Infectious Diseases

Equitably and consistently applying proven strategies as well as novel approaches and collaborations across countries, systems, and populations to reduce suffering and death from infectious diseases

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted lives and livelihoods on a global scale more than any other event in the 21st century and reminds the world about the consistent threat of newly emerging and evolving infectious diseases.

Apart from pandemics, infectious diseases remain a main driver of death and suffering across the globe.1 Many of them, like malaria or dengue, have a clear, yet expanding, geographical footprint. Others, like common pneumonia, HIV, influenza, or tuberculosis are prevalent in almost every country.

Humanity has made enormous progress in fighting infectious diseases over the last century by improving hygiene and developing and deploying highly successful vaccines and therapeutics.

At the same time, effective prevention and treatment of infectious diseases remain a major challenge across geographies. The lack of broad access to effective vaccines and therapeutics disproportionally hurts lower-income countries and disadvantaged groups in all countries.2 Limited funding and lack of globally coordinated action prevent the elimination of existing diseases such as hepatitis C and mitigation of threats like antimicrobial resistance.3

>6

million deaths

from COVID-19 to date4

~58

million people infected

with hepatitis C globally—of whom only 21% are currently diagnosed5

>80%

disease burden from intestinal infections

in lower- and middle-income countries is avoidable within the next 10-20 years6

Topics to explore

In collaboration with relevant stakeholders, the McKinsey Health Institute (MHI) is interested in exploring long-term questions such as:

  • What if three to five infectious diseases were no longer a public health threat a decade from now? How can we get there in practice?
  • How can we, as societies, leverage the momentum gained fighting the COVID-19 pandemic to reduce the threat of infectious diseases more broadly over the next decade?
  • How can we improve access and use of therapeutics to treat infectious diseases today and avoid the full impact of the already-certain pandemic of antimicrobial resistance?

Featured Collaborations

McKinsey is one of the founding members of The Trinity Challenge (TTC), a partnership of over 40 leading global organizations across the private, public, and social sectors. TTC partners are united by the common aim of using data and advanced analytics to create inclusive innovations and build a world that’s better prepared for health emergencies. To that purpose, TTC is launching, supporting, and funding public challenges. The first challenge round concluded in 2021 and awarded £5.7 million to teams that developed innovative tools and approaches for better pandemic preparedness and response. Additional challenges are under consideration.
McKinsey served as a knowledge partner to Gates Ventures' Exemplars in Global Health program to help identify digital solutions for primary healthcare across low- and middle-income countries. An overview of leading examples has been published as part of the Exemplars in Global Health platform, alongside an analysis of critical success factors for such tools. The findings resulted in example pathways that can be used by companies, governments, and global health organizations to guide the successful implementation of digital health technologies.

We serve as a knowledge partner to the Bloomberg New Economy Forum to provide insights and research for key public health issues including focuses on infectious diseases, oncology, and urban health to help inform the dialogue. The Bloomberg New Economy Forum convenes policymakers, senior government officials, thought leaders, CEOs, and top executives from across the globe for meaningful conversations that lead to action-oriented solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges.

Featured Insights

Article

Not the last pandemic: Investing now to reimagine public-health systems

– The COVID-19 crisis reminds us how underprepared the world was to detect and respond to emerging infectious diseases. Smart investments of as little as $5 per person per year globally can help ensure far better preparation for future pandemics.
Report - McKinsey Global Institute

Prioritizing health: A prescription for prosperity

– Could 65 be the new 55? Each year, poor health takes a heavy societal and economic toll. Improving the health of the world’s population would add 10 healthy years in midlife—and much more.
Article

Fast-forward: Will the speed of COVID-19 vaccine development reset industry norms?

– A review of the funding, operational, technological, and regulatory factors that allowed for fast development of COVID-19 vaccines shows which will remain relevant for future efforts—and which won’t.
Article

Africa needs vaccines. What would it take to make them here?

– For decades, private companies, investors, and public-health leaders have taken a pass on domestic vaccine manufacturing. But a confluence of circumstances may be changing the calculation.
Article

Eradicating polio in Nigeria

– The country’s novel approach to disease control can offer lessons for other countries facing urgent public-health challenges.

1. “Global burden of disease database 2019,” Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, The Lancet, Oct 17, 2020
2. “Progress and challenges with achieving universal immunization coverage,” World Health Organization, Jul 15, 2020
3. Rebecca Masters, et al, “Return on investment of public health interventions: a systematic review,” Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, BMJ Publishing Group, Mar 29, 2017; “A roadmap toward the creation of the European partnership on One Health antimicrobial resistance (OH AMR),” Horizon Europe, European Food Safety Authority, Jun 22, 2021; “A European one health action plan against antimicrobial resistance (AMR),” European Commission, 2017
4. “WHO coronavirus (COVID-19) dashboard,” WHO Health Emergency Dashboard, World Health Organization, Mar 22, 2022
5. “WHO releases first guidelines on hepatitis C virus self-testing,” World Health Organization, Jul 15, 2021
6. “Prioritizing health: A prescription for prosperity,” McKinsey Global Institute, Jul 8, 2020

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