Portrait: 10 Years of The World Health Summit in Berlin

Without politics, medicine quickly reaches its limits. This realization led Professor Detlev Ganten to launch the World Health Summit in 2009 – just in time for the 300th anniversary of the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. Since then, the goal of the annual meeting has been to strengthen the voice of science, ultimately contributing to better policy decisions. This year, the international players from all areas of the health care sector will be meeting in the Kosmos Berlin from October 14-16 for the tenth time – time to look back and forward.

Today, the World Health Summit is considered one of the most important global health forums. It brings together players from different policy areas, sectors, and states: Heads of State and ministers, leading scientists, board members of industrial companies, and international NGOs. But in addition, startups from all over the world and young talent from global healthcare actively participate in the conference. 

The World Health Summit will be hosted by the M8 Alliance of Academic Health Centers, Universities, and National Academies, an international network of excellent universities, research institutes, and more than 130 worldwide medical and scientific academies. The “M8 Alliance” was founded in 2009 on the occasion of the first World Health Summit and advises the G7/G8, and G20 summits on its areas of expertise. It publishes an annual statement at the end of the conference and organizes additional expert meetings on a variety of topics – this year, for example, on “Health of Migrants and Refugees” and “Natural Disasters and Health.”

Enthusiastically to the capital

The Founder, President, and driving force is Professor Detlev Ganten, one of the world’s leading scientists in the field of cardiovascular diseases, formerly Chairman of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) in Berlin-Buch, and later Chairman of the Board the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. “I realized quite early in my career that health is more than just medicine. For a successful life in health and well-being, we must strengthen cooperation at all levels both nationally and internationally. With the World Health Summit, we want to make a contribution to this holistic view and invite the most important players from science, industry, politics, and society to have a dialogue,” said Ganten. 

On the occasion of the 10th anniversary, Peter Piot, Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine sums it up: “The WHS brings together people who work in global health and who don’t usually find themselves in the same room together. That in itself is a success and a necessity for future success.” Karl Max Einhäupl, CEO of the Charité, adds: “The WHS is a success story. The most important development from my point of view is that meanwhile not only older people like me, but also very young people from all over the world come to Berlin. They are so enthusiastic – it couldn’t be better!

Germany sees itself as responsible

As is tradition, the event is under the aegis of Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. In addition to the Federal Chancellor, Federal Ministers Jens Spahn (BMG) and Gerd Müller (BMZ), WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and Bill Gates are expected this year. The conference will end with a joint keynote session of the Grand Challenges Meeting of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Health Summit. 

“The exciting thing about Berlin is that the global health players come together here and that at the moment there are many new connections between scientific institutions. For example, the newly established Charité Center for Global Health is currently preparing collaborations with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Oxford University,” says Professor Detlev Ganten.

In recent years, Germany has increasingly taken responsibility for global health issues, such as the decision to set up an international platform for research and development into antimicrobial resistance and to establish a rapidly deployable group of experts in the fight against dangerous infectious diseases. In particular, with the commitment of Federal Chancellor Merkel, Germany has succeeded in firmly anchoring global health issues in the agendas of the G7 and G20 meetings. In April, Germany, Norway, and Ghana jointly wrote a letter to the WHO Director-General, proposing that WHO convene a Global Action Plan for the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 3 – “Good Health and Well-being” at this year’s World Health Summit. The presentation of this plan is now scheduled for the conclusion of the conference on October 16, 2018 in Berlin.

Every year, the World Health Summit addresses the issues that are of particular concern to the global health community. In 2018, these are the pressing challenges of global pandemic preparedness, antibiotic resistance, and access to essential medicines. Cross-cutting issues such as the digital revolution in health care and systemic issues such as strengthening healthcare systems around the world and health as a task for all policies are also on the agenda.

Charité offers its own consultation

There will be a total of 48 sessions, including measures to address the proliferation of counterfeit and substandard medicines, hospital partnerships as a way to improve the quality of care in low- and middle-income countries, and the challenges of big data analysis in the UK biomedical research and health care will be discussed. At the World Health Summit Night on October 15, participants will not only celebrate together and have the opportunity to network, but the winner of the “Startup Track” competition will also be announced. Ten startups from all over the world will present their ideas and business concepts to a jury and the conference participants within three minutes.

As a special offer for the general public, for the 10th anniversary of the conference, Charité, together with the World Health Summit, is organizing the Charité Consultation, on October 13, from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. during which professors from the Charité will explain major common illnesses and answer questions from the public about health. “I find it particularly important that all these senior colleagues take the time to talk to the participants about their personal issues. This strengthens mutual trust and both sides learn something from it – especially the doctors and researchers!” explains World Health Summit President Ganten. 

In addition to the World Health Summit as the main conference in Berlin, there will also be regional meetings in the associated countries of the various continents as well as thematic expert meetings in order to continuously work on solutions to global health challenges. In April, among other things, the Global Health stakeholders at the regional meeting in Coimbra, Portugal, worked on improving the transfer of innovation into regular health care. The goal is and remains promoting cooperation across sectors, borders, and policy areas and keeping global health topics on the agenda of political discourse. In April 2019, the regional meeting of the World Health Summit will take place in Iran.