Dear friends and colleagues,
Today I am writing to you for the last time in my role as World Health Summit President: As of January 1, 2021, my good friend Prof. Dr. Axel Radlach Pries will be President of the World Health Summit with the unanimous support of the M8 Alliance Assembly. Axel has been supporting the World Health Summit for many years as Dean of Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin and is actively involved in the M8 Alliance - you all know him well.
When we started the M8 Alliance and the World Health Summit in the year 2009, global health received little attention in academia, in politics, or in the public in most countries. This has dramatically changed. Charité is now playing an important role for global health in Germany and similar developments can be observed in many countries. Global health is an important and noble goal for everybody everywhere.
For me, personally, it is very rewarding to see that science is taking responsibility. The M8 Alliance has grown from 10 to 30 of the best Academic Health Centers and Universities around the world as well as all 140 National Academies of Medicine and Sciences under the umbrella of the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP). This wonderful and unique network is the academic backbone of the World Health Summit.
Dear friends and colleagues,
“I am of the opinion that the only purpose of science should be to improve the conditions of human existence.” was the way the playwright and poet Bertold Brecht expressed the purpose of science in “Life of Galileo” in 1939. Science has a great responsibility and we in academia have to live up to the expectations of society. We have to leave the laboratory and consider the world around us and be ready for interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research to tackle the complex problems of global health, as important as detailed deep dives in basic research may be. We have to have the totality of living conditions in mind, such as socioeconomic, cultural aspects and the environment, in short: we have to take a holistic approach to health. This means that if we want to be successful in global health, we need to be prepared to combine the best of science with the broad areas of disease prevention and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the United Nations.
Health is more than medicine.
Health is a human right - but when it comes to health, the world is in a worrisome state despite all the great progress, which we have seen in the past years. Infectious diseases are an immediate threat to mankind and a virus as other infectious agents know no national borders. The Covid-19 pandemic is again teaching us this lesson. Pandemic preparedness remains on the world agenda but the leading causes of death are now shifting dramatically also to non-communicable diseases. The burden of disease of e.g. obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and mental health are increasing in all countries around the globe – rich and poor. In addition, food and nutrition, pollution, climate change, political instability in many regions, economic crisis, migration and flight are all contributing factors in major health issues. Meanwhile, the world’s population continues to grow and to age. The global burden of disease remains, and is even on the rise in some areas. Equity remains a challenge. This may not be completely new but it is urgent for us to act. Climate is just one example that action is needed – now! We are still not making sufficiently good use of our scientific and technological possibilities and international collaboration and coordination.
We have to work together and we have to continuously support new ideas and new people. This is why for me personally as Founding President of the World Health Summit it is now important to transfer responsibility into new hands: into those of Prof. Heyo Kroemer, the CEO of Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin and Prof. Axel Pries. I have asked my friends Heyo and Axel to take over responsibility for the WHS Foundation GmbH, the legal entity of the World Health Summit. I am very grateful that they accepted this task. I shall try to continue being helpful in an advisory role as Chair of the Board of Trustees. The entire organization of the World Health Summit remains, as before, in the reliable hands of the Managing Director Dr. Jörg Heldmann and his wonderful and enthusiastic team.
I would like to thank you all of you very much for your continuous, generous and friendly support over all the years. The M8 Alliance has proven itself as a distinctive and great academic network with a charter that provides us with complete academic freedom, while also binding us together: Our common goal is to improve global health jointly with all parts of society: politics, civil society and the private sector.
Good Health for All is our shared commitment and responsibility. In this sense, we will always remain connected.
With best personal and friendly greetings