Let Local Partners Lead
Engaging stakeholders to build health workforce and research capacity
On June 11, Paraguay became the first country to be certified malaria-free by the World Health Organization (WHO) in more than 40 years. This is the latest in a series of triumphs for global efforts to combat infectious diseases. In December, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative reported a 99 percent reduction in annual polio cases since 1988. Between 2000 and 2016, the WHO estimates that new HIV infections fell 39 percent and, although still a leading cause of death worldwide, tuberculosis claimed 53 million fewer lives due to better diagnosis and treatment.
Such achievements call for celebration! Yet universal health coverage remains a distant goal. Progress is tempered by new challenges, including rising rates of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), the impact of globalization on health security, and a growing shortage of health workers across the globe. Although these challenges affect health outcomes globally, local conditions create unique obstacles and unique opportunities to improve the quality and availability of care. International development projects are most effective when local stakeholders, including health workers, researchers, policy makers, and administrators, help set the agenda and guide the allocation of funds. Such local partners are best equipped to guide the international community on the path to universal health coverage and increased health workforce capacity.
"International development projects are most effective when local stakeholders, including health workers, researchers, policy makers, and administrators, help set the agenda and guide the allocation of funds."
Connecting Funding to Local Priorities
Despite Paraguay’s recent success in the fight to end malaria, the 2017 World Malaria Report found that the total estimated number of malaria cases increased by 5 million in 2016 compared with 2015. A new analysis suggests this increase is due in part to the unequal distribution of research funding. Drug and vaccine development and basic research projects received nearly three-quarters of all research funding from 2014–2016. Research targeting diagnosis techniques, infection control protocols, and vaccine and treatment implementation received a much smaller share. This is concerning because clinically effective treatments may be rendered useless if the disease is not caught in time, if the cost of treatment is prohibitive, or if the local health workforce lacks the capacity or personnel to deliver treatment to those in need.