Representatives from 25 leading companies and coalitions including Merck/MSD, Anglo American, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, BD, Nestle, GSMA, GBCHealth, Royal Philips and others participated in the 5th May private sector pre-consultation held ahead ahead of the first Regional African Consultation on the Global Strategy for Women, Children and Adolescents’ Health. The half-day session provided corporates with an opportunity to both learn about the Global Strategy process and existing Africa-specific private sector initiatives as well as deliberate on what is needed – from the business and health perspectives – to save even more lives in the year to come.
“The private sector has been acknowledged as a key catalyst in delivering the Global Strategy and the SDGs,” remarked Dr. Craig Friderichs, PMNCH’s Private Sector Board member, in his opening comments. He added that a full 20 percent of Every Woman Every Child commitments are from business and also the more than 1,000 innovations in the pipeline for scaled RMNCAH delivery.
Representing the South African government, Dr. Pearl Holele began her session with a summary of the country’s recent progress on health. She highlighted impressive gains, such as the drop of under-5 mortality from 56 per 100,000 (2008) to 41 (2013), and the enabling factors behind such reductions, including ARV provision scale-up for PMTCT and the introduction of pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines. Dr. Holele also shared examples of fruitful private sector partnerships in the areas of front-line worker training and mHealth; finally, she underscored the importance of such collaborations at the national, provincial and district-level to “ensure that the 2030 vision becomes a reality.”
Nana Taona Kuo, Senior Manager, Every Woman Every Child, also acknowledged the strong contributions of the private sector under the current Global Strategy, noting that corporate mobilization around a common roadmap and set of goals has been a very successful approach that has yielded results and brought disparate stakeholders together. Looking forward, she emphasized key gap areas where business engagement is critical, including newborn health, health in fragile settings, non-health interventions (e.g. women’s empowerment and education), cross-sectoral collaboration and adolescent health. She introduced the audience to key elements of the updating process, including the Zero Draft and Transformative Actions, requesting participants to share feedback during the group discussion.
Farouk Shamas Jiwa, PMNCH Alternate Board Member, moderated a best-practice sharing session entitled “Private Sector Impact and Challenges.” Highlighting a partnership between Anglo American and Grassroots Soccer to address HIV in adolescents through sports, Brian Brink, Medical Consultant, noted the importance of “taking systems already in place with HIV and applying those in a community setting.” BD’s Global Health Director Peter Mehlape, reinforced BD’s ongoing commitment to Shared Value approaches during the development of new innovations like the Odon and Uniject devices. Lebo Lesaba, Corporate Responsibility Director, Pfizer, presented a summary of Pfizer’s flagship Global Health Fellows program as an important capacity-building vehicle. Finally, Shuma Panse, Program Director, GBCHealth, highlighted corporate activities around newborn health, which have been documented in a forthcoming GBCHealth-MDG Health Alliance publication featuring 48 case studies.
In a lively discussion session, participants stressed the ongoing need for a strong investment case and incentives for business to support RMNCAH activities, in order to engage CEO and C-suite level leadership. There was agreement that linking public health investments to business activities via a shared value approach is the key to sustainability. Better alignment and coordination at the global, national and local level emerged as a key gap area, with participants requesting for more effective engagement by global advocates with local platforms (e.g. business coalitions). Behavior change communication and maternity protection in the workplace were mentioned as specific areas ripe for greater business engagement. Providing feedback on the Transformative Actions, participants noted that translating the actions into language more accessible to business would be useful. Finally, the group expressed willingness to explore new commitments for the updated Global Strategy, and added that guidance via a facilitating/brokering entity would be welcomed.
In her remarks, Graça Machel, PMNCH Board Chair, noted “We need to work together to develop a strong & unified business plan that will improve lives of women & children.” Robin Gorna, PMNCH Executive Director, concluded the meeting with a call to action for greater local level engagement, new commitments and better data to report on results.