A special conference in New York City is drawing the American public's attention to the global health crisis. The first day drew over 600 leaders from non-profit, government, faith, corporations, and the arts, including former President Bill Clinton, Microsoft Founder Bill Gates, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, CNN Co-Founder Ted Turner, Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and Megachurch Pastor Rick Warren.
The TIME Global Health Summit, hosted by TIME magazine and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, began Tuesday as part of a three-day multimedia effort to move public health closer to the top of the national agenda. The conference is the first one to convene top figures from medicine, government, business, public policy and the arts to develop solutions to such challenges as AIDS, avian flu, and malaria.
"We want to inspire. We want to inform. We want to seize hold of this moment and this week when the spotlight that TIME, PBS, ABC News, CNN and others are shining on this issue," said TIME President Eileen Naughton in Tuesday's welcoming address. "Hundreds of millions of people, possibly billions, will take notice."
According to James Kelly, managing editor of TIME Magazine, TIME's mandate is to "get Americans to care about health in the third world."
As part of its efforts, TIME is partnering with PBS, as well as ABC News, to reach a broad audience. One day prior to the global health summit, a TIME special issue on global health hit newsstands, reaching more than 27 million readers around the world.
"Six million children - and even more adults - die unnecessarily every year," begins the cover story for the Nov. 7 issue. "Good people all over the world are doing their best to save them. You can too."
The main agenda of the summit in New York is built around a series of solutions-oriented debates on the "10 Big Questions of Global Health," such as "Can Drugs Be Accessible By All?"; "What Must We Learn From The War Against AIDS?"; "How Do We Prepare for the Next Plague?" and "Why Do 10 Million Children Have to Die?" Representatives from many sides of an issue will focus on what works, what does not and how to move forward.
"Our intent is to provide an open forum to produce a real call to action," said Eileen Naughton, president of TIME, according to a statement released by the magazine's parent company Time Warner. "The TIME Summit will bring together influential leaders from many disciplines - science, business, government and the media - to create a platform that will build optimism and commitments for sustainable improvements in global health."
Among the top figures that TIME has convened to help develop solutions for international challenges to public health are about two dozen leaders from faith-based communities.
Part of the TIME summit is focusing the nation's attention on the effectiveness of faith-based healthcare, according to Vickie Johnson of Interchurch Medical Assistance.
"Faith is not played down," agreed Dr. Peter Okaleet of MAP International, one of 12 heroes that TIME will honor for his work on the frontlines of improving the world's health.
"The secular world is becoming increasingly aware of how much health care is provided by Christians and church-affiliated hospitals and clinics, especially in the developing countries," Johnson said. "The World Bank is now looking at these church-health facilities and looking at how they can partner."
On the first day of the global health summit, "Purpose Driven" Author and Megachurch Pastor Rick Warren said he sees "an army of cooperation," plenty for hope.
"What the Tsunami and Katrina taught us is that churches can do it better and faster than governments," said the Saddleback Church pastor during the forum titled "What Does Faith Have To Do With It?"
"We will never have enough doctors to solve the problem. It has to be done by ordinary lay people," he added.
As one example, Warren said 9,200 volunteers from his church in Lake Forest, Calif., reached into the community for 40 days and fed 42,000 homeless people in California's Orange County. This past weekend, Warren commissioned over 15,000 Saddleback Church congregants to do something similar with a village in a different country in the next two years.
The Kenyan Minister of Health, the Hon. C. Kaluki Ngilu, who acknowledged the impact of faith-based efforts, said "Dealing with faith-based organizations has made a difference in my country."
"We find that faith-based organizations are able to reach those difficult areas that the government cannot reach," said Ngilu as she encouraged the faithful.
Warren noted earlier that many times churches are the only infrastructure in a remote village that lacks a post office, a hospital, or a school.
Although the discussion began to disintegrate when the groups disagreed over issues such as evangelism in the field and over plausible solutions to problems such as HIV/AIDS (i.e., Catholics do not believe in condom distribution while the Jewish group said they are mostly pro-choice), Ngilu redirected attention to the issue at hand - whether faith-based organizations make a difference.
Tuesday's faith panel, moderated by Dr. Tim Johnson, medical editor of ABC's Good Morning America, included speakers representing Muslims, Jews, Catholics, mainline Protestants, and Evangelicals.
Other faith-based leaders to be present at the health summit include Ted Haggard, president of the National Evangelical Association; John McCullough, executive director of Church World Service; John Galbraith, president and CEO of the Catholic Medical Mission Board; and Bishop Joao Somane Machado, leader of the United Methodist Church in Mozambique; and the Rev. R. Randy Day, General Secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries in the United Methodist Church.