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Open invitation from the International Poverty and Health Network to all health professionals
  1. Iona Heath1,
  2. Andy Haines2
  1. 1General Practitioner, Chairman of the Intercollegiate Forum on Poverty and Health, London, UK
  2. 2Department of Primary Care and Population Sciences, Royal Free and University College Medical School, London, UK

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    Editor,—Always and everywhere, the challenge for all health professionals is to understand, from a position of relative comfort, the nature and extent of the problems faced by the poor, the marginalised, and the vulnerable.1 Understanding, once even partially achieved, creates empathy and a responsibility to advocate for redress.

    The International Poverty and Health Network (IPHN) was created in December 1997, following a series of conferences organised by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The aim of the network is to “integrate health into poverty eradication policies and strategies, promoting community partnership and intersectoral action, as a means to achieve effective and sustainable results”. It was formed in response to the evidence of the persistent and growing burden of human suffering due to poverty and it invites others to join the endeavour.

    Around 1.3 billion people live in absolute, grinding poverty on less than $1 per day despite the overall substantial growth of the world economy which doubled over the 25 years before 1998 to reach $24 trillion.2 Of the 4.4 billion people in developing countries nearly 60% lack access to sanitation, a third have no access to clean water, and about 20% lack access to health care of any kind; a similar proportion do not have sufficient 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 or more ago.3 By 1995 the richest 20% of the world's population had 82 times the income of the poorest 20%. The world's 225 richest people have the combined wealth equivalent to the annual income of the poorest 2.5 billion people in the world (47% of the world's population).4 At the same time the world is facing a growing …

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    • Versions of this editorial are being published in many journals world wide.

    • For more information about the IPHN, please contact: International Poverty and Health Network, Health Link Worldwide, Cityside, 40 Adler Street London E1 1EE, UK (tel: +44 (0)207 539 1570, fax: +44 (0)207 539 1580, e-mail: (Roger Drew) drew.r{at} or International Poverty and Health Network, Community Health Cell, Society for Community Health and Awareness, Research and Action, No 326, 5th Main, 1st Block, Koramangala, Bangalore 560 034, India (e-mail: (Thelma Narayan) sochara{at} at INET).