How does global healthcare fare in the UK government’s new International Development Strategy?

As the UK government’s long-awaited International Development Strategy (IDS) is released, we’re taking a look at why the IDS is so important in supporting healthcare globally, what needs to be done to improve it and how you can get involved to help make the change!  

What is the International Development Strategy and why is it so important 

The International Development Strategy (IDS) outlines a whole government approach to international development and what they see as their top four development priorities. These include the most critical issues they need to tackle in order to achieve those priorities, where they’ll be prioritising their funding and what approach they’re going to be taking. It essentially outlines how the UK government plan to do their work on development and which partners they’ll be working with to achieve this. 

Organisations working within global health such as Action for Global Health are pleased that the IDS identifies some shared global challenges such as climate change, global health and the Covid-19 pandemic. These issues impact everyone around the world and require global responses with the UK playing its part. 

It’s a positive step forward to see that health is included in the strategy in its own right but also important in relation to the other priorities within the strategy. Improving global health is listed as one of the top four priorities in the IDS and strengthening health systems will be at the centre of that work. With other crucial health priorities being included, such as investing into research for vaccines and ending the preventable deaths of mothers, new-borns and children around the world.  

The IDS also priorities empowering women and girls and recognises that a crucial aspect of that is ensuring women and girls have access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services as well as highlighting how medical attention or access to essential health services is a important part of humanitarian responses, such as in Ukraine.

How the new IDS will affect the UK public and charitable organisations

The new strategy outlines what they call “shared global challenges” which are issues that affect all of us in the UK, including the UK public and UK organisations that are working in international development and health as well as people all over the world.  

Things like the climate crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic are challenges that impact everybody so require countries to work together to coordinate their responses and the IDS is showing what part the UK will play in that global response. It also helps to provide clarity to all stakeholders, including the UK public and organisations in the charitable space on what the UK government wants to prioritise in terms of international development.  

Why it’s so important that the UK government have a concrete plan to improve health care globally 

It’s fantastic to see that global health is listed as one of the top four priorities within the IDS but the overall strategy is lacking detail on the implementation. For example, the global health priority covers one page within the strategy and outlines some fantastic ambitions but there is a huge gap between ambitions and how they will be actioned.

Charles Nelson, Chief Executive of Malaria Consortium commented:

“It is difficult to interpret yet, how the Government’s general commitment in their new International Development Strategy to ‘Improve global health’ will be enacted. However, there appears to be a significant and concerning deprioritisation of poverty reduction as a primary goal and previous commitments to ensure health equity and prosperity for all. Over three billion lives are still threatened by malaria, despite the disease being preventable. Evidence shows us that it disproportionately impacts health systems and limits economic growth. It is naive to imagine that countries benefiting from UK aid will be able to prosper if their populations continue to be plagued by this and other preventable diseases. To ultimately succeed in delivering impact through aid, we believe investments in health need to be maintained or increased, long-term commitments need to be honoured, and transparency and effective collaboration championed.”

SCI Foundation too noted that the IDS commits the UK government to “promote a “One Health” approach to preventing and responding to health threats, reflecting the link between the health of people, animals and the environment”. They commented:

“One Health is indeed an effective approach to addressing emerging health threats that can improve efficiency of disease surveillance, diagnostics, and control. Many preventable diseases contribute to avoidable pressures on health services in human and animal sectors, making them less resilient in the face of disease outbreaks – not only in low-and middle-income but also in high-income countries, including the UK. Only with investment in a wider, One Health approach to surveillance and control of endemic disease and health systems can we achieve comprehensive global health security and, as the COVID-19 response shows, these systems can be activated to address new threats acting as a multiplier investment.

For One Health to help deliver on the ambition of the IDS, more emphasis should be placed on the specific measures the UK will propose and contribute to – detail that is currently missing from the strategy.”

Improving the IDS by having a concrete plan for global health 

The UK government needs a concrete plan for the next 10 years which lays out set goals, funding commitments and health outcomes that we want to achieve that will help the UK to stay on track with the commitments they have made within the IDS. 

We need a plan which commits to improving global health equity and outlines in detail how the UK will achieve that. How they will ensure all individuals no matter who they are, where they live and regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity or disability have equal access to quality healthcare based on their needs and tackle the health inequalities that we know currently exist in the UK and all around the world.  

Julia Beart, CEO of Primary Care International (PCI) said:

“Healthcare is a human right wherever you live. Our multi-located, multi-disciplinary teams engage with healthcare workers around the world to support people to access the quality care they need, whether they live in a refugee camp in Kenya or an urban setting in Jordan. Strong primary healthcare systems – which include a strong health workforce – are essential to responding to future pandemics of all kinds. They are the foundation for achieving universal healthcare coverage, health security and healthier populations globally. In our interconnected but unequal world, learning with and from each other across diverse healthcare systems is a radical act of solidarity.”

A global health plan laying out exactly how the UK will tackle global health issues and what funding they will commit will start to make a difference in strengthening health systems all around the world as well as recognising and connecting to broader aspects of our lives and societies that determine our health such as the environment we live in and the impacts of climate change.  

How #HealthyFutures helps campaigners like you make a difference 

Healthy Futures is a UK movement coordinated and run by Action for Global Health that believes that no matter who we are or where we live, we all deserve the right to good health and good health outcomes. 

Whether it’s having accessing to essential health care, seeing a doctor when you have concerns or getting your COVID-19 vaccine – everyone has the fundamental human right to a ‘Healthy Future’.  

But for half of the world’s population who lack access to essential health services and experience barriers to health care, this is not a reality. Every year, 100 million people are pushed into extreme poverty due to healthcare costs, with the COVID-19 pandemic worsening inequalities between those who have access to healthcare and those who do not. 

But we believe that it doesn’t have to be this way. As a global health movement we unite campaigners (just like you!) to call on the UK government to do their part in achieving health for all. 

Take action today by signing the #HealthyFutures campaign letter 

You can get involved by signing this digital letter to Liz Truss and Sajid Javid which outlines why a global health plan is so important and help prevent against future pandemics. It takes less than 30 seconds and is open until Sunday 12th June.