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U.N. Foundation seeks global health partnership

United Nations Foundation executive Michael Madnick addresses the United Methodist Council of Bishops as Bishop Janice Riggle Huie listens.
A UMNS photo by Linda Green.

By Linda Green*
Nov. 15, 2007 | LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. (UMNS)

The United Nations Foundation wants to partner with The United Methodist Church in a major global health initiative that goes beyond the anti-malaria Nothing But Nets campaign.

Foundation spokesman Michael Madnick said the organization hopes the denomination’s 2008 General Conference will lay the foundation for an initiative encompassing the diseases of poverty: malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

With a grant from the foundation, the church is conducting a feasibility study to determine if support for an expanded health initiative exists among annual conference leaders, health care institutions and other groups.

In a Nov. 7 presentation to the United Methodist Council of Bishops, Madnick said the foundation hopes not only to partner with the denomination to educate and mobilize people to fight diseases of poverty, but also to inspire people worldwide to know they can make a difference.

"At the end of the day, all the goodwill and all the resources in the world won't mean anything if we are not reaching those who need this help the most," Madnick said. "The church and Coca-Cola get further out into the world than anyone else. If you are not part of the delivery solution, we are all missing the picture."

Partnering for humanity

Founded 10 years ago by media mogul and philanthropist Ted Turner, the U.N. Foundation was created as a public charity to help solve the world's most pressing problems and also to support the United Nations' advocacy and outreach for peace, security and human rights.

In the past, the foundation has partnered with organizations that reach millions of people because "we knew that we needed to mobilize armies of the best kind" to impact global health, Madnick said.

"Together, we can get so much more done than we can by ourselves."
–Michael Madnick,
United Nations Foundation

"We believe in alliance for large-scale problem-solving," especially in fighting the diseases of poverty with an emphasis on eradicating malaria, Madnick said.

Madnick told the bishops about the foundation’s 8-year-old relationship with the Gates Foundation, which is underwritten by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda. As large as the Gates' resources are, he said, the Gates Foundation realized that solving global problems requires inspiring the public, mobilizing political will and improving delivery systems for vaccines.

"The role of faith makes them very excited and interested about a potential partnership with you and others," Madnick said.

The Gates Foundation, he said, noted how United Methodist involvement with Nothing But Nets resulted in collecting $1.5 million in six weeks and helping the campaign amass more than $16 million in 18 months to provide insecticide-treated sleeping nets to families in Africa to prevent mosquito-borne malaria.

"That told us that maybe we had something here," he said, adding that malaria offered a significant portal to educate a mass audience about the realities of poverty and its subsequent diseases.

During her presidential address to the Council of Bishops on Nov. 4, Bishop Janice Riggle Huie of Houston addressed why malaria can be an entry point for global health. "Malaria is intertwined with poverty which is intertwined with education which is intertwined with global warming which is intertwined with malaria," she said.

Church infrastructure

Through its local congregations, The United Methodist Church has a "priceless infrastructure" of committed individuals who want to make a difference, explained the Rev. Larry Hollon, top executive of United Methodist Communications.

The church has people who will volunteer, share skills and information, and contribute money to help people in developing countries, he said. "The church has congregations at the end of the line who understand language and culture," he told United Methodist News Service following Madnick's presentation.

United Methodist Communications and the boards of Global Ministries, Church and Society and Higher Education and Ministry, among others, are partners in the United Methodist Global Health Initiative. That initiative is designed to engage participation and create support across the denomination for expanding health ministry across the world.

The U.N. Foundation hopes to join the church in designing an expanded health initiative to generate significant resources to pool with those from public sectors.

"It is about what comes next. It is beyond nets," Madnick said.

"Our hope is that at your General Conference in the spring that there will be this next level of affirmation of your desire to proceed with this campaign and this partnership with us and with the world. The United Nations Foundation and the Gates Foundation are prepared to be your partners in that effort. … Together, we can get so much more done than we can by ourselves."

*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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Council of Bishops

United Nations Foundation

Nothing But Nets

Nothing But Nets Campaign

Malaria Initiatives of The United Methodist Church

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

United Methodist Global Health Commitment

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