Today, for example, we are investing in innovative solutions to combat antimicrobial resistance. Illustrative photo Bigstock
No one could have predicted the extent to which the Covid-19 pandemic undermined decades of global public health gains. However, the world still has the opportunity – and the responsibility – to learn the right lessons to deal with the current pandemic, as well as to minimize the risk of similar events in the future.
The emergence of new threats on the horizon should not distract us from our goal of fighting Covid-19. The pandemic has exposed serious weaknesses in our global health systems. Failure to address these shortcomings would be a poor political and economic choice, as there can be no trade-off between health and economic development. Covid-19 has shown that health plays a key role in development, prosperity and national security.
Due to disruptions in health services, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of cases and deaths associated with HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, and various non-communicable diseases, when the world has previously made tremendous progress in combating these diseases. Even more worrisome, the pandemic has reduced life expectancy, worsened vaccination coverage, and increased psychological and psychiatric hardship.
In addition to the painful burden of the pandemic, the war in Ukraine is causing a major humanitarian crisis, jeopardizing global food supplies, driving food and energy prices skyrocketing, while raising the threat of recession and economic hardship for people around the world. As the International Monetary Fund feared in its warning last September, “the impact of higher food and fertilizer import costs among the most food insecure will add $9 billion of additional pressure on their balance of payments—in 2022 and 2023— which undermine the international reserves of these countries, as well as their ability to pay for food and fertilizer imports.”
In addition, rising interest rates and tightening financial conditions pose a risk of over-indebtedness for low- and middle-income countries. Putting a huge strain on public finances, the recent global turmoil has threatened some critical long-term investments in health.
Global solidarity and justice are the foundation of any effective response to the challenges we face. We need to make progress on three fronts to maintain the central role that health systems, especially primary health care, always play, and especially during economic crises.
First, there is a need to increase investment in primary health care, because it is in difficult times, such as the current one, that the gap in investment in health increases, which increases the risks of global threats, man-made or not, for the population. It is in everyone’s interest to support countries that do not have sufficient resources to invest in the resilience of their health systems and in pandemic preparedness and response.
Second, bioscience innovation needs more funding, especially for sustainable scaling. This means supporting local production and innovation to provide mental health services to millions of people and integrated into the primary health care system.
Third, multilateral organizations need to work together to prepare us all to better deal with future health threats. In this regard, initiatives such as the globally binding pandemic agreement developed and ratified by states and enshrined in the constitution of the World Health Organization can provide us with the roadmap we desperately need to prevent and respond to pandemics.
Unfortunately, even before the Covid-19 pandemic, the world was already on track to achieve the globally agreed health goals, including many of the goals set under the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. these goals.
In times of rising debt and risks to debt sustainability, governments, international organizations and financial institutions need to work more closely to get us back on track. While illustrating the many failures of global collaboration, Covid-19 has also demonstrated the importance of working together.
That’s why our two organizations are determined to join forces to advance and increase investment in health care.
With support from the European Investment Bank (EIB), the World Health Organization, the Wellcome Trust and others, the Antibiotic Action Fund invests in, for example, innovative solutions to combat antimicrobial resistance and monitors the development of a range of new drugs to meet basic needs. The scientific community is already talking about antimicrobial resistance as a “silent pandemic”, considered a major threat to health and development around the world.
We are also working to channel additional resources from other partners such as the European Commission, development finance institutions and the private sector to strengthen health services where they are most needed. In close collaboration with the European Commission and the African Union, this year we announced a partnership to strengthen health systems in Africa, in particular primary health care. The EIB has committed to provide at least €500 million to mobilize more than one billion euros of investment in support of, among other things, primary health care in sub-Saharan Africa.
New joint projects have already been launched in Africa and the Middle East. In Rwanda, for example, WHO will directly advise the government on the refurbishment of the country’s National Health Reference Laboratory, with financial support from the European Commission and the EIB. This new laboratory can perform over 80,000 screening tests per year, serving over 12 million people.
To achieve measurable impact in these countries, we are focusing on using innovative financial mechanisms to increase domestic funding and advance our common goal of health for all. At the same time, we are committed to promoting the sustainability of debt management so that our partner countries’ investments in health do not lead to financial hardship. Again, investing in health also means supporting good economic policies.
Good health and well-being are goals shared by the whole world. To accelerate the adoption of innovative healthcare solutions, countries and institutions must work together to promote collaboration not only between states, but also between governments and the private sector.
* Werner Hoyer is President of the European Investment Bank. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is the Director-General of the World Health Organization.
©Project Syndicate, 2022
Translation from English by Martin Morel
Source: L Orient Le Jour
I have been working as a news website author for the past year, and have written about a variety of healthcare-related topics. I am currently focusing on coverage of medical technology and innovation, as well as patient advocacy. I am also an avid cyclist and runner, and enjoy spending time outdoors exploring new trails or hitting the pavement for a run.