IFMSA @ the World Health Summit

During the past 3 days IFMSA was present the World Health Summit, represented by Marie Hauerslev, our Vice-President for External Affairs 2016-17. The World Health Summit is an annual event held in Berlin that gathers stakeholders from all around the world to discuss the most pressing Global Health issues. Health ministers, professors, students, industry representatives and NGOs were present. Some of the highlights from the most relevant sessions are summarised below.

Conflict and health
This session aimed at addressing the costs to health and health services in conflict zones. Virginia Comolli from the International Institute of Strategic Studies started off by outlining that we actually see a 36% decrease in the number of active conflicts globally, yet we see a 200% increase in conflict-related fatalities, and sadly there is now more people displaced than ever since World War II. Comolli also mentioned the complex collaboration between ideologists and criminals in many conflicts. Dr. Esperanza Martinez, the head of health from the International Committee of the Red Cross, reiterated that law does apply to wars, and wars do have limits and rules. She mentioned that the health needs of the refugees are both related to communicable and non-communicable diseases, and that needs such as food, shelter and protection are just as important. Dr. Martinez also drew attention to the Healthcare in Danger project that addresses the violence against patients, healthcare workers, facilities and vehicles, in which IFMSA is also part of the community of concern. Katri Bertram from Save the Children Germany explained their focus on children in conflict situations and that 53% of deaths of children under 5 years of age happen in conflict situations. Ms. Bertram also highlighted the decreases in immunisation and increase in acute malnutrition in certain conflicts. Save the children believes there should be universal health coverage, also in conflicts, and they want to reach every last child with emergency health and nutrition response. Lastly, the economist and professor Dr. Anke Hoeffler took us through some of the drastic financial consequences of wars, and she illustrated that on average it takes a country 22 years to get back to the economic status they had before a conflict. Prof. Hoeffler also explained the different methods of getting income between rebel groups and governments. The session ended with an interesting discussion on law reinforcement and the idea of police officers without boarders, as some statistics are incredible e.g. 1 out of 5 homicides in Sao Paolo apparently being committed by police men.

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs)
This session was aimed at mainly addressing the accessibility and affordability of cardiovascular services. The WHO Assistant Director General to Non-Communicable Diseases and Mental Health Dr. Oleg Chestnov first gave an overview of the challenges of NCDs and the political documents we have adopted as a global society in order to tackle these. Also, Dr. Chestnov highlighted that the burden of cardiovascular diseases are increasing, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, for which the WHO and US Centre of Disease Control has launched a new initiative called Global Hearts initiative. The Assistant Director General ended his speech with underlining the need to change the mindset around funding for NCDs, so it is no longer seen as healthcare financing but rather as an investment case. Dr. Jayasree Iyer from the Access to Medicines Foundation explained how the limited access to medicines for NCDs also affects the burden of disease. Dr. Iyer highlighted what the different pharmaceutical companies efforts to increase access, through their access to medicines index. Prof. Dr. Francis E. Smit from the University of the Free State in South Africa explained that there is a bigger inequality in access to treatment in countries like South Africa than in Europe and USA, and said that many African governments do not have interest in investing in NCDs. Prof. Smits suggested taxes as a prevention policy option, and big African regional units that were high quality and high volume for treatment.

Global health in the medical curriculum
We were invited to a meeting of the M8 alliance, an alliance of academic health centers, national academies and universities, about incorporating global health in the medical curriculum. In a session prior to the meeting, Maxime Leroux-La Pierre, a medical student from IFMSA-Quebec had presented some projects between IFMSA-Quebec and their medical faculty on exactly this issue, so they all knew about the qualities of IFMSA. The discussion was around having online courses, using patients in the local setting, what types of learning would be appealing etc. There was a general feeling that one cannot be a great physician in this globalised world without understanding global health ? even if we as doctors only work in the local level, we will meet patients where the global health understanding is needed. The development of ideas and programs will continue and IFMSA will stay involved.

There were several other interesting sessions attended by Marie on IFMSAs behalf such as Universal Health Coverage, Migration and Refugee Health and Planetary Health.

Overall, the World Health Summit was a great meeting to get an overview of the advances in different global health topics and there are many of IFMSAs partners present. The meeting was open to everyone, so of course there were many other students with interest in global health and even 2 young speakers in the opening ceremony.

Should you have any questions, please feel free to email Marie at [email protected].

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