António Guterres, Secretary-General, United Nations
The 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), held virtually for the first time, closed this week. Questions remain about how countries can support a global effort to improve the well-being of people around the world. With the COVID-19 pandemic raging on, world leaders discussed the need for heightened international cooperation to counter the damaging impacts of the novel coronavirus. While countries expressed a collective will to overcome – or at least contain – the pandemic, a geographically-unified approach is not yet in place. “History will judge us on the decisions we do and don’t make in the months ahead,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO). “Let’s seize the opportunity and bridge national boundaries to save lives and livelihoods,” he added.
This week, we are pleased to provide an overview of Rabin Martin-supported UNGA side events, highlights from our clients and our team, in addition to our regular COVID-19 update. Please click here for earlier issues of our COVID-19 Briefings.
Rabin Martin at UNGA
Will a Vaccine Save Us? A Fireside Chat with Dr. Heidi Larson & Dr. Peter Piot
Dr. Heidi Larson, Director, Vaccine Confidence Project
On Wednesday, September 30, Rabin Martin hosted a conversation with global health luminaries Dr. Heidi Larson, Director, Vaccine Confidence Project, and Dr. Peter Piot, Director, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic. Moderated by Rabin Martin CEO Dr. Jeffrey L. Sturchio, the discussion focused on lessons learned from the past nine months and predictions on what lies ahead.
Beginning with the sobering fact that the global death toll from COVID-19 exceeded one million people earlier this week, Dr. Sturchio asked how we could have prevented such loss of life. Dr. Piot underscored the importance of 1) strong leadership at the national and community level; 2) strong public health systems, noting that many countries lack adequate prevention, detection, and response capacity; and 3) early action – “the time to set up a fire brigade is not when your house is on fire.”
Taking a long-term view, Dr. Larson emphasized the need to manage the public’s expectations about the response to the pandemic, especially since a vaccine will only be part of the solution. “Vaccines are not the holy grail,” she cautioned, adding that it is important to continue communicating that hand washing, wearing masks, and social distancing will remain critical for effective containment.
Transparency and engendering trust were consistent strategies suggested to address vaccine hesitancy. Both speakers discussed the vital need to “listen to people, talk to people, and involve them to generate trust.” Dr. Larson emphasized that because we are living in a state of “hyperuncertainty,” uncovering the real reasons behind concerns about a potential vaccine will be key for vaccine uptake. Myriad factors, including experience with and perceptions of healthcare providers, political systems, industry, and others, influence “trust dynamics” and an individual’s willingness to accept a vaccine. Based on his own experience fighting COVID-19, Dr. Piot noted the need to focus on patients and their families to build trust and understand their fears.
Dr. Larson also urged better communication about COVID-19 given that the public is constantly weighing the risks of the disease with the benefits of a vaccine. Likewise, Dr. Piot stated that decisions must be informed by science, praising CEOs from pharmaceutical companies for pledging to follow the science and “not accept any shortcuts” in R&D for COVID-19 vaccines. However, he also acknowledged that science doesn’t hold the answer to everything because the disease is so new. Honesty is essential, he said: “When we get it wrong, we need to admit it.”
Dr. Peter Piot, Director, London School of Hygiene &Tropical Medicine
The session closed on a note of cautious optimism, with Dr. Piot sharing his expectation that many will be vaccinated a year from now. Dr. Larson ended by commenting on the huge opportunity for institutions to build trust with the public over the coming months through consistent, coherent, and transparent public health messages. Both agreed that preparing for what comes next will be paramount: “We need to build the systems to deal with the current crisis and be better prepared for the next one. This is our collective responsibility,” said Dr. Piot.
Our Clients at UNGA
“The Private Sector’s Evolving Role in Health Emergencies”
The Private Sector Roundtable for Global Health Security (PSRT) and Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria co-hosted an event – “The Private Sector’s Evolving Role in Health Emergencies” – with a distinguished group of leaders from the private sector, government, multilateral agencies, and civil society on Thursday, September 24. All speakers highlighted the importance of business engagement in both responding to global health emergencies and advocating for greater investment in global health security and stronger health systems. Ashling Mulvaney, Co-chair of the PSRT and Vice President Sustainability, Access to Healthcare & Healthy Heart Africa, AstraZeneca, chaired the event and set the context: “The scale and significance of the COVID-19 pandemic demands an inclusive global response. We have an imperative to prevent the loss of life and staggering economic toll.” Viacom/CBS CEO Bob Bakish and the affiliated MTV Staying Alive Foundation’s Executive Director Georgia Arnold highlighted the role of business in equitable health access and prevention awareness.
Peter Sands, Executive Director, Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, in his opening remarks emphasized the “huge value in private sector advocacy” to ensure governments prioritize global health security, noting that the global death tolls from tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV could double due to COVID-19. Dr. Shannon Hader, Deputy Executive Director, UNAIDS, reinforced this message to business executives: “We need your voice to tell political leaders that now is not the time to pull back, it is the time to invest in global health.”
Collaboration across sectors was a major theme of the panel discussion moderated by Dr. Jeffrey L. Sturchio, CEO, Rabin Martin. Dr. Sheila Tlou, former Minister of Health, Botswana, noted the importance of public-private partnerships in ensuring that the frontline health workforce is ready to meet health needs on the ground. Dr. Rebecca Martin, Director, Center for Global Health, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, underscored the importance of collective action to build resilient health systems and noted that “private sector organizations have played and must continue to play a critical role in bringing interventions to scale” using available capabilities and resources.
Dr. Alan Tennenberg, Co-chair of the PSRT and Chief Medical Officer, Global Public Health, Johnson & Johnson, emphasized how COVID-19 has been a catalyst for private sector engagement and that through the PSRT and other coalitions, competitors are finding non-competitive spaces to work together. Likewise, Michael Steinberg, Team Lead, Global Public Health & Special Projects, Chevron, described the broad spectrum of areas for the private sector to add value, from strengthening monitoring and surveillance systems to building local infrastructure.
Chris Collins, President & CEO, Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, closed the event, reiterating the importance of business advocacy to the public sector: “Now is the time to strengthen the cooperation between global health and private actors” to avert the damaging cycle of acute emergency response followed by neglect.
A recording of the event may be found here. Rabin Martin is the Secretariat for the PSRT.
“The Data Pandemic: Making Decisions with Too Much, Not Enough, And Politicized Data”
On Monday, September 21, The Rockefeller Foundation-Boston University Commission on Health Determinants, Data, and Decision-making (3-D Commission) hosted a virtual event exploring how decision makers can use data to more effectively make tough choices during health crises. Speakers included Dr. Sandro Galea, Commission Chair and Dean, Boston University School of Public Health; Dr. Naveen Rao, Senior Vice President of Health, Rockefeller Foundation; Mayor Marty Walsh, Mayor of Boston; and Dr. Samira Asma, Assistant Director-General for Data, Analytics, and Delivery, WHO. In her keynote address, Dr. Asma, stressed the importance of both supporting robust data systems to measure impact and progress toward major health goals and prioritizing the social determinants.
Rabin Martin CEO Dr. Jeffrey L. Sturchio moderated a panel asking experts how health decision makers can navigate periods of crisis to achieve more equitable outcomes. Panelists included, Katie Dain, CEO, NCD Alliance; Dr. Githinji Gitahi, Global CEO, Amref Health Africa; Dr. Eduardo Gómez, Commissioner and Associate Professor, Lehigh University; Elsie Ilori, Head of Department, Surveillance & Epidemiology, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control; Dr. Jeanette Vega, Commissioner and Chief Medical Innovation and Technology Officer, Red de Salud UC-Christus; and Dr. Howard Zucker, Commissioner, New York State Department of Health. The robust dialogue highlighted that systemic data-driven decision-making is the future, and to get there, decisionmakers need quick, accessible quantitative and qualitative data over the course of time.
A recording of the event may be found here. Rabin Martin is the Secretariat for the 3-D Commission.
“Bridging the Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child, And Adolescent Health Gap: Delivering UHC for Mothers in the Era of COVID-19”
On Tuesday, September 22, Devex and Merck for Mothers hosted a virtual discussion to highlight the crucial link between universal health coverage (UHC) and maternal health, as well as the urgent need to safeguard the health of mothers and newborns in the COVID-19 era. A distinguished panel – including David Clarke, Team Leader, UHC and Health Systems Law, WHO; Dr. Mary-Ann Etiebet, Lead & Executive Director, Merck for Mothers; Dr. Githinji Gitahi, Global CEO, Amref Health Africa; Monique Vledder, Practice Manager, Global Financing Facility; and Dr. Jyoti Bobe, gynecologist from Maharashtra, India – explored the role of the private sector in advancing UHC, with a specific focus on reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health (RMNCAH).
Panelists took stock of the private sector’s commitments to UHC and critical lessons learned that should inform donors’ efforts to support UHC and strengthen RMNCAH against the backdrop of the global pandemic. “What we’ve been trying to emphasize is the need for a whole health system approach to COVID and to maintaining essential health services. And that means working to make sure that all health providers are brought into the response, not just the public ones but the private ones,” said Mr. Clarke.
Underscoring the critical need to maintain momentum to ensure progress in maternal and child health is not lost, Dr. Etiebet argued, “This sense of urgency we are feeling with COVID-19… should have existed before, and I hope it exists after, because to get to the 2030 goals for maternal mortality, we really have to accelerate our progress.”
A recording of the event may be found here. Rabin Martin has provided strategic counsel to Merck for Mothers since the initiative’s inception.
Sustaining Cancer Care During COVID-19
The World Economic Forum recently published an article, “How Can We Sustain Progress in Cancer Care?,” that explores challenges faced by cancer patients during COVID-19 and provides solutions to strengthen cancer care, building on global efforts to achieve universal health coverage. The article’s authors – Princess Dina Mired, President, Union for International Cancer Control; Rob Yates, Head of the Centre on Global Health Security, Chatham House; and Philippe Drouet, Senior Vice President, Oncology Global Marketing & Market Access, MSD – reflect on the need for multi-pronged approaches to address the growing burden of cancer beyond the COVID-19 epidemic: “We have a rare opportunity to address diseases comprehensively rather than targeting our efforts in siloes.” The article is based on a series of policy dialogues organized by Chatham House on Maintaining Progress in Cancer Care.
Sharing Perspectives: Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
Our team organizes regular “Lunch & Learns” with global health leaders to garner new perspectives and keep up to date with the latest developments in the field. Last month, we spoke with Chris Collins, President and CEO, Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, who discussed the organization’s work to secure U.S. funding for key health priorities during COVID-19 and beyond.
Chris emphasized the need to think about how to support whole health systems, even as we continue the commitment to disease-specific programs. One area to consider is how vertical platforms can be utilized to provide broader services and how to identify what resources and policy changes are needed to do that. As part of this evolution, he noted the importance of rallying key stakeholders to develop metrics that can help assess the performance of health systems. One bold idea Chris offered is to develop a scorecard on global health that charts progress and helps hold health systems accountable for delivering quality services to patients.
As an advocacy tactic to increase government investment in global health, Chris suggested framing health systems strengthening interventions as solutions that provide significant returns. It’s important to illustrate how a solution will address a key health challenge, how much (or little) it will cost, and how it will affect key populations. “At the end of the day, the most important thing is results,” he said.
COVID-19: An On-Going Crisis
Early on Friday, October 2, President Donald Trump announced via Twitter that he and First Lady Melania Trump had tested positive for COVID-19. According to the President’s physician, Dr. Sean Conley, the President and First Lady will quarantine in the White House “during their convalescence.” Other senior White House officials, including Vice President Pence, are being tested for infection.
The U.S. accounts for over a fifth of global cases, reporting 7,292,422 cases and 208,191 deaths. Even as cases in the country continue to rise, India is set to outpace the U.S. this month. India has reported 6,394,068 cases and 99,773 deaths.
“COVID-19’s existence anywhere poses a threat to communities everywhere.”
As UNGA came to a close, 16 major biopharmaceutical companies signed a pledge alongside the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with a commitment to ensure access to innovative COVID-19 treatments, diagnostics, and vaccines, to people everywhere “regardless of the country they live in.” Each company will pursue its own approach to meeting these access goals, using strategies such as donations, not-for-profit supply, and tiered pricing. Signatories include the CEOs of AstraZeneca; Bayer; bioMérieux; Boehringer Ingelheim; Bristol Myers Squibb; Eisai; Eli Lilly; Gilead; GlaxoSmithKline; Johnson & Johnson; Merck & Co., Inc.; Merck KGaA; Novartis; Pfizer; Roche;
From the Experts
“The worst-case scenario for the northern hemisphere is the month of December and January. We are going to have a very difficult time when mortality will increase on a daily basis. We have to be ready for it mentally, and unfortunately hospitals need to be prepared for it.”
Dr. Ali Mokdad, Chief Strategy Officer for Population Health, University of Washington
Monday, September 28
“I can assure you that the current numbers are likely an underestimate of the true toll of COVID-19.”
Dr. Michael Ryan, Executive Director, Health Emergencies Programme, WHO
Monday, September 28
“We need to scale up the tools…to continue to battle this pandemic on the [African] continent. So there’s absolutely no room for complacency.”
Dr. John Nkengasong, Director, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention
Monday, September 28
“I appeal to you all, follow the rules that will be in effect in the next while. We have a difficult time ahead of us with autumn and winter approaching.”
Angela Merkel, Chancellor, Germany
Tuesday, September 29
“The challenges facing us are enormous. But so are the possibilities of solutions. By working together, we can overcome them. We must be as inclusive as possible in our deliberations.”
H.E. Volkan Bozkir, President, 75th UNGA
Tuesday, September 29
What We’re Reading
- The Black Doctors Working to Make Coronavirus Testing More Equitable – Nina Feldman, National Public Radio
- A Layperson’s Guide to How – and When – a COVID-19 Vaccine Could Be Authorized – Matthew Herper, STAT News
- Partnering in a Pandemic: Advancing Global Access to Health During COVID-19 – Rachel Shue, Devex
- UN Meeting That Began with Unity Concludes with Divisions – Edith Lederer, AP News
- Among People of Color Asked to Join COVID-19 Vaccine Trials, Worries About Inequities Run Deep – Eric Boodman, STAT News
- Lessons Learnt from Easing COVID-19 Restrictions: An Analysis of Countries And Regions In Asia Pacific And Europe – Emeline Han, Melisa Mei Jin Tan, Eva Turk, Devi Sridhar, Gabriel Leung, Kenji Shibuya, et al, The Lancet
- The COVID-19 Pandemic Is Worse Than Official Figures Show – The Economist
- Explainer: Why the Coronavirus Death Rate Still Eludes Scientists – Deena Beasley, Reuters
- Why the Pandemic Could Change the Way We Record Deaths – Pranav Baskar, National Public Radio
- How America Lost 200,000 Lives to COVID-19 – Johnny Harris, Nicholas Kristof, and Adam Ellick, The New York Times
- US Public Health Service Needs Reform – James Currie, The Hill
Reports from International Governments and Bodies
- WHO COVID-19 Information and Guidance
- WHO Weekly Epidemiological Update: September 28
- WHO Weekly Operational Update: September 25
- CDC Coronavirus Resource Page
- COVID-19 Health Systems Response Monitor
- NCD Alliance COVID resources relevant to NCDs
Funding and Policy Trackers
- International Monetary Fund Policy Tracker
- Kaiser Family Foundation Coronavirus Policy Tracker
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Corporate Aid Tracker
- Devex Interactive Funding Tracker
Resource Pages and Market Research Literature
- JAMA Resource Center
- The Lancet COVID-19 Resource Centre
- 2019 Novel Coronavirus Research Compendium (NCRC)
- National Academy of Medicine COVID-19 News and Resources
- WIPO COVID-19 IP Policy Tracker
- The COVID Tracking Project
- PharmaIntelligence: Coronavirus – What will the Impact Be?
- Health Affairs Resource Center
- STAT News COVID-19 Tracker
- Global Health NOW’s COVID-19 Expert Reality Check
- International Association of National Public Health Institutes COVID-19 Resources
- Center for Strategic and International Studies The Reopening and Take as Directed Coronavirus Crisis Update Podcast
- Primary Health Care Performance Initiative Forum
- U.S. Global Leadership Coalition COVID-19 Issue Briefs
- Prevent Epidemics Weekly Science Review
- COVID-19 Watch Weekly Updates
For more information or should you have any questions, please contact us.
About Rabin Martin
Rabin Martin is a global health strategy firm working at the intersection of private sector capabilities and unmet public health needs. Rooted in our mission to improve health for underserved populations, we design strategies, programs and partnerships that both deliver public health impact and drive business results. We leverage our deep knowledge and networks across a wide range of geographies and health areas to develop tailored solutions for every client engagement. We have helped many clients create bold global health initiatives and innovative multi-sector partnerships. Our specific areas of expertise include infectious disease and vaccines, non-communicable diseases, rare diseases, maternal and child health, and universal health coverage. Our clients and partners include multinational health care companies, multilateral institutions, government agencies, large foundations and leading NGOs. Rabin Martin is part of the Omnicom Public Relations Group.
About Omnicom Public Relations Group
Omnicom Public Relations Group is a global collective of three of the top global public relations agencies worldwide and eight specialist agencies in public affairs, marketing to women, fashion, global health strategy and corporate social responsibility. It encompasses more than 6,000 public relations professionals in more than 330 offices worldwide who provide their expertise to companies, government agencies, NGOs and nonprofits across a wide range of industries. Omnicom Public Relations Group delivers for clients through a relentless focus on talent, continuous pursuit of innovation and a culture steeped in collaboration. Omnicom Public Relations Group is part of the DAS Group of Companies, a division of Omnicom Group Inc. that includes more than 200 companies in a wide range of marketing disciplines including advertising, public relations, healthcare, customer relationship management, events, promotional marketing, branding and research.