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12 September 2000

Working for World Health

Other CHC researchers are studying health disparities as they affect people all over the world, focusing particularly on the poor in low- and middle-income countries who have difficulty gaining access to high-quality medical care. CHC member Richard Feachem is one of 17 leading economists and policy-makers from around the world appointed to the Commission on Macroeconomics and Health (CMH). The CMH was convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) to clarify linkages between health and macroeconomic development.

Feachem co-chairs one of the CMH Working Groups, dedicated to the study of "international public goods" for health. "'Public goods' is an economic concept that refers to goods that won't be supplied naturally by markets but that, if adequately supplied, will yield positive benefits for the international community," says Feachem's colleague and Policy Advisor to the CMH, Carol Medlin. The group examines three areas in particular: research, communicable disease, and information. The research piece will focus on incentives for R&D on drugs and vaccines for the poor, specifically, and the need for long-term capacity building of international research networks, generally. The communicable disease component will focus on preventing cross-border spread of infectious disease, the global spread of drug resistance, and achieving disease eradication -- all of which require an international response. The information piece will focus on the collection and dissemination of information for the purpose of international disease surveillance and the standardization of health care data to allow cross-country comparisons.

Feachem also directs the Institute for Global Health (IGH), established in 1999 by UCSF and UC Berkeley in close collaboration with Stanford University and with leading corporations and organizations in the Bay Area. The mission of IGH is to improve health and increase access to effective and affordable health services in all countries by conducting research, developing and evaluating policy, providing high-level training, and forging consensus among leading scientists and policymakers.

CHC's Paula Braveman also works to decrease health disparities globally. From 1995 to 1999, Braveman co-directed a WHO initiative on Equity in Health and Health Care. The initiative provided objective evidence about widening inequities in wealth and ways to monitor them, information that helped policy-makers understand the health impacts of their decisions upon the most vulnerable segments of their population.

Braveman, who also specializes in maternal health, believes joining her own expertise in epidemiology with that of social scientists is crucial. "The issues I examine need the perspective and insight of social scientists," she says. "The Center for Health and Community is important because it fosters and promotes that kind of collaboration."

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