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Five Big Questions on the Future of Global Health

A version of this article first appeared in Media Planet Global Health.

Mediaplanet: What is one of the most influential global health innovations happening in our world?

Pape Amadou Gaye: There have been so many innovations: drugs and vector control to address malaria, medications to reduce maternal hemorrhage and deaths, and simple technologies to save the lives of newborns. But perhaps information and communication technologies—or ICTs—have been the most meaningful. They open up the world of telemedicine and empower health workers and individuals to learn more. The power is not in the technology itself, but in the way it puts people at the center of health care delivery.

Know that global health is truly global—it affects the rich, the poor—it knows no borders. 

MP: How can readers show their support for global health?

PAG: The first step is to care about it. The next step is to learn more. Today the average American thinks the U.S. spends 28 percent of the federal budget on foreign aid. It’s actually only 1 percent. Also, know that global health is truly global—it affects the rich, the poor—it knows no borders. Talk to decision makers and let them know that global health is important to you.

MP: What is one aspect of global health that has affected you or your community?

PAG: Growing up in Senegal in a malaria endemic region, I saw so many preventable deaths from malaria. I lost friends and relatives. I had malaria often, though I thought it was nothing at the time. Later, I realized how devastating malaria is, not only to health and wellness, but also to social and economic development. Our tremendous progress—especially through investments in interventions such as mosquito nets treated with insecticide and effective medications delivered by frontline health workers—has allowed communities to thrive, and some countries to prosper.

MP: How do you envision global health changing in the next five years?

PAG: We’re in for tremendous changes. I agree with the Lancet report, Global Health 2035, which describes how communicable diseases—such as HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria—will drop, even as noncommunicable diseases—such as cancer and heart disease—rise. This is the result of increased income levels, changing lifestyles, and longer lives. It will change health care as we know it, especially for health workers. We’ll also see much faster progress as the different players in global health coordinate and mobilize.

E-learning has allowed us to reach people we never thought we could. But it's not that simple.

MP: How has technology affected global health? For the better or the worse?

PAG: Technology has changed global health mostly for the better. Today we’re in a much more hopeful place because of technology. E-learning, for example, has allowed us to reach people we never thought we could. But it’s not that simple. We must be careful to remember that technology is just a way to reach our goal of greater health. New technologies for health must be people-centered, and we must incorporate the perspectives of the health workers who will be using them and those who will benefit from them.

Read the full article, including perspectives from other global health leaders, in Media Planet’s Investing in Our Future: A Roundtable Discussion.