File photo: Delegates at the World Government Summit 2018 at Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Dubai: The inaugural Global Health Forum, set to run at the seventh edition of the World Government Summit in Dubai’s Madinat Jumeirah next Sunday to Tuesday, will address Disease X — a concept pandemic that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has identified as the next big global threat to public health.

Organised in partnership with WHO, the forum is set to draw the participation of leading healthcare experts, health ministers and scientists. It will also examine the most feasible ways to harness technology to make people healthier, while exploring the future of the healthcare industry.

An opening speech will be delivered by WHO Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, under the title ‘Shaping the Future of Health – Are Governments Ready?’ From this starting point, the Global Health Forum aspires to act as a clarion call for governments around the world to prepare to deal with global health threats.

The focal point will be Disease X, a hypothetical epidemic caused by a pathogen currently unknown to affect humans.

Every year, WHO, the Geneva-based organisation tasked with monitoring and safeguarding global health, highlights serious and potential high-risk diseases that might impact the human population. In 2018, the organisation declared Disease X as the next big threat — one that could emerge from a variety of sources and strike at any time.

In recent memory, over 11,000 fatalities were reported from the Ebola outbreak between 2014 and 2016, while the HIV-AIDS pandemic accounted for 36 million lives at its height towards the end of the 1980s. And in 1968, the influenza pandemic killed an estimated one million people. The size and scale of breakouts are often unpredictable, therefore the need to prepare for any eventuality in the case of a pandemic is paramount in the healthcare industry.

Participants, including representatives of WHO and the UAE Government, will discuss the most pressing issues facing the industry today.

Abdul Rahman Bin Mohammad Al Owais, Minister of Health and Prevention, stressed the importance of consolidating and intensifying international efforts in order to anticipate future diseases and epidemics, and to develop ways to prevent or reduce their negative effects on humans and the global health system. Modern technology, he said, was crucial in the development of proactive solutions.

“Hosting the first World Health Forum at WGS 2019 will offer a significant contribution to supporting global health issues,” he said. “In seeking future solutions to diseases, health threats, and by supporting the necessary scientific research to develop treatments for the protection of global health, we are playing a leading role in combating the health risks of tomorrow.”

The World Government Summit will run from February 10-12. More than 4,000 participants from 140 countries will take part, including heads of states and governments, as well as top-tier representatives of 30 organisations.