Global initiative seeks to boost health innovation

One goal is to generate a bank of knowledge on healthcare delivery Copyright: Flickr/Gates Foundation

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[LONDON] An initiative aimed at creating a global community of health innovators to deliver high quality, accessible and affordable healthcare was formally launched at a meeting in London this week (1 August).

The initiative is a joint partnership between the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College, London, and the Qatar Foundation, based in Doha, Qatar.

It aims to achieve its goal by "[catalysing] greater international learning and collaboration about how to achieve health reform, and [spreading] innovative solutions with the potential to reform health systems."

The launch was announced at the first Global Health Policy Summit, which brought together 500 individuals, including health ministers, policymakers, industry representatives, entrepreneurs, researchers and non-governmental organisations. 

The summit’s chair, Lord Darzi of Denham, said the initiative was unique in creating a bank of evidence on innovation and best practice in healthcare delivery.

Over the last eight months, working groups have produced reports on seven themes: primary care; digital innovation, ageing societies, maternal health, financing health systems; non-communicable diseases; and innovative delivery models.

A separate report on the need to develop appropriate technologies for developing countries was published in The Lancet (1 August) on the day of the summit.

Each report draws on experience of innovation around the world, outlines evidence on best practice, and recommends practical action for ministers and policymakers.

The reports list key healthcare issues for developing countries as being to increase access to healthcare and to fulfil unmet needs without creating unsustainable pressure on already stretched resources.

Some of the reports state that innovation can at times be learned best from developing countries. For example, the primary care report outlines case studies of innovation in primary care delivery from Brazil, India and Turkey.

The summit heard discussions on case studies from Abu Dhabi and South Africa on innovation in tackling non-communicable diseases, the training of nurses in remote regions to perform operations in Mozambique, and how companies in India are delivering cheap and efficient operation techniques to Mexico.

An action plan was expected to be drawn up at the summit, based on discussion of the reports. But no details had emerged by the end of the meeting.

A new US$1 million prize for supporting innovation in bioelectronics in the southern hemisphere was announced at the summit by Sir Andrew Witty, chief executive officer of the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

Witty said that some developing countries were leading the way in pioneering innovation. He made a special plea for entries for the new prize from academic research institutions.

Link to Lancet editorial on technologies for global health