Global Business Coalition 2011: Reflections On The Past Decade

It has been just over a month since the Global Business Coalition (GBC) met in New York for their 10th anniversary conference and awards dinner! Several things about that conference continue to give me pause for reflection. The big news was the Coalition’s name and scope change. The GBC on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria has changed its name to GBCHealth with a new logo and the tagline ‘Mobilizing Business for a Healthy World’. As I reflect on this change it strikes me as a natural progression that may NOT have been so predictable. So often in the developed world we generously provide dollars and service through non-profit organizations to aid with crisis’ in developing countries. This model appeared to work well for disaster relief or other acute circumstances that arose; then the HIV/AIDS health crisis appeared on the scene. After decades of spending billions of dollars and millions of man hours annually, we have still not been able to contain the HIV/AIDS health crisis.

One outcome from the, so far unsuccessful fight against HIV/AIDS is a better understanding of what is really required to aid developing countries in the field of health care. The evolution of the GBC reflects this growing understanding. In 2001 UN Secretary General Kofi Annan called for greater action from the business sector in response to HIV/AIDS. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke led the response taking the helm of the non-profit, GBC on HIV/AIDS. It soon became clear the scope of GBC on HIV/AIDS needed to expand to include tuberculosis and malaria because these two diseases were so prevalent in countries where HIV/AIDS was most prolific; often occurring as co-infections or as the root cause of mortality after AIDS had compromised the immune system. Outcome: GBC on HIV/AIDS became GBC on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Now, ten years after its inception, the GBC has recognized a need to expand its scope again in order to successfully achieve its mission. After years of in-country effort, having spent extraordinary amounts of money and untold man hours, it is clear that compartmentalizing HIV/AIDS as an acute health-care crisis in developing countries does a disservice to those countries. The developed world is beginning to realize that to successfully combat HIV/AIDS in developing countries a complete health care infrastructure is required. In order to effectively diagnose, monitor and treat HIV/AIDS, there must be an infrastructure that includes facilities, personnel, equipment, distribution channels, supply chains, inventory tracking, patient history tracking, etc., much of which can be cross functional with other health maladies (tuberculosis, malaria, diabetes, heart disease, etc.). Citizens of developing countries should not be limited to quality care only if they acquire the ‘right’ disease; they should always have access to quality health care!

So, we see the expansion of GBC on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria into GBCHealth; a coalition of corporate businesses focused on global health issues – new responsibilities, new challenges, and new opportunities. I would suggest that the uphill struggle to manage HIV/AIDS in the world has made us aware that any acute health-care crisis in developing counties should be viewed NOT as a fight against a disease, but rather as an effort to aid other humans in the management of their health-care. GBCHealth is striving to lead in that paradigm shift – my hat is off to them and I wish them great success in all their endeavors.

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