The World Health Summit 2023, held in Berlin, Germany, brought together some of the most influential minds in the field of global health. This annual event, considered one of the premier gatherings for healthcare professionals, policymakers, and researchers, provided a platform for discussions, collaborations, and innovative solutions to pressing global health challenges. The summit took place from October 15 to October 17, 2023, attracted 3,100 on-site participants from 106 countries including the Alliance Secretariat and Steering Committee.
This report highlights three key sessions that covered diverse aspects of global health and One Health, focusing on health equity in an intergenerational and interspecies context, the lessons learned from COVID-19, pandemic prevention and preparedness and the risks of avian influenza.
1. Intergenerational and Interspecies One Health Equity:
This session broadened the discussion on One Health to include intergenerational and interspecies health equity, emphasizing the interconnectedness of biodiversity loss, pandemics, climate change, food security, and global inequities. Session speakers advocated for a socio-ecological model of public health, which considers determinants of health at individual and population levels. The session encouraged collaboration between diverse stakeholders to holistically address global health issues. It underscored the importance of understanding and managing health from an interspecies perspective, acknowledging similarities and limitations in meeting the needs of diverse living beings in the shared environment. The expanded socio-ecological model was proposed as a framework to protect health and Earth’s biodiversity for the benefit of all species and generations. Re-watch this session on YouTube here
2. Learning from COVID-19 for Future Pandemic Prevention:
This session recognized the transformation of global health priorities and approaches driven by the COVID-19 pandemic. Key takeaways included the outcomes of the UN High-Level Meeting on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response, which would guide future action. Christian Drosten (a virologist and Director of the Institute for Virology at Charité) addressed human behavior as a risk factor and driver for the occurrence of future pandemics particularly in the context of captive wildlife and fur farming.However, overall, we as Alliance have missed more emphasis on the urgent need for zoonotic spillover prevention. Strategies to reduce the probability of spillover events are still under-prioritised, under-utilized and under-funded. With the Alliance we work towards primary prevention – prevention at the source: actions to identify threats and reduce risk of spillover as opposed to actions to limit spread in human population, as outlined in the recent publication by the members of the One Health High-Level Expert Panel (OHHLEP): here
Although the session called for a holistic approach to pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response, involving various stakeholders and emphasizing community resilience, there is still a lot of work to be done to highlight the importance of the One Health approach and primary prevention in this context.
3. OH Risk Assessment of Avian Influenza:
This session, focusing on avian influenza, drew attention to the potential pandemic risk posed by avian influenza viruses. The panel discussed current outbreaks and the history of avian influenza crossing species barriers to infect humans. The fear of a potential human pandemic is heightened, especially after an 11-year-old girl died in Cambodia from H5N1 influenza without direct contact with infected poultry. During the workshop, the latest findings on avian influenza were discussed, with an emphasis on risk assessment and countermeasures to prevent further transmission to humans. The session highlighted the risks of fur farms and underlined the significance of monitoring and preparedness to mitigate the risks posed by avian influenza.
One of the most valuable aspects of the World Health Summit is the networking opportunities it provides. The Alliance Secretariat and the Steering Committee members engaged in fruitful discussions, paved the way for future collaborations, expanded and deepened networks, and represented the Alliance’s goals and issues.
In conclusion, the World Health Summit 2023 in Berlin addressed pressing issues of global health, One Health, and equity across a range of informative sessions. These discussions touched upon the urgency of a coordinated global effort to address health risks across species, the need for inclusive pandemic pre-spillover prevention, and a shared responsibility to protect the health of present and future generations. While there have been many important sessions related to human health, the environment and animal health remained rather underrepresented. There also remains room for improvement to highlight the importance of pandemic prevention at source to inspire collective action and fostering collaboration in the quest for a healthier and more equitable world.