07 Apr 2024

Championing the Building Blocks of Health

This World Health Day 2024, we're spotlighting the importance of investing in some of the key building blocks of health: Community Health, Climate, Nutrition, and Technology. Hear from our Chief Impact Officer, Anna Hakobyan, on how, by investing in these foundational areas, we can ensure all children flourish in a healthy, fair and safe environment.

This year, the theme of World Health Day is ‘My health, my right’.  At CIFF, we believe every child deserves to live a healthy life – but for millions, this fundamental right is undermined by continued threats including climate change, conflict, and disease.

We work together with our grantees and partners to tackle intersecting challenges, and we do this by focusing on the root causes of health disparities, looking beyond the surface symptoms, in order to have a real lasting impact on children’s lives.

To truly advance global health goals, we recognise the importance of not limiting our investments to specific healthcare interventions, but rather focusing on the broader interconnected building blocks of health. My role at CIFF has impact at its heart – and the evidence shows that by taking an integrated approach to global health outcomes, building the infrastructure and shifting to early prevention in addition to treatment, we can create real impact for children, their families and communities.

  1. Strengthening delivery through Community Health Workers

More than half of the global population[1] is not fully covered by essential health services. Investing in community health can have a profound impact on equitable access to healthcare, particularly in the most remote and underserved regions.

The work we have supported with Living Goods is a prime example of a community health worker (CHW) model that has delivered tangible impact. This programme empowers local community members to become frontline health workers, giving them the tools and training they need to deliver on-demand door-to-door life-saving care to families in need. A randomized controlled trial in Uganda showed that Living Goods-supported community health workers reduced under-5 mortality by 27% and stunting by 7%. Such examples of successful CHW models are growing. It is prime time for governments and funders to make substantial long- term investments in CHWs.

In prioritising community health, we can foster resilience and sustainability of healthcare systems.

  1. Scaling health infrastructure and empowering user choice through tech-solutions

 Technological developments, when designed and implemented with equity, ethics and context in mind, can help improve affordability, efficiency and user choice in health. Whether it’s providing remote consultations to underserved communities or using data analytics to identify health trends, technology has the potential to transform healthcare and unlock new opportunities for improving health outcomes worldwide.

At CIFF, technology forms a key component of many of our programmes, helping us to improve efficiency and scale. Living Goods, the community health example mentioned, uses technology for digital healthcare protocols, training and supervision as well as for understanding the user experience and feedback. The technology offering was also a lifeline for many in the time of the pandemic.

Another example I’ve been excited to gain deeper insights about is the Tiko platform developed by Triggerise, which aims to connect adolescent girls to sexual reproductive health (SRH) services, using technology to expedite needs analysis and provide a choice of matching health centres. Just like apps we’re more familiar with, the platform uses a series of nudge tools to inform and remind girls of relevant SRH services and seeks to reward health-seeking behaviours. The app also facilitates girls’ rating of service providers and uses it to improve services. The programme is servicing hundreds of thousands of girls and working on integrating SRH services with nutrition and other key areas of adolescent wellbeing. By harnessing the power of technology in a responsible way, we can overcome some of the barriers to healthcare access and empower users with agency and choice.

  1. Building resilience through investing in nutrition

Appropriate nutrition is essential to living a healthy life. However, for many this is a luxury. Nearly half of all deaths in children under 5 are attributable to undernutrition; undernutrition puts children at greater risk of dying from common infections, increases the frequency and severity of such infections, and delays recovery.

Addressing child wasting, a particularly harmful form of malnutrition, needs to be a global priority, with an estimated 45 million children suffering from it at any given time around the world.

The work of our partners focuses not only on treating child wasting through proven life-saving products such as RUTF but also preventing it through interventions such as provision of micronutrient supplements to pregnant mothers, food and energy supplements for children as well as by supporting governments to strengthen the health, nutrition and food systems.

For example, we invest in the Child Nutrition Fund hosted at  UNICEF, a global effort to accelerate the scale-up of government-led prevention and treatment of severe forms of malnutrition in over 20 countries, and growing. As part of this, we have partnered with GAVI on integrating essential child nutrition and immunization services into a single platform with the aim of making healthcare provision more impactful and efficient for both users and providers.

By investing in sustainable, scalable and integrated solutions for nutrition, we can break the cycle of malnutrition and pave the way for a healthier future for generations to come. The social and economic returns for each dollar invested in nutrition are in double digits.

  1. Addressing the Climate Crisis, a systemic driver of poor health outcomes

Climate change exacerbates extreme weather events, disrupts food supplies, and facilitates the spread of diseases, threatening the health of the planet’s population. Investing in addressing the root causes of climate change is crucial to safeguard the well-being of future generations.

Children are among the least responsible for climate change, yet they bear the brunt of its impacts[2].

Their rights to a healthy life include the right to clean air, safe water, and nutritious food. However, millions face barriers to accessing these critical health determinants, and climate change exacerbates this struggle. Therefore, at CIFF, collaboration with a diverse network of partners to support and invest in systemic solutions tackling these barriers is central to our strategy.

The Clean Air Fund is an example of a partner that recognises the interconnected nature between health and climate and works to identify opportunities for integration of evidence-based solutions for greater impact.

By addressing the root causes of climate change, we can safeguard children’s fundamental rights to a healthy future and a healthy environment.

True progress in global health necessitates a holistic approach. These building blocks of health—Community Health, Technology, Nutrition and Climate —are interconnected facets of a healthier future for all – especially children and young people. By investing in these, we have the tools and strategies to enact meaningful change and help create a world in which children everywhere can proudly say “my health, my right”.