Catalysing health R&D, innovation and access

South African Health Technologies Advocacy Coalition

SAHTAC members attend the World Heath Summit 2022

SAHTAC participated in the first joint World Health Summit co-hosted with WHO on 16 to 18 October in Berlin, Germany. The Summit brought together the most prominent names in global health from all sectors in all regions of the world. Held under the patronage of German Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, Senegal’s President Macky Sall and WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speakers and participants discussed new strategies for global health and set the course for a healthier, more equitable future. The overarching aim of WHS 2022: to foster global health as a key political issue and promote a global health conversation in the spirit of the UN Sustainable Development Goals: SDG 17 “Partnership for the Goals”.

This year SAHTAC sponsored two coalition members to attend WHS as part of its cross-cutting outcome for visibility as national, regional and international events.  During the summit coalition members attended several sessions of interest and of interest to the coalition’s advocacy agenda.

 mRNA Technology

The “mRNA technology transfer hub: towards sustainability” session discussions were on we can leverage on the mRNA technologies developed during the COVID-19 response to accelerate the development of a more robust TB vaccine pipeline and the development vaccines targeting other disease conditions. It was highlighted that there is a need for greater investment by government into basic science research to improve the development of vaccines. For example, in TB, the construct of TB either being in one of two states, has become outdated and there is recognition that we need to develop a better understanding of subclinical TB, which is a more complex construct. This was confirmed by the WHO chief scientist, Dr Swaminathan.

Invest to end Tuberculosis”
The session focused on treatment (Johnson and Johnson), diagnostics (FindX) and advocacy. A point was raised that if we are not able to treat ourselves out of TB then we need to develop an effective TB vaccine if we want to end the TB epidemic by 2030.

Another critical point raised is that in comparison, the COVID-19 response has resulted in more than 117 investigational COVID-19 vaccines in research pipeline, whilst TB, one of the oldest diseases only has 14 investigational vaccines and BCG vaccine is more than 100 years old and is still the only vaccine available.

Can new partnerships for health reverse the SDG rollback

“Can new partnerships for health reverse the SDG rollback” session raised  important issues on the absence of community voices and a government response to this question.  Any strategy for health must involve communities, either as co-implementers of new strategies or as active participants in prevention.

An example was shared that new vaccine strategies were developed during COVID-19, these ran into resistance from communities and as such there is a need for community voices in the partnership mix. Further to that there is a need for greater commitment from government to resource research into improved strategies, which will result in greater ownership and rollout of new strategies resolving tensions around ownership.

Civil Society Townhall with WHO Director: The role of civil society in global health

This session included opening remarks from the WHO director highlighting on the importance of civil society voices as trusted communicators to the public. He emphasised that WHO cannot achieve its goals without active civil society engagement and communication. The DG applauded the role of civil society in pandemic response. Dr Ghebreyesus used this opportunity to announce the launch of the civil society commission and youth council which will be officially launched in 2023.  This will be an avenue to strengthening civils society relations with WHO.

Sustainable Pharmaceutical Manufacturing in Africa: Towards the global procurements of African-manufactured medical products

This side event was a collaboration between PATH and the private office of the president of South Africa and provided an opportunity for SAHTAC to engage directly with the deputy minister of health and his office of issues pertinent to the coalition. The main objectives of the session included finding ways of effective technology transfer and included a focus on mechanism for market shaping, trade and regulatory factors that influence sustainable manufacturing in Africa.

Learning from early adopters of digital health systems to shape systemic change: Using in-country lessons to support digital transformation of national health information systems

This side event shared lessons learnt from 5 African countries that are digitizing their health systems. The lessons have been used to develop a data use acceleration and learning (DUAL) model that can be adapted by countries in their digital transformation journey and can be used to inform existing policy and influence the funding landscape.

Europe’s beating cancer plan: Catalysing research and innovation for better outcomes worldwide

This plenary discussion pointed to the fact that NCDs remain the most underfunded area whilst it is not unrealistic that in a few years we may be able to manage cancer as a chronic illness.

The session touched on the importance of patient advocacy group especially on translating scientific information into everyday English.

There was call to get ahead of the trend that shows that cancer incidents and deaths in Africa, are forecasted to rise over the next two decades compared to other world regions.

Investing in a polio-free future for more resilient health systems

The global polio pledging moment was centred on the theme that no one is safe as long a polio in any form continues to circulate. A wide range of donors pledged to the Global Polio Eradication initiative (GPEI)

Digital Public Goods for Health: Meeting demand for digital health with an ecosystem of choice

Panelists from both the private and public sectors highlighted how global partnerships are supporting countries’ needs to scale proven digital health technologies, sharing lessons learned and best practices around how to partner with country governments and programs to understand available open-source digital technologies, how global goods can add value for countries implementing digital technologies, and how to develop budgets that enable sustainable and scalable digital health projects.

Way forward:

The conference provided several opportunities to engage advocacy and philanthropy groups and some of the emergent themes/issues that we could possibly take forward include:

-Campaign around SDG awareness at country level involving government and civil society.

-Partner with advocacy groups around resource mobilisation awareness raising so that we can deepen the awareness of funding commitment levels.

-Proposed breakfast meeting with Deputy Minister of Health- we need to prepare clear asks and advocacy messages to present to DM


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