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UNDP Administrator Stresses Linkages Between Health and Human Development

31 January 2013: In a lecture titled “Empowered Lives; Resilient Nations: Why Health Matters to Human Development,” UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark called for broad, innovative partnerships between development and health practitioners to achieve global health goals. 

In the lecture, which was delivered at the Harvard School of Public Health, in Boston, US, Clark described health as key to achieving all areas of development, noting that “disparities in health outcomes tend to mirror inequalities and inequities” in society more broadly. She highlighted linkages between health and development, noting that the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20) Outcome Document recognizes health as “a precondition for and an outcome of all three dimensions of sustainable development.”

She provided an overview of UNDP's efforts to support the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on health, and emphasized how challenges outside the health sector, such as capacity, gender inequality, governance, supply chains and transport infrastructure, hinder MDG achievement. Clark further described climate change as a development, environment and health challenge, explaining climate change impacts on disease, nutrition and water. Clark stressed the need to tackle all dimensions of poverty and inequality to improve health, noting that health should feature in the post-2015 agenda.

Clark underscored that development and health practitioners share similar goals of improving individual and community well-being and addressing inequality, but noted limited collaboration between these groups. She recommended bridging this “artificial” gap between development and health practitioners through dialogue and inter-institutional partnerships.

Clark also highlighted two innovative partnerships: a joint initiative by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the World Health Organization (WHO), which aims to provide guidance on non-communicable diseases to people in Africa via text messages; and the Clinton Foundation's Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, which aims to combat climate change, minimize indoor air pollution, improve livelihoods and empower women. She underlined that such partnerships demonstrate how technology can contribute to improved health outcomes. Clark recommended addressing health challenges on a cross-sectoral basis to facilitate both development and health gains. [UNDP Press Release] [Helen Clark's Statement] [ITU Press Release on Health Initiative] [Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves Website]