Barcelona Global Health Summer School 2017: Innovation and Access to Medicines Must Go Hand in Hand

Seventy participants from 28 countries attend fourth summer school on global health in Barcelona


The lack of access to safe, effective and affordable medicines, vaccines and diagnostic devices in many parts of the world continues to pose a serious risk to the health and lives of millions of people despite being a priority target of Sustainable Development Goal 3 in the United Nations 2030 Agenda. One of the causes of this problem is the current pharmaceutical model, which has been shown to result in increasingly expensive products and to favour the neglect of diseases associated with poverty. As a result of these two failings, the current model constitutes an undeniable obstacle to a universal and equitable public health system.

The challenges posed by this issue and the innovations needed to address it were the central themes of the Barcelona Global Health Summer School 2017, a course organised jointly by the Asociació d'Estudiants de Ciències de la Salut (AECS), the International Federation of Medical Students' Associations (IFMSA) and ISGlobal.

The one-week course (July 16-21) brought together 70 participants from 28 countries to learn more about the issues and to share their knowledge and experience with 15 internationally renowned experts in global health. Among the experts who took part was Hans Hogerzeil, Professor of Global Health at the University of Groningen (Netherlands), co-chair of the Lancet Commission on Essential Medicines, and Director of the Essential Medicines and Pharmaceutical Policies programme at the World Health Organisation from 2004 to 2011.

In a talk entitled “Innovation, Access and Health Systems”, Hogerzeil stressed that while price is a significant barrier to access to medicines it is by no means the only one. He argued in favour of a holistic approach capable of identifying comprehensive solutions.

Lilas Mercuriali, a member of the Organising Committee and AECS representative, expressed satisfaction at the good attendance and saw it as an indication that “students and young professionals working in the health sciences around the world are clearly concerned about the lack of access to drugs that could save millions of lives and want to contribute to solving this problem”.

This year, to put into practice their knowledge, expertise and personal experience, students were given the opportunity to create a project on an issue related to innovation and access to health services and technologies. The sessions dedicated to the development of these projects resulted in the creation of 6 consciousness raising campaigns and provided an ideal space for networking, laying the basis for future collaborations.