One of today’s greatest global challenges continues to be access to healthcare. Being able to get even the most essential medical services – and being able to afford it – still eludes hundreds of millions of people. Healthcare is a basic human right1, and yet it’s repeatedly and systematically violated, especially in lower- and middle-income countries. In Southeast Asia, for example, a 2021 report shows that over 65 million people were pushed into poverty that year by paying for out-of-pocket medical treatments.2

Access to healthcare is not a luxury, but a necessity. A basic human right.
Muniba MazariUnited National UN Women Ambassador to Pakistan

It’s complicated

Getting to the root of the problem is anything but straightforward. “Is it funding? Is it healthcare capacity? Is it awareness or diagnosis?” reflects Roche Chairman of the Board Christoph Franz in a recent interview about unequal access to healthcare. “Over the years we have learned it is usually a combination, and we can only overcome these challenges by aiming at multiple targets.”

With so many factors contributing to the problem, it’s clear that there are no easy answers, especially as the world faces a rapidly expanding ageing population, rising numbers in noncommunicable diseases, worsening multiple risk factors and morbidities such as obesity and diabetes, as well as new and emerging mental health issues that pile on the complexity.

Lessons from the pandemic

And, of course, there’s COVID-19. Most of the world is starting to emerge from the pandemic which exposed the stark disparities in healthcare access even while it intensified them. Although it’s clear that things are going to get harder before they get better, the pandemic did teach us how much we can accomplish when governments, international organisations, academic and research centres and corporations come together with the common purpose of saving millions of lives. It also served as a reminder that it’s going to take a global community of brave and innovative players to overcome the fragility of healthcare systems.

And it starts with listening.

Preparing for challenges ahead

So it’s only when we make space for the most difficult, honest and even uncomfortable discussions that we can begin to untangle global problems. On 5 September 2022, we gathered a panel of eminent, diverse speakers to debate the urgent challenges of access to healthcare in Asia and discuss how to make progress. Watch as activist Muniba Mazari, Black Eyed Peas founding member, public health expert Dr. Ratna Devi and Minister of Health of Malaysia, His Honourable Khairy Jamaluddin, share their personal stories about why they’re fighting for access. You’ll hear firsthand about devastating consequences that could easily have been prevented with better access and infrastructure, and the changes that we can make right now to avoid further unnecessary suffering. Guided by moderator Nisha Pillai, former BBC news presenter, and with their unique perspectives, the guests tackle the barriers to achieving basic healthcare services and infrastructure for all.

Our way forward should be a shift of focus from sick care, which it is right now, to health care and wellness.
His Hounourable Khairy Jamaluddinthe Minister of Health for Malaysia

Mission possible

The good news is that the more we talk about it, the clearer it becomes which actions need to be prioritised. In Asia, for example, our speakers agreed that the most pressing steps to take are:

  • Providing universal healthcare coverage

  • Improving education and awareness of healthcare basics

  • Applying more digital technologies and obtaining better diagnostic equipment

  • Ensuring there are enough skilled healthcare providers to meet demand with training programmes and continuing education opportunities

  • Encouraging more public–private partnerships

Everyone should have equal access to healthcare. It’s very simple. I was given an opportunity and now I’m paying it forward. member of the Black Eyed Peas

There will always be socioeconomic disparity and inequality in the world. For colossal global problems like access to healthcare, there can be no quick fixes. But we refuse to give up. We’re going to keep listening, collaborating and unravelling each one of the complicated strands. We’ll do it because human rights are inalienable. And we’ll do it because we’re passionate and committed, and we all have a role to play.

To learn about some of the access foundations and programmes discussed during the LifeTalk and for more information about Roche partnerships to support access to healthcare, please visit:

  • DakshamA Health and Education brings together patient and caregiver voices to make healthcare more accessible, safe, and within reach of the people.

  • Foundation supports youth by granting opportunities through arts, technology and healthcare in the Philippines.

  • Global Access Programme In 2021, we expanded our Global Access Program to include SARS-CoV-2 PCR testing to increase access in low- and middle-income countries during the ongoing pandemic.

  • Changing Diabetes in Children (CDiC) is run by Roche Diabetes Care and Novo Nordisk. There are about 1.2 million children and adolescents living with diabetes worldwide - the majority in low-resource settings. CDiC has already positively impacted the lives of more than 35,000 of them by advancing access to insulin, state-of-the-art diabetes management solutions and education.

  • Project ECHO Through a partnership with the ECHO Institute, we’re working to establish a remote telementoring programme for health workers in underserved or rural communities, enabling them to diagnose and treat patients faster and more effectively.

  • City Cancer Challenge continues to be one of our strong partnerships in improving access to equitable, quality cancer care in cities around the world. As of December 2021, C/Can is working in 9 cities reaching an estimated 54.2 million people and brings together more than 1,200 health professionals, 149 institutions and 77 global partners from around the world.

  • RED and Roche share a mission to emphasise the importance of diagnostic testing in the fight against COVID-19 and the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic, and to mitigate further impact of COVID-19 on health systems in order to reach patients where access is limited.

  • Genentech Patient Foundation supports patients without medical insurance coverage and other financial concerns with life-saving medicines.

  • Roche has officially joined the Go Further Partnership, which was established in 2018 as an innovative, public-private partnership between the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the George W. Bush Institute, UNAIDS and Merck.

Keynote speakers included Roche Chairman of the Board of Directors Christoph Franz and His Honorable Khairy Jamaluddin (Vice President of World Health Assembly and Health Minister Malaysia).

Meet the experts, speakers and panelists

Christoph Franz
Roche Chairman of the Board of Directors

Christoph Franz started his professional career in 1990 with Deutsche Lufthansa AG. Between 1994 and 2003, he held executive functions at Deutsche Bahn AG, including as a member of the executive board and CEO of the passenger transport division.

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In 2004, he became CEO of Swiss International Air Lines and joined Deutsche Lufthansa AG as deputy chairman of the executive board and CEO of Passenger Airlines. From 2011 to 2014, Mr Franz was chairman of the executive board and CEO of Deutsche Lufthansa AG. Following this, he became a board member of Zurich Insurance and was elected Vice-Chairman in 2018.

Mr Franz was elected chairman of the board of Roche Holding Ltd in 2014 and is a member of the board of both Chugai Pharmaceuticals (controlled by Roche Holding Ltd) and Stadler Rail.

His Honourable Khairy Jamaluddin
Vice President of World Health Assembly and Health Minister Malaysia

Minister of Health for Malaysia, Khairy Jamaluddin, has previously served as Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation and Minister of Youth and Sports.

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He has been the Member of Parliament for Rembau since 2008 and led the Special Task Force to manage the implementation of the vaccination process. Earlier in 2022, he was appointed as vice-chair of the WHO Executive Board for the Western Pacific Region.

Before entering politics, he worked as a policy aide, investment banker and entrepreneur. In 2005, the World Economic Forum in Davos selected him as a Young Global Leader. He was Chairman of Malaysia's National Entrepreneur Development Corporation, Deputy President of the Football Association of Malaysia and Commander of the 508 Territorial Army Regiment of Malaysia.

A proponent of centrist politics, he is the Co-Founder of The Centre, a think tank dedicated to promoting centrist thought.

Nisha Pillai
Former BBC World News Anchor

A former presenter with BBC World News, Nisha Pillai now specialises in moderating panel discussions and high-level dialogues. She has worked on global conferences on HIV and Dementia as well as large ministerial meetings for UN agencies like UNICEF.

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Before branching out into moderation, Nisha enjoyed 25 years at the BBC as a senior news anchor and investigative reporter, fronting Asia Today on the BBC’s Money Programme and as one of the first regular interviewers on Hard Talk.

Another ongoing client is the scientific research institute at CERN, where Nisha was initially involved in preparing senior scientists for media interviews in the run-up to the launch of the Large Hadron Collider. She has also provided strategic advice to the Director General of CERN on media issues.

Nisha has an economics degree from the London School of Economics and was a graduate trainee at the investment bank, Schroders.
Rapper and Founding Member of the Black Eyed Peas, and Founder of the Foundation.

Allan Pineda, better known as, is best known as a co-founding member of Grammy Award-winning pop group The Black Eyed Peas. He is also the founder of the Foundation, which supports youth by granting opportunities through arts, technology and healthcare in the Philippines. In addition, it aims to build classrooms, aid in disaster relief and help those with vision impairment throughout Asia.

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He initially came to the United States at the age of eleven for treatment for nystagmus, an involuntary movement of the eyes. When he was 14, Apl moved from Angeles City, Philippines, to Los Angeles, California.

In 2011, his foundation formed a partnership with the Ninoy and Cory Aquino Foundation (NCAF) to create the ‘We Can Be Anything’ advocacy campaign, where and NCAF pledged to build 10,000 classrooms

Dr. Ratna Devi
Dr Devi is the CEO and Co-founder of DakshamA Health an NGO working for access to health, patient education and advocacy.

A medical doctor, public health and management professional, Dr Ratna Devi has spent over 30 years dedicated to improving health outcomes in India and globally, successfully managing large-scale programmes. Dr Devi also holds advisory positions at several NGOs and has contributed to research and publications.

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Dr Devi is the CEO and Co-founder of DakshamA Health and Education, an organisation dedicated to working for access to health, patient education and advocacy. DakshamA aims to create a network of caregivers and patient groups, work with them on knowledge sharing, and provide essential feedback for managing long-term and chronic diseases.

A versatile leader, Dr Devi combines clinical qualifications to support high-quality service delivery and management experience. As a strong patient safety advocate, she works with government and patient organisations to advocate for better quality and safety at home, educational institutions and workplaces.

Muniba Mazari
National Ambassador for UN Women in Pakistan

Known as the Iron Lady of Pakistan, Muniba Mazari has gained respect and admiration as an artist, motivational speaker, activist, anchor, model & singer.

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She is the National Ambassador for UN Women in Pakistan, and the BBC shortlisted Muniba as one of 2015's 100 most inspirational women. She also made it to Forbes' '30 under 30' list in 2016 and was named as one of the world's most influential Muslim people by The Muslim 500.

Appointed by Prime Minister Imran Khan to be a part of Pakistan's first National Youth Council, she's a social activist who works with the less privileged children, women & transgender people. Muniba uses a wheelchair following a series of life-threatening injuries sustained in a car accident at 21. Whilst in hospital, Muniba started painting, which spawned her subsequent success as a celebrated artist.