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The Global Health Summit: the Readout

The Global Health Summit: the Readout

We very much hope that you were able to join us at our Global Health Summit last Thursday. Thanks to our many and varied speakers and your contributions, the day was hugely enriching. We’ve compiled some of our key takeaways and the story lines we’re interested in pursuing below

We shouldn’t obsess about how the NHS is funded

In practice that’s not the story. Whether you have a UK-model or a German, Canadian or Australian model – your healthcare outcomes are similar. What’s not similar are your health outcomes. Funding models don’t make that much difference in that regard. Wider determinants – like housing, air quality, schooling and diet – are more important. Should we be looking at other departments – like housing and education – in terms of health?

There’s a reluctance to experiment with NHS funding…

…for fear of getting criticised for bringing in privatisation by the back door. But there is some question as to whether Canada’s model – where there is more individual contribution than just taxation – is going to have to be tested in the next decade. Both Canada and the UK have single-payer systems – but vary in the government’s role and in what is covered.

Health inequalities are deeper than we thought and symptomatic of deeper pathologies

The pandemic has revealed how sharp the existing disparities in access to health care and health outcomes really were – as measured by class, ethnicity, gender and disability. The vaccine roll-out is a parable of this personal and postcode lottery and demonstrates that – as important as public health education and preventive strategies will be – localised resources, targeted on the basis of high-quality datasets, are the key if “levelling up” is to be more than an empty slogan.

The outlook for Alzheimers is more optimistic than we thought

Much press coverage has focussed on promising treatments that have come up short. But the lag between Alzheimers and cancer – in funding and papers produced and quality of scientists – is closing. Although one speaker mentioned current funding worries in the UK programme – is money about to be pulled just when it’s needed most?

The UK and US were the best pandemic-prepared countries in the world…

…but have suffered among the highest death rates. Many African countries were least prepared – but have lost fewer lives. That may be a product of Covid being most deadly for elderly populations – but it highlights a fundamental truth – you can’t prepare for a disease you don’t yet know about. 

Countries that locked down early and hard had the most success in combating Covid

They are closely connected to the countries that experienced SARS. The UK may have been slow to react to the seriousness of Covid, having overreacted to the swine flu scare of 2009. Human behaviour is one of the unpredictable problems when it comes to pandemic-planning.

How much should a government mandate private sector companies to prepare for a pandemic?

Should private care homes and bus companies be forced to be ready for pandemics by stockpiling PPE?

We need to change our attitude to the environment…

…for the sake of our health. If we’ve learned one thing from Covid-19 it is that we need to stop encroaching on the natural world. As we learned at our Covid Inquiry at the end of last year, there are thousands of viruses waiting to cross over from the animal kingdom to ours. 

Hesitancy around healthcare often clusters around deprived communities

Not just in terms of the vaccine but NHS in total. There is a worrying desire to leave the NHS alone while it’s busy. There is clinical evidence that clusters of people are migrating away from the NHS and forming bad habits. 

Is the NHS a good employer?

Even before the pandemic tales of bullying and burnout were rife. Should we be looking at the inadequate mental health support for NHS staff?

The science of clinical depression

Can it be cured rather than treated? How much do we understand about depression as a condition?

Self-referral and access for treatment is an important part of easing the flow into care systems

But is there a danger we are pathologising ordinary emotions? Mental health support is increasingly overstretched- how do you prioritise who is most in need when there isn’t enough resource to go around?

Although great progress has been made on Covid vaccines…

…the same is not true for Covid therapies. In hospitals, there is more experience and expertise but no new treatments.

The consensus is we’re going to have to learn to live with Covid

The real question is how do we get ahead of the virus variants? Should we be doing a story on the virus hunters – the people whose job it is to find new variants quickly? Our hope lies in them, rather than the false god of elimination.

This Summit was in partnership with

Interested in finding out more about or supporting our future summits? Please get in touch with gaby.disandolo@tortoisemedia.com