Tackling the global health threats of the future

Published December 16, 2022

Key takeaways:

  • The Lancet has announced a new Commission to examine the broad set of threats facing the world over the rest of the century. 
  • Who will be part of the Commission?
    • Leaders of public health institutions, global thought leaders, youth representatives, and other diverse global leaders.
  • Which health threats will be examined?
    • Pandemics, climate change, conflict, demographic changes and inverted population pyramids, high body mass index, antimicrobial resistance, and other prominent health threats that emerge.

LEarn more about the commission

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity

This week we announced in The Lancet the creation of a Lancet Commission on 21st-Century Global Health Threats. This Commission is chaired by Natalia Kanem, the executive director of the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, and by myself, and the commissioners are drawn from a diverse set of regions and occupations. We have some current and former heads of state.

We have leaders of public health institutions in each of the regions of the world. We have global thought leaders on particular types of threats. We have youth representatives. We have some of the key leaders of global funding organizations. This diverse group is going to try to look for common solutions that cut across the multiplicity of threats that we see for the future.

Theres excellent work thats been done on some of those threats to date. Commissions on pandemics, standing commissions, and other analyses around climate change. There are some, but probably less work on the role of conflict. But as we look at some of the other threats, theres perhaps less work – the threats, for example, from demographic change and inverted population pyramids and what that will do fiscally and economically and socially to many countries.

What do we do about high and rising body mass index around the world, about non-communicable diseases that go with that? What about the threat of antimicrobial resistance and its spread in the future, just to name a few of those threats. But governments and other actors in society and citizens are going to have to navigate a world of the combination of multiple threats. The purpose of this Commission is to look at the evidence and see if there are common strategies that might help societies manage that multiplicity of threats.

Looking far past the SDG target year of 2030 and into the middle of the coming century will be a two-year process. We hope to have the results published from the Commission at the end of 2024, and there will be, once the Commission has its first meeting, the creation of a number of working groups. That will also be a mechanism for hearing evidence and bringing evidence to bear on what the future might hold.

We hope to use quantitative forecasting tools as an input as well as scenario building. How can we change that future, reduce the potential harm from these threats, and have a diverse set of voices from around the world feed into what we hope will be an important and useful set of recommendations? So look forward to more coming on the Commission.

And there is also a website for the Commission, which will provide information on the status of the work as it proceeds.