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GHAI Year in Review: Highlights from 2020

This has been a year of challenges and accomplishments. The coronavirus pandemic exposed longstanding health systems gaps and injustices and created additional risks for people who were already vulnerable. It also created a new urgency for everyone working for a healthier and more equitable world.

We were proud to support local organizations, in more than 30 countries, advocating for policies that improve health and save lives. The Nigeria Center for Disease Control is set to receive a 75% budget increase in 2021, following a successful campaign led by the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI) and our partners to generate political will to invest in epidemic preparedness. Senegal’s ministry of health incorporated a $10.5 million funding proposal for health emergency and crisis management, developed by government leaders with support from GHAI, into its 2021-23 workplan.

Here are some of the other accomplishments we shared over the past twelve months:

GHAI and our partner, the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, supported the Punjab state government in India to plan and implement the expansion of Health and Wellness Centers despite the COVID lockdown, contributing to more than 2.8 million consultations with patients, including one million consultations on diabetes and hypertension, from January through October.

In February, a new commitment from Bloomberg Philanthropies allowed GHAI to expand its lifesaving Road Safety program to ten countries, contributing to BP’s goal of saving 600,000 lives and preventing up to 22 million injuries over the next 6 years. Despite COVID limitations, advocacy programs have been launched in all six new countries.

In March, a new Administrative Order went into effect in the Philippines, committing the country to registering and certifying the causes of the vast majority of deaths—essential public health data to prioritize health challenges, develop policies and programs, deploy resources and measure access.

In April, GHAI released a new legal and regulatory toolkit to help countries review and reform their civil registration, vital statistics and identity management systems to provide the data required for equitable, effective health policies.

In May, Turkey issued regulations limiting the amount of trans fatty acids in foods, in line with EU regulations.

In Brazil, a new resolution approved in May limited purchases by the National Schools Feeding Program of ultra processed foods to 25%, and banned sugary beverages and other unhealthy products. This measure will reach nearly 39 million students and is expected to roll out in January 2021.

Photo credit: Kunal Mahto.

Also in May, India’s Road Safety Network, a national coalition, helped raise public awareness and political will in support of recommendations to ensure the safety of migrant workers (and other travelers) returning home after the country’s COVID-19 lockdown.

In June, GHAI shared a new set of digital tools to help public health local organizations plan and analyze their advocacy campaigns.

The Drowning Prevention program in Vietnam launched its second phase in July, expanding from 8 to 12 provinces with increased co-funding from the provinces and with interest from 35 provinces in implementing children’s swim and water safety lessons.

Also in July, GHAI joined the Drowning Prevention Partnership Project in Bangladesh, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, to support the sustainability of proven drowning interventions.

In September, the Bloomberg Philanthropies Food Policy Program launched the Healthy Food Policy Legal Defense Fund, managed by GHAI, to help governments defend strong, evidence-based healthy food measures against legal challenges brought by well-resourced companies or industry bodies.

During the 75th U.N. General Assembly in September, GHAI convened representatives from across government, civil society and philanthropy to discuss the journey to health program sustainability.

In October, Mexico took the historic step of changing its national Constitution to include mobility as a constitutional right, an amendment which will allow the national government to legislate road safety issues.

GHAI launched the Healthy Food Policy Advocacy Fund in spring 2020 to provide critical support to help promising legislative or regulatory efforts on healthy food policy priorities cross the finish line. In November, GHAI announced the first two grantees, the Pakistan National Heart Association (PANAH) and Centro de Investigación para la Epidemia del Tabaquismo (CIET Uruguay + Salud).

Also in November, GHAI released the report “Facing Two Pandemics: How Big Food Undermined Public Health in the Era of COVID-19,” which details how multinational food and beverage companies seized the COVID-19 pandemic to aggressively market their unhealthy, ultra-processed products to especially vulnerable populations while directly and indirectly influencing healthy food policies.

We look forward to building on these successes and working alongside new partners in 2021. Wherever you are, thank you for your efforts to advance policies that ensure everyone has the opportunity to live a healthy life.

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