Global health leaders convene at WISH in Doha

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Stress on the need for meaningful collaborations to resolve the most pressing global health challenges

Lakshmipriya NairDoha

Doha, the capital city of Qatar, hosted the third edition of The World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) on November 29-30, 2016. It was organised by the Qatar Foundation (QF) and held at the Qatar National Convention Centre (QNCC). The  Summit was attended by delegates from around 100 countries, including minister-level representatives, system leaders, industry CEOs, renowned academics and researchers, innovators and social entrepreneurs.

In advance of the Summit, a press conference was held on November 28, 2016, wherein Professor the Lord Ara Darzi, Executive Chair, WISH; Dr Mariam Abdulmalik, MD, Primary Health Care Corporation; Buthaina Al-Nuaimi, President of Pre – University Education, Qatar Foundation; Dr Mark McClellan, Chair, WISH Accountable Care Research Forum; and Egbert Schillings, CEO, WISH. The leaders of the initiative gave a preview of the Summit, highlighted WISH 2016 research and stressed on the need for global collaboration to resolve the most urgent global health challenges.

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(L-R) Egbert Schillings, CEO, WISH; Buthaina Al Nuaimi, President of Pre-University Education, Qatar Foundation; Professor the Lord Ara Darzi, Executive Chair of WISH; Dr Mariam Abdulmalik, Managing Director, Primary Health Care Corporation, Qatar; Dr Mark McClellan, Chair of WISH Accountable Care Forum 2016

Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson, Qatar Foundation (QF) presided over the opening ceremony of WISH 2016. In her address, she spoke on the diverse challenges faced by the global healthcare community and hoped that the Summit would facilitate meaningful collaborations to tackle these challenges.

She said, “All of our countries have a healthcare system, but none of them are perfect. Each country faces its own healthcare challenges. I hope that the participants in this year’s Summit will benefit from the research produced by WISH to improve their own health systems, and I hope that they will also use WISH as their platform for observing and monitoring policy reform in their own countries.”

She also gave an overview on the Qatar Genome Programme, launched at WISH 2011, the inaugural edition. She informed that the project has sequenced 3,000 Qatari genomes so far and it will translate into significant benefits to the local population.

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(L-R) Stephen Sackur, BBC presenter, and host of HARDtalk; Professor Warwick Anderson, Secretary-General, International Human Frontier Science Programme Organization; Dr Maryam Matar, Founder and Chairperson of UAE Genetic Disease Association; Dr Asmaa Al Thani, Dean, College of Health Sciences, Qatar University and Vice Chairperson, Qatar Biobank Board; Dr Miklós Szócska, former Minister of State for Health of Hungary; Professor Masuhiro Kato, Project Professor, Translational Research Initiative, University of Tokyo and Dr Victor Dzau, President, US National Academy of Medicine at apanel discussion on precision medicine

Professor Darzi said that global health challenges need a global response and WISH is an attempt to facilitate it. He also gave an overview of Qatar’s initiatives to provide high quality healthcare to its citizens with a special mention about the projects the country has embarked on in areas such as primary health, personalised medicine and autism, amongst others.

The first key note speaker of the day, Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England, addressed yet another serious health concern in the current times — antimicrobial resistance. Drawing attention to the enormity of the problem and its far-reaching effects, she advised global health leaders to take timely action against this growing threat. At the same time, she also informed about various resolutions taken by the gloabl health community to address it, including the WHO.

Dr Julio Frenk, President, University of Miami and former Minister of Health for Mexico, was the second key note speaker on the first day. He expounded on the current healthcare education systems and highlighted the opportunities and challenges in this space. He explained how healthcare education and universal healthcare coverage are interlinked. He also advocated transformative learning to ensure that healthcare professionals adapt to the changing  healthcare landscape.

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Dr Kerim Munir, Chair of the WISH Autism Forum, addresses the audience a panel discussion at WISH 2016

Genomics and personalised medicine was one of the focus areas at WISH 2016. Autism, health professional education, accountable care, behavioural insights, and genomics in the Gulf region and Islamic ethics were some of the other topics which were addressed through in-depth panel discussions by experts and leaders of the healthcare community on the first day. Many of these discussions were parallely held in different auditoriums.

The Summit also comprised policy briefings on ‘Health Affairs – Using Evidence-Based Policy Solutions to Address Health Challenges’ and ‘Learning from International Collaboration – Lessons from LHSN’ were also part of the first day’s agenda. The latter had a special focus on patient safety.

Day 2 of the Summit commenced with more policy briefings on two pivotal health topics – affordable cancer care and addressing dementia, a growing health concern. The session on cancer revolved around forming more economically efficacious cancer care policies and making them more patient-centric. The session on dementia highlighted that it is a condition which is increasing at an alarming rate across the globe.

Professor Lawrence Summers, Former US Secretary of the Treasury and renowned economist, in the first key note address of the day, raised a very interesting point. He called for an increase in funding to tackle global healthcare challenges, like developing medicines and vaccines for diseases of poverty, increasing pandemic preparedness, and reconsidering priorities in healthcare policy-making. Pointing out that only 20 per cent of donor support for health goes toward such global efforts, he urged the need to boost it for global healthcare efforts to 50 per cent by 2030.

The panel discussions on the second day ranged on a variety of issues such as cardiovascular disease, healthy populations and investing in health. The discussion on investing in health was very interesting as experts discussed on the economics of healthcare, its significant impact on the GDP of nations, invest significantly in enhancing healthcare systems, the need for multi-pronged approaches to optimise current investment in healthcare etc.

The day also had plenary sessions on infectious diseases and global diffusion of healthcare innovation. The final key note speaker was Mustafa Suleyman, Co-Founder, DeepMind. He emphasised on the role of technology in improving healthcare and also pointed out that several technological advancements that exist in the current scenario have the potential to transform healthcare delivery significantly.

Innovation showcases were also an interesting feature of the WISH 2016 conference. Healthcare innovations, ranging from practical devices and business models, to design-based solutions, from across the world were showcased at this year’s event. Each innovation demonstrated the potential to transform global health by driving quality, affordability and access.

The event  had several noteworthy representatives from India. Rajeev Sadanandan, Additional Chief Secretary (Health), Government of Health & Family Welfare, Kerala; Dr Srinath Reddy, President, Public Health Foundation of India; Dr Anupam Sibal, Group Medical Director, Apollo Hospitals, etc. were some of them.

In the closing session, Dr Hanan Al Kuwari, Minister of Public Health, was also a part of this discussion. She advised young health professionals to apply their learnings to good use to improve the healthcare sector in the country. The event was well received by all the attendees.

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(The correspondent was in Doha on an invitation from Qatar Foundation)

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