supported by civil society and global leaders3—should become the centrepiece of this endeavour (panel). It would reform global governance for health to enhance accountability, transparency, and civil society participation and protect the right to health in trade, investment, climate change, and other international regimes, while catalysing governments to institutionalise the right to health at community through to national levels. It would usher in a new era of global health with justice—vast improvements in health outcomes, equitably distributed.4

National and global systems today suffer from pervasive structural deficiencies, making them incapable of achieving global health with justice. These structures enable inequities to persist, fail to ensure accountability, and permit health and non-health sectors to undermine the right to health.

Vast disparities in wealth and political power leave countries and marginalised populations with far worse health outcomes than in wealthier states and among well-off populations. Income inequality and global threats (eg, climate change, mass migrations) risk worsening disparities. Legal frameworks and social practices perpetuate marginalisation of women, immigrants, indigenous people, and ethnic and sexual minorities. Yet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) do not adequately prioritise marginalised populations. WHO’s new Framework of Engagement with Non-State Actors5 fails to empower civil society to effectively participate in the organisation’s governance.

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