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Global Health Talk 2022: Lively debates on current global health issues

Global Health Talk 2022:
Lively debates on current global health issues

Dr. Anja Langenbucher (BMGF), Dr. Christophe Bayer (BMG), Dr. Tania Rödiger-Vorwerk (BMZ), Angela Bähr (DSW, VENRO); on screen: Fumie Saito (Japanese Organization for International Cooperation in Family Planning) and Dr Githinji Gitahi (AMREF Health Africa). Copyright: GIZ/Thomas Ecke

On 5 July 2022, the Global Health Hub Germany hosted 80 delegates live and over 600 delegates online at its hybrid Global Health Talk in Berlin.

On July 5 2022, the Global Health Talk, the Global Health Hub Germany (GHHG)’s annual conference, brought together over 80 experts ‘live’ at the Umweltforum Berlin. More than 600 participants joined them online over the course of the day. The programme featured three big topics: Health and climate change; the global health architecture; and pandemic preparedness and response in the G7 context.

Minister Lauterbach supports GHHG’s mission

Making connections, bringing networks to life and turning global health ideas into action together – this is what the GHHG is all about. In his opening speech, Federal Minister of Health Prof Dr Karl Lauterbach emphasised: ‘The Global Health Talk offers a space for professionals who seek solutions for the pressing issues of global health.’ He assured the audience of his ministry’s commitment to supporting the GHHG in its endeavours, now and in the coming years.’ Next, GHHG Steering Group members Dr Christoph Benn, Joep Lange Institute, Sophie Gepp, KLUG – Deutsche Allianz Klimawandel und Gesundheit e.V., and Tobias Kahler, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, presented the Hub’s new strategy and its three pillars: the expansion of the network, the strengthening of its result-orientation and the cooperation with political decision-makers. In his keynote speech, Niels Annen, Parliamentary State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), underlined the importance of the intersectoral partnerships and mutual learning that the GHHG makes possible: ‘We need closely integrated, prevention-oriented cooperation across disciplinary boundaries.’

Federal Minister of Health Prof. Dr. Karl Lauterbach
Federal Minister of Health Prof. Dr. Karl Lauterbach

Health and climate change: courage and speed are needed

Climate change has various facets when it comes to health. On the one hand, health risks resulting from climate change have to be addressed; on the other, the health sector also needs to reduce its own carbon footprint. What role could Germany play here and what would be concrete next steps? Dr Johanna Hanefeld, Robert Koch Institute (RKI), called for more intergenerational and transnational cooperation. Only together could the G7 agreements be put into practice. Sophie Gepp pointed out that the financing of the health goals was still inadequate and saw an urgent need for action here. Melvine Anyango Otieno, Planetary Health Eastern Africa Hub, suggested: ‘Germany should invest in more research on issues at the health and climate change interface.’ Dr Manraj Phull, Greener NHS England, presented the United Kingdom’s commitment to gradually reduce its carbon emissions to zero.  She invited the German healthcare system to follow the NHS’s example. Her advice was clear: ‘Be bolder, be faster!’ 

Global health architecture: Germany as a bridge builder

In this session, two participants of the first GHHG Catalyst Dialogue, Kate Dodson, United Nations Foundation and Elhadj As Sy, Kofi Annan Foundation, presented and discussed the results of their exchange with Dr Bernhard Braune, German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), and Paul Zubeil, German Federal Ministry of Health (BMG). ‘The cycle of panic and neglect must be broken‘, said Elhadj As Sy, referring to the hypes that followed global health crises such as the HIV-, Ebola- and Covid-pandemics with their potential or actual repercussions for high-income countries. In contrast, he pointed out that the so-called Neglected Tropical Diseases continue to take their toll on poorer countries even though the means to eliminate them exist. He lauded Germany’s last and current governments for being champions of multilateralism in times when other global players retreated from the multilateral stage. Dr Braune emphasised that an effective global health architecture should not just respond to health emergencies but also invest in prevention which, whilst less spectacular, is the more cost-effective strategy. Mr Zubeil highlighted the important role of WHO as head and normative pole of the global health architecture which his ministry was committed to further support and strengthen. Kate Dodson ended this discussion with four global health asks to the German government:

  1. Continue to be a bridge builder, 
  2. Continue to prioritise global common goods and global public goods for health,
  3. Deepen the commitment to health concerns in policy; and
  4. Continue to demonstrate vision and leadership.
Panel discussion on global health architecture
Panel discussion on global health architecture

Pandemic preparedness and response: flexible funding needed.

‘Flexible financing is at the heart of pandemic response,’ said Dr Githinji Gitahi, Amref Health Africa. For the G7’s political commitments to make a lasting difference in people’s lives, one thing is needed above all else: funding for implementation. Angela Bähr, VENRO, and Fumie Saito, Japanese Organization for International Cooperation in Family Planning, agreed that it was important to invest in existing structures. For example, the replenishment conference of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is coming up this year. In addition, health systems need to be further strengthened in the spirit of Universal Health Coverage (UHC). Fumie Saito emphasized the role of civil society, which is particularly important for intersectoral cooperation. Dr Tania Rödiger-Vorwerk, BMZ, underlined that Germany continues to support the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator for this purpose and also focuses on strengthening WHO. Dr Christophe Bayer, BMG, also stressed the importance of building on existing initiatives. The panelists agreed that both existing and new structures need one thing above all: flexible, coordinated and sufficient funding.

Food for thought for the GHHG working groups

The first and public day of the Global Health Talk ended with an inspired recap by the GHHG Steering Group. They thanked panelists and participants for the valuable ideas shared in the course of the day which provide food for thought and further discussion for day 2 at which GHHG members would come together in their thematic working groups. The Steering Group members closed the public part of the Global Health Talk by inviting all those who had not yet done so to also join the Hub to foster exchange and inform policy-makers.

Michaela Wilczek, July 2022

© GIZ/Thomas Ecke
© GIZ/Thomas Ecke
© GIZ/Thomas Ecke
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