Four opportunities for global health in 2024

January 30, 2024 by Nikolaj Gilbert

In the midst of unprecedented global challenges, PATH President and CEO Nikolaj Gilbert breaks down four ways the global health sector can reach its full potential this year.

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The new year began, sadly, in an undoubtedly challenging global environment. With increasing geopolitical tension, political division, harmful misinformation, and economic uncertainty, there is a difficult road ahead for those of us who are working toward equity.

But in the midst of these significant, and often heartbreaking, challenges, there are also opportunities—and it is our responsibility to pursue them to achieve our shared global health goals.

To address unprecedented challenges, we will need unprecedented collaboration, commitment, and innovation. Together, the global health sector can reach its full potential this year by focusing on these four areas:

In the midst of significant challenges, there are also opportunities—and it is our responsibility to pursue them to achieve our shared global health goals.
  1. Investing for the future: Significant economic headwinds persist from the impact of COVID-19, ongoing conflicts, and crippling high interest rates. As a result, wealthy countries are flattening their aid budgets and low- and middle-income countries have fewer domestic funds available for public health. In response, the global health sector must create a strong case for high-impact investments in public health and strategic, innovative financing. This will require good data to guide decision-making, local knowledge to identify priority solutions, and meaningful, mutually beneficial private-sector partnerships. Together, we can catalyze investments to build resilient, equitable health systems.

  2. Harnessing digital transformation and AI for health: Earlier this month in Davos, I had the opportunity to moderate a conversation with the World Economic Forum’s new Digital Healthcare Transformation initiative. This conversation confirmed what we already knew: it is imperative to recalibrate our health systems to harness the full potential of modern digital technology. It also advanced the conversation by diving deeper into how to adopt an ecosystem approach for digital health transformation and why the time is now.

    Current, cutting-edge technologies such as AI, machine learning, and virtual reality-based applications have potential to alter the health care landscape as we know it. But what we do this year will help determine whether these technologies increase or decrease the gap in access. With existing and emerging technology, we can develop new, lifesaving medical devices, transform telehealth to reach more people than ever before, identify potential outbreaks before they occur, and so much more.

  3. Adopting a climate-conscious global health approach: There is already a robust discourse in the global health sector about the severe and growing impacts of climate change on health. It is an urgent challenge that is already making it difficult for many people to lead healthy lives. But now, it is time we move from discourse to swift, decisive action. Across the sector, in all of our programs, investments, and decisions, we must adopt a climate-conscious perspective.

    At the very least, we must "do no harm"—by ensuring our actions are not inadvertently exacerbating the problems. Beyond this, the countries that are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including low- and middle-income countries and small island developing states, require adequate financial support and human resources to fully implement their climate strategies. This is an urgent gap we must fill. Meanwhile, international organizations are well placed to deliver technical assistance to these countries as they work to develop and deliver bold, multisectoral mitigation and adaptation measures.

    Climate change indeed poses a serious, existential threat to humanity, but there is some good news—much of the ongoing global efforts to pursue universal health coverage is helping bolster efforts to prepare health systems for climate change.

  4. Prioritizing universal health coverage: Achieving universal health coverage (UHC) by 2030 remains the most important opportunity for health equity. We all have a role to play in this far reaching, ambitious global effort. In the face of the challenges that this year brings, we must remain focused on action and impact. Here at PATH, we are leveraging our expertise in advancing demand-driven innovations, secure digital health systems, sustainable financing, and local manufacturing—all done in robust partnership with governments, the private sector, and civil society around the world.

Partnerships and true collaboration will be the key enablers of progress in these four areas. If we act quickly and we act together, we can overcome the many challenges ahead of us and bring good health care to the people who need it most.

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