In our time of global health challenges, Hans Rosling’s voice is greatly missed – welcome to the 2021 Rosling seminar

Hans Rosling, 1948-2017. Photo: Jörgen Hildebrandt

February 2022 marks five years since Hans Rosling, professor in international health at KI and co-founder and chairman of the Gapminder Foundation, passed away. I can’t help but constantly return to some questions and thoughts: What would Hans have said about what the world has experienced since February 2020? What essential and provocative questions would he have asked us? What new perspectives would he give us and what possible solutions would he point out?

Hans Rosling gave me and millions of others around the world new insights and a greater understanding on how the global society can and should address our mutual challenges concerning global health. He gave us straight out knowledge, but furthermore he gave us inspiration to think and act with creativity, engagement and, not the least, humor.  

Full support

In our time of global health challenges and growing inequality between countries, Hans Rosling’s voice and engagement are greatly missed. I think he would give his full support to this quote by Martin Luther King jr:

Of all forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhuman”.

In memory of the important work of Hans Rosling, the World Health Organization together with Karolinska Institutet will from now on hold annual seminars focusing on the issues that Hans Rosling himself highlighted in that special way that made him the esteemed speaker that he was.

Need of global cooperation

The pandemic shows the need of global cooperation and open discussions across the borders. Rarely has the world seen a clearer example of why global health is something that affects us all. Due to this and the future pandemics that we will face, the first joint annual Rosling seminar focuses on this urgent matter: “Health Equity and Pandemics – a Moonshot for Sustainable Health”. Right now, many of the world’s countries are facing the issue of looking after their own with a third dose, or to dispense vaccine to countries where the number of vaccinated is significantly lower. It clearly reminds me of Hans Rosling’s views on how good health for all is of great importance for the world’s development, prosperity and stability. Of course, it is also of humanitarian importance.

A moonshot is to plan or aim to do something that might seem almost impossible. But in the great mind of Hans Rosling this was not an impossible task at all and by addressing health inequities we can not only prevent pandemics but achieve sustainable health for all people and the planet. He inspired the rest of the world to reflect upon health in the broadest possible sense: how health relates to poverty, climate change, human rights, religious dialogue and governance. His message was that we are global citizens and that not everybody shoulders the responsibility that comes with it.

In the spirit of Hans

In connection with this, I would like to add that we last Thursday launched the Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Health, in collaboration with Makerere University in Uganda – a center in the spirit of Hans Rosling. Please see a previous blog post about this. 

In 2017 I wrote an article on the legacy of Hans Rosling in the Swedish journal Socialmedicinsk Tidskrift. You can read the text here, in English.

For Hans Rosling, to keep the conversation about research open was an important issue. Therefore, this digital seminar will also be available for everyone to listen to. Among the speakers are WHO’s Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Melinda French Gates of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. I feel proud and humbled to be amongst the speakers together with them and Ola Rosling, Gapminder Foundation and Mariana Mazzucato, University College London.

I would like to invite you all to participate in the seminar on 6 October. Don’t miss the opportunity to be a part of a historic event that address so crucial issues – in the name of someone who meant so much to many of us, and to the world.

Please see more details and information on KI’s web site. A link to the seminar will be published later.  


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