Key Issues

The World Health Summit promotes a science-driven and broad approach to global health development with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at its core. Our key issues are therefore interdisciplinary, science-based, cross-sectoral, and concerted. They are vital to set the global health agenda for the years to come. 
Because health is more than medicine and health is a human right.

Access to Essential Medicine

Some countries have made substantial progress towards improving access to essential medicines and treatments for fighting HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. Even so, access to essential medicines in many parts of the developing world remains inadequate, and new challenges – like access to NCD medicines – have arisen. Recent progress shows that access to essential medicines can be improved through stronger partnerships between governments, pharmaceutical companies, civil society and individual consumers.

Big Data

Data is now a cornerstone of the healthcare industry. It documents everything from blood pressure readings
and surgical records to insurance claims, immunization histories, patient demographics and receipts of payment. Modern ascertainment systems, storing devices and the Internet make it possible to gather, save and share all this data more efficiently. These circumstances provide great opportunities for the medical enterprise and bring enormous potential especially in the field of Personalized Medicine in which establishing models based on big amounts of data is a central element. But even though Big Data can bridge the gap between healthcare delivery and population health and improve many health outcomes through enhanced methods of research, the detailed collection of personal information poses ethical, regulatory and technical challenges.

Biomedical Research

Biomedical research is a broad area of science that aims to prevent and treat diseases that cause illness and death in people and in animals. Biomedical research unites many different fields of research of life and physical sciences. Finding effective cures and treatments is an evolutionary process requiring careful experimentation by many scientists, including biologists and chemists. Scientific experimentation, development, and evaluation are the cornerstones for success in biomedical research.

Climate Change and Health

Climate change is one of the defining issues of our time. It is also one of the world’s most urgent health threats. The health of people is directly affected by climate change. Special focus lies on the two health commitments from the U.N. Climate Action Summit: to save lives by cutting carbon emissions and cleaning our air; and boosting investments in climate action, public health and sustainable development since low-income countries will have most difficulty adapting to climate change and related health hazards.

Digital Innovation

Successful healthcare quality and delivery depends on effective medical devices – the tools for prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation. Technological innovations in the field are helping reduce inefficiencies in healthcare delivery, while at the same time streamlining access, reducing costs, improving quality and making medicine more personalized and precise. As the digital and genetics revolutions converge with healthcare into the exciting new field of Digital Health, we are increasingly able to track, manage, and improve both our own health and that of our loved ones. Digital Health is also helping to reduce inefficiencies in healthcare delivery, while at the same time streamlining access, reducing costs, improving quality and making medicine more personalized and precise.

Drugs and Vaccines

When it comes to fighting infectious diseases, vaccines offer top economic and social value, and they also represent the best means for controlling and eliminating dangerous communicable pathogens. Intensified global efforts to step up vaccine research and development are therefore a must, especially for neglected tropical diseases. A central challenge is that in some developed countries, where popular perceptions no longer view infection or epidemics as a serious risk, mindsets will need to change.

Evolutionary Medicine

A better understanding of the evolution of life on earth including health and diseases at the genomic and molecular level provides a scientific rational for a holistic approach to health and disease integrating the complex interactions between our biology, the environment and our behavior. The gap e.g., between our evolutionary “old” biology and our modern, fast-changing, frequently man-made new environments such as cities and nutrition, helps to explain many diseases of civilization.

Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Well-being for All

The ultimate success of the SDGs will be measured by their impact on the prosperity and well-being of people and the planet, particularly the extent to which the SDGs 'leave no one behind'. Initiatives such as the SDG3 Global Action Plan for health and well-being endeavour to build a foundation of greater cohesion among global health actors in support of countries’ achievement of the health-related SDGs. But accelerating the pace of progress will require increased government cooperation at country level as well as enhanced stakeholder engagement across sectors - at global, regional, national and sub-national levels. The Global Action Plan was launched at the World Health Summit 2019.

Global Health Security

The goal of global public health security is to demonstrate how collective international public health action can build a safer future for humanity. The threat to global health of infectious diseases remains significant today. Preparedness and response to infectious diseases is a matter of global interest. International health regulations have been adopted to support countries but few have implemented these.

Health in All Policies

The SDGs are an indivisible and interdependent set of goals for sustainable development that are inherently linked with the Health in All Policies approach. This approach provides a tool for finding common ground between economic and social development, environmental sustainability and human health. One of the most important challenges for global health in the coming decade will be to develop synergies between a wide range of SDGs and health.

Health Systems Strengthening

Although we now have a sophisticated arsenal of interventions and technologies for curing disease and prolonging life, gaps in health outcomes continue to widen. The power of existing interventions is not matched by the capacity of health systems to deliver them to those in greatest need, in a comprehensive way and on an adequate scale. Smart investments have to be the centerpiece of domestic policies and financing.

Pandemic Preparedness

The ability to prevent, detect, respond to and control outbreaks is a significant investment that many countries are still struggling to make. New financing mechanisms – such as the Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility and WHO’s Contingency Fund – are therefore critical to ensuring global health security and saving lives. In this process, domestic financing for preparedness and reliable public health mechanisms pose a key challenge. The coronavirus pandemic and the spread of COVID-19 showed the critical nature of pandemic preparedness to save lives.

Patient Safety

During the last 20 years knowledge about patient safety has grown rapidly and measures taken to avoid harm are numerous and widespread - however avoidable adverse events in healthcare are still a worldwide problem.
Research has shown, that safety culture and the success of patient safety measures are dependent on the leadership of an organization. Patient safety needs to be approached top-down rather than bottom-up.

Planetary Health

Despite health gains over recent decades, there is growing evidence that the planet’s capacity to sustain the growing human population is declining. Climate change, biodiversity loss, freshwater depletion, overexploitation of fisheries and air, water and soil pollution threaten to halt and reverse these advances in health. The concept of “Planetary health” recognises the interdependencies of human and natural systems, and that the integrity of natural systems is an essential precondition for human health, survival, and prosperity.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were signed by all member states of the UN to “save our planet and our future”. The SDGs are an indivisible and interdependent set of goals for sustainable development, they include ensuring healthy lives and wellbeing as well as strengthening health systems. SDG 3, good health and wellbeing for all people, is a recurring theme throughout all SDGs. This makes the SDGs inherently linked with the Health in All Policies approach, which provides a tool for finding common ground between economic and social development, environmental sustainability, and human health. Ensuring the synergies between a wide range of SDGs and health is one of the most important challenges for global health in the next decade.

Translational Science

Translational research is part of a bidirectional process in which research findings are moved from the researcher’s bench to the patient’s bedside, but also back from clinical findings into mechanistic research. Development of new methods has seen a trend towards more personalized approaches to prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disease. At the interface between basic science and clinical medicine, translational research is aimed primarily at the creation of promising new treatments that can either be used clinically or commercialized.

Universal Health Coverage

Universal health coverage (UHC) will be key to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. But currently, at least half of the people in the world do not receive the health services they need. About 100 million people are pushed into extreme poverty each year because of out-of-pocket spending on health. The high-level United Nations political declaration on UHC is a commitment that aims for all people to have access to the health services they need, when and where they need them, without financial hardship. This includes the full range of essential health services, from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliative care.