Health Research for All: the role of innovation in Global Health in the post-2015 development framework

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SPEED READ

– The Council on Health Research for Development (COHRED), along with the Global Health Council (GHC), the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), and the Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC) hosted an official nongovernmental organization (NGO) side session at the 67th annual World Health Assembly (WHA) to explore the role of R&D in the post-2015 development agenda.

– The event organizers developed a statement urging MemberStates and delegates to support health research and related policies and capacity building as a core component of a post-2015 agenda for equitable health and sustainable development.

–  WHA Member States approved a resolution on health in the post-2015 development agenda that called for completing the unfinished work of the health Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and noted the importance of universal health coverage and stronger health systems.

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The eight MDGs have been a milestone in global health and national development efforts, focusing concerted action on crucial themes such as halting the spread of HIV/AIDS, reducing child mortality and improving maternal health. However, as the final deadline of 2015 is rapidly approaching, it is evident that progress on the selected goals has been uneven within and across countries. Thus, further efforts and a renovated, stronger-than-ever global partnership is needed to arrive at a global development agenda beyond 2015.

COHRED, GHC, DNDi, IAVI, and the GHTC organized a side event focused on the critical role of global health research, development and innovation (R,D&I) in accelerating and sustaining progress in global health within the post-2015 development framework at the 67th annual WHA held May 18-24th 2014 in Geneva, Switzerland.

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Panelists included representatives from Kenya and Senegal member states as well as high-, low-, and middle-income country stakeholders from both public and private sectors: Dr. Seth Berkely, CEO of the GAVI alliance, Dr. Christine Sow, Executive Director of the GHC, Mr. Jon Pender, VP government affairs of GlaxoSmithKline, Prof. Osman Sankoh, CEO of the INDEPTH Network, Mr. Rob Terry, Manager of Knowledge Management at TDR and Prof. Carel IJsselmuiden, CEO of COHRED.

All the panelists stressed the importance of R,D&I for health and sustainable development. Rob Terry began his talk with a quote from Mary Lasker: “If you think research is expensive, try disease.” He then explained how the Global Health Observatory shall contribute in covering the current gaps in information on research activities in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC). Prof. Osman Sankoh, as spokesman of the INDEPTH network of 42 health and demographic surveillance systems in 20 LMICs, underscored the need for robust data on individual level to guide policymaking. Mr. Jon Pender said that the public private partnerships approach had delivered for global health and that health should remain a priority in the post-2015 agenda.  “Advocates have a job to do to ensure health is a priority in the post-MDG agenda where there will be 16 goals,” remarked IAVI in a tweet.

Both Kenya and Senegal representatives insisted on the need for new innovative health tools, higher national and international funding for R,D&I, as well as partnerships with the private sector. Principal Secretary of Health, Prof. Fred Segor said in Kenya the new 2013 S,T&I (Science, Technology and Innovation) Act pledged 2% of GDP to the national research fund. Seth Berkley said that equal health across the world cannot be achieved without new health tools and called for a truly global scientific movement to tackle effectively the challenges of R&D financing and capacity building.

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“GHC and its membership are collectively tasked with moving the needle in the direction we see for the future of global health. This means supporting evidence-based policy change and the operational elements that will mean its success. The World Health Assembly is a unique venue providing a platform for multi-sectoral, multi-issue engagement; the strength and profile of GHC’s membership means that our role can only increase over time. Going forward, we will be sure to optimize the collective impact of our actions and voices,” stated Christine Sow, Executive Director of the GHC, in a related blog post.

Reporting and commenting on the news on research and innovation as emerged from the WHA, GHTC’s coalition director Kaitlin Christenson wrote: “Early in the week, Member States also passed a resolution calling for new tuberculosis (TB) targets, which should be reflected in the post-2015 development agenda. The resolution specifically calls for a 95 percent reduction in deaths from TB by 2035 and notes research and innovation as one of three key pillars that will help achieve this goal.”

Prof. Carel IJsselmuiden, COHRED CEO and chairman of the session, ended the meeting with the following statement developed by the organizing NGOs, urging MemberStates and Delegates to support health research and innovation policies as a core component of the post-2015 agenda to achieve health and sustainable development for all:

 Statement on the role of Research and Innovation to Achieve Health for All and Sustainable Development

 67th World Health Assembly, Geneva, 22 May 2014

 Commitments to the Millennium Development Goals have made a major contribution to the success of global health efforts over the past decade, helping to sustain focus on some of the greatest global health challenges. The post-2015 development agenda must build on these achievements, to ensure that Healthy lives and access to health services for all can be achieved in an equitable and sustainable way.

Achieving equitable and sustainable Health for all requires continued support for Research and Development for new or improved medicines, vaccines, diagnostics, devices and other health tools that work for and are accessible to those most in need. Continuous investment of human and financial resources in science, technology and innovation to improve health and equity is essential to achieve economic and social development.

Strong political leadership, as well as international and multi-sectoral collaboration will be needed for achieving innovations in health care and delivery. In particular, we need policies, incentives and sustainable financing to fully support research and development of affordable and accessible vaccines, medicines, diagnostics, devices and other health tools for diseases that mostly affect low- and middle-income countries and/or marginalized populations. And we need a commitment to the development and implementation of policies that facilitate capacity building, collaboration and knowledge and technology sharing.

We urge Member States and Delegates at the World Health Assembly to explicitly support health research and related policies and capacity building as a core component of a new Agenda for equitable health and sustainable development.

By the end of the week, WHA Member States had approved a resolution on health in the post-2015 development agenda that called for completing the unfinished work of the health MDGs and noted the importance of universal health coverage and stronger health systems.

Golbahar Pahlavan (COHRED)