Health and Healthcare Systems

World Health Assembly: Public-private partnerships can help achieve health-for-all

The 76th World Health Assembly side event focused on a discussion between public and private sector stakeholders

The 76th World Health Assembly side event focused on a discussion between public and private sector stakeholders Image: Unsplash/Zach Vessels

Shyam Bishen
Head, Centre for Health and Healthcare; Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum
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  • At this year’s World Health Assembly, the World Economic Forum ran a side event bringing together CEOs and Health Ministers to discuss achieving smarter, more equitable, resilient health systems.
  • The importance of public-private collaboration to advance progress in healthcare was highlighted with support for the Forum’s work across the board.
  • The greatest potential to leapfrog and close health gaps across geographies is leveraging data and new digital technological advances.

The World Health Assembly (WHA) is an annual event in Geneva, Switzerland, that the World Health Organization’s (WHO) decision-making body holds to convene WHO member states to determine the UN agency’s priorities and other procedural business for the year.

At this year’s event, the World Economic Forum ran a side event discussing “The Future of Health Systems – Equitable, Resilient and Intelligent”.

The event brought together the public and private sectors to exchange insights on equitable health system transformation, advancing ideas and renewed vigour to close health gaps with tangible solutions.

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Public-private collaborations

Public-private partnerships have been hailed as playing a significant role in preserving the health of populations and ensuring equitable access to drivers of health. Its advantages include greater flexibility, investment and efficiency gains while remaining committed to universal health coverage.

They can leverage the advantages of public and private sector frameworks simultaneously and after the COVID-19 pandemic, it became clear that a whole-of-society approach was needed to tackle such huge health challenges. Even before the pandemic, slower-moving crises and ageing populations threatened and continue to threaten the health of populations.

One effort to drive equitable access to health and care for all has already been instigated by the Forum’s Global Health Equity Network, which launched the Zero Health Gaps Pledge, signed by over 70 organizations earlier this year. CEOs from varied organizations, from Deloitte to the American Heart Foundation, have committed to multi-stakeholder actions, including measures to advance health equity, sharing best practices and raising the urgency of health equity onto health agendas.

The Forum’s Centre for Health and Healthcare also houses a coalition to take targeted action towards improving health outcomes for women and girls and a work stream that explores the interventions to improve workplace mental and physical health, among other initiatives to deliver resilience and health equity.

The WHA side event saw health ministers, private sector leaders and heads of international organizations debate current issues around health access and equity, the future of health and healthcare and the systemic changes needed to shape sustainable health systems resilient to future shocks such as climate change – fundamental pillars of the Centre for Health and Healthcare.

Strong support was seen in particular from attending CEOs, with ministers joining conversations, together underpinning the importance of public-private collaboration to advance progress in healthcare.

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Harnessing data

The greatest potential to leapfrog and close health gaps across geographies was said to be leveraging data and new digital technological advances. Stakeholders across the board showed immense support for the new flagship initiatives that seek to define a global vision for digital transformation in healthcare through data and breakthrough technologies such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality, aligning with private sector priorities and the WHO and G20 health agenda.

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the lack of sustainability and resilience in our healthcare systems, including those previously considered high performing and resilient. This inadequacy manifested in highly inequitable access to vaccines and other medical countermeasures, the lack of preparedness for health emergencies and ongoing health issues exacerbated by climate change.

Therefore, the Centre for Health and Healthcare gathered not only support for the initiatives targeted towards response to future health emergencies but also the efforts to avoid outbreaks through the surveillance of existing and emerging pathogens and raising awareness around climate change as a global health emergency.

Ministers, CEOs and heads of international organizations fully supported the Forum’s ongoing work toward a more equitable health and healthcare system globally. They agreed that it is only through a transformation that we can unburden our healthcare systems, provide adequate financing and keep global populations healthy in the long term.

Such an ambitious goal requires a rethink around how health systems are organized, governed and financed while ensuring they are accessible to people at all income levels while addressing systemic inequalities that lead to such lack of access. One actor can’t achieve these goals alone, but players across a spectrum of sectors must collaborate with lessons learned and shared across borders.

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