During the COVID-19 pandemic and the multi-stakeholder collaboration needed to find solutions, AstraZeneca launched the Partnership for Health System Sustainability and Resilience (PHSSR) in collaboration with KPMG, the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), Royal Philips, the World Economic Forum (WEF), the Center for Asia-Pacific Resilience & Innovation (CAPRI) and the WHO Foundation.


Speaking at the recent Reuters Pharma conference in Barcelona, AstraZeneca EVP for Vaccines and Immune Therapies Iskra Reic outlined how the initiative, now in its third year, has already seen its recommendations taken up by several national governments with the aim of driving sustainability and resilience in their healthcare systems.


Health System Pressures

Reic highlighted three main challenges that health systems across the world are facing today. The first is the COVID-19 pandemic; not just the disease itself but its after-effects, including the Lancet Oncology Commission’s estimation that one million cancer diagnoses were missed due to the pandemic, as well as the fact that 70 million more people are living in extreme poverty post-pandemic.

The second challenge is climate change, Reic noting that 14 million people die every year from an environmental health risk, with the situation much worse in low- and middle-income countries.

The third is an aging population. 20 percent of Europe’s population is over 65, a number expected to rise to 30 percent by 2050. This is not merely a European issue, however, with 12 percent of the global population aged over 65, and a full 29 percent in Japan.


PHSSR: Filling Healthcare Gaps with Action

Against this backdrop, according to Reic, “it’s easy to say that we need to transform healthcare systems. Obviously, tackling that is a multifaceted and very complex task … which calls for broad cross-sector, public-private partnerships.”

The PHSSR fills this void, identifying the key gaps within health systems through research and then providing recommendations to help close them. Reic added, “This second pillar is equally important because we didn’t want this to stay as research; we wanted to make sure that there are practical implications and that things change on the ground.”

Based on the LSE and WEF research frameworks, the PHSSR tackles seven areas: governance, financing, workforce, medicines and technology, service delivery, population health and social determinants, and environmental sustainability.


Belgium: Already Making Moves

Recommendations from the PHSSR’s Belgium report, Sustainability and Resilience in the Belgian Health System, is already being acted upon in the country, according to Reic. “It has been really interesting to hear high level government officials sharing their thoughts and actually taking some of the recommendations of the collaboration to inform their own policies in their countries.”

She continued, “For example, I personally had an interesting discussion with the Prime Minister of Belgium, who was really keen to understand how the recommendation from the work done in Belgium can inform and how he can set targets for the Ministry of Health to tackle those [issues raised].”

Reic added that, based on the report’s recommendations, “Belgium decided to increase the percentage of its GDP that is spent on preventative care within healthcare to match the [top performing] Scandinavian countries from 0.2 percent to 0.4 percent.”


A Call to Arms

Reic ended her talk with a call to arms. “If you really and truly want to transform healthcare systems so that they are set up for the success in the future and will be able to respond to the different challenges ahead, we need cross-sectoral public private partnerships. Nobody can do it on their own.” She added, “if we don’t want to wake up toh another world healthcare crisis, we definitely need to act now”