Global Health World Health Summit 2020

A World Health Summit in the context of a truly global pandemic

With tens of millions of COVID-19 cases worldwide and more than a million dead from the disease, global healthcare has assumed unprecedented importance today. What lessons have already been learned, and what needs to be done moving forward?


The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the greatest challenges facing modern medicine. Scientists and physicians around the world are therefore working in close cooperation to find treatments and medications that not only help those infected with the disease, but also protect healthy people from developing it.

As a result, the search for a vaccine – a task that usually takes several years of research and testing – is in full swing: 46 vaccines are currently being tested on humans and 91 other vaccines are being tested in the laboratory at the pre-clinical stage.[1] The aim, of course, is to enable comprehensive immunization of the population over the coming months.

However, COVID-19 is not only a challenge for the healthcare system: New uniform travel restrictions in the European Union, shrinking economic growth forecasts that hit Asia harder than the 2008 global financial crisis, and the comparatively mild infection courses in Africa that are puzzling researchers all require a worldwide pooling of the most diverse resources from science, business, and society.

Despite its many challenges, the current situation also offers new opportunities. For instance, the pressure of the virus is leading institutions in many countries to further develop existing technologies in their daily clinical routine, or to give them even greater relevance. They include virtual training programs for technical personnel, and software that enables remote access to systems during imaging procedures. 

<p>Bernd Montag</p>

Global healthcare and especially the provision of care in structurally poorer regions is becoming ever more important as a result of the pandemic. An event of worldwide relevance such as the annual World Health Summit – which takes place under the umbrella of leading international stakeholders from research, politics, and business, and will lay the foundation for tomorrow's healthcare through an open exchange of ideas – therefore could not be more important at the present time.

How can nations around the world be better prepared for the “new normal” and the next pandemic? While there isn't one single solution to prepare for new COVID-19 waves and other pandemics, critical elements have been learned from managing the current crisis.

<p>Dagmar Mundani</p>

Health systems can therefore be better prepared to take effective and coordinated steps to combating and containing the spread of a novel infectious disease. Testing, tracing, monitoring, public health infrastructure, global collaboration, and trustful communication are all key to successfully navigating pandemics.

Access to care is still not equal around the world. According to the World Health Organization, half of the world’s population do not have access to the healthcare they need.[2] The pandemic has also highlighted the weaknesses in even the best health systems and has made it clear that well-established global healthcare is essential. Especially in developing countries, efforts must begin by addressing the core challenges: providing access to quality healthcare, educating skilled personnel, and making healthcare affordable. 

<p>Bernd Ohnesorge</p>

Innovative solutions like remote scanning services or affordable and sustainable diagnostic equipment are key to improving access to care even in rural areas. In addition, the urgency of the pandemic could also lead to accelerated progress in some areas.

Telemedical approaches, which use the latest information and communication technology to bridge distances between physician and patient, are gaining in importance, especially as a result of social distancing measures. However, this is just one branch of digitalization that is experiencing rapid growth and undergoing astonishing developments in the face of current requirements.

<p>Bernd Montag</p>

The field of artificial intelligence is also being expanded and is finding new areas of application. This is because, as well as enhancing human capabilities by rationalizing and reducing the providers' workload, it also learns from experience and applies newly developed concepts – for instance, to support the evaluation of large amounts of data. Yet although using data for developing intelligent evaluation systems or simply for documentation opens the door to further technological innovations, it also requires a very high degree of responsibility to ensure the security and confidentiality of the data from the very beginning.