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G7 health ministers pact: a step forward for future health crises?

Health ministers from the G7 countries have agreed on a ‘pandemic pact’ to prevent further global health crises following the coronavirus pandemic. Will the landmark agreement ensure the world is prepared for the future?

Following their meeting in Berlin, health ministers from the G7 countries signed The G7 Pact for Pandemic Readiness to ensure the world is better prepared for future pandemics and health crises. The pact is in direct response to the global impact of COVID-19, which required a coordinated international effort to develop and roll out the vaccination programme. The silver lining of the pandemic was that it showed incredible collaboration within life sciences and between countries is possible to overcome a global public health crisis.

The agreement signed will see the nations of the UK, USA, Japan, Canada, France, Germany, and Italy working closer together – and with relevant international health organisations such as the World Health Organisations (WHO). To achieve this, all nations have made these commitments to ensure greater protection for future events. Additionally, all member countries pledged to increase their WHO contributions by 50 per cent in the long run.

The G7 health ministers have also committed to health threats beyond devastating viruses, most notably the approaching crisis in antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The slow, but increasing resistance of bacteria is starting to nullify medical treatments and day-to-day procedures and become a direct cause of death across the globe. According to the most recent statistics, AMR currently kills over a million people a year. The health ministers agreed to explore a range of market incentive options which will encourage pharmaceutical companies and others to fund research and trials for new antibiotics.

Environmental reach

The pledges on climate and health were also made with G7 members committing to build climate-neutral health systems by 2050 at the latest, and to support countries across the globe in this effort. Sustainability in healthcare is a key point outlined in the Government’s Life Sciences Vision, to push the UK as a life sciences superpower whilst achieving net-zero by 2050.

The Pandemic Pact aims to help embed a One Health approach, which considers the connection between people, animals, plants, and the environment, to help identify emerging health threats across these groups, and improve detection of new variants of concern. This will help strengthen global health security and better protect everyone from another pandemic.

Speaking from Berlin, UK Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said:

“This meeting was a crucial moment for G7 member countries as we learn the lessons of Covid and how to live with the virus.

“I am committed to ensuring we are all better prepared against future health threats including another pandemic and antimicrobial resistance, which is why it was so important we united today to protect the world’s health.

“The UK’s leading the way with our living with Covid approach, and it was great to exchange ideas with my G7 counterparts on how we all move out of the pandemic.”

Final thought

Following the catastrophe of the coronavirus pandemic, any effort from the international community to protect the public from future health crises is a welcome step forward. The G7, consisting of many world-leading health systems, should have great influence in tackling future health threats such as another pandemic or the approaching AMR threat.

However, given that millions of people are already dying every year from bacteria resistant to antibiotics, urgent action is needed that is more inclusive of the developing world. Indeed, it seems typical of the ‘global north’ to make decisions without giving the ‘global south’ a seat at the table – often when the impacts in question are disproportionately felt by the latter. In this sense, this global cooperation should of course be praised, but that cooperation must truly be global.

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