Jun 07, 2021 Heitham Hassoun, MD
Welcome to the Cedars-Sinai International blog.
Even as countries across the globe continue to struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an emerging vision among healthcare leaders that the impossible is within reach: a world where every person has access to quality healthcare.
This profoundly ambitious goal will require bridge-building on an unprecedented scale. That endeavor has a name: healthcare diplomacy (the field was initially conceived in response to global threats to public health in the 19th century and has been evolving ever since).
"The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted healthcare to the center of the global conversation and taught us, at enormous cost, that the wellbeing of humankind is dependent on fragile healthcare systems that must be strengthened through international cooperation. "
Broadly understood, healthcare diplomacy explores and facilitates opportunities to advance care across borders. It identifies the barriers to those opportunities and fosters relationships capable of diminishing and, eventually, dissolving them. In this manner, healthcare can also be regarded as a way to transcend language and cultural differences and bring people together.
It's an enormously complex process. Because we regard healthcare diplomacy with a combination of humility and enthusiasm, we wanted to work with a partner who has a world-class understanding of international affairs. To that end, my colleague Art Ochoa, Cedars-Sinai's senior vice president of Advancement, introduced me to Jerrold Green, MD, the CEO of the Pacific Council on International Policy.
Our collaboration took shape quickly. Last September, we launched a series of healthcare diplomacy webinars. The first livestream focused on U.S.-China relations and how healthcare diplomacy is circumventing the geopolitical tensions between the two nations. Cedars-Sinai's collaboration with Taikang Healthcare Group, in the city of Shenzhen in southern China, was a case in point.
The second webinar was in December, on cooperative exchanges between Los Angeles and Mexico. The guest of honor was Ambassador Marcela Celorio, Consul General of Mexico in Los Angeles. Our panelists explored cross-border exchanges between physicians and nurses, opportunities created by the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA replaced NAFTA in 2017), medical tourism, biotechnology synergies and access to care for uninsured Mexicans in Southern California.
We've been encouraged by the response to the series. The next webinar in June will focus on Russia.
"If we pair healthcare diplomacy with the breathtaking advances of the 21st century, in medicine, science, informatics, communication, artificial intelligence, travel and other domains, then the vision of universal quality care—one world, one health—begins to come into focus."
The conviction that every person in the world could one day have access to quality healthcare strikes many observers as utopian. "It's an inspiring idea that will never happen," they say.
I understand that sentiment—after all, it is hard to think of a more ambitious goal. But we also know that we are living in unprecedented times. The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted healthcare to the center of the global conversation and taught us, at enormous cost, that the wellbeing of humankind is dependent on fragile healthcare systems that must be strengthened through international cooperation.
If we pair healthcare diplomacy with the breathtaking advances of the 21st century, in medicine, science, informatics, communication, artificial intelligence, travel and other domains, then the vision of universal quality care—one world, one health—begins to come into focus.
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