Public health, innovation, intellectual property and trade

The Global Strategy and Plan of Action on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property


Today, 4.8 billion people live in developing countries and 2.7 billion of them (43%) live on less than US$ 2 a day. Communicable diseases account for half of the diseases in these countries. Recognizing that poverty, among other issues, affects access to health products and that new products to fight diseases affecting developing countries are needed, governments, the pharmaceutical industry, foundations, NGOs and others have undertaken initiatives in recent years to address these challenges. But more needs to be done.

To foster innovation and improve access for people in developing countries, the World Health Assembly adopted in May 2008 resolution WHA61.21, and resolution WHA62.16, on a global strategy and plan of action on public health, innovation and intellectual property.

The global strategy

The strategy proposes that WHO should play a strategic and central role in the relationship between public health and innovation and intellectual property within its mandate. Member States endorsed by consensus a strategy designed to promote new thinking in innovation and access to medicines, which would encourage needs-driven research rather than purely market-driven research to target diseases which disproportionately affect people in developing countries.

Elements of the strategy

The eight elements of the global strategy are designed to promote innovation, build capacity, improve access and mobilize resources. These include:

  • prioritizing research and development needs
  • promoting research and development
  • building and improving innovative capacity
  • transfer of technology
  • application and management of intellectual property to contribute to innovation and promote public health
  • improving delivery and access
  • promoting sustainable financing mechanisms
  • establishing and monitoring reporting systems