June 14, 2024

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Experts warn that global health challenges will demand unprecedented leadership | Imperial News

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Countries will need innovative, fair and inclusive leadership to navigate new and increasingly complex global health challenges.

This was the main takeaway from a roundtable discussion hosted by the Centre for Health Economics and Policy Innovation at the Business School, which brought together experts from academia, public health organisations and politics to debate the issues.

The roundtable was co-organised with the George Institute UK and the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health (NUS), as a special event in the context of a meeting of a new Lancet Commission – the Pandemic Readiness, Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation (PRIME) Commission. The Commission, co-led by Imperial’s Professor Helena Legido-Quigley, Chair in Health Systems Science, set out goals for their report, which is expected to publish in The Lancet in 2025.

Introducing the event, Professor Ian Walmsley, Provost of Imperial College London highlighted the importance of addressing the complex health challenges facing the world. He said: “Addressing these issues is going to be a pre-requisite for a sustainable, resilient and just world. We can’t afford to work in silos but need to adopt bigger thinking if we want to address the sustainable development targets that are needed to achieve the inclusive and equitable leadership that are essential to moving us forward. As a globally facing institution, Imperial adopts this at the core and we stand ready to play our part in meeting these goals.”

“What global health leaders need today is a new vision and understanding of the interconnectedness between health, the economy and other major societal challenges like climate change.” Professor Franco Sassi Director of the Centre for Health Economics and Policy Innovation

The discussion touched on current global health challenges ranging from improving preparedness for pandemics to stepping up the fight against non-communicable diseases, increasing the sustainability of health systems and the links between health, poverty and the wider economy. The panel also discussed the complex challenges of decolonizing global health and ensuring equal and just representation in leadership roles. 

The panel discussion featured the Rt. Hon. Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Dr Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet, Dr Ebere Okereke, CEO of the Africa Public Health Foundation and Ms Afifah Ismat Rahman-Shepherd of the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health.

The full recording of the event is available to watch on YouTube below. 

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Describing what qualities make a good leader, Dr Sania Nishtar, Member of the Senate of Pakistan said: “Humility and good interpersonal skills are really important attributes of a strong leader.” She also stressed the importance of being able to lead teams, deal with pressure and solve complex problems. Dr Nishtar described her proudest moment of leadership as successfully leading the emergency effort to make relief payments to Pakistan’s most vulnerable households, when millions of Pakistanis faced hardship in the wake of the COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020.

Dr Ebere Okereke, CEO of the Africa Public Health Foundation said that a strong leader should “not be afraid to change their mind when the evidence indicates that they should” which requires humility and self-awareness. During the event, she said: “It’s important to own your decisions and the changes you’re making.” She talked about her experience of mentoring Black women working in health and the issues facing women working in the health and leadership space.

Reflecting on the event, Professor Franco Sassi, Director of the Centre for Health Economics and Policy Innovation said: “For a long time we have focused on the governance architecture in global health, neglecting leadership skills. What global health leaders need today is a new vision and understanding of the interconnectedness between health, the economy and other major societal challenges like climate change.”

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