By Lucy Martinez Sullivan
Despite the continuing toll of COVID-19 across the globe, this new year holds promise for public health progress. The events of the past couple of years have underscored the need for investments in preventing disease and injuries and strengthening health systems—and the role of local communities and advocates in making these commitments a reality. With the recognition that there is no individual health without global health, countries can turn this moment of crisis into a year of opportunity to advance policies and practices that can strengthen governments’ response to public health threats and challenges.
Energized by the victories that the partners we support have achieved in the face of unprecedented challenges, we at the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI) are gearing up to build on this momentum. Over the next twelve months, GHAI and its partners will be galvanizing action on a set of policy opportunities and initiatives that have the potential to save countless lives. Here’s what we’re most excited about:
1. Creating healthier food environments at a key moment
The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the need to tackle obesity and diet-related chronic disease by transforming food environments so that they promote good health and nutrition. This year, we’ll redouble our efforts across the 14 countries in which we work to support advocacy campaigns to mobilize citizens to call on their governments to pass healthy food policies and to monitor food and beverage industry’s attempts to block these measures. We see the potential for accelerated progress on front of pack labeling and taxes on sugar sweetened beverages as more and more countries see the health-promoting value of these measures.
2. Saving more kids from drowning
Thanks to the tireless work of in-country advocates and champions, including many that GHAI supports, Bangladesh and Vietnam have made great strides in scaling up proven life-saving interventions and reducing child drowning deaths. We look forward to continuing our work with government and civil society organizations to save more lives through the launch a national drowning prevention initiative in Bangladesh and the national roll out of survival swim and water safety education guidelines in all pre-school and general education institutions in Vietnam.
3. A big year for road safety
Road crashes remain the leading cause of death worldwide for people ages 5 – 29. As advocates in countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America continue to press for laws that would lower speed limits, require safer vehicles and mandate child restraints, this year is a big one for the global road safety community as well. Advocates are gearing up for the United Nations High Level Meeting on Road Safety this year which aims to accelerate the reduction of road crash death and injuries, on the heels of the 2021 launch of the United Nations Second Decade of Action for Global Road Safety — an ambitious agenda that seeks to reduce road crash deaths by 50 percent by 2030. Read more about GHAI’s road safety program here.
4. Improving public health data collection
Through the Data for Health initiative, GHAI helps low and middle-income countries improve their public health outcomes by strengthening and standardizing their public health data systems. In 2022, we will add to this work through a new Budget Advocacy Framework and training module for Civil Registration, Vital Statistics and Identity Management (CRVSID) reform. We anticipate completion of CRVSID legal reviews in several countries and the start of the legal reform process in others. We will also begin legal reviews in several new countries, including the Maldives, Uganda, Bolivia, Indonesia and India.
5. Strengthening cardiovascular health around the world
We are excited about efforts to advance best practice trans fat regulations in Nigeria and Argentina. We will continue to support advocates supporting healthy food policies to reduce death from cardiovascular disease in countries including India, Bangladesh, China, the Philippines, Turkey, Vietnam, Ethiopia and the East African Community.
6. Addressing a critical issue
In the past year, more than 100,000 Americans tragically died of an overdose. We were proud to join Bloomberg Philanthropies in their efforts to combat the overdose crisis. Launched in November 2021, GHAI’s Overdose Prevention Initiative will address legislative and regulatory barriers in the federal government that hinder people’s ability to access high-quality treatment and harm reduction services proven to save lives from drug overdose. In 2022, the Initiative will develop a coordinated advocacy strategy and build support to remove these barriers through lobbying, education and raising awareness.
7. Launch of a new budget advocacy toolkit
Last year, GHAI released a framework to help political and civil society leaders build support for sustainable investments in epidemic preparedness in their countries. This framework is based on the recognition that the only way to break cycles of pandemics is for people to help their own governments prioritize health budgets. This year, we’re excited to be a launching a toolkit with practical, step-by-step guides and tools for advocates to put these principles into action. The devastating consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrate the urgency of this work. This toolkit is one of a series of actions we’ll be taking to support budget advocacy for health this year.
8. Knowledge sharing on public health advocacy
This year, we’re excited to be able to continue sharing new tools, resources and information for public health advocates. From hosting more live Twitter Spaces conversations with public health experts to releasing new advocacy guides and reports, we want to make sure that best practices for public health advocacy are widely available, including in countries where we don’t yet work. To keep up to date, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, and subscribe to our newsletter.