Ruth Levine on Start with a Girl: A New Agenda for Global Health

November 09, 2009
What are the benefits of focusing specifically on girls when we invest in development? My guest this week is Ruth Levine, an expert on health and education who for the past two years has focused much of her work on adolescent girls. She's the co-author of a recently released CGD report titled Start with a Girl: A New Agenda for Global Health. In our Wonkcast, she outlines the agenda and explains why it's so critical. "Women and girls in many senses really hold the key not only for their own health but for the health of their children and their broader communities," Ruth tells me. Recognizing that fact and directing our investments accordingly, she says, can lead to better solutions for a wide range of problems—everything from economic development to HIV/AIDS. "In high [AIDS] burden countries, if you look at who is getting infected, three quarters of HIV infected young people are girls." Bringing those numbers and overall AIDS infection rates down, Ruth explains, will require identifying and addressing the social dynamics that make girls more vulnerable in the first place. The Start with a Girl agenda explains what a comprehensive girl-focused public health policy might look like. Among its eight agenda items, it recommends working to eliminate child marriage, focusing HIV prevention efforts on adolescent girls, and fostering national commitments in selected developing countries to providing healthcare to girls.  The full agenda as well as a video of the report's well-attended launch are available here. Start with a Girl is the second report in the ongoing Girls Count series, following Girls Count: A Global Investment and Action Agenda, which Ruth co-authored with experts from three other organizations. Listen to the Wonkcast to hear our full conversation. Have something to add? Ideas for future interviews? Post a comment below. If you use iTunes, you can subscribe to get new episodes delivered straight to your computer every week. Ruth is beginning to Tweet—sign on to  follow her on Twitter!


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