Political Leadership is the Key Ingredient for Good Health

Yesterday, Dr Bobby John, President of Global Health Advocates, gave a presentation at Kings College London on the ‘Politics of Health’.

Dr John, who is also a Board Member at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, was invited to speak to members of the Medsin Society, a network of students interested in tackling issues of health inequalities.

Bobby John

Bobby John

Achieving the outcome of good health for a population requires a number of different inputs or ingredients, said Dr John. One of the most essential ingredients, he argued, was political leadership.

In his home country of India, Dr John explained that around 1,000 people die every day from tuberculosis despite the fact that drugs are freely available. India also has extremely high child and maternal mortality rates and is one of the few countries with polio. Dr John suggested that this situation was a result of a lack leadership from elected representatives globally rather than a lack of resources and know-how available in the world.

The Nineteenth Century Physician Rudolf Vichow once remarked that “politics is medicine at a larger scale”. Today too, Parliamentarians have a key role in providing for the health of their constituents.

Dr John described a model that Global Health Advocates have created to measure the different dimensions of political will required for good health. The best scenario is when political leaders provide both the necessary infrastructure and resources (the ‘pull’ factor) and also the encouragement and incentives for their use (the ‘push’ factor).

Dr John’s message to the students at Kings College was that leadership starts with us all. As individuals we also have an important role to play in generating the political will necessary for good health both in the UK and in developing countries by educating our elected officials about health issues and the interventions that are needed as well as holding them to account for commitments that they have made. Dr John made reference to RESULTS as an organisation that works effectively to do just that.

Dr John is spending a week in the UK supporting RESULTS UK’s efforts to raise awareness about tuberculosis and other global health issues. He will be meeting with Members of Parliament, government officials and NGOs. For more information please contact our Action Project Manager Kate Finch kate@results-uk.org.

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