Harvard Health Leaders Gather in Geneva For Annual Reunion

The tragic Ebola epidemic in West Africa concentrated attention on the need to build resilient health systems capable of responding to unanticipated demands. What exactly that entails was the subject of discussion among about 40 current and former health ministers all participants in the Harvard Ministerial Leadership in Health Program. [For further info, see http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(15)60755-3/fulltext]

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health faculty Bill Hsiao and Rifat Atun focused on the need to ensure sustainable financing to ensure affordable, accessible public health service providing decent standards of care. The most animated part of the discussion was about leadership in the face of crisis. Harvard Medical School’s Michael VanRooyen talked about the importance of crisis mitigation but also the inevitability of at least one major catastrophe during the tenure of a health minister. UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s principal advisor Sir Michael BHARVARD_may17,2015_┬⌐point-of-views.ch-8112arber told ministers to assume every crisis is a catastrophe until proven otherwise. Citing examples from around the world of the political consequences for leaders who underestimated and failed to mount a sufficient response to national crises, Sir Michael also mapped out how ministers can quickly analyze weaknesses in leadership and systems failures complicating adequate crisis response. [For a more in depth discussion with Sir Michael Barber, visit the Voices in Leadership page at http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/voices/events/barber/]