This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.
Author: Jamie Bay Nishi, Director, Global Health Technologies Coalition & Catherine Ohura, CEO, Global Health Innovative Technology Fund
It’s been gratifying to see the World Health Organization (WHO) use its voice to insist that universal health coverage – the idea that everyone everywhere should be able to access quality health services and medicines – is an essential component for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. It has successfully put universal health coverage, or UHC, high on the agenda at this autumn’s United Nations General Assembly.
We expect both questions will be on the menu when G20 health and finance ministers sit down for a working dinner in Japan on the sidelines of the G20 Leaders Summit in Osaka. It’s the first meeting of its kind, but something that will need to be commonplace to create a world where health coverage is a human right, not a luxury.
As people whose work is devoted to leveraging the power of research and innovation to reduce global health disparities, we have been closely attuned to the increasing focus on UHC, and the very real challenge of mobilizing financing to address the health needs of the world’s poorest populations. We think our experience can offer a few insights relevant to both achieving and financing UHC.
Yet most TB treatments are nearly 50 years old and require six months to two years of swallowing a mind-boggling assortment of drugs. Some are toxic, and they are failing against the growing number of drug-resistant infections.
The GHIT Fund established an innovative financing model to drive global health innovations through partnerships between the Government of Japan, pharmaceutical and life science companies, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Wellcome Trust. For example, GHIT Fund has invested in a partnership between FUJIFILM Corporation and the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics to develop a rapid diagnostic test for TB in HIV-positive patients. It requires just a urine sample, an alternative to poor quality, invasive tests that cause many TB infections to go undetected and untreated.
Meanwhile other PPPs are producing new solutions for a number of neglected diseases, such as malaria, Chagas, and sleeping sickness. Because these diseases disproportionately impact poor countries, there is a lack of commercial incentive to attract industry investment. Going forward, achieving UHC in many parts of the world will require more innovative financing for innovation.
But the good news is that there are proven approaches that deliver tangible results and effectively leverage co-investments from government as well as industry partners that can help bridge these divides. They can also start transforming the push for UHC from a seemingly quixotic journey to a realistic, achievable endeavour.