CMO Issues Global Health Message

Peter Russell

July 22, 2019

The welfare of people in the UK was dependent on an internationally 'joined up' approach to health, England's outgoing Chief Medical Officer (CMO) said.

In her final annual report, Prof Dame Sally Davies said infectious diseases "do not recognise borders".

She also advocated looking beyond the traditional health sphere to consider other factors that could endanger health, such as pollution, the spread of misinformation, antimicrobial resistance (AMR), and unhealthy foods.

After 9 years as CMO, Prof Davies is taking up a new role as master of Trinity College, Cambridge, in October.

A Weak Link Anywhere 'Risks Our Security'

Her report emphasised that a sole focus on domestic health ran the risk of failing to control global threats. Prof Davies said: "What is clear, is a weak link anywhere in the world risks our security. But actually, there's so much more that we need to continue working on: sustainability, and mutuality.

"We can learn together. Being engaged in global health is something we do well and I'm very proud of. We must continue."

Increasing levels of non-communicable diseases globally could undermine health systems in lower- and middle-income countries, the report warned. This could jeopardise poorer countries' ability to meet the needs of their populations and effectively engage in infectious disease control.

Prof Davies cited last year's monkeypox outbreak in the UK – the first cases of the disease outside the African continent since 2003. She said that UK collaboration with the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control helped to contain and manage the situation.

Global Aid

The UK's current commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income on aid was "an extremely important part of our global influence and engagement" and must continue, Prof Davies said.

"We should invest in systems and solutions that contribute to making health more equitable, secure and sustainable," she said. "What we learn abroad will improve our NHS and support our domestic efforts to make sure no one in the UK is left behind."

The report also called for more government support for the health and science sector.

Prof Davies warned that AMR posed a "grave threat" to modern medicine. She said she was "delighted" to move to her new role as the UK Special Envoy on AMR where she promised to build on the "global momentum" on the issue.

The report, which is primarily aimed at government, regulators, policy-makers, and healthcare professionals, was accompanied by a collection of letters from key world health leaders about the state of global health, accompanied by Prof Davies' replies.

In a tweet, Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, thanked Prof Davies for her "impeccable service" as CMO.

Prof Chris Whitty, Chief Scientific Adviser for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), will succeed Prof Davies as CMO, and the UK Government's Chief Medical Adviser.

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