From COVID-19 to climate change, here's what you need to know about global health for Davos 2023.
Forum Institutional

Davos 2023: What you need to know about the future of global health

Deep dive

From COVID-19 to climate change, here's what you need to know about global health for Davos 2023. Image: Unsplash/Bruno Nascimento

Forum Agenda
Writer, World Economic Forum
This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • World leaders came together in Davos for the World Economic Forum's first in-person winter Annual Meeting since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
  • A number of health and healthcare issue were on the agenda, including tuberculosis and the climate crisis.
  • Here’s what you need to know about global health in 2023 and the key sessions at Davos that addressed it.

On the same day the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting began in Davos on 21 January, 2020, the World Health Organization published its first situation report on Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCov).


Here's why COVID-19 trends are hard to predict three years into the pandemic

It said there were 282 confirmed cases of pneumonia of “unknown etiology” (cause) in four countries: China, Thailand, Japan and the Republic of Korea. There were also six deaths in the city where it started, Wuhan.

To date, COVID-19, as we now know it, has gone on to kill more than 6.7 million people and there have been more than 660 million confirmed cases globally. But there have also been more than 13 billion vaccines administered to date, according to the WHO.

Three years after that first WHO situation report, world leaders came together in Davos for the first time the Annual Meeting had been held in person in January since the pandemic began (in 2022, it was held in May).

Health and healthcare were on the agenda - and, with COVID-19 still not yet a health issue of the past, delegates took precautions.

global health expenditure
How government expenditure on health has grown in high-income countries. Image: Our World in Data

5 key sessions on healthy futures at the Annual Meeting 2023 in Davos

Why do gendered health and well-being gaps continue to persist and what policies and actions are needed to improve the situation?


What mechanisms can accelerate development and deployment of safe and effective TB vaccines?

The Wellcome Trust's Jeremy Farrar warned against becoming overly focused on vaccines, "Vaccines will be a game changer but only when they are integrated into everything else."

The Global Fund's, Peter Sands added, "the prospect of a vaccine, better diagnostics, we have already got better treatments for drug resistant TB which will enable us to do the job more efficiently." He also highlighted that TB is "a disease that has been around for a very long time that we have proven that we can eliminate as a public health threat in all of the richest countries in the world and yet, we allow millions of people to be sick and die continuing."

WHO's Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus picked up on this, emphasizing that rich nations need to change this pattern of behaviour. "It is only when the rich countries are affected that it then becomes a serious issue."

How can the world shift its COVID-19 strategy from pandemic response to endemic management and close the persistent gaps in access to diagnostics, therapeutics and health services?

The panellists warned that COVID-19 isn’t yet over and that we mustn’t get complacent. “The problem that we have right now is that since the beginning of 2022, we’ve had enough vaccines to provide whatever countries want. The challenge has been getting the demand,” said Seth F Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
“Part of it is the world says, ‘We’re done with COVID.’ Of course, the virus is not done with us, and what we really need to do is make sure that policy-makers understand that we’re continuing to see new variants and we’ve been lucky that we haven’t had one with very severe disease, or one that can escape existing immunity.
“But there’s no reason to think that that may not happen. So the best thing we can do is use the preventing methods but also make sure we vaccinate our high-risk populations so they’re protected against severe disease and death.”

Michelle Williams, Dean of the Faculty, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, added that we need to rethink and transform our health systems in light of the pandemic, and there needs to be real improvements in the finance, the infrastructure and the workforce.
“We have to have people who are committed to the exercise of global health diplomacy. It’s a science and an art, but it also has to be a commitment for all humanity. Because we know – and we knew this in 2014 with Ebola – that it only takes eight hours from over there to be a threat here. So we have to realize, not just in rhetoric but in practice, that we’re all in this together, it’s not just rhetoric.”

What steps are needed to place global health at the heart of climate action and protect individuals globally?


What is needed to unlock equitable access for all while building crisis-resistant health systems?


Global health in numbers


The number of people globally who have died from COVID-19 infections


The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases globally


The number of COVID-19 vaccines delivered globally


The number of food insecure people around the world in 2021


The number of people who died from tuberculosis in 2021


The number of lives Gavi has saved since 2000

Reports, initiatives and announcements on healthy futures at Davos 2023

Using lessons from the pandemic response, the Global Health and Healthcare Strategic Outlook: Shaping the Future of Health and Healthcare sets out a vision for 2035 based on four strategic pillars of equitable access and outcomes, healthcare systems transformation, technology and innovation, and environmental sustainability, with equity as the foundational goal.

To address global health inequities, the Forum's Global Health Equity Network and is partners launched the Zero Health Gaps Pledge: the world’s first global, multi-sector health equity pledge. It outlines the need for, and commitment to, a multi-disciplinary approach and concerted action across sectors and organizations globally to advance health equity.

Watch the press conference: Towards a World with Zero Health Gaps

Too many people from marginalized communities and underrepresented groups distrust healthcare. The trust gap can impair the lives of millions of people, leading to significant inequalities and ultimately worsening global health outcomes. A global coalition between public, private and social sectors is needed to build a bridge of trust between healthcare and people who can feel discriminated against. That’s the thinking behind Sanofi’s new global initiative A Million Conversations.

A snapshot of global health in 2023

Throughout the extreme weather events - droughts, flooding, heatwaves and wildfires - of 2022, the impact of the climate crisis on global health and wellbeing was all too stark.

In fact, the WHO has named the climate crisis the “biggest health threat facing humanity”. Air pollution, the silent killer, is already responsible for seven million deaths a year, but the WHO estimates an extra quarter of a million deaths each year between 2030 and 2050 will result from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.

In 2021, almost a third of the global population (2.3 billion people) were moderately or severely food insecure. Severe drought in parts of the world, added to the war in Ukraine (known as the ‘world’s bread basket’), has worsened food insecurity.

The climate crisis and nature's collapse is also linked to increased respiratory and cardiovascular disease and changes in infectious diseases patterns.

In 2021, a total of 1.6 million people died from tuberculosis, while measles cases globally spiked by 79% in the first two months of 2022. Both are preventable and a vaccine against measles has existed for 60 years.

Many of the challenges we face today are interconnected, but, as we saw with the COVID-19 pandemic and the speed with which a vaccine was created and rolled out, when we work together, we can achieve better and more equitable health outcomes.


What is the World Economic Forum doing to improve healthcare systems?

Must-reads about healthy futures and the Forum’s impact

Back in 2000, Gavi the Vaccine Alliance was launched at the Forum’s Annual Meeting. It’s helped to save more than 13 million lives in the past two decades.

Seven years later, at the Annual Meeting 2017, the Coalitions for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was launched. Both Gavi and CEPI, together with the WHO lead COVAX, which aims to speed the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access.

In 2021, the Global Health Equity Network (GHEN) was launched at the Forum. Its mission is to shape a healthier and more inclusive world by bringing together leaders from different countries and sectors to commit to putting health equity at the core of any organization.

By 2050, it’s estimated that the number of people living with dementia will triple to 139 million - while 75% of those living with dementia today are undiagnosed and receive no treatment.

Led by the Forum and the Global CEO Initiative on Alzheimer's Disease (CEOi), the Davos Alzheimer’s Collaborative is investing more than $700 million over six years to speed up the development of treatment and transform diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.

The Forum is also taking action to address food and water insecurity, through the Food Action Alliance (FAA) and the Global Water Initiative. Respectively, these support effective food system transformation to improve food security and nutrition, and identify and scale up public-private collaborations, such as the 2030 Water Resources Group, to accelerate the Sustainable Development Goal on water and sanitation.

More on the healthy futures on Agenda

Health videos to watch

Take our healthy futures poll


Are you optimistic about society finding scalable solutions to global health problems?

  • Loading ...
Related topics:
Forum InstitutionalHealth and Healthcare SystemsWellbeing and Mental HealthClimate Action

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum