WHO chooses Leeds university as partner for global health strategy

The University of Leeds has been selected as a partner by the World Health Organisation (WHO), to help create a new global health strategy that will protect populations against future threats similar to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the University, its academics are working on ‘developing and implementing’ the WHO’s Health Systems for Health Security (HSforHS) framework, which it calls a ‘response to the worldwide weaknesses in health security exposed by COVID-19’.

An interdisciplinary team – which encompasses Leeds’ experts in medicine, public health, political science and law – will ‘provide evidence-led guidance to help close gaps in health systems’, help countries across the world to improve health security and prepare for future risks such as pandemic and antimicrobial resistance.

Due to this work, the University is also expected to become an official WHO Collaboration Centre – one of over 800 specially selected institutions that form an international collaborative network – with the process already underway.

As for the framework, the Leeds team will present its findings and recommendations at an upcoming online event hosted by the institution – the Workshop on Health Systems for Health Security – which will feature talks by other international experts and WHO member states on COVID-19 learnings and areas of improvement.

The University’s involvement came after Professor Garrett W. Brown’s paper – entitled “COVID-19: time for paradigm shift in the nexus between local, national and global health” – raised the need for better preventative policies and transformation in regards to how global public health issues and pandemics are tackled.

Professor Brown is quoted as saying: “COVID-19 has demonstrated that building, strengthening, and maintaining responsive and resilient health systems is critical in preventing, preparing and responding to public health emergencies, which promotes overall health security and long-term wellbeing. 

“The new HSforHS framework aims to provide policy and technical responses to current global health challenges exposed by COVID-19 as well as future risks.

“If states and international organisations can adopt this framework, then we can advance a more holistic approach to health system strengthening nationally and globally.  

“This approach includes proper investments in common goods for health, and proper policies to better prevent and sufficiently respond to health risks, whether they are communicable or non-communicable, immediate or far distant.  

“Strengthening now will build healthier societies which will pay public health dividends in the future.” 

Professor Simone Buitendijk, the University of Leeds’ Vice-Chancellor, added: “The WHO’s recognition of the work by Professor Brown and colleagues, and Leeds’ selection as its Collaboration Centre on Health Systems for Health Security is a great honour…together we can work to protect people around the world from health crises in years to come.” 

As per the University, challenges identified by the Leeds team so far include: a lack of focus addressing health security, disconnected health structures and processes, a shortage of experts, leaders and policymakers who can connect health systems and health security, and the need for more research.

Following the international workshop, which takes place on 20 May, the University will work on a new research project that applies the framework to COVID-19 data, help develop a toolkit to show countries the benefits of investments in health system capacity building, and collaborate with the WHO on a training package.

To attend the workshop, visit the HSforHS website to register.