Lancet’s new commission aims to tackle potential public health threats for this century

Lancet Commission will look at factors that will impact population health the most through 2050 and beyond

By Taran Deol
Published: Monday 19 December 2022
Lancet’s new commission aims to tackle potential public health threats for this century
Photo: iStock Photo: iStock

Leading general medical journal The Lancet announced a new commission December 15, 2022 to address public health threats. 

The scope of work by The Lancet Commission on 21st-Century Global Health Threats includes demographic changes and inverted population pyramids, high body mass index, antimicrobial resistance, eroding sexual and reproductive rights for women, food insecurity, and fraying multilateralism. 

In 2024, the body will release its recommendations after assessing evidence presented by working groups over the course of the next two years.

The COVID-19 pandemic triggered the formation of several commissions, panels and task forces to assess our learning over the past two years and tailor the way forward for better health outcomes. Chief among them are the Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development, the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, the G20 High Level Independent Panel on Financing, the Global Commons for Pandemic Preparedness and Response and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Three key concerns — COVID-19, climate change and conflict — triggered this domino effect. While such a focused approach at this junction is critical, other equally menacing public health threats are not receiving scrutiny of the same intensity. The Lancet Commission addresses this lacuna.

The body will be chaired by Natalia Kanem, the executive director of the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, and Christopher JL Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), an independent population health research centre at the University of Washington Medicine, United States. 

Members of the commission come from diverse backgrounds: Current and former heads of state, intergovernmental organisation leaders, leaders of public health institutions, global health funders, global health thought leaders, and civil society and youth organisations, the Lancet noted.

“This long perspective is needed since threats such as climate change, food systems, antimicrobial resistance, or inverted population pyramids require many decades for actions to alter future trajectories,” Kanem and Murray wrote in The Lancet

While the United Nations-mandated Sustainable Development Goals have 2030 targets and function as critical incentives to push for policy changes, the Lancet Commission will look at factors which will impact population health the most through 2050 and beyond.

The body will have a four-pronged approach: Utilise available data from the Global Burden of Disease and related reference health forecasts as a foundation for a heterogenous debate on global and regional health threats; explore alternative forecasting options; search for solutions which can be adopted by a diverse population at a global and regional scale; and produce “roadmaps that governments, donors and other stakeholders can use to translate findings into investment priorities”.

Read more: 

How COVID-19 gave African countries the opportunity to improve public health

A look at India’s flawed public health policies through COVID-19’s prism

Even during the coronavirus pandemic, the role of public health workers is unrecognised

Mpox, AIDS & COVID-19 show challenges of targeting public health messaging to specific groups without causing stigma

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