By Joey Edmundson
From Merck & Co. to Rabin Martin,. Jeff Sturchio. Ph.D. has years of experience exploring public-private solutions to the pressing healthcare issues in our world today. On Tuesday, February 4th, students in the “Conversations in Global Health” course had the opportunity to hear the career path of Dr. Sturchio and his insights on the role of private actors in global health.
Very different than past speakers the class had hosted, Dr. Sturchio elaborated on how the private sector has much to contribute to accomplishing universal healthcare coverage. He spoke of past successes, such as the Merck-Washington University partnership to advance bioinformatics in the mid-90s and his consulting experience of encouraging the use of generic medicine and local clinics in Kenya to reach a larger population suffering from hypertension. He also was prepared to speak to the political economy aspect of healthcare: the current coronavirus epidemic is having huge consequences on the global economy, and no country can truly have a totally public health care system (even the UK’s exemplary National Health Service has private clinics). As reflected in his article “Global health disruptors: the global healthcare market,” Dr. Sturchio stressed the fact that no minister of health can tackle these issues alone.
Therefore, from HIV/AIDS to asthma to achieving the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, the public and private sectors must play an active and cooperative role into the future. “The issue is not the lack of money, but misallocated money,” he said during the discussion. To achieve this monetary efficiency, Sturchio further drew from his experiences at multinationals and consulting firms. He explained that anyone researching a cure to a disease—regardless if it’s the government, a private firm, or academia— is equally committed to finding the solution. His work “The Road to Universal Health Coverage” further explains the urgency of this multifaceted approach to healthcare. The book speaks to how governments would be better equipped to respond to natural disasters with the help of the private sector, and that “the lack of adequate numbers of trained health workers is arguably one of the biggest barriers to UHC [universal health coverage] implementation.” If the world is going to continue seeing breakthroughs in healthcare, it is imperative that governments, private firms, and academia continue to work together.
Overall, I found Dr. Sturchio’s conversation with us very informative and well thought out. He inspired us that no matter what degree we may be pursuing as undergraduates, anyone can get involved in global health. Businessmen and politicians as well as scientists, doctors, and healthcare professionals all must work together to resolve these dilemmas, from epidemics and natural disasters to the new implications of aging societies.
Joey Edmundson (SFS’22) is an undergraduate studying international economics. He is currently enrolled in the India Innovation Studio and plans to study abroad in India in Spring 2021.