Vardhan chaired the 147th session of the World Health Organization (WHO) Executive Board via videoconferencing. In this capacity, he pointed to the COVID-19 pandemic and how it has underscored the need for healthcare for all people. “A lesson we knew, and a lesson that we have now re-learnt is that there is no better future without healthcare for all,” he said.
“The pandemic has made…humanity acutely aware of the consequences of ignoring health systems strengthening and preparedness,” he said. “In such times of global crisis, risk management and mitigation would require further strengthening of global partnerships to re-invigorate interest and investment in global public health.”
Aligned with recent statements by WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Vardhan said “‘We At WHO’ need to be [trailblazers]. The world around us is changing, often with lightning speed. And, always remember that we cannot stand still in a world of change.” Similarly, in his closing remarks to the 73rd World Health Assembly, Tedros asserted that “returning to the status quo is not an option.”
In those comments, the Director-General emphasised that “the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the consequences of chronic under-investment in public health. This health crisis has ignited a socio-economic crisis that has impacted billions of lives and livelihoods and undermined global stability and solidarity…we don’t just need more investment in public health.
“We must also rethink how we value health. “The time has come for a new narrative that sees health not as a cost, but an investment that is the foundation of productive, resilient and stable economies.”
Vardhan, in his remarks, said “if we can build a vision together and work even more swiftly, the new changed landscape will serve as a launching pad that shall literally propel WHO towards a leadership role. However, the potential of this moment will remain only as it was, unless we seize the moment.”