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Global Development Goals and Global Health: The Power and Problems of International Aid

Global Health
Paul Nelson

"Health is a global concern—and the present Ebola outbreak is reminding citizens and governments worldwide of the global nature of infectious disease threats.1 Despite this universality, the worst burdens of ill health fall dispropor- tionately on poor people and communities, especially in low-income countries. The average life expectancy in low-income countries in 2012 was 53 years, com- pared to 70 years in high-income countries.2 Average mortality for children under the age of five is 76 per 1,000 live births in low-income countries, compared to six per 1,000 in high-income countries. Women in low-income countries have, on average, a one in 53 lifetime risk of dying during or immediately after giving birth, while in high-income countries the chance is one in 3,400. This article focuses on what global health institutions, governments, and aid donors can do through health policies and assistance and analyzes some unintended consequences of their recent efforts. I argue that the experience of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) demonstrates the potential of development assistance to advance the human right to health, while highlighting the limits and unintended effects of the MDGs. "


Paul Nelson is Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Pittsburgh and directs the Master of International Development Program. He teaches and conducts research on NGOs, development policy, human rights, and religion in international development. He is author, with Ellen Dorsey, of New Rights Advocacy: Changing Strategies of Development and Human Rights NGOs (Georgetown Press, 2008) and of a book and articles on the World Bank, NGO advocacy, transpar- ency, human rights and development, the human right to water, and the Millennium Development Goals.