The 2018 World Innovation Summit for Health


Michael Phelps gives his keynote address at World Innovation Summit for Health. Photo by Inaara Gangji.

The World Innovation Summit for Health was held in Doha at the Qatar National Convention Centre from Nov. 13-14. WISH is an initiative of Qatar Foundation established under the patronage of the former first-lady of Qatar Sheikha Moza bint Nasser and took place in Doha for the fourth time since its inauguration in 2013. WISH 2018 brought together global leaders, policy makers, and innovators in healthcare to address some of the world’s most pressing healthcare challenges and explored new ways of overcoming them. 

Below, our Daily Q reporters highlight some of the workshops from the summit.


Day 1: Healthcare in Conflict Settings  

By Shafaq Zia

Besides displacing people and destroying lives, war disrupts nation states and their ability to provide healthcare to their citizens, said Stephen Sackur, as he moderated a panel discussion titled “Healthcare in Conflict Settings.”

Stephen Sackur, presenter of HardTalk, has been a journalist with BBC News since 1986. Before taking over HardTalk, Sackur worked as a BBC foreign correspondent in Europe and the Middle East.

Sackur shared his experience as a journalist reporting on the frontline and said covering conflicts and their aftermath has made him realize how devastating war always is for the civilians who have the misfortune to be living in its midst.

Additionally, during the session, panelists from around the world, including the UK, US, Lebanon, Oman, Ecuador, and Liberia discussed the adverse impacts of conflict on the extent and quality of healthcare available and outlined the challenges to achieving health coverage in conflict-affected areas worldwide.

Forum chair and Professor of Global Health and Humanitarian Affairs at the University of Manchester Mukesh Kapila said armed conflicts in today’s world are chaotic and lawless. Living in conflict is a way of life for millions of people around the world. Individuals hailing from these conflict-affected areas either spend the entirety of their lives living in conflict or recovering from it.

Sackur agreed and said, “up to 90 percent of the causalities in wars, as they are fought today, are civilian causalities.”

Twenty people every minute of every day are being displaced by conflict and persecution around the world, and the average displacement time for someone who has been forced into international refugee status is 26 years, he added.

Highlighting the inconsistencies associated with healthcare coverage in conflict affected areas of the world, Kapila argued that never has the world been so busy; as a result, it is unable to provide relief to the suffering.

“The way international aid system works, it is like a lottery. Or even worse. In this lottery, your chances of survival depend of who you are, where you live, who’s your friend and who’s your enemy,” Kapila said.

The session concluded with a number of suggested solutions to overcoming the challenges of providing sufficient healthcare to populations living in conflict settings. The panel agreed that universal healthcare coverage can be achieved through placing focus on the principles of equity, quality and protection. These three principles help ensure that high quality healthcare services are made accessible to anyone who requires them, regardless of one’s ability to pay for them.

The Report of the WISH Healthcare in Conflict Settings Forum 2018, compiled by Mukesh Kapila and Rachel Thompson, a research associate at The Centre on Global Health Security, Chatham House,  ends on the note, “to truly ‘leave no one behind’ and achieve universal healthcare coverage for conflict-affected populations…. a new way of seeing is required, one where people – not money and politics – are at the forefront of vision.”


Day 2: Keynote address by Michael Phelps 

By Inaara Gangji

 Seeking help when suffering from mental illness is okay, said retired Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps during his keynote address at the World Innovation Summit for Health in Doha on Nov. 14.

According to the WISH website, Phelps was invited to speak as he “exemplifies the fact that the level of professional success is no measure of the mental health of an individual” and because he “has become a tremendous patient advocate for the hundreds of millions of people globally who are dealing with anxiety or depression.” WISH prioritized mental health as part of this year’s agenda with panels on evidence-based research on anxiety and depression,; it has partnered with the U.S. based Carter Center that advocates for improving mental healthcare.

An estimated one in five people suffer as a result of mental health issues, according to Phelps. He recognized that expressing the need for help can be tough as even he punished himself emotionally to mask his anxiety and depression while pushing himself physically during trainings. According to him, as a male athlete he was expected to never show weakness and that there was no room for emotions when training to achieve sporting milestones.

Phelps is widely known as one of the most successful swimmers of all time, having won 28 Olympic medals, 23 of which were gold. In 2008, he launched the Michael Phelps Foundation, which “promotes water safety, healthy living, and the pursuit of dream,” according to the WISH website.

“[In 2014] I spent five days alone in my room, and quite frankly I didn’t want to be alive. I saw myself as worthless, as someone who had let down so many people that I cared most about,” said Phelps. “But having reached rock bottom, I decided to ask for help, and it was one of the best decisions of my life.”

Phelps added that opening up about his mental challenges helped him find “strength not vulnerability,” making him realize that “it’s okay to not be okay.”

His decision to seek professional help saved his life, he said. “I want to take this chance to thank the healthcare community.

Phelps said that by sharing his journey, he hopes to open up the conversation on mental health so that others can seek a better understanding of themselves in order to have the tools and the understanding to manage their vulnerabilities, just like he did.

In the Q&A session with the BBC’s news and radio presenter Mishal Husain following his keynote address, Phelps talked about his involvement with the “Talkspace” app, whose platform allow people young and old to connect with professional help when struggling with mental health. He said handheld devices make it easy for busy people and others to check in with a therapist on a regular basis and not neglect self-care.

“For me, self-awareness and vulnerability is empowerment,” he added.


Day 2: Innovation Hub – Spotlight Stage: Young Innovators

By Moom Thahinah

After having researched for nearly three years, Stefano Glauser, the chief executive officer of, and his team created an algorithm that produces a meal plan along with agrocery list and recipes for a patient to recover from any imbalanced nutritional diseases they may be suffering from. “What we created is an algorithm that a doctor could use with their patient on a platform to create a personalized meal plan for every individual patient,” said Glauser.

At the Spotlight stage at the World Innovation Summit for Health, the platform “Young Innovators” allowed young inventors to speak, showcase and promote their design-based devices and innovative models. Among 10 young innovators, two of the speakers were Stefano Glauser and Allen Mohammadi, who used artificial intelligence in their appliances.

A doctor can input a patient’s data into the system and receive an output of a meal plan for the patient to help him sustain his chronic disease, according to Glauser.

This innovation means a doctor does not have to perform multiple tests on a patient but instead simply provide the patient’s information to the artificial intelligencecodedsystemand receive the meal plan. “If you follow it, it will help you to recover. Especiallyparents of children who have allergies face a big decision every day when it comes to preparing a meal,” he said.This appliance provides a meal plan for anyone with a disproportion in their nutritional stability.

Similar to Glauser’s utilization of artificial intelligence in his tool, Allen Mohammadi, the co-founder of Hippogriff AB, and his brother worked on the detection of heart disease and developed a core artificial intelligence algorithm that uses a patient’s existing data before an operation to assist doctors.

“By using our tool as a primary tool, we help the doctors to cure the patient much faster and make it as affordable as possible, so nobody is excluded because of its location or its financial situation,” Mohammadi said.He said he wishesto expand hisvision by saving 1 million lives a year but also by democratizing access to at least 1 billion people globally. “We are going to travel the worldand advance in the future so that we can help cure illness beyond heart disease,” he added.

Antony Lai, a professor at Qatar University and a first-time attendee of WISH, said, “I think this is a very positive event. It is clearly aimed at exposing the international sign of Qatar Foundation and their interest in the locals.”

“This type of event is very productive in terms of networking as there is a chance of meeting new people, increasing connections and promoting a positive outcome,” said a former Texas A&M professor Muhammad Yusuf who had come to the WISH event for the first time as well.

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