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The Commonwealth Panel Discussion

  • Commonweath Secretariat Marlborough House, Pall Mall London SW1Y 5HX England (map)

Leading global health policy experts met at the Commonwealth Secretariat on Tuesday 2 February to discuss challenges facing global health security – including the spread of infectious diseases and pressures on services – and the policy responses needed to provide solutions.

The panel discussion, which took place on the same day the Zika virus outbreak was declared a public health emergency of international concern, underlined the growing sense of urgency for action to address both national and cross-board health crises.

Policy experts from global health organisations debated the priorities for global health security, universal health coverage and health system strengthening at the panel discussion on 2 February at Marlborough House in London.

“Working together, we can learn the lessons to strengthen health systems for health protection and leverage the resources from across the Commonwealth at this time of global health challenges existing side by side with financial constraints faced by so many of our member countries,” said Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Deodat Maharaj, who chaired the discussion.

Participating panellists included Dr Ruediger Krech, a senior official at the World Health Organisation, Elaine Chatigny, representing the Public Health Agency of Canada, and Denis Gilhooly of the United Nations Digital He@lth Initiative and 2030 Innovation Task Force.

Dr Krech opened the panel discussion by emphasising the need for capacity building in health security. “In two-thirds of member states, we see that core capacities of international health regulations are not yet met,” he said.

Fellow panellist Elaine Chatigny shared examples of health policy initiatives Canada has undertaken. “We developed a global health security public health network, which contributes to the World Health Organisation in terms of early warning and monitoring. We have also heavily invested in bio-security and bio-safety,” she said.

UN representative Mr. Gilhooly said mobile telephony and ICT can speed up initial detection and emergency response times while aiding containment. The Right Honourable Professor the Lord Kakkar PC, Professor of Surgery at the University College London and Chair of the Health Hub board, concluded the deliberations by arguing for stronger health systems with universal coverage to enhance individual, country and global security. Of particular importance, he felt, was the role of the newly launched Commonwealth Health Hub in scaling up capacity and sharing ground-breaking technology.