Global Health Leaders Meet in Seattle

As part of what some are calling the "Davos of global health," four major global health gatherings are taking place in Seattle this week, the most exclusive of which is the Health 8, or H8, meeting that brings together the leaders of major international health organizations, the Seattle Times reports.

Created two years ago, the H8 meeting involves leaders from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Health Organization, the GAVI Alliance, the World Bank, UNICEF, the United Nations Population Fund, UNAIDS, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis. According to Global Health Council senior fellow Nils Daulaire, the idea of the meeting, which is closed to the press, is to foster cooperation and communication among organizations that have not always worked well together to accelerate efforts designed to bring lifesaving health improvements to people in poor nations.

Although the H8 doesn't cast formal votes, it can still be very influential, William Hsiao, professor of economics at the Harvard School of Public Health, told the Times. "They can influence decisions," said Hsiao. "That's why they get together." For some, this level of influence is unsettling, especially when it comes to the Gates Foundation — the only private philanthropy with a seat at the table. Indeed, some critics have argued that the Seattle foundation already exerts too much influence over global health priorities.

Others have a more positive view of the meeting and its goals. "Given the level of resources and the challenges involved in getting things done in the global health arena," said Daulaire, "any time major actors get together and get their priorities straightened out...I think it's good thing."

"Global-Health Stars Converge on Seattle." Seattle Times 06/17/2009.