At the recent 76th World Health Assembly (WHA76), World Health Organization (WHO) member states discussed and made decisions regarding the Organization’s priorities and policies. This year’s theme was WHO at 75: Saving lives, driving health for all and leaders highlighted the role of innovation. In his speech, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra emphasized “the importance of science, research, expanding knowledge, and embracing innovation” to achieve the WHO’s vision.
Reflecting on the COVID-19 pandemic, WHO member states recognized that the vital role innovation played in advancing public health, enabling equitable access, as well as in preparing for future health threats. The delegate from Mexico underscored how collaboration with “the scientific community...made the end of the [COVID-19] emergency possible.”
WHO Director-General Ghebreyesus stated that “vaccines are among the most powerful innovations in history,” having not only curbed COVID-19, but also extinguished smallpox, nearly eradicated polio, and tamed other diseases.
Leaders also emphasized the importance of scaling up health systems to meet global need and prepare for future threats. The pandemic showcased the value of partnerships in expanding access and closing gaps in health equity. For example, voluntary licensing agreements between drug manufacturers through the Medicines Patent Pool greatly expanded access to oral anti-viral COVID-19 treatments in low- and middle-income (LMI) countries.
Looking ahead, Ghebreyesus added that we can advance “health, by harnessing the power of science, research, innovation, data, and partnerships to deliver impact.”
The collaboration and innovation that helped the world move past the COVID-19 pandemic was made possible by intellectual property. The WHO and leaders across the globe must support innovators and incentivize research and development in order to improve health for all.
WHO member states underscored the vital role of innovation in advancing public health, enabling equitable access, and preparing for future health threats.