Healthcare cooperation spotlighted

Leaders call for more widespread medical resource services in building a community with a shared future for mankind

International cooperation on health-related issues should be highlighted in the face of challenges brought by public health crises, said experts at the Global Health Forum of Boao Forum for Asia held earlier this month.

The event, which ran from June 10 to 12 in Qingdao, Shandong province, aimed to help achieve the goals of the United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and "make healthcare accessible for everyone."

The Boao Forum for Asia and the Shandong provincial government organized the event.

"Public health is for public good. In a globalized world, diseases are most likely to occur in countries with the weakest health systems and then spread to other nations," said Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun, president of the forum and former director-general of the World Health Organization.

"Thus a threat in one region can quickly become a threat to all, and no single country can be entirely free of major public health challenges. Health for all thus demands the participation of all the individuals and countries in the world."

She added health is the cornerstone of social and economic development. And the big health industry, which provides cross-industrial products and services, has become one of the most promising emerging industries in the world.

Data show that global spending on big health companies reached $8 trillion in 2015, which was more than 10 percent of the world's total GDP.

During the three-day event, some 2,600 delegates from about 50 countries and regions participated in the opening ceremony, 28 subforums, four roadshows, a major health-related exhibition and 16 other activities. Experts shared their thoughts on applying innovation into health development, healthcare policies and achieving universal health coverage.

Yasuo Fukuda, chairman of the advisory committee of the Boao Forum for Asia and former Japanese prime minister, said medical treatment will see dramatic change, especially driven by technological progress and scientific breakthrough. For example, artificial intelligence can be applied to better assist the disabled and the elderly.

"To make those innovations accessible to more people, we need to establish a social system that can make this happen. The universal health coverage is a typical mode, especially for China and other Asian countries with a large population," he said.

He added Japan and China can build partnerships in this sector to solve the problems of an aging population, which can create new business opportunities.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, sent a video to the forum for its opening ceremony, saying the WHO is calling on all countries to invest in universal health coverage, especially in primary medical care. In the video he also said the policies should be designed to help ensure people of lower socioeconomic conditions are not left behind, adding innovation should be encouraged in all aspects of medical care, including new drugs and equipment, training of doctors, funding for medical systems and services.

Attendees of the forum included heads of health departments from different countries, health-related international organizations and nongovernmental institutes. Also present were business executives, investors, scientists, experts and government officials.

Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun said at the closing ceremony that participants had shared their insights in the challenges of global medical health, with an aim to call on the public health sector to work for the people.

"We always say we should keep people in mind and serve the people," she said. "It's a concept that's accepted by the global society."

She added experts from different countries and regions shared their experience, wisdom and achievements in the fields of health and hygiene. The event was an interesting brainstorming session that demonstrated equality and mutual respect.

The forum was first initiated by the Boao Forum for Asia in 2018. It's a platform that combines political, commercial and academic sectors, features high-end dialogues and promotes partnerships. It aims for cooperation between policies and commercial and technological innovation and to achieve the goals of the Declaration of Astana, released by the WHO in October 2018 to promote primary medical care.

Li Baodong, secretary-general of the Boao Forum for Asia, said the health forum is more than a discussion about drugs and medical equipment.

"In an era where big data, AI and biological science are developing rapidly, we should see the health industry from a new angle."