Dr Joanna Nurse, Head of Health and Education for the Commonwealth Secretariat, summarises the Commonwealth’s health priorities and underlines its commitment to assist members in strengthening health policies and frameworks.
The Commonwealth is home to 2.2 billion people – that is, about one-third of the world’s population. However, in terms of health challenges the Commonwealth tends to carry more than its fair share:
• Just over half of the estimated 289,000 maternal deaths recorded globally in 2013 occurred in Commonwealth countries
• About 3.2 million children under five years old died in Commonwealth countries in 2015; that is over half of the current global child mortality estimate of 5.9 million deaths
• More than half of the people living with HIV/AIDS in the world (37 million) live in Commonwealth countries (22 million)
• Of those living with HIV/AIDS in Commonwealth countries, just over a third are estimated to have access to anti-retroviral therapy
• Of the 198 million malaria cases worldwide in 2013, more than half occurred in the Commonwealth
• The majority (>80%) of the 38 million premature global deaths due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) occur in low- and middle-income countries, which make up the largest part of the Commonwealth membership
• During the recent ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa more than 12,000 people were infected in Sierra Leone, a Commonwealth country, and 3,865 people died as a result.
Faced with these challenges, the Commonwealth’s response was rightly focused on assisting member countries in their efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), particularly the directly health-related ones…
*Statistics within article correct at original publication date of CHOGM 2015 Report.
Dr Joanna Nurse
Head of Health and Education for the Commonwealth Secretariat