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EF: How would you summarize 2022 from a Latin American health perspective?
YG: 2022 was a challenging year for the world. Latin America was not an exception. Transitioning to the post-COVID era, while still recovering from the harsh conditions left by the pandemic, has been an enormous challenge. Countries needed to face new conditions that arose from the pandemic such as the increase in mental health problems and non-communicable diseases.
According to the IDB publication Going beyond normal “the countries that responded best to the initial outbreak of COVID-19 were those that had built stronger and more equitable health systems, and that had learned from past epidemics to prepare for future health emergencies”. So, now, the region has begun to understand the need to shift towards developing policies that allow health systems to become more resilient and prepared to respond to a future pandemic.
The pandemic showed us how we can come together, innovate, and quickly provide solutions to world threatening conditions. Our challenge now is to continue those efforts and use what we have learned to continue improving our healthcare systems.
EF: When you took on this role in May, what mission did you set for yourself? What would you like to achieve as Executive President of FIFARMA?
YG: Patients are at the centre of everything we do. I firmly believe that we can improve their lives by articulating efforts with different stakeholders in the region. The mission of our team is to position FIFARMA as a key health actor in Latam that can work articulately with public and private actors, to co-create solutions that improve patients' lives. In the post-pandemic era, solving these complex challenges can only be achieved through working together.
To achieve this, FIFARMA is focusing on:
- Developing studies and reports with academic partners to understand the current trends and challenges of the region, in order to propose solutions to overcome them.
- Collaborating with governments and multilateral organizations to implement projects and initiatives to strengthen the health systems of the region.
- Working articulately with different stakeholders to respond to the challenges in the region.
EF: The world health summit was held in Berlin last month. If there was a similar event in this region, how would you outline the current health agenda of Latin America? What are the current priorities of the industry?
YG: The current health agenda should focus on the challenges that countries are facing in the post-pandemic era, the lessons learned from the pandemic, and how countries should become more resilient in the future.
The pandemic showed countries the need of strengthening regional cooperations to become more resilient in the future and improve regulatory approval times to reduce the inequalities in patient access in Latin America. The FIFARMA W.A.I.T indicator, developed by IQVIA Institute, a consultancy firm, highlights that the delay between marketing authorization and patient access varies between 1.5 years and more than 3.5 years.
Taking on account the current perspective of the region, the priorities of the industry are to establish connections with the agendas of Latin American countries, work for the sustainability of the healthcare systems, support timely access to innovative treatments for Latin American patients, foster ecosystems that recognize the value of innovation and work articulately with different stakeholders to overcome the challenges of the region.
EF: What is the role of healthcare in advancing the economy of developing countries?
YG: Undoubtedly, health has a significant impact on the development of countries. On March 22nd FIFARMA launched the study “COVID-19 Policy Environment and the Importance of Health Economy in Latin America” developed by WifOR, which is s an independent economic research institution in Germany. The report concluded that healthcare can be understood as a driver and enabler of economic growth, wealth, and employment rather than a cost. It also shows that there is a direct correlation between health expenditure and gross value added. There is enormous potential since investments not only affect health expenditure directly but create gross value added in the wider economy, too. Therefore, according to the study “This is the strongest evidence for the assertion that health as an investment pays off”.
EF: How is FIFARMA bringing companies and associations together to contribute towards creating a sustainable healthcare system?
YG: FIFARMA provides a regional perspective and identifies the current trends and challenges of the region. By developing studies with different academic partners, we want to gather data that allow us to understand the current situation of the healthcare systems in the region, analyze it and look for solutions to overcome the current challenges. We want to generate evidence that allows us to understand what elements are needed to achieve sustainable healthcare systems in the region.
We work closely with our sister organizations and with international experts to learn from the experiences in other regions and understand what good practices could be implemented in the region to improve the sustainability of health systems.
EF: FIFARMA is about to host a Latin American innovation seminar in Mexico; what are the key topics on your agenda going into this event?
YG: The seminar “Challenges and contributions of IP to society in Latin America” was held between November 14th and 15th in Mexico City. Intellectual Property is the engine that has enabled innovation in health and has played a critical role in addressing the pandemic. Therefore, during the event, we focused on communicating the main benefits that Intellectual property has brought to the countries and why it is essential to strengthen IP systems in the region and promote more investment in research to boost the economic development in our countries.
EF: How can FIFARMA help promote effective collaboration among collective and individual activities in the health system? What can be achieved through this?
YG: FIFARMA wants to take an active role and contribute to the public debate, but more so, we want to articulate joint solutions with public and private actors in the healthcare sector in the region. If we can co-create solutions that promote more sustainable healthcare ecosystems, with greater opportunities for early access to innovative treatments and medicines, we can favourably impact the lives of many patients in the region.
EF: As a successful and empowered woman leader in the health sector, and the first woman to lead FIFARMA, what advice would you give to the next generation of women looking to follow in your footsteps?
YG: I want to encourage women to pursue their dreams and believe in themselves. One key element that we need to work on as women are to build confidence in ourselves and not let anything or anyone stop us from being as great as we want to be. There will be many challenges in life – we grow through them. But we all have the power within to connect to a higher purpose and overcome any obstacles in the way.