In 2012, Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of Qatar Foundation, addressed politicians and health leaders attending the Global Health Policy Summit in London and pledged that the following year Qatar Foundation would host its own series of global health conferences in Doha, modelled on the success of Qatar Foundation’s existing World Innovation Summit for Education. The new initiative would be called the World Innovation Summit for Health.
It will bring together health innovators and reformers from around the world to exchange ideas, learn from international experience, and collaborate in developing the new solutions we so urgently need.
And so, on 11-12 December 2013, the inaugural meeting of WISH was held at Qatar National Convention Centre, with Professor the Lord Darzi of Denham becoming WISH’s executive chair and more than 1,000 healthcare leaders, practitioners and innovators in attendance
“WISH’s commitment to improving the lives of people and communities everywhere will help to drive the spread of innovation and change in healthcare we need to face the challenges of current and future generations.”
"Innovation showcases are a fantastic example of how we capture and disseminate information about valuable but previously underexposed innovations"
Health professionals and policymakers came together to discuss a number of significant global health challenges, and delivered a call to action for access to healthcare to be considered as a basic human right with the launch of a new report on Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
Delegates heard from a number of keynote speakers including Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer of England, who pleaded with the global healthcare community to wake up to the emerging threat posed by drug resistant infections and Dr Lawrence Summers, Charles W Eliot University Professor and President Emeritus, Harvard University who set out the compelling human and economic case for governments around the world to prioritize funding in healthcare.
By 2017, WISH had become established and worked year-round to share the finding of its reports and to pilot projects that stemmed from report recommendations. In Qatar, this led to WISH hosting an academy on patient safety and working with Liverpool Football Club Foundation to provide inclusivity training for sports coaches working with autistic children. Internationally, WISH research findings on such topics as dementia and autism were presented at international conferences.
WISH 2018 was held in Doha on 13-14 November in front of more than 2,100 delegates. In the week ahead of the summit, newly launched ‘Doha Healthcare Week’ took health into the local community with more than 200 health-related events taking place across Qatar’s capital city.
WISH’s work also contributed to the development of national health policies in Qatar, for example in the areas of dementia and autism.
Keynote speakers at WISH 2018 included former Irish President Mary Robinson, International Rescue CEO and former Foreign Secretary of the UK Government, David Miliband, as well as celebrated Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps who shared his personal battle living with anxiety and depression, telling us all that it was “ok to not be ok” Capturing the very essence of WISH, Minister of Public Health for the State of Qatar, Her Excellency Dr Hanan Al-Kuwari also told the gathered audience “We are stronger when we work together, when we collaborate and share expertise, when we are driven by our common ambition to improve healthcare at home, and across the world”.
“We simply cannot stand idly by while others suffer. A healthier world is in our grasp, but we can only succeed if we are determined in our efforts.”
In 2019, WISH and its work were showcased at events in Atlanta, Oxford, Muscat, Hyderabad, and Geneva. The year ended with a two-day symposium hosted in Vatican City, in partnership with the Vatican, that explored the close relationship between palliative care, mental health and religious ethics.
WISH also worked with Save The Children to publish the Arabic version of the first specialist pediatric blast injury manual, which has since gone on to be used to treat children seriously injured in conflict and post-conflict areas of Libya, Syria, Yemen and Iraq.
2020 proved to be a challenging year for everyone working in the healthcare sector. As a result of the global spread of COVID-19, WISH 2020 was held virtually across five days and was attended by 75,000 people online.
Ahead of WISH 2020, wish took part in a series of webinars that explored the effect of Covid-19 on healthcare professionals and on the wider society.
WISH also hosted a webinar on Islamic perspectives on Covid-19 with Hamad bin Khalifa University, and held an online discussion on sport and mental health that featured cricketer Wasim Akram, Olympic gold medal-winning runner Dame Kelly Holmes, and footballer Robbie Fowler, each of whom gave a fascinating personal insight into the challenges faced by sports professionals.
Working with lead academic partners Imperial College and The BMJ, WISH commissioned 10 main reports on such topics as climate change and health, toxic stress and PTSD in children, healthy dry cities, health at major sporting events, immunotherapy, and mental health & digital technologies.
30 innovators were chosen as winners of WISH’s two new innovation competitions: the Spark competition for startups and the Booster competition for innovation companies looking to scale up. The winners joined an ever-growing network of innovators from around the world who have been showcased and supported by WISH. An additional “Innovators of Tomorrow” competition encouraged school children to use their inquisitive minds to come up with health innovations and to get them to consider a future exploring this vital field.
The final major WISH event of 2020 was a collaboration on 20 November with UNICEF to host a day of sessions to coincide with the International Day of the Child. Leaders from Qatar Foundation, UNICEF and Save The Children participated, and there were discussions on such topics as violence against children and the effect of COVID-19 on children’s health, as well as art and music performances.