For the 2022 Prince Mahidol Awards Conference (PMAC 2022), PHM organized a side meeting to examine different aspects of the world we envisage. During the meeting, PHM premiered three short videos (funded by PMAC) to put forth that vision–one that takes into consideration community-based, publicly funded and provided health services; what is required to meet the SDGs by 2030 and what alternative economic systems might mean for health, sustainability and equity. 

Watch the full side meeting and discussion and see the videos below.

Building Equitable Health Systems

The first film records the voices of community health workers and health care professionals and health rights activists from across the globe, on the learning’s from the COVID pandemic for the design of healthcare systems. One of the main reasons behind the current crisis in healthcare has been the failure of the mainstream global community to call for and provide assistance to strengthening public sector service delivery. This has been made more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this video we analyse the implications of chronic public underinvestment in the public health sector, the active promotion of the for-profit private sector and accelerated commercialization of healthcare, particularly for those face historical marginalization and who bore the brunt of exposure, infection, morbidity and death due to COVID.

The testimonies reiterate the need for community-centred health services where equity and solidarity are central principles. Building on PHM’s vision for Health For All, we discuss alternatives to the dominant market-oriented discourse and privatization of healthcare. We present lessons, principles and strategies for building strong and equitable public/government health systems that promote social justice and human rights and put people over profit.

Building back better, requires us to conceptualize all of healthcare, and not only vaccines, as a global public good – something we never will be able to expect from the current market based models of healthcare.

Rethinking the SDGs

The second film shines a spotlight on the Sustainable Development Goals – in what political economic context and what unequal power relations they arose and have continued to perpetuate. This video contains perspectives from Professor Anne-Emmanual Birn, University of Toronto who is also a PHM activist in Canada, Professor Agnes Binagwato Vice Chancellor of the University of Global Health Equity, Dr. Delen de la Paz a PHM activist from the Philippines, Dr. Hugo Icu PHM, Guatemala and Dr. Sarojini Nadimpally, SAMA and PHM India.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated existing inequities both within countries and between countries. Its impact threatens progress on the SDGs. During the pandemic COP26 was held but made little progress in establishing a sustainable base for the planet and in curbing the production of carbon.  The multiple crises faced are out of control climate change, rapidly growing inequities, rampant capitalist behaviour by governments and Transnational Corporations.  While the SDGs were an improvement on their predecessor by foregrounding equity, it has been obvious that the aims and aspirations they represent cannot be achieved in the current paradigm. They also do not deal with the central contradiction of advocating more economic growth and with it consumption that will make the pressures on our planet greater. This contradiction existed before Covid-19 and now is more evident.

Nations – particularly of the majority world or Global South – must claim their power and exercise their imaginations, learning from each other where needed and charting their own course. We must also rethink the current global economic model within which we operate – using models like Buen Vivir and Gross National Happiness and strategies like dismantling of extractive industrial power, tax justice and economic redistribution, as well as a focus on planetary well being.

Post-Pandemic Global Economics- Re-structure, Reform or just Re-vitalize

The third film delves into the hegemonic, extractive and grossly unequal economic model, which prevails today. It underscores the need for a transformative shift that would avoid unsustainable and inequitable consumption of finite ecological resources and redistribute power, wealth, and bring in a new economic order premised on fairness and justice that would ensure human survival. When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in 2020, it quickly collapsed global supply chains and depressed economic activity worldwide. National economies that were still struggling in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis were thrown in disarray. Almost immediately there was talk of the need for a post-COVID ‘great reset’, of governments committing to ‘build back better’ and to ensure a ‘green recovery’. Although pandemic-weary people might crave for what they consider to be a return to normalcy, our economic policies cannot simply default to a business-as-usual. The pre-pandemic economy was already creating massive wealth inequalities, accelerating climate change, and fomenting mass migrations of people fleeing poverty, drought, or conflict; all of which only worsened with the pandemic.

Are any of the new policy playbooks arising from the economic chaos of the pandemic sufficient to ensure equity in people’s access to the resources needed for health? Or are more radical measures needed to improve health equity globally while ensuring ecosystem sustainability? Are such eco-just measures even compatible with capitalism, however reformed this centuries’ old system may become? These are some of the questions Ronald Labonte put to three economists who have been thinking critically about such issues for some time: Tim Jackson, Walden Bello, and Jayati Ghosh. Two points they make abundantly clear:

1) We do not need the level or form of economic growth that brought us COVID-19.

2) We do need a different vision of the role of governments in ensuring that our economies work to improve the health and well-being of all, and to protect our environmental commons.

They explain this in the third webcast on “post-pandemic global economics”.