Global Health Systems Are Cracking: Can Public-Private Partnerships Offer A Solution?
*This article originally appeared in Triple Pundit.
Ambitions around public health are central to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Targets for 2030 include providing universal health coverage (UHC) and eliminating the epidemics of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Such an agenda would be a monumental feat even under the best of circumstances, and experts now worry the novel coronavirus pandemic will put the achievement of these health goals — and the rest of the SDGs — in jeopardy.
“COVID-19 is driving us even farther off-course from achieving the vision and promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said at the World Health Summit, an annual global health conference.
Beyond the direct risks presented by the coronavirus, measures to control its spread are disrupting global and local health systems — putting millions at risk and hindering progress on health-related SDGs. Still, even in the midst of the pandemic, we’ve seen public and private partners achieve significant gains to advance public health. Africa was declared free of wild polio in August, after a lengthy vaccination and surveillance program led by governments, multilateral health bodies, and private-sector supporters. And last month, the leaders of 194 countries signed on to a global strategy to eliminate cervical cancer as a public health threat.
“We’re at a critical moment,” notes Trey Watkins, executive vice president of global health and corporate responsibility at GCI Health, and former health advisor in the U.N. Secretary-General’s office. “On one hand, we see incredible progress. But on the other, COVID-19 has reiterated that we have to evolve our ways of working and collaborating if we are to truly address some of the world’s biggest challenges.”
Financial accessibility is one of the biggest barriers to health, both in the U.S. and abroad, particularly for marginalized groups. Financial access and inclusion has to evolve from traditional corporate responsibility or philanthropy to a better way particularly in the age of COVID-19.Loyce Pace, executive director of the Global Health Council and member of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s COVID-19 Advisory Board