“Investments in healthcare that have been spurred on by the COVID-19 pandemic need to continue. Often it is private organizations rather than governments that spearhead investments in innovative solutions. This needs to change, and governments need to own this space more,” said Sultana Afdhal, CEO, World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH).
Ms. Afdhal spoke at this year’s Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) 2021, where she stressed that “the right investment at the right time can save millions of lives and also help economies to thrive.”
WISH, Qatar Foundation’s global health initiative, attended SPIEF 2021 as part of Qatar’s participation as the “guest country” of the forum. WISH hosted a panel discussion on innovation in healthcare that featured representatives from Skolkovo Foundation, Russia’s main innovation hub, and from Sper, Russia’s largest bank. The session also highlighting Sensor Tech, a start-up whose innovation for the blind – Robin – was selected as an innovation competition winner at WISH 2020.
Ms. Afdhal also spoke on a number of other panels discussing strategies to promote innovation in medicines; the role of women in a healthy society; and how to promote science and research as career options for school-age students, at which she highlighted the vital need to include children in the decision-making process.
Citing a research report published by WISH titled Investing in Health; The Economic Case, she said that GDP alone fails to capture the full economic value of improved health, and, when asked, individuals place a high monetary value on the additional years of life that health investments can deliver. This is a value that is unrelated to productivity and therefore not captured in GDP measures; it rarely gets recognized but is a powerful argument for investing in healthcare.
While promoting the need for governments to increase financial support for healthcare-related innovation, Ms. Afdhal also emphasized the significance of public health literacy programs that can lead to the creation of cost-effective, localized, need-based solutions. This requires more action than merely putting money into the healthcare industry, and increasingly the huge cost of healthcare services requires standalone solutions to bring down the financial resources needed to access them. Ultimately, this will increase accessibility for all communities worldwide.
For practitioners, an approach that doesn’t rely on complicated, high-tech solutions while offering a significant boost to productivity is to be welcomed. Simple innovations such as homemade filters for water from local resources can help deliver care to those most in need, while cutting costs, thereby freeing up hospital space for other patients.
Ms. Afdhal added: “I am a huge proponent of health literacy; arming populations with cutting edge solutions and the knowledge to manage their own health is key to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of achieving universal health coverage for all.”
Ensuring healthy lives and promoting wellbeing are key areas of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2030, in which health literacy is a fundamental aspect. As part of efforts to support addressing this aim, WISH has undertaken several community programs to raise awareness around public health issues, such as mental health and autism spectrum disorder, in Qatar over the last few years.
Aside from community initiatives, WISH places a high priority on supporting innovation in the field of healthcare, not only by providing global entrepreneurs with a platform through which to showcase their innovations on a world stage at its biennial conferences, but also via its innovation program that offers support such as access to policymakers, potential investors, and healthcare professionals.
For more information on the WISH innovation programs, visit www.wish.org.qa/innovationaward/
Source: Press Release
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