UCL Global


Exploring future healthcare at second annual UCL Global Insights and Summer Social

3 July 2024

UCL Global Engagement hosted friends in the diplomatic and policy community for an evening’s discussion on ‘Healthcare for Tomorrow’, providing insights and implications for decisionmakers.

Professor Ibrahim Abubakar, Professor Kabir Sheikh and Dr Marina Romanello address audience members at the UCL Global Insights event

Nearly 100 guests from around the world joined the event at UCL’s Bloomsbury campus to hear a panel discussion featuring UCL experts before continuing the conversation during a networking reception with academics, diplomats and policymakers. 
Hosted by Professor Geraint Rees (Vice-Provost Research, Innovation & Global Engagement), the event was chaired by Professor Ibrahim Abubakar (Pro-Provost Health and Dean of UCL Population Health Sciences), and included panellists Professor Kabir Sheikh (UCL Global Business School for Health) and Dr Marina Romanello (UCL Institute for Global Health and Executive Director of the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change). 
The speakers discussed pressing issues including what strategies are needed to address the impacts of climate change on public health and how we can effectively tackle healthcare disparities, especially in the Global South, to foster a more inclusive and equitable global healthcare system. 
The panellists gave an introduction to their areas of research before responding to questions from the floor, on topics ranging from the effects of misinformation to the role of UCL and other institutions in solving domestic health crises.

Professor Kabir Sheikh explored health systems of the future, how these are financed and the role that universities can play in supporting stronger systems.  

He explained how solely financing health systems in a short-term and piecemeal capacity, or only investing in health system 'hardware' such as technology, products, and infrastructure, will typically fail repeatedly. It is only through balancing investment in health system hardware and learning capacities that self-perpetuating improvements can be achieved, he said. 

Professor Sheikh added: "Learning – creating, gathering and using knowledge and intelligence to improve performance – is neglected in health systems strengthening investments globally. To prepare for future health catastrophes, it will be vital to strengthen learning capacities of all health systems–including for health systems research, policy analysis and the improved use of ecological, epidemiological, demographic, and behavioural data."
Dr Marina Romanello introduced the research of The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change, outlining the impact of climate change on heat related mortality, drought, food security and transmission of diseases such as Dengue and malaria.

She explained that 30% more land area is under drought today than in the 1950s, and the increased frequency of droughts and heatwaves are associated with 127 million more people experiencing extreme food insecurity today than around the 1990s. Research also shows 30% of countries allocated more than 10% of their budget to fossil fuel subsidies in 2020. She said: "All of this is happening simultaneously, ultimately putting enormous pressure on our health system. We’re not responding fast enough. Countries are allocating their often scarce budgets, often at the expense to our health.”

Dr Romanello described the benefits that could be brought through transitioning to clean energy usage, and moving away from carbon-intensive, unhealthy diets, adding: “We want this evidence to inform how the negotiations on climate change are led, and we want to put health at the centre." 

Professor Ibrahim Abubakar said: "It’s a special place to be at the heart of a global university in a global city. We challenge the status quo. We’re living at a time where the threats that face global health are immense. Our health systems need to grow and adapt in such a way as to cope with this. UCL’s approach is to identify the problem and use our breadth of expertise to solve that problem." 
The UCL Global Insights event series aims to thank the diplomatic community for their support, offering cutting-edge insights into complex societal issues and presenting an informal opportunity to connect in person with UCL colleagues. 
Professor Geraint Rees said: “It was wonderful to welcome so many valued embassy friends to this year’s UCL Global Insights event. Maintaining an open dialogue between scientists, healthcare professionals and policymakers is essential for addressing the many challenges at play, and for us to harness the potential of future healthcare.”