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Public health in Africa, a major priority for Obama

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US President Barack Obama has highlighted the need for strengthening public health in the African continent.

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President Obama speaks to Ghana's  Parliament

In an address, which was televised across the continent, President Obama told a rapt Parliament in Accra, Ghana's capital : "In recent years, enormous progress has been made in parts of Africa. Far more people are living productively with HIV/AIDS, and getting the drugs they need.

"I just saw a wonderful clinic and hospital that is focused particularly on maternal health. But too many still die from diseases that shouldn't kill them. When children are being killed because of a mosquito bite, and mothers are dying in childbirth, then we know that more progress must be made.

"Yet because of incentives -- often provided by donor nations -- many African doctors and nurses go overseas, or work for programs that focus on a single disease. And this creates gaps in primary care and basic prevention. Meanwhile, individual Africans also have to make responsible choices that prevent the spread of disease, while promoting public health in their communities and countries.

So across Africa, he said, in the speech entitled "A New Moment of Promise", "we see examples of people tackling these problems. In Nigeria, an interfaith effort of Christians and Muslims has set an example of cooperation to confront malaria. Here in Ghana and across Africa, we see innovative ideas for filling gaps in care -- for instance, through E-Health initiatives that allow doctors in big cities to support those in small towns.

"America will support these efforts through a comprehensive, global health strategy, because in the 21st century, we are called to act by our conscience but also by our common interest, because when a child dies of a preventable disease in Accra, that diminishes us everywhere. And when disease goes unchecked in any corner of the world, we know that it can spread across oceans and continents.

"And that's why my administration has committed $63 billion to meet these challenges -- $63 billion. Building on the strong efforts of President Bush, we will carry forward the fight against HIV/AIDS. We will pursue the goal of ending deaths from malaria and tuberculosis, and we will work to eradicate polio. We will fight -- we will fight neglected tropical disease. And we won't confront illnesses in isolation -- we will invest in public health systems that promote wellness and focus on the health of mothers and children."

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Visitors at the Mapparium in the Mary Baker Eddy Library in Boston, Massachusetts. This was the site to launch Dr. Jean Watson's Million Nurse Project—during the 2010 International Year of the Nurse—to radiate heart-centered Love, Caring and Compassion through individual and collective global meditations. Photo Courtesy of the Mary Baker Eddy Library.