The idea implies a comparison to how things are and sets the scene for us to imagine how things could be. This reflection is fitting a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, which has shone a light on both societal inequities and gaps in health systems.
While at first glance simplistic, the notions of fair and healthy are actually quite complex. Both deserve a brief interpretation.
In our view, a fairer world would mean that all people have access to what we consider the basics of humanity – clean water, adequate food supply, a safe place to lay their heads at night, and access to healthcare. Going a step further, there are the socioeconomic factors that make our first statement possible. First, it is fair pay for a fair day’s work regardless of gender, ethnicity or any other factors. It also means fair access to education and training so those who want to work have employable skills.
A healthier world must include not only access to healthcare and treatments to cure illnesses, but it should also consider the roots of good health. Mind, body and spirit are all interconnected. Fortunately, the stigma associated with mental health is lifting and support for mental illness is more in mainstream conversations, which will open the door to help for those who need it. The pandemic has caused many to have feelings of isolation, anxiety and depression – which must be addressed just as those with physical illness from the virus.
Preventative care is also important for a healthier world. While health systems and governments can provide the support and care when we are sick, as global citizens each of us also has the responsibility to look after our own and each other’s health. Quality food with nutritional value and physical exercise are two keys to good health. While some of us are born with conditions that lead to poor health, many of us are literally sitting ourselves to ill health. This is especially relevant due to the pandemic as much of the world’s workers transitioned to work from home over a year ago now.
Against a backdrop of all of the components of a fairer, healthier world, clinical research has an important role to play. Modern science holds promise for many diseases, including rare diseases. And the more research, the more we learn, the more we come closer to beating diseases, including cancer. Just as important as the treatments or drugs that might battle illness, it is also crucial that we understand the importance of recognizing early signs and of early diagnosis.
On this World Health Day, we would also like to take the opportunity to highlight the importance of challenging the status quo when it comes to clinical trials. We saw the pharmaceutical industry move faster than ever before to develop treatments and vaccinations for COVID-19, and we hope that the industry continues at this pace for other diseases.
Over the past year, we have consistently promoted topics linked to a fairer healthier world. These include:
Just as fairer and healthier go hand-in-hand, we believe that accessibility and diversity are two sides of the same coin. Clinical trials must reach the hard-to-reach, which will lead to a greater diversity of gender and ethnicity in participants. It will also lead to better care for those in underprivileged communities or from less influential socioeconomic circumstances.
Yet for clinical trials to operate beyond major metropolitan areas and outside of major research institutions, the way they are run needs to adapt to the 21st Century. Here, modernization is an important element to increase the speed and efficiency of clinical trials while still preserving participant safety and data integrity. On-demand access to the protocol and real-time guidance for research staff to study experts are just two areas where we see trials can be dramatically improved. Now is the time to apply a true risk-based approach with better insights into trial challenges and early signals into potential safety issues. All of this is enabled with a digital approach.
Health is precious. On this World Health Day, we salute all efforts to raise awareness for the interconnectedness of the many aspects that contribute to good health. And while there has been much suffering and loss from COVID-19, may it also serve as a catalyst for permanent changes that will lead to a fairer, healthier world.
We’ve written a lot on these topics over the past year. Here are a few pieces with our points of view, along with a guest blog from Clara MacKay CEO, World Ovarian Cancer Coalition:
You can learn more about this year's World Health Day campaign by visiting the official WHO website.