The UK Health Secretary for State, Matt Hancock, has unveiled the government’s plans for addressing global health security plans at the G7 summit. Hancock noted that the UK will use the G7 to focus on four key issues:
- Ensuring health security for all – by strengthening the World Health Organization and improving agility, launching a New Variant Assessment Platform to analyze genetic viral mutations, and improving international systems for preventing, detecting, and responding to outbreaks;
- Standardizing clinical trials – by creating an internationally agreed set of standards for the creation and delivery of clinical trials which ensure that the data and findings of vital clinical trials can be shared seamlessly across countries;
- Tackling antimicrobial resistance – by pushing for the improved stewardship of existing antibiotics, stimulating the development of new ones, and ensuring shared standards across countries for antibiotic supply chains; and,
- Enhancing digital health – by establishing international standards for artificial intelligence (AI) and for the interoperability of health data systems, to ensure technology is used ethically and to enable data and technology to be shared quickly and safely across boundaries.
Some development experts have expressed concerns over the agenda, noting that it is at odds with the government’s deep cuts to the development assistance budget. Robert Yates, Director of Global Health at Chatham House, a UK foreign policy think tank, has highlighted how cuts to the development assistance budget will result in less UK support for national health system strengthening in low-income countries, which vital if the aim is to improve health security for all.
The Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI), the UK's development assistance watchdog, recently published an assessment of whether the UK is doing enough to prevent future global health crises through its assistance program. The ICAI, which produced the assessment for the UK parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, urged the UK government to update and publish a new global health strategy, given that its last strategy was produced in 2015.
ICAI also called for the UK government to ensure, in light of the proposed cuts to the development assistance budget, that the scale of its investments to support global health security via the development budget are proportionate to the level of threat posed by global health emergencies.
Finally, ICAI called for a re-examination of the management structures for handling global health security within government to ensure that structures allow for their purposes, in light of the recent merger of the Department of International Development into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as well as the planned abolition of Public Health England and establishment of a new National Institute for Health Protection.
Press release - UK government
News article - Devex
Report - ICAI