World Health Summit

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The World Health Summit is the pre-eminent international forum influencing the agenda for global health policy development.

Held annually in Berlin, Germany during October, the Summit acts as unique gathering of leaders from academia, science, politics and industry as well as stakeholders from the private sector and civil society.

The 2014 World Health Summit will be held from October 19–22 at the Federal Foreign Office in the Werderscher Markt.

Initiated in 2009 on the occasion of the 300th year anniversary of the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, the founders of the World Health Summit recognized that whilst similar gatherings of leaders were well established in the fields such as economic development and technology, a global forum of such influence and impact did not exist for medical practice, research and health care systems.

Established in 2009 under the high patronage of the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the President of the French Republic, Nicolas Sarkozy, Sarkozy's successor, President Francois Hollande, continued the patronage, joined in 2013 by José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission. Four ministries of the government of the Federal Republic of Germany directly support the Summit (Health, Foreign Office, Education and Research, Economic Cooperation and Development) reflecting the stature of the gathering and Chancellor Merkel's ongoing commitment to the Summit and its objectives.[1]

Governing Mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit, is a regular attendee at the World Health Summit and prominent participant in its opening ceremonies.


According to the World Health Summit's Mission Statement published in The Lancet in 2009, its mission is in keeping with the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights' (1948) acknowledgement of health as a fundamental human right. At present, more than half of the world's population is not receiving proper medical care, therefore the organizers of the World Health Summit see their mission as improving healthcare worldwide and promoting equitable access to medication and prevention. The achievement of this mission is seen as threatened by unsolved and newly emerging problems such as: "the demographic shift to an ageing society; climate change and its health consequences that are already being felt; new types of epidemics, such as obesity, mental ill-health, and violence and injury, in developed and developing countries, in addition to the still raging epidemics of HIV, TB, and malaria; the rising costs of health care; and the worldwide economic crisis and its serious threats to the health of populations across the globe.[2]

The World Health Summit seeks to actively address these challenges by bringing together stakeholders from research, education, clinical care and many other disciplines to jointly develop strategies to tackle these major health care issues. The outcome of each multi-sectoral Summit is intended to inform and influence decision-makers such as governments and supranational agencies, as recommendations for meeting future health care challenges.[3]


The World Health Summit is presided over by Professor Dr med Detlev Ganten, a career medical research scientist and Chairman of the Board of the Charité Foundation. In addition to Professor Dr Ganten's role as standing President, each year the co-presidency rotates amongst the members of the M8 Alliance of Academic Health Centers, Universities and National Academies, which together with the European Union and the World Health Organization is a primary contributor to the Summit's themes and programs.

Professor José Otávio Costa Auler Jr., Vice-Dean of the University of São Paulo Medical School, is the Co-President for the sixth World Health Summit in 2014, to be held in Berlin October 19–22. Professor Giovanni Guido Cerri, Dean of the University of São Paulo Medical School, was the President of the WHS Regional Meeting – Latin America, held from April 6–8, 2014 in São Paulo.

Previous co-presidencies have been exercised by:

Summit Profile[edit]

Each year the World Health Summit focuses on different key topics. These are formulated by members of the The M8 Alliance and also by the eminent academicians, researchers and clinicians who form the World Health Summit Council.[4]

Previous World Health Summits[edit]

The first World Health Summit under the motto "The Evolution of Medicine" took place October 14–18, 2009; 700 participants worked on concrete recommendations for dealing with pandemic planning, effective prevention strategies and climate change-related diseases.[5][6]

In 2010, the World Health Summit was held October 10–13, focused on the continuum of: "Translation – Transition – Transformation"; in keeping with these topics, solutions facilitating the translation of medical knowledge into interventions that benefit patients across the globe, the new health challenges in a world of constant transition and the transformation of health politics and management to respond to these challenges were addressed.[7]

The third World Health Summit took place October 23–26, 2011 under the motto: "Today's Science – Tomorrow's Agenda". The former element of this theme recognised that progress in research and technology development is occurring at an unsurpassed rate, while concurrently the challenges have never been greater, with new phenomena such as the health effects of climate change through the distribution of food and water, but also of vector-borne diseases. The latter reflected that no country has yet discovered an ideal health-service model, and that therefore the links between evidence and policy on all levels (national and international) needed to be strengthened.[8]

The fourth World Health Summit, held from October 20–24, 2012, under the theme: “Research for Health and Sustainable Development" focused on finding novel solutions for non-communicable diseases and conditions of global concern, such as obesity, diabetes, and mental illness. This recognised that unhealthy lifestyles are a main cause of these new epidemics, and promoted greater awareness of the global economic risks and human suffering related to the epidemiological transition, as well as the urgent need for sustainable solutions enabling healthcare systems to meet the challenge of non-communicable diseases and conditions.[9]

The fifth World Health Summit, held from October 20–22, 2013, was the first Summit without individual theme. Instead, heightened emphasis was put on the four thematic tracks, structuring the program: Research and Innovation; Education and Leadership; Evidence to Policy; Global Health for Development. For the first time, the World Health Summit was held at the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin. 1,200 participants attended the Summit, additional 1,200 followed the official webcast.[10]

The sixth World Health Summit, October 19–22, 2014, will be held at the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin again.

WHS Regional Meetings[edit]

Traditionally, the co-presidency institution hosts the annual M8 Alliance planning meeting in its own home city in spring, preceding the Summit in October of that year. These meetings evolved into the inaugural WHS Regional Meeting – Asia, held in Singapore from April 8–10, 2013. 900 participants attended this WHS Regional Meeting, held under the theme "Health for Sustainable Development in Asia".[11]

The second WHS Regional Meeting – Latin America, was held in São Paulo from April 6–8, 2014, gathering 1,000 participants from 30 countries.

Criticism and engagement[edit]

The World Health Summit has been criticized by Thomas Gebauer, Director of Medico International, as an "elitist club of decision makers",[12] that ignores both the social factor of global health issues and the notion of health as a human right, but rather serves particular interests. Thus, in 2009, this Frankfurt-based organization initiated an alternative conference as a form of protest against the World Health Summit.[13]

Permanent President of the World Health Summit, Professor Dr med Detlev Ganten, has consistently displayed a readiness to engage in constructive discussion with critics, inviting participants of the 2009 alternative conference to attend the World Health Summit 2010 and, thus to enter into a dialogue.[14]

Role of the M8 Alliance[edit]

The M8 Alliance of Academic Health Centers, Universities and National Academies is an academic network of institutions of education and research, including national academies where these exist. It was first officially inaugurated in 2009 on occasion of the first World Health Summit. This international network provides the academic foundation to the World Health Summit.

According to the M8 Alliance Profile,[15] the network seeks to improve global health and works with political and economic decision makers and civil society to develop science-based solutions for health challenges worldwide. It was created as a permanent platform for framing future considerations of global medical developments and health challenges.[16]

A key role of the M8 Alliance is to provide an academic foundation to each World Health Summit, with members contributing to topics and program development.

Members of the global M8 Alliance[edit]

The The M8 Alliance consists of thirteen members and affiliated observers spanning every continent.[17] After the second World Health Summit in 2010, the University of São Paulo and the National University of Singapore joined the network, with the University of Montreal being welcomed into the group in 2012. Makarere University of Uganda was admitted as the first M8 Alliance member from Africa in 2013, though foundation member Monash University has a campus in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The M8 Alliance secretariat is based at the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin at the Mitte campus. English is the operating language of the group and the World Health Summit.

External links[edit]

Stern online: Interview with Prof. Dr. Detlev Ganten: "Medizin muss sozial gedacht sein". 08.10.2010.

Stern online: Interview with Prof. Dr. Detlev Ganten: "Gesundheit muss ein persönliches Ziel sein". 18.06.2010.]


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  3. ^ Shaping the future of health care: the Berlin 2009 Evolution of Medicine Summit. The Lancet, Feb. 14, 2009. Adli M, Kleinert S, Lafont, A, Kahn A, Ganten D (2009). Lancet 373: 519-520
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  5. ^ Charité Berlin, Book of Proccedings 2009:
  6. ^ World Health Summit Program 2009: The Evolution of Medicine
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  17. ^ World Health Summit website