Reflections from #UNGA72

Karen Shulman, Senior Manager of Strategic Partnerships, Seed Global Health Blog

Last week was an exciting one, as many from the Seed Global Health team arrived in New York City to put our ears to the ground during UN Week 2017. With an incredible amount of events taking place once again this year, we wanted to see what conversations are happening around health and the global health workforce, and how we can ensure training and teaching skilled health workers remains on the global agenda for development.

As happens every year, heads of states, leaders of NGOs, and dedicated changemakers converged on New York City for the annual United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). This year, many of the meetings were framed under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which consists of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to strive for by 2030 to transform our world. While Seed intersects with many of the SDGs, we are particularly passionate about reaching the target for Goal 3: “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”.

We were glad to join events including the Concordia Summit, Bloomberg Global Business Forum, and UNFPA’s event on maternal health in humanitarian settings, and our CEO Dr. Vanessa Kerry offered her point of view on the skilled health workforce at the Frontline Health Workers’ Coalition side event.

In addition, Seed was excited to host our first UNGA reception on the topic of Universal Health Care and Human Resources for Health. The event brought together high-ranking members from WHO, World Bank, foundations, corporations, government officials (including several Ministers of Health from our partner countries), and local academic institutions to engage in thoughtful conversation around the topic, as well as develop action-plans on ways to work together to tackle these important issues.

Throughout the week, there was consensus across events in the need to invest in strong health systems, as they are the bedrock for a healthy society. In addition, a resonant theme across several events was the critical national and global security interest in investing in skilled health workers. The best defenses we have against pandemics are strong health systems, as they can prevent, detect, and treat outbreaks before they spread. In addition, strong health systems promote good health, which in turn promote economic prosperity along with security and stability.

Importantly, we heard repeated from peers and partners the need for strong, multi-sector collaboration and firm commitments to advancing human resources for health. That rings true to us, as Seed is collaborative to our core. The relationships that we build with Ministries of Health in the countries we operate in, with our partner academic institutions, as well as our programmatic and funding partners, we know that we could not do our work alone. UNGA brings together movers and shakers who are dedicated to tackling some of the world’s most difficult and pressing issues. But it’s not about any one organization’s action. Health systems are incredibly complex, and it will take many actors working in harmony to create sustainable and lasting improvements in health delivery and equity. To secure a healthier future for all of us, we must work together, in partnership for the health of future generations