Research discussion at the World Health Summit in Berlin
Universal health coverage and a global observatory on R&D
A call for action in 4 areas was put out at the World Health Summit in Berlin, held 20-22 October. The 1000 decision makers and representatives of health-related fields from more than 80 countries were there to address pressing issues of medicine and health care systems. The M8 Alliance released a joint statement on what was needed in research and innovation; education and leadership; evidence to policy; and global health for development.
TDR contributed to this dialogue in two key sessions – one on research for universal health coverage and the other on the move to a more needs-oriented global R&D model for global health.
"Scientific progress is enormous, but it does not reach the people who need it most. The burden of disease is even getting greater in many regions of the world. This is not tolerable. We have to take responsibility."
2013 WHS Presidents Detlev Ganten and John Wong
TDR Director John Reeder spoke on how the TDR strategy is supporting the research for universal health coverage (UHC) through some new programmes and tools. These include SORT IT, a structured operational research training embedded in control programmes; IMPACT grants to help researchers apply their training to local health problems; and an implementation research toolbox that helps interdisciplinary groups identify bottlenecks in delivery and access. “We need to strengthen the capacity of researchers in low- and middle-income countries to identify research priorities, perform quality research and turn research into practical action,” he told participants.
The need for this focus on translating evidence into policy and practice is borne out by looking at 5 key interventions that took 10-20 years each to be used by almost all people in 40 low-income countries : artemisin-based combination therapies for malaria; Haemophilus influenza type b vaccine; Hepatitis B vaccine; insecticide treated mosquito nets; and rapid malaria diagnostic tests. This example and many others were used in the World Health Report on Research for Universal Health Coverage to highlight the need for more attention to implementation research and resolving system bottlenecks. At the session, people were also interested in how the TDR research and capacity building model could be used for noncommunicable diseases like mental health.
In another session on the global observatory for health R&D, TDR Knowledge Manager Rob Terry outlined the challenges, which include very low capacity for countries to even report R&D data, different classification and reporting systems, varied methods for priority setting and no reporting system for priorities, and few incentives to do this. Work is underway to conduct demonstration projects, map national and regional capabilities and develop and agree on norms and standards.
The World Health Summit opened earlier with an address by Aaron Ciechanover, the 2004 Nobel Prize Laureate in Chemistry, who said, “It is immoral if somebody, anywhere in the world, dies of a disease we already have a cure for.” Other speakers included José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission; Daniel Bahr, Minister Of Health, Germany; and Hanny-Sherry Ayitey, Minister Of Health, Ghana.
This was the fifth World Health Summit, which is held in Berlin each October to bring together thought leaders and visionaries spanning academia, the health care industry and governmental and civil society agencies to set the agenda for the future state of global health. It is underpinned by the M8 Alliance of Academic Health Centres, Universities and National Academies, and organized by Charité – Universitätsmediz in Berlin in collaboration with the National Academies of Sciences of more than 67 countries and their InterAcademy Medical Panel (IAMP).
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