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Experts examine health policy and politics in a pandemic world

Public health experts from the U.S. and Latin America, along with health industry representatives, convened to analyze the policy and politics relating to the pandemic as part of the “2021 Business of Health Care” conference, hosted by the Miami Herbert Business School.

With an aim to remedy the health, economic, and societal ills accentuated by the devastating COVID-19 pandemic—even as the virus again surges in different areas of the United States and Latin America—health experts explored a range of topics at the virtual half-day Business of Health Care conference on April 16.

Steven Ullmann, director of the Center for Health Management and Policy at the University of Miami Patti and Allan Herbert Business School, launched the 10th annual conference, themed “Policy, Politics, and the Pandemic—the U.S. and Beyond,” welcoming the more than 1,200 registered viewers. University President Julio Frenk provided opening remarks. 

“The most striking aspect of this pandemic is the huge variation in national responses and in their corresponding results,” said Frenk, a renowned global public health expert, adding “yet that variation provides an opportunity for shared learning.”

Frenk highlighted that the “confluence of crises” in the region—public health, financial, and social—exacerbated by the pandemic has revealed that health is “not just a result of economic development, but one of its key determinants.”

A former health minister for Mexico, Frenk said that while he expects the region will address the first two crises “within the next 12 to 18 months,” the social emergency is not going to go away anytime soon.

“There is much talk about a ‘new normal,’” Frenk said. “Yet I believe we have a once-in-a-century opportunity to build a better normal—and we shape it with the decisions we make today.”

In a headline Q&A session, Donna Shalala, the longest serving U.S. health secretary, a former congresswoman and former University of Miami president, questioned Alex Azar, health secretary for the former Trump administration, on his role in the U.S. initiative to develop a vaccine to combat the coronavirus, transparency in drug pricing, the current Biden administration’s health care agenda, and U.S. support for public health efforts in Latin America.

In detailing his participation in “Operation Warp Speed,” Azar said that his prior experience in government as legal counsel in helping biological and chemical countermeasures for a previous flu and his 10 years as an executive in the pharmaceutical industry were critical in helping to coordinate an effective response team.

“Understanding the risk-adverse nature of the pharmaceutical industry and the power of government to do industrial planning defense department-style served me to bring the many partners together and do the unprecedented—which was…

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