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Judged by our legacy
  1. B J Marais
  1. Centre for TB Research and Education, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Stellenbosch, PO Box 19063, Tygerberg, Cape Town 7505, South Africa;

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Current global health strategies focus on important issues in child health, such as the eradication of polio by 2005 and the drastic reduction of child mortality by the year 2010. These short term goals are essential to provide the necessary political focus and public health impetus. However, the ultimate success of our current health initiatives will be measured by their ability to provide sustained health to present and future generations.

At the beginning of the third millennium we celebrated the tremendous strides that health care has taken in the past century, while rightfully reflecting on current global inequities in access to health care. Reflection also emphasises the unequalled human impact exerted on our planet in the 20th century and the environmental responsibility that faces health care providers in the 21st century.

As paediatricians we need to provide an articulate voice for all the children of our planet, both for current and future generations. Current initiatives stir more emotion and elicit more political commitment, but protecting the health of future generations is as much our ethical responsibility, as the reduction of present mortality. Short term goals are important, but we have to redefine what is meant by the attainment of child health for all, within the framework of sustainability. The real challenge facing our generation is to improve child health for all, now and in the future.