UN High Level Meeting

Innovation and universal health coverage go hand-in-hand

On September 23rd, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly will kick off in New York City for the first-ever High-Level Meeting (HLM) on Universal Health Coverage (UHC). With the theme of “Moving Together to Build a Healthier World,” the High-Level Meeting is a milestone in the world’s efforts to ensure that all people, in all countries, have access to lifesaving health care.

Ensuring UHC for all requires resilient, responsive and efficient health care systems, combined with access to quality, safe, affordable and effective technologies and treatments for all. As the world leaders meet this September, a strong commitment to strengthen their country’s health infrastructure and provide adequate and sustainable sources of funding for health will be crucial. 

Achieving UHC will require new and better ways to heal the sick and thus expand coverage. That is why there is such a strong connection between innovation, spurred by intellectual property (IP) rights, and the ambitious goal of UHC. Accelerating the pace of innovation – backed up by IP – is crucial to finding more effective and more affordable ways to treat patients and improve access to affordable health care. New technologies and treatments have the potential to empower countries to implement in a cost-effective manner the systems and infrastructure needed for realizing UHC. 

Health innovation can facilitate more efficient use of higher-quality and safer treatments. Particularly in developing countries, innovation can help bridge gaps and overcome barriers to access that would be otherwise unsolvable. 

 

Health innovation can facilitate more efficient use of higher-quality and safer treatments. Particularly in developing countries, innovation can help bridge gaps and overcome barriers to access that would be otherwise unsolvable. 

These ‘innovation in action’ case studies exemplify the pivotal role that innovation and IP play in UHC:

  • Odon Device and Incuven – By addressing childbirth and neonatal health complications, the Odon Device and Incuven help reduce infant and maternal mortality, particularly in less-developed countries where mothers may not have access to skilled healthcare professionals and advanced infrastructure. These innovations promote access to high-quality maternal and child health care, thereby fighting the 7,000 neonatal deaths that occur each day.
  • SATO (‘Safe Toilet’) – Central to UHC is improving our ability to fight communicable diseases, which are too often spread through lack of effective sanitation infrastructure in developing countries. SATO’s innovative toilets are designed to seal off waste and prevent transmission of bacteria and viruses that can cause serious, often deadly, diseases such as cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, enteropathy, encephalitis, hepatitis A, typhoid and polio.
  • Butterfly iQ Ultrasound – Medical diagnosing and imaging are vital capabilities that health systems must possess to promote high-quality care and achieve UHC. Nonetheless, 4.7 billion people around the world lack access to medical imaging, especially in low and middle income countries. Based on patented microchip technology, the Butterfly iQ is a handheld, battery-powered, and highly-durable ultrasound scanner with massive potential to revolutionize imaging in remote areas where the nearest imaging machine may be hours away.
  • DNA Electronics – Innovation in HIV treatment has transformed the disease from a death sentence to a manageable chronic disease for many, although unacceptable gaps in testing and monitoring still exist. DNA Electronics’ technology provides an entire HIV testing and monitoring platform in a USB stick, which grants portability, an easy-to-use interface, and cost-effective results.

These innovations – and thousands more like them – promise to help transform health care across the globe. Grounded in human ingenuity and incentivized by strong IP protection, countless ideas and inventions will continue to change the global health status quo and move us toward better health equity and access for all. At the upcoming UNHLM on UHC, world leaders should prioritize working hand-in-hand with innovators to help bring about UHC and a healthier world.