Challenges and Opportunities in 2016 Mark Dybul Looks Ahead

By Mark Dybul, Executive Director

in Voices on 12 January 2016

Mark Dybul, second from left in the photo at a clinic outside Dakar, Senegal.

It is an exciting time in global health, and an extremely challenging one. Mark Dybul, Executive Director of the Global Fund spoke to News Flash about current trends.

What are the greatest challenges and opportunities in 2016?

The road ahead calls for new thinking, for practical solutions that serve people who are being left behind. In global health, we have to think about our work beyond the disease or development paradigms, and focus on the person. How do we find innovative ways to empower individuals? Connecting education and health, especially where it enables girls to become women with opportunity, is an area that needs more work.

Building resilient and sustainable systems for health is another. Making a health clinic accessible may mean hiring more health workers, or an innovative health insurance scheme, but it also can mean lifting stigma and discrimination. Whatever helps an individual remove barriers to health, especially for key populations.

We face very serious challenges. Achieving impact in the last decade was relatively easy because the need was so great – almost anything you did had impact. However, the next stage of ending the epidemics involves confronting social and cultural issues. Our investments have to be more focused, nuanced and interwoven. And we have to put human beings at the center of our response.

Climate change and the refugee crisis are big challenges for the world to deal with. By building lasting health programs and systems that boost the capacity and resilience of a country’s health system and its people, the Global Fund mission can play its part in improving humanity in a way that is connected with other challenges.

What do you mean when you speak of the need to put human beings at the center of our response?

If a scientific or medical response to the three epidemics was enough to end them, our mission would be complete. We already have the tools to defeat HIV, TB and malaria, but the diseases are still with us. Putting human beings at the center of our response means going beyond the work we have already done. We have to work hard to reach key populations, expanding programs we have and finding new ways, too. We have to think about stigma and poverty, and how they are connected with epidemics. Overall, we have to expand access to health care and education and economic empowerment – powerful tools for the prevention and treatment of HIV, TB and malaria.

Whether it’s a 14 year old girl in Lesotho or a migrant forestry worker in Myanmar, every human being should be empowered to make smart decisions about their health, not subjected to the lottery of infectious disease. Education is one avenue toward progress, and linking education, especially for girls, must be a priority.

The Global Fund has a strong record of putting human beings at the center of its approach, inspired by solidarity and compassion. Today, we can point to great results: the partnership has saved more than 17 million lives, through the end of 2014. Each life saved represents expanded opportunity and greater social justice for families and communities worldwide – it inspires even greater belief in the power of the human spirit and what we can achieve by working together.

What gives you hope about ending the epidemics?

Every time a health program assists a girl to make powerful, positive decision about her health, or prevents a mother from transmitting HIV to her baby, or protects a young child from malaria or a grown man from tuberculosis, we are adding to the momentum of human opportunity and progress. When girls are given the opportunity to stay in school, and make informed choices that allow them to grow into empowered women, it breeds human progress. Wherever I see that, it contributes to my hope and my confidence that we can get there. But there still is a tremendous amount of work to do, and it is going to take more commitment, and a commitment to news ways of thinking, to get us there.