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Medical Research

The responsibility of the wealthy nations

Talk: Professor Detlev Ganten, president of the World Health Summit, wants to find solutions for global health problems. Agenda-setting, multiplication, teaching the teachers are the priorities of the summit.

07.10.2011 DW-TV Projekt Zukunft Ganten

DW: Joining us  in the studio is Professor Detlev Ganten. He's the president of the World Health Summit. Now - great action taking place at the Charité, but will that bring enough doctors and medical personnel to the poorer countries?

Detlev Ganten: No not alone, of course, and we get the opinion leaders of science and academia and the health area and the whole of politics and civil society. But we have the opinion leaders and they will stimulate - and their organizations - then the people going to these countries. And of course we do have people who have experience in these countries. And we have more than 80 nations coming to the summit, so we do have the nations around the table.

So it's the hope for a multiplication of this process?

Teaching the teachers, multiplication, agenda-setting - that's the topic of the summit, right.

And the topic of the summit is probably also injustice - I always feel a bit ashamed that we here have the right to afford, for example, surgery for a new hip, and children in poorer countries are dying from contaminated water. How do you feel about it?

That's exactly the origin of the whole idea of the World Health Summit. Medical progress is enormously fast, and of course here in Berlin and in other places, rich places around the world,
people benefit from this progress. But the state of health around the world is not getting better - it's getting worse - and this of course is completely unjust, and we feel that academia has to take responsibility.

But the money is in the world actually, I mean - for example - pharmaceutical companies have annual growth rates of more than ten percent. Why isn't the money transferred to the south?

There is a lot of money being transferred to the south. You know, there is money going there, but the money probably is sometimes not going in the right direction; there aren't the structures in place to really deal with the money and work on health and the standards which we would like to work there.

Do you mean people are not giving any more money for fear of corruption - that the money is being lost and not reaching the people?

Corruption and transparency of money flow and all that is a problem. And there are not the structures in place. There is a working group actually at the summit: research capacity strengthening, which means building up organizations, universities, academic centers, which do have the knowledge, then to distribute what is coming to the country - also the money - to the right directions and bring it to the people where it is needed - locally.

There is quite a bit of money - as you just said - going to the south, and in the beginning it was easy to improve the health situation - with vaccinations, with mosquito nets, with basic medications, and so on. The next steps will probably be a lot more complicated, right?

Well, so far, in many instances, people from outside, from the north, from the rich countries go to these countries - so these are campaigns in a way, and these campaigns need to be supported within the structure. That's an important point. But there are many other factors of course. It's not just medicine - it's nutrition, it's education, and the best parameter actually correlating with health is education. Education is the best vaccination. That's one of the slogans, which is important. So health is much more than medicine and bringing medicine to the people. Health is orienting society towards one of the most valuable goods - that is individual health and that is public health.

We wish you lots of success with the World Health Summit. Thanks for the talk, Professor Ganten.


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