Plenary 1 Post-pandemic preparedness: Driving global collaboration through philanthropies
Post-pandemic preparedness: Driving global collaboration through philanthropies
- Lincoln CHEN President Emeritus, China Medical Board
- Boon Heong NG Chief Executive Officer, Temasek Foundation
- Naveen RAO Senior Vice President (Health Initiative), The Rockefeller Foundation
- Paul SCHREIER Chief Executive Officer (Interim), Wellcome Trust
- Naina SUBBERWAL Chief Executive Officer Asian Venture Philanthropy Network
This plenary session anchored on the different ways philanthropic organisations had worked collectively to address challenges during the COVID pandemic and how future collaboration would need to look different to be effective. To begin with, there was broad agreement that philanthropic contributions during the COVID pandemic were important because of the ability to act quickly to fill service gaps.
Mrs Naina Subberwal, Chief Executive Officer of Asian Venture Philanthropy Network, underscored the significance of collaboration in tackling complex social issues. She acknowledged that while collaboration is crucial, it is not without challenges, and emphasised the importance of equitable access to healthcare and innovations, calling for a united effort. Dr Naveen Rao highlighted the importance of early testing in pandemic-preparedness and shared how The Rockefeller Foundation rolled out testing until vaccines were ready. He added that there are immense learnings from testing itself, and in specific contexts such as in refugee settlements, it might be too late to get into formal health response without early testing. Dr Lincoln Chen, President Emeritus of the China Medical Board, emphasised the historical precedence of philanthropy-driven collaborations. He cited the inspiring example of The Rockefeller Foundation, which, a century ago, sponsored the construction of a state-of-the-art hospital in China based on the ground-breaking germ theory. He further highlighted the transformative power of medical breakthroughs, such as penicillin, which spurred foundations like Ford to establish centres aimed at addressing critical health issues. He stressed the need for trust, effective communication, and the sharing of credit among collaborators.
Mr Boon Heong Ng, Chief Executive Officer of Temasek Foundation, shared insights into Temasek’s extensive collaborative efforts during the COVID pandemic. Their multifaceted approach involved supporting over 40 countries, partnering with isolation facilities for tracing and therapeutics, and procuring critical supplies designed in Hong Kong. He also emphasised the importance of sustainable funding models and highlighted the key role of community groups in ensuring that healthcare initiatives reach the most vulnerable populations. Dr Paul Schreier, Chief Executive Officer (Interim) of Wellcome Trust, delved into the organisation’s critical role in early vaccine research and the imperative for swift action. He highlighted the importance of clinical trials, mentioning the highly successful Recovery Trial, which led to the development of a cost-effective treatment option. He also noted the global collaboration that emerged as a response to the pandemic, emphasising the need for preparedness and robust health systems. Responding to audience questions, panellists also suggested that philanthropy had a role in scaling effective solutions that were being ignored due to a lack of incentives under the current system. This was particularly important as the driver of future collaboration was not a willingness to contribute finances, but a preparedness to share data. In such an environment, Dr Chen reminded us that “Information is key, but more important is trust”. Overall, all panellists encouraged greater collaboration as Mr Ng said, “It is through shared action we can deliver optimal value.”