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Recovering from a Pandemic: What the Future Looks Like for the G7 and Health Care

Samraggi Hazra, G7 Research Group
July 1, 2022

As the world begins to emerge after over two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, health and pandemic resilience and preparedness were among the key issues discussed at the 48th G7 summit under the German presidency at Elmau from June 26 to 28, under the theme of "progressing towards an equitable world." Prior to the summit, the G7 had set goals to strengthen the capacity of healthcare systems for future health emergencies, provide support to the World Health Organization (WHO) to be prepared for such emergencies, strengthen the provision of primary health care for women and girls, and achieve climate neutrality of the healthcare systems. With the release of nine official documents from the Elmau Summit, it can now be seen how well the G7 leaders achieved these goals.

First among the 41 health commitments made at Schloss Elmau is the promise from G7 members to collaborate to strengthen worldwide health systems to prepare for potential future pandemics, as well as end the current COVID-19 pandemic. This falls under the "One Health" approach, which strives to bring states together to achieve optimal health outcomes for all people. The G7 also committed to assisting at least 100 low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to improve their healthcare systems in order to meet the standards of the International Health Regulations until at least 2027. It remains to be seen how efficiently the G7 can realize this commitment, as conflicting healthcare structures among members may hinder effective collaboration, and a focus on LMICs in particular risks attempting to enforce foreign guidelines that do not work well with the structures already in place.

Second, the G7 committed to supporting the WHO in many aspects. Among these is the commitment to support the WHO's vaccine strategies and strengthen the vaccine rollout capacities to bring about an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. In this regard, the G7 will work closely with the WHO to increase global pandemic preparedness for the future. As seen over the past two years, the WHO's global leadership in a health crisis depends strongly on support from the international community. The G7 will continue supporting the WHO, in terms of both funding and cooperation, especially now that the world has seen first-hand the devastating effects that a lack of global preparation can have in the midst of a global health crisis.

Third, on health care for women and girls, G7 leaders' commitments focus primarily on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which they state has affected these groups disproportionately. The G7 stresses the importance of supporting and strengthening childcare infrastructure to promote economic growth for women, thereby focusing on a key social determinant of health that bars their access to adequate health care. The G7 also committed to achieving sexual and reproductive health and rights for all people, including women. As this commitment becomes more contentious, with several countries around the world emerging from the pandemic with newly imposed restrictions on such rights, it remains to be seen which G7 members will remain true to their word. Both the focus on health care for women and girls and the focus on sexual and reproductive health are narrow in their reach, in that they relate to very specific aspects of health care for women. To truly meet the goal of strengthening healthcare access for women and girls, the G7 must strive for targets that affect a greater breadth of healthcare needs, such as the commitment to contribute funds to the Global Financing Facility, so that basic needs including access to immediate treatment and availability of clinics are not overlooked.

And fourth, another goal the G7 members set prior to the summit was regarding the climate neutrality of their health care systems. This appears to have been most overlooked at the summit. Although both healthcare and climate neutrality were discussed, there was no convergence between the two seems beyond a commitment to establish climate-neutral and environmentally sustainable health systems by 2050 at the latest. This leaves a lot to be desired, as such a long-term goal often means a lack of immediate action to change existing institutions. It remains to be seen whether this will also hold true for the following G7 cycle – from Elmau to Hiroshima in 2023.

There is much to watch for in the upcoming year on health care, especially how well the G7 leaders comply with their Elmau health commitments.

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