Bulletin of the World Health Organization

BRICS and global health: a call for papers

Pascal Zurn a, Marie-Andrée Romisch-Diouf a, Shambhu Acharya a, Sarah Louise Barber b, Natela Menabde c, Luigi Migliorini d, Joaquin Molina e & Michael J O’Leary f

a. Department of Country Focus, World Health Organization, 20 avenue Appia, 1211 Geneva 27, Switzerland.
b. World Health Organization, Country Office, Pretoria, South Africa.
c. World Health Organization, Country Office, New Delhi, India.
d. World Health Organization, Country Office, Moscow, Russian Federation.
e. Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization, Country Office, Brasília, Brazil.
f. World Health Organization, Country Office, Beijing, China.

Correspondence to Pascal Zurn (e-mail: zurnp@who.int).

Bulletin of the World Health Organization 2013;91:466-466A. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.2471/BLT.13.125344

In recent decades, the influence of Brazil, the Russian Federation, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) within the international arena has increased enormously.1 These countries represent around 25% of the world’s gross national income, more than 40% of the world’s population and about 30% of the world’s land area.2 Although much attention has been paid to their economic performance, less widely noted is the fact that these countries are uniquely positioned to exert a decisive influence on health at the global level.

Within BRICS countries, hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty. This has resulted in marked improvements in health outcomes and in substantial progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals.3,4 BRICS countries are also gravitating towards universal health coverage, although not at an even pace. They are leaders in the manufacture of low-cost medicines and vaccines.5 Their experiences in reducing poverty and strengthening health systems, together with their booming economies and large populations, explain why they exert such an enormous influence on health worldwide. Besides, in only a few years they have amassed a wealth of experience and knowledge from which other low- and middle-income countries can draw valuable examples.

Despite their many assets, however, BRICS countries face important health problems. India has the highest number of maternal and infant deaths of any country in the world. South Africa has the greatest number of people with human immunodeficiency virus infection. Alcohol abuse is a major public health concern in the Russian Federation. In addition, BRICS countries’ strong economic growth has created a new set of problems that need to be addressed. Over the last decade, inequities in health and in the socioeconomic sphere have become accentuated in most of these countries.6 Although life expectancy has improved substantially in Brazil, China and India, BRICS countries as a whole still account for about 40% of the global burden of disease.7 They also face a “double” disease burden resulting from the coupling of infectious diseases with the emergence of new health problems triggered by environmental factors and to an increase in road traffic injuries and noncommunicable diseases. Tackling the social determinants of health continues to be a priority for BRICS countries.

Globally, BRICS countries are becoming increasingly important partners in international development cooperation.8 They are helping to reshape the landscape of aid effectiveness. According to the final declaration of the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, held in 2011 in Busan, the Republic of Korea, the nature, modalities and responsibilities that apply to South–South cooperation differ from those that apply to North–South cooperation.9 Although the development cooperation coming from BRICS countries has increased substantially in recent years, estimates vary because of differences in the approaches and methods used to report development cooperation for countries not represented in the Development Assistance Committee.10,11

Through “South–South” health cooperation, BRICS countries are able to reach populations beyond their own borders. These countries can engage in cooperation of this type either individually through bilateral agreements or collectively. Inter-BRICS cooperation is gaining momentum, as highlighted in the recent meeting of ministers of health held on 10–11 January 2013 in New Delhi.12 Moreover, the establishment of the BRICS development bank, agreed upon by BRICS leaders on 27 March 2013 in Durban, South Africa, will also contribute to the advancement of health in BRICS countries and beyond.

The Bulletin plans to publish a theme issue on BRICS and global health to enhance people’s understanding of the dynamics of health and development in BRICS countries and of how these countries contribute to global health, both by improving health outcomes in their own territories and by engaging in mutual cooperation. This issue will cover these countries’ key health policy achievements and their most important health challenges, as well as their rising influence on international health cooperation.

We welcome papers for all sections of the Bulletin and encourage authors to consider contributions on any of the following topics as they pertain to BRICS countries: universal health coverage; universal access to medicines or vaccines; emerging and existing public health challenges, notably health inequities and the double burden of disease; South–South cooperation and inter-BRICS cooperation.

The deadline for submissions is October 2013. Manuscripts should be prepared in accordance with the Bulletin’s Guidelines for contributors and authors should mention this call for papers in a covering letter. All submissions will go through the Bulletin’s peer review process. Please submit to: http://submit.bwho.org.