Everybody welcome and needed
- Andy Haines, professor,
- Iona Heath, general practitioner and chair, Intercollegiate Forum on Poverty and Health,
- Richard Smith, editor
- Department of Primary Care and Population Sciences, Royal Free and University College Medical School, London NW3 2PF
- Royal College of General Practitioners, London SW7 1PU
The International Poverty and Health Network was created in December 1997 following a series of conferences organised by the World Health Organisation with the aim of integrating health into plans to eradicate poverty. Its formation was a response to the evidence of the persistent and growing burden of human suffering due to poverty. The more people who join the greater the likely impact of the network.
Around 1.3 billion people live in absolute, grinding poverty on less than $1 per day.1 This is despite the overall growth of the world economy, which doubled in the 25 years before 1998 to $24 trillion. Of the 4.4 billion people in developing countries nearly three fifths lack access to sanitation, a third don't have clean water, about a fifth have no health care, and a fifth do not have enough dietary energy and protein.
Economic disparities both within and between countries have grown, and in about 100 countries incomes are lower in real terms than they were a decade ago.2 By 1995 the richest fifth of the world's population had 82 times the income of the poorest fifth. The world's 225 richest people have combined wealth equivalent to the annual income of the poorest 2.5 billion (nearly half of the world's population).1 At the same time the world faces a growing scarcity of renewable resources from deforestation, soil erosion, water depletion, declining fish stocks, and lost biodiversity. The poor will be hit hardest by these problems.
Despite overall dramatic increases in life …