By Maha El Akoum, Head of content, WISH
Last month the curtain fell on the fourth WISH summit, and for those of us who have been regular attendees, it is clear to see what a unique platform the summit has evolved into and its significance on the global health calendar. In the five short years since its inception, WISH has rapidly built its reputation as a hub for global health content and research and as a driver for change in the global health policy spheres.
This year, WISH opened its doors to the public for the first time, granting a wider selection of healthcare professionals, academics, policymakers and thought leaders from around the globe access to its platform. As a result, we witnessed an unprecedented surge in number of delegates and global representation. With over 2,200 delegates from over 100 countries in attendance, every corner of the grand QNCC was buzzing with excitement and hope for a better, healthier tomorrow.
In order to make sure that there was something for everyone, our team had worked hard over the past months to try and create and design more sessions with more content. This year for the first time we introduced “Spotlight” sessions in the Innovation Hub, where innovators and academics could give a 7 minute “pitch” on the work that they’ve been doing. We also premiered the WISH Agora sessions, where some of our leading policymakers and global health celebrities discussed pressing healthcare challenges such as the relationship between climate change and health. In addition, over 30 of the world’s most exciting medical and healthcare innovations were exhibited in our Innovation Hub, a number that far surpasses that of previous years. If ever you felt you needed a break from structured sessions and presentations, you could visit our photo exhibition on healthcare in conflict settings, or take a photo on the Friendship Bench (an idea that promotes mental health and well-being), or even get to know one of the WISH forum chairs in an intimate “meet the authors” session. With so much happening, it is almost impossible to sum up the key take-home messages in a few, digestible points, but here’s my attempt at the top five take-home messages from WISH 2018:
- There is no health without mental health.
So, Michael Phelps was at WISH this year!! His keynote was centered around the theme #ItsOkToNotBeOk, a message he repeated throughout his speech and his subsequent Q&A. The most decorated Olympian of all time shared his own personal story on battling with depression during the peak of his career, and how seeking help was the best move he ever made. His session was followed by a panel discussion on Anxiety and Depression, one of the nine forum topics for WISH 2018, with the discussion led by Paul Farmer of Mind, the biggest UK-based mental health charity. Talkspace, an online therapy platform were exhibitors at WISH, and mental health and wellbeing were common, recurring and cross-cutting themes throughout other sessions such as Healthcare in Conflict Settings and Mental Health in Children and Adolescents.
- Access to good-quality, affordable healthcare is a universal human right, especially in areas of armed conflict.
One cannot talk about global health without mentioning universal health coverage (UHC): another strong, recurring theme in WISH 2018. This year, we spoke about UHC in the context of conflict-affected areas, with a particularly powerful keynote by David Miliband, president and chief executive of the International Rescue Committee. The topic was also discussed during the forum panel on Healthcare in Conflict Settings, another one of the WISH 2018 core topics, as well as a few sessions in the agora with the same theme, discussing different elements of the problem such as the impact of war on children. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the WHO, also spoke about UHC during his surprise (virtual) appearance during the closing ceremony! Dr. Tedros called for “a world in which all people have access to the health services they need without facing financial hardship”.
- Nurses are truly at the heart of healthcare.
If you’ve been following WISH over the past year, you’ll know that we recently launched “Nursing Now Qatar” in collaboration with the country’s biggest governmental healthcare provider, Hamad Medical Corporation. Nursing Now Qatar is part of a global three-year Nursing Now campaign that aims to improve healthcare by raising the profile and status of nurses worldwide, and that supports nurses efforts to take part in the policymaking process and encourages them to become change leaders. WISH 2018 were happy to have welcomed students from University of Calgary Qatar, the country’s only school of nursing, and to have given the young nurses-in-training the opportunity to attend the available relevant sessions and take part in the discussions. Nursing and UHC was the focus of a report and forum chaired by Lord Nigel Crisp that was discussed by a panel of experts including Elizabeth Iro, Chief Nursing Officer at the WHO. WISH also organized an agora that challenged the gender imbalance in nursing, and the need for more male nurses.
- Innovation is only helpful if its implemented.
This message is one that remains constant with each passing WISH. This year in particular, we hosted more innovators and showcased more innovations than ever before. One focus of ours was to build an ecosystem that encourages innovation and interpretation among young people. This year we welcomed 10 Young Innovators under the age of 30 and encouraged them take the spotlight stage and pitch their innovations to industry professionals, policy makers and potential funders. Similar to previous years, WISH also featured a “Global Diffusion of Healthcare Innovation” (GDHI) plenary session, led by Greg Parston, Executive Director of the Centre for Health Policy at Imperial College London. This year’s report on GDHI was a collaboration between the Behavioural Insights team, and discussed the key barriers to the uptake of healthcare innovation.
- Climate change comes with serious implications to public health.
Climate change and health, although not a forum topic for this year, was still discussed at depth during WISH 2018 in light of its timeliness and links with the SDGs. Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and Chair of the Elders addressed this topic head on, calling out to policy makers and heads of states to consider climate change and health as a human rights issue. An agora session was also dedicated to the debate on climate change, forced migration and health. Statistics to back up the evidence regarding the impact of climate change were brought up several times during the discussions on non-communicable diseases, making a strong case for future research in the area.
With WISH 2018 in the rearview mirror, the real work starts now. We look forward to a year of implementation, impact and new collaborations and partnerships. To our friends old and new, we hope to see you again in November 2020 for even more content and more innovation. Until then, make sure to stay in touch and share your experiences with our community through our social media channels.
Until next time!