Paving the way for meaningful stakeholder collaborations on health in the aftermath of a pandemic

On February 24th, a group of Young Gasteiners and experts gathered online to share and discuss strategies to improve stakeholder collaboration in health during these challenging times the world is experiencing.  From the outset, participants agreed on one positive that has emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic: responsibility of all actors operating in the health arena has increased, and is higher than ever before. But what are the consequences of this fact, and what implications might it have for shaping stakeholder collaborations on health in the near future?

Partnerships are a valuable resource for tackling complex public health problems, as they draw on the expertise of various types of stakeholders such as researchers, policy makers, industry, and civil society. These include partnerships not only aimed at advancing health policies, but also partnerships that intend to enhance corporate social responsibility actions from the private sector. In a fast-paced world marked by uncertainty and limited resources, multi-stakeholder collaboration is the solution for more participative and inclusive decisions, ensuring vulnerable groups are included, and no one is left behind.

However, partnerships in health do face challenges. One key aspect to consider, which has the potential to hinder the establishment of meaningful partnerships, is the politicisation of health decisions – an issue that became even more apparent during the pandemic. Politics influences policy, and evidence is often not considered the main factor at play. While the importance of evidence-based decisions has been firmly in the spotlight, mechanisms must be established to ensure timely access to quality information that can sustain key decisions.

When it comes to building effective partnerships, different cultures and perspectives exist across sectors. The first step in addressing this issue is to acknowledge the differences, and then to work through the common interests. Strong leadership is needed to guide partnerships, from their inception, through the establishment of strategic goals and ground rules, to how they function over time.  Although there are some models of good functioning partnerships, there is not a “one size fits all” approach and each partnership should be designed to promote productive collaboration amongst its stakeholders. Transparency is key, along with setting clear principles and objectives that allow for effective monitoring and evaluation.

Last but not least, one must be reminded that though the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed unprecedent levels of solidarity at global level, vested interests have not disappeared and continue to exist as a threat to healthy policies. We must remain vigilant, yet open to innovation to pave the way for better collaborations.

This blog was written by a YFG alumna Sofia Ribeiro.

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