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Partnership for Change: the Seventh Annual Clinton Global Initiative

Last month, I attended the 7th annual Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) meeting. IntraHealth International was offered a complimentary membership for this year based on the increased interest and attention to the area of human resources for health among the global development community and our work to support the health worker in that space. The invitation followed my participation last April in the CGI University annual meeting in San Diego, California, a version of the event that targets students and academic institutions in the United States and abroad. IntraHealth was invited to highlight our work on the health workforce. CGI also recognizes the seriousness of the health workforce crisis and the centrality of health workers in many of the global health initiatives undertaken or pledged by its members.

This blog highlights some of the key lessons from my participation including potential new opportunities for IntraHealth to advance its agenda of harnessing the potential of new information and communication technologies to improve health outcomes in the countries where we work.

CGI facilitates partnerships across sectors that develop and implement projects to solve the world’s most pressing challenges. Members make commitments to action and are required to ensure that the commitments are concrete and include measurable steps toward improving lives. The annual meeting brings together heads of states, government and business leaders, scholars, celebrities, and leaders of nongovernmental organizations. Participants analyze pressing global challenges in health, education, and environment. This year’s meeting topics were jobs, jobs, jobs, including how to best generate employment for the 21st century; sustainable consumption such as how to ensure long-term prosperity on a finite planet; and girls and women and how to scale what works. Throughout the meeting, participants discussed effective solutions and formed lasting partnerships for positive social change.

Prior to the opening session, I—along with other first-time participants—attended an orientation session to learn how to get the best out of the CGI experience. During this session, I learned valuable strategies for engagement such as the importance of seeking long-term partnerships rather than immediately asking for funding. In fact, members are discouraged from bringing commitments that have no funding at all. The idea of leveraging resources is highly promoted. CGI touts itself as the forum where people bring great ideas and find creative ways to get them implemented through partnerships.

This year’s meeting gathered over 700 participants including eight heads of state who joined President Bill Clinton for the opening and other plenary sessions. Since CGI’s beginning seven years ago, over 2,000 commitments have been made by members totaling $62 billion.

I was inspired to see the very prominent focus on girls and women in this year’s agenda and touched by Desmond Tutu’s powerful commitment to fight child marriage. His statement to “apply the same intensity he applied to end apartheid to eliminate child marriage” was impactful. I was thinking about the very important role of the health worker in this very laudable goal and invite ideas on how we can increase and enhance it. Listening to Desmond Tutu in a live remote broadcast discussion with Aung San Suu Kyi was not only one of the most moving moments for me but also a strong reminder of why we should continue to highlight the human rights aspects of our work and why a rights-based approach to designing and programming global health activities is essential. I joined the Action Network on Investing in Girls and Women at Home and Abroad and was able to promote our work with the health workforce.

IntraHealth’s commitment as a 2011 member is to “catalyze” the next generation of tech-savvy health workers. The commitment reflects our continuous focus on the health worker. Throughout the meeting, I was able to promote our comprehensive approach for addressing the health worker shortage. While there is currently much emphasis on increasing the number of health workers, it is equally important that we also ensure the health workforce is well-distributed and that the systems that support the workers are strong. Our commitment, which we look forward to making public in the next few days, aims at ensuring that new information and communication technology tools are put in the hands of health workers. Furthermore, it is essential that their perspectives as end-users of these new technologies are taken into consideration during the planning and development phase.

I was happy to see the overwhelming interest among CGI members in investing in innovative ways to incorporate technologies in development efforts. We look forward to pursuing the many new collaboration opportunities that were created during the CGI. This new CGI commitment gives IntraHealth the opportunity to apply the insights and experiences from our OPEN campaign and implement on-the-ground initiatives to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and beyond.