WHA Side-Event: Enabling Global Health Security Through Health Systems Strengthening: Perspectives from Women Leaders

This blog post was written by WHA Delegate Anne Bell, U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention.

As Tina Flores of Rabin Martin opened the panel on Enabling Global Health Security Through Health Systems Strengthening: Perspectives from Women Leaders, it was heartening to hear her tell the back story of how the panel came to be.  The inspiration began, not with the need to feature women leaders – but through a realization that a great panel put together for an earlier conference on Global Health Security, was, in fact, all women.

The panelists represented many sectors–government, security, private industry, and civil sector–yet it was clear during the discussion that they agreed on several key features.

Key takeaways from the panel include the need for:

Cross-sectoral collaboration that leverages a diverse array of skills and funding sources, from multiple sectors yet measures success against the same yardstick.

An understanding of health systems that goes beyond health care delivery to include strong laboratories that can detect disease quickly, global supply chains that can deliver quality-assured medicines, strong regulatory systems that can detect health threats and well-designed digital health projects that support diagnosis in a variety of settings.

Interventions that incorporate the diverse perspectives of the many sectors working within a country (diplomatic, public, private, civic) and that are based on a solid understanding of the underlying infrastructure of that country (transportation, communication technologies, regulatory systems as well as health systems.)

The Minister of Health of Uganda, Dr. Jane Aceng, reminded those in attendance that with people traveling more, a disease can be transported from one continent to another in less than 24 hours, so Global Health Security is critical. She credited the WHO International Health Regulations for providing a framework for preventing disease transfer across borders, and encouraging countries to strengthen health system capacities so that they can prevent, detect and respond to global health emergencies.

And throughout, the speakers and panelists pointed to the unique abilities and contributions of women and the importance that they are represented in all levels if we are to create the kind of robust health systems capable of responding to global health emergencies.

Diah Saminarsih, Special Adviser to the Minister of Health of Indonesia, urged those in attendance to go home, find and support those future women leaders. “If we increase the status of women, we will increase the health profile of a country.”

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