Universal Health Coverage will be high on the agenda at this year's meeting, and rightly so. No country can say that it perfectly fulfils the World Health Organization definition of "access to key health interventions for all at an affordable cost, thereby achieving equity in access" and at least 60% of the world's 192 countries are thought to be a long way off.
Currently, more than one billion people lack access to even the most basic healthcare, and over 100 million are pushed into poverty each year through catastrophic healthcare costs.
In the last few years the global consensus has shifted significantly from a humanitarian rationale for UHC to a case built on powerful economic and political imperatives. One study I was involved in with our team in South Africa suggests that a one year increase in life expectancy can increase GDP per capita by 4% in the long run, while improved health in the workforce can improve productivity by a massive 20% to 47%.
Recent events have also seen countries recognize UHC as an essential component of their future political and social stability. This is a large part of the rationale for the huge investments being made into health coverage in China, Indonesia, Brazil and many other nations.
Chatham House, UK, recently estimated that the minimum public expenditure for which basic universal health coverage could be achieved is $86 per person per year. That compares to over $5,600 in Switzerland and less than $6 in Senegal. This demonstrates that money isn't everything - it's where it goes that makes the more important difference.
To explore the areas where emerging nations can avoid costly "mistakes" and even leapfrog traditional high-cost models of care, our global team published a report titled, Necessity is the mother of innovation. This report includes the adoption of mobile technology for health; task sharing with patients, communities as care givers as well as new types of health workers; strong primary and community care; and an intolerance of waste at every level of the delivery chain. The next big ideas in healthcare are coming out of Asia and Africa, not Europe and America.
In virtually every country where UHC has been advanced, political vision and will have been essential, along with economic growth. Courage is needed to overcome powerful vested interests (which unfortunately too often includes medical representative bodies) and convince emerging middle classes to support a system based on solidarity rather than self.
As well as bold government, the private sector also has a vital role to play in rapidly scaling up access to affordable, high quality healthcare around the world. There has been a lot debate about the importance of Public Private Partnerships in recent years, but insufficient attention to the practical realities of getting effective collaborations to work at scale.
To help advance the conversation on UHC, KPMG will bring together leaders from government, business and international development to talk about what the private sector is doing to achieve universal health coverage - and how to expand the best of these ideas.
Universal health coverage is an audacious goal, but one whose time has come. My hope for the week is that together we can use Davos' unique concentration of ideas and influence to make it a reality for more people.