The Future of Global Health: a conversation between the Lancet & Financial Times Commission on Governing health futures 2030 and the Graduate Institute’s Global Health Initiative

On 2 December 2021, The Lancet and Financial Times’ Commission on Governing health futures 2030: Growing up in a digital world in collaboration with the Graduate Institute’s Global Health Initiative, co hosted an event to discuss the ‘Role of youth in co-creating health futures’ during the Digital Health Week.

In an intimate reunion at Maison de la Paix, the hybrid roundtable brought together 70 attendees including Graduate Institute students, Commissioners, and the GHFutures2030 global youth network. Participants and panelists alike gathered to discuss what role youth has in devising the future of global health. Four panelists attended the conversation in person, three did so online including  Professor Ilona Kickbusch, co-chair of the Commission and Chair of the International Advisory Board at the Global Health Center of the Graduate Institute Geneva; Emanuele Capobianco, GHFutures2030 Commissioner and Programming Director of the recently created WHO Foundation; Enow AG Stevens,Youth Officer of the Secretariat; Kory Barras, Project Assistant of the Secretariat; Inês C. Viva, Vice President for External Affairs at the International Federation of Medical Students’ Association (IFMSA); Phuong Ly and Amelle Himmi, Design Coordinator and Event Coordinator at the Graduate Institute’s Global Health Initiative.

Since October 2019, the Commission has studied the interactions of two modern anxieties: technological developments and the future of international health. Deftly, the group of experts also adjusted its observations as COVID-related events unfolded. The result was a comprehensive report considering, among others, the governance of health data, digital transformations in global health, a solidarity led approach to data, health equity, and building digital infrastructure for all. Free copies in light purple cover were distributed at the end of the event.

A key takeaway of the research is nonetheless straight-forward: youth must be at the heart of any debate on the future of health.

We brought in youth so that this report would be built by youth, for youth, and with the full participation of youth,” Commissioner Emanuele Capobianco said.

The Commission undertook several efforts to collect and integrate young people’s views into the report and its supporting documents. A survey applied to 23.435 children and young people in 176 countries was one of them. Conversations with youth networks such as IFMSA, an international medical students’ association with around 12.500 members working on digital health policies, was another. 

One of the most innovative aspects for youth engagement of this Commission was the Commission’s Youth Statement and Call for Action.

“We had a consultation that brought together 35 participants from 23 global youth networks. We had a two-part consultation and we titled it “What do youth want to see in the future of health governance?” said Enow Awah Georges Stevens, Youth Officer of the Commission’s Secretariat.

The Youth Statement recognized three main concerns: strong and inclusive health governance; a human rights-based approach to health; and the need to foster digital skills, education, and innovation for health futures.

“This is an exciting time to have a serious conversation about these issues and we really appreciate the dedication from the Commission to engage with youth to put in some insights, thank you so much”, Said Phuong Ly, Design Coordinator at Global Health Initiative.

The collaboration between the Graduate Institute’s Global Health Initiative and the Commission highlights the importance of the Commission’s approach to involving interdisciplinary groups of young professionals in co-creating health futures.

The Commission’s conclusions reflected in the report are of the utmost importance. Societies need to rethink digital transformations through the values of universal healthcare coverage and health for all. The model of data processing must migrate from private profit to data solidarity. And, of course, the most impacted agents need to be at the forefront of these discussions.

“Very frequently young people are referred to as future leaders, no!” said co-chair of the Commission, Ilona Kickbusch, “you are not future leaders. You are leaders here and now”.

The Commission’s report was published on 24 October 2021 alongside the youth statement + call for action. These documents can be found here.

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Student on the Master’s Programme of International Affairs at the Graduate Institute closely following economic, pharmaceutical, and healthcare related topics.

Nicolás Tascón

Nicolás Tascón

Student on the Master’s Programme of International Affairs at the Graduate Institute closely following economic, pharmaceutical, and healthcare related topics.