Once again the Oxford Health Alliance (OXHA) summit has lived up to expectations. Some great presentations and lots of fantastic ideas. As you can read this blog on both my blog page and the OXHA one, if you are using the former then you really should check out the new OXHA one www.3four50.com It’s full of great ideas, stories, pictures and blogs. '3FOUR50' represents the 3 main risk factors (poor diet, lack of exercise and smoking) that cause four chronic diseases (cardiovascular disease, some cancers, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes), which in turn is estimated to be responsible for 50% of the world's deaths over the next two decades. Check it out!
We had a remarkably inspirational speech by Tommy Thompson – the former US Health Secretary. He showed what it is to be a great communicator, drawing on his personal experiences and framing the big issues in terms of how they affect ordinary people. He had obviously been moved immensely by a visit he made to a village in Uganda a few years ago where he talked with two families who had been afflicted by AIDS, as well as by the experience of administering polio vaccine to babies in India. This is a lesson for public health professionals – we need to remember that the statistics we so often present represent thousands, or even millions, of individual lives.
Parallel sessions pack a lot in but mean that you can’t get to everything. This morning there were four equally enticing sessions – healthy workplaces, the economic case for investing in health, youth, and designing health cities. I was at the economics workshop – with lots of discussion about the relative emphasis placed by funders on treatment versus prevention, and infectious versus non-infectious disease.
Our starting point was a superb report on the economics of chronic disease in middle and low income countries written by a team led by my colleague Marc Suhrcke – see
We concluded that we need to break down the silos that seem to surround many groups, so that we see the production of health as a seamless whole, with prevention integrated with treatment and a balanced and sustainable production of the people who deliver care and the things they need to do it, including pharmaceuticals. In particular we need to break down the barriers between infectious and non-communicable disease – in practice the management of AIDS and diabetes have a lot in common – both are complex diseases requiring life-long treatment involving many people including trained health workers and informed and engaged patients and their families. We returned to the WHO/ HAI report on drug pricing I referred to in my last posting. It is clear that governments are making a lot of money from tariffs and taxes on essential medicines – maybe we need to start promoting the simple message “Don’t tax the sick”. After all, governments can get the money from other sources in ways that might even promote health, for example by taxing cigarettes, or maybe even unhealthy food.
Listening to the feedback from the other workshops, they all sounded great, especially the healthy city design one, which started with maps of cities using Google Earth.
Finally, we had an afternoon session on how the www.3four5.com website might develop – of course we don’t know because it is user defined, like Wikipedia. Still, it all sounds very exciting!