Re-design health innovation ecosystem for the common good: WHO         

WHO’s Council on the Economics of Health for All issues brief on equitable health innovation

By DTE Staff
Published: Wednesday 09 June 2021
Photo: Pete Lewis / Department for International Development via Wikimedia

The World Health Organization (WHO) Council on the Economics of Health for All called on governments, the scientific and medical community and private sector leaders June 9, 2021 to re-design the health innovation ecosystem toward delivering health technologies for the common good.

The council’s first brief recommended both immediate and long-term action. It urged all stakeholders to work towards creating a health innovation ecosystem characterised by purpose-driven and symbiotic public-private partnerships that put the common good front and centre.

“Mobilising money to throw at solutions that fail to address the underlying causes of long-standing structural problems will not be sufficient,” the brief said, according to a press statement by the WHO. “We all must look forward towards re-imagining health innovation as part of a new economic ecosystem that can deliver health for all,” it added.

Deep changes were needed on how intellectual property rights were governed to drive collective intelligence, how corporate governance was structured and how the benefits of public investments were shared to avoid the current dynamic of sharing risks but privatising rewards.

The brief recommended the following to build an inclusive end-to-end health innovation ecosystem that is able to deliver the appropriate medical technologies required to achieve health for all equitably:

  • Creating purpose-driven innovation through a mission-oriented approach.
  • Reshaping knowledge governance to nurture collective intelligence.
  • Reforming corporate governance to be more long-term and purpose-oriented.
  • Building resilient manufacturing capacity and infrastructure.
  • Introducing conditionalities for public investments to build symbiotic public-private partnerships.
  • Strengthening the capacity of the public sectoron both the supply and demand side.

The council, in its brief, added its voice to the growing calls for urgent action in four areas, according to the press statement:

  • Available vaccine doses should be redistributed immediately, not as acts of charity, but as a shared imperative for pandemic control and inclusive, equitable and sustainable access.
  • Technology transfer and building manufacturing capacity must be supported and financed, not as the responsibility or property of any single actor, but as a collective responsibility towards building greater health security and resilience in all regions, governed as common goods.
  • Knowledge should not be kept as privatised intellectual property under monopoly control but considered collective rewards from a collective value creation process to be openly shared and exchanged.
  • Existing mechanisms set up to address the above aspects, including COVAX, ACT-Accelerator, and the Covid Technology Access Pool, should be utilised and strengthened, not as an approach to fix market failures, but as turning points for creating market-shaping approaches.

The council’s brief came ahead of the G7 Leaders’ summit under the United Kingdom’s presidency, which aims to build back better from the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

This, it intends to do by strengthening resilience against future pandemics and following the 74th World Health Assembly and the G20 Global Health Summit co-hosted by Italy and the European Union earlier this month.

The council was established by the WHO in November 2020. It is chaired by noted economist Mariana Mazzucato, professor of the Economics of Innovation and Public Value and founding director in the Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose at University College London.

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