Matthew D'Arcy, editor
One needs only to look at the Millennium Development Goals to see the importance placed on healthcare within international development. Three of eight MDGs are exclusively health focused with huge promises in the areas of child health, maternal health and the tackling of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. Other MDGs also make promises of improvements in health-related areas such as access to medicine, safe drinking water and basic sanitation.
At the same time, however, much of the world's population endures far from ideal circumstances. Many people do not have access to the necessary medical infrastructure to ensure their health and wellbeing. This deficiency causes unnecessary deaths, a situation highlighted by medical emergencies like the recent cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe.
The impact of swine flu in Mexico and other countries is another example that demonstrates the importance of solid health systems. Although developed countries are undoubtedly also at risk at a time when H1N1 swine flu threatens the globe, they are often better prepared to cope than those countries where infrastructure is weak, where funding for health systems is not secure and where other lesser known neglected diseases take hold. Of course, not all developing countries have fragile medical set-ups, but generally it is the poorest people who are most vulnerable.
This special edition gives insights into health in the developing world, beginning with a discussion from our panel on how developing countries can cope with sudden epidemics and large scale medical emergencies. Comments here come from Dr Tammam Aloudat, Barbara Stocking, Dr John Nduba, Tido von Schoen-Angerer and Alex Haxton.
We offer an exclusive article from DFID's International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander, who says that we must strive to build a partnership for health.
Another highlight is a joint piece from the World Health Organization's Dr Elizabeth Mason, Director of the Department of Child and Adolescent Health and Development, and Dr Quazi Monirul Islam, Director of Making Pregnancy Safer, who discuss what 2009 means for child and maternal health.
Amongst a wide range of other compelling and authoritative articles, readers should also look out for perspectives from developing countries. A prime example comes from Clarisse Cunha Linke at Namibia's Bicycle Empowerment Network who considers transport for health workers.
If you have any comments or views on articles within, please do get in touch.