The First Global Symposium is taking place at a time of great change in the global economy. The run up to the meeting of the G20 in Seoul illustrates the growing economic and political importance of a number of countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The same thing is happening in the health sector. Spending on health services is growing very fast in a number of countries as people become less poor. Governments face great political pressure to address the health needs of a population, which is growing older, becoming increasingly urban and is well informed about the kinds of health services available in other countries. The emergence of new patterns of inequality is creating additional challenges. Meanwhile, developments in a variety of technologies including information and communications and diagnostics are making possible quite new ways of increasing access to effective health services rapidly. Many of the most innovative developments in the organisation of health services are taking place outside Europe and North America.
The Symposium provides an excellent opportunity to explore the implications of this shift in the location of global innovation and address the following questions:
- How can political leaders and technical experts around the world learn from the experiences of countries experiencing rapid economic change and also building new kinds of health system?
- What are the challenges in drawing inferences about the implications of a successful experience for countries with very different social, economic and institutional contexts?
- Which technological and organisational innovations are potentially most important and how can research identify both possibilities for large scale benefits and risks of unintended outcomes which will require a regulatory response?
- How can all relevant health stakeholders including government officials, public and private providers of health-related goods and services and a wide variety of civil society organisations gain access to systematic learning in a context of rapid change?
One aim of the sessions organised by the Future Health Systems Consortium is to stimulate debate on these big questions. The Symposium, which is being convened by the first international organisation to be led by a Chinese citizen, is an ideal forum to discuss how the organisation of research should reflect changing global economic and political realities. It is also an opportunity to renew and strengthen old friendships and build new ones. I look forward to many stimulating discussions and pleasant times next week.