Millions of people around the world are dying from preventable and treatable conditions. Did you know a baby in sub-Saharan Africa is almost 520 times more likely to die from diarrhea than one born in Europe, according to the African Medical and Research Foundation?
Startling statistics like this emphasize just how much those in the developing world need access to better health care. This April leaders from around the globe will observe World Health Day and focus on the most pressing health issues impacting patients everywhere. In few places are health issues more acute than in the developing world.
When I visited Africa earlier this year, I was amazed to meet people who never had-and never will have-something as mundane as ice water because they have no access to the electricity needed to make ice. Access to any form of clean water - regardless of its temperature - is a struggle for too many people living in developing countries.
The World Health Organization reports that globally around 1 billion people lack access to improved water sources and 2.4 billion people have no basic sanitation. Clean water is basic need for the health of all people.
A lack of proper refrigeration units in many developing countries also impacts health care; in many cases, even if the sick receive proper medications, drugs requiring refrigeration are useless if not stored properly.
When you also factor in the lack of drivable roads and frequent power outages, tending to medical needs in developing countries is a daunting task.
That's why a year ago America's pharmaceutical research and biotechnology companies joined others in the worldwide pharmaceutical industry to launch Global Health Progress, an initiative to bring research-based biopharmaceutical companies, global health leaders and policymakers together to build on current partnerships to improve health in the developing world.
We are working together to tackle the problem on several fronts. With certain areas having one physician per more than 20,000 residents, developing countries desperately need more doctors. These overwhelmed doctors need better training, and we are collaborating with governmental, intergovernmental and NGO partners to provide training for more than 220,000 health workers - equal to more than a third of Africa's total health workforce.
We are also aggressively researching and developing new lifesaving drugs and vaccines. According to the Commission on Health Research for Development, less than 10 percent of health research investment is spent on diseases affecting 90 percent of the world. We have dedicated research and development centers worldwide and are currently developing 109 medicines to treat HIV/AIDS and related conditions.
Addressing global health issues is a significant undertaking, and we haven't shied away from our commitment. In just one year, researched-based biopharmaceutical companies donated more than $3 billion in medical products worldwide. And we cover more than 87 percent of all HIV/AIDS patients worldwide with our donated or discounted medicine programs.
Here at home, America's pharmaceutical research companies work with providers, pharmacists and patients to help ensure those struggling financially receive the prescriptions they need. We sponsor the Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA), which has connected more than 5.5 million patients to programs providing free or nearly free medicines. For more information, call 1-888-4PPA-NOW or visit www.pparx.org.
[Larry Lucas is a vice president for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).]