We need a Davos conference on world health care

By Fred Roffey

Early each year we see the super-rich and their companies attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. It is splashed across world media.

And each year we get the same platitudes, with some exceptions, from speaker after speaker and they still come up with no real plans for the future.

A big exception was billionaire Bill Gates, who made the case for governments and individuals to fund global health initiatives in developing countries. One of the many initiatives of his own foundation has been to spend about $10 billion on the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

However, during the conference time the collective wealth of those attending increased by $2,5 billion a day, but the super-rich and companies are paying lower rates of tax than they have in decades, according to anti-poverty charity Oxfam.

And during that time thousands of people around the world, many of them women and children, paid the ultimate price of poverty with starvation, pain or death.

All this has led to growing calls for a wealth tax. In its latest report, Oxfam said inequality was at record levels and called for a wealth tax to level the playing fields.

It pointed out that the wealth of the world’s billionaires increased by $900 billion last year, while the wealth of the poorest half of humanity, 3.8 billion people, fell by 11 percent.

“Billionaires now have more wealth than ever before. Between 2017 and 2018, a new billionaire was created every two days,” said the report.

It added that last year 26 people owned the same as the poorest half of humanity.

The People’s Health Movement (PHM) in Cape Town has joined the call for more effective taxation of individuals and companies as a way of helping to create global health care.

Karen Meyer-Borochowitz, Executive Director of DementiaSA, has signed – on behalf of DementiaSA – a statement by PHM which appeals to national governments to review public health systems to ensure they meet the needs of their populations. (See DementiaSA Signs Global Health Care Statement in this issue.)

In the statement, PHM urges effective taxation to ensure that all individuals and corporations pay their fair share of taxes to enable the funding of services beneficial to health.

It also urges the regulation of tax havens and evasions.


It is time the world had an annual conference to focus attention on the appalling state of global health care and to urge the introduction of a wealth tax.

The extreme gap between rich and poor is undermining the fight against poverty and damaging economies as well as fuelling public anger across the globe, according to Oxfam South Africa spokesperson Jabulile Buthelezi.

She said recent reports were important as they highlighted the plight of millions living in poverty, and showcased the difference between the haves and the have-nots.

“People are dying because we do not have enough doctors, medicines and nurses servicing the public health care system, which is underfunded. Poor women and children are hit the hardest. Women spend hours caring for children, the sick and the elderly when public services fail.”


To make matters worse, chronic diseases and conditions are on the increase. According to the World Health Organisation, chronic disease prevalence has shown regular growth over the past decade.

An ageing population and changes in societal behaviour, such as negative health habits, are contributing to a steady increase in common and costly long-term health problems.

The middle class is growing, automation accelerating and people are adopting a more sedentary lifestyle. This is pushing obesity rates (with all the related conditions) and cases of diseases such as diabetes upward.

Dementia is very much included in these problems. About 3% of people between the ages of 65-74 have dementia, nearly 20% between 75 and 84, and about half of those over 85 years of age in the Western World. Every three seconds, someone in the world develops dementia.

Hardest hit are developing countries with poor health care facilities for dementia, shortage of doctors and nurses, and slow diagnosis.

The time for an annual conference on world health care is now overdue.