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Interlaken hosts health experts with the mission to offer fairer global health care

Health experts from around the world are meeting in the Swiss resort of Interlaken to inaugurate a new body called the World Health Forum. Its aim is to try and overcome the vast inequalities in health care across the globe.

"Clearly the poorer countries have the greatest burden," says Orvill Adams, the director of the World Health Organisation's health service delivery body.

In poverty-stricken countries, more than one in five children die in their first year. This compares unfavorably with just one in 200 children in the West. Poverty then certainly is an issue, but Orvil Adams says that is not the whole story.

"It's a question of getting those cost effective interventions that we know about into practice, in the poorer countries. Yes more money is needed, but ways and mechanisms, management structures, different groups coming together to ensure that cost effective interventions are actually implemented, I think is the critical element."

The World Health Forum is mandated with making medical help better and fairer, with access opened up to those from all economic strata. At the three-day symposium, the Forum is discussing a new stance on the relationships between health and human rights, physical environment and social, cultural and political factors.

The Forum aims "to establish and support a global network in which participants can create a new and global understanding of health and health care practice."

The chairman of the Forum's executive committee, Peter Berchtold, does not pretend to have the definitive answers to solving the world's health care problems. But he says, the debate has to be expanded. "A diologue between different groups is lacking and we think that discussions at the global level will create new options and new ideas to thus-far unresolved questions."

The WHO believes that at one level, a way forward is for governments to learn from their mistakes and talk to health experts about their countries' health needs. "What we are trying to advise countries to do is to look forward a lot more at what the health problems are going to be, match the resource-generation institutions with the provision side of government so that we can have a much better rational planning," explains WHO's Ovill Adams.

Adams believes it is a case of matcing what services are needed with what kind of health professionals are needed for those services.

WHO head, Peter Berchtold, believes rich drug companies should start taking some responsibilty for health care in the developing world. His comment coincides with Swiss pharmaceutical giant, Roche's, announcement that it has agreed to slash the price of AIDS drugs for the developing world as part of the United Nations drive to combat the killer disease.

swissinfo with agencies


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