Getty Images for Global Citizen
This concert didn’t have the onstage dancers, the multi-barrel confetti cannons, or the fancy sets, unless, of course, you count the beer, candle, and enormous book next to the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards. But that didn’t keep the “One World: Together At Home” concert that was broadcast and live-streamed on Saturday from being memorable. What made this concert striking wasn’t just the star-studded line-up. It was also the stated purpose: to honor front-line healthcare workers and support the World Health Organization (WHO) during this COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The event was a collaboration between the WHO and Global Citizen, an international advocacy organization. The roll call for the concert read like a response to a request to “name as many musicians as you can in 30 seconds.” Lang Lang, Rita Ora, Black Coffee, Common, Ellie Goulding, Jacky Cheung, Usher, Taylor Swift, Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, John Legend, Stevie Wonder, Jennifer Lopez, Billie Ellish, and Celine Dion were just some of the musicians who performed. Lady Gaga curated the event and also performed during the six hour telecast.
The concert included some new collaborations such as the finale with Celine Dion, Lasy Gaga, Lang Lang, Andrea Bocelli and John Legend performing “The Prayer.”
With social distancing measures in place, the musicians of course didn’t gather in a stadium or concert hall but instead performed separately in various locations. Many of the performances were stripped down, without the typical concert technology, special effects, and camera work, which was in many ways refreshing. It was less embellished production and more Zoom meeting-esque, except that it was probably more entertaining than your typical work meeting and everyone appeared to be wearing pants.
The performances were interspersed with scenes from the front lines, anecdotes from front line healthcare professionals like Esther Choo, MD, Dara Kass, MD, Lane Rolling, MD, Lakshman Swamy, MD, and Shuhan He, MD, and thank you statements from folks like Bill and Melinda Gates, Samuel Jackson, Oprah Winfrey, Heidi Klum, and Matthew McConaughey. All right, all right, all right. And a trio of late night TV hosts, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert, hosted the event. This gave you chance to see that Fallon has what appears to be a faux tree and a large egg-shaped chair in what looked like his den.
Besides honoring health care workers, another purpose of the event was to encourage people to stay at home, hence the name “Together At Home.” On the list of fun things to do, social distancing can fall below “trying to suck in your eyebrows with a vacuum cleaner.” It isn’t easy to disrupt your life by staying at home but, as I have described previously for Forbes, doing so can reduce transmission of the SARS-CoV2, flatten the curve, and, in turn, keep already overworked healthcare workers from being completely overwhelmed.
An additional goal of the concert was to raise awareness and money for the WHO COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. Bloomberg Philanthropies helped support the One World: Together At Home initiative, including committing $8 million to this Fund. This support is part of the Bloomberg Philanthropies COVID-19 Response Initiatives that was started last month to assist with the global response to this nasty, nasty virus. The broadcast included a pre-taped video from Mike Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and three-term mayor of New York City.
Other partners for the One World: Together At Home initiative include Analog Devices, Cisco, Citi, Coca-Cola, GSK, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Proctor and Gamble, Pepsi, State Farm, Target, Teneo, Verizon, Vodafone, Verizon, and WW International.
The WHO started the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund WHO in an attempt to raiseat least $675 million to support its Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan for the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic through April 2020. As described by the WHO on its website, this plan includes:
- “Putting in place activities to Track and understand the spread of the virus”
- “Ensuring patients get the care they need.”
- “Buying and ship essential supplies such as masks, gloves and protective wear for frontline workers.”
- “Producing evidence based guidelines and advice, and make sure health workers and responders get the information and training to detect and treat affected patients.”
- “Producing guidance for the general public and for particular groups on measures to take to prevent the spread and prevent themselves and others.”
- “Accelerating efforts to develop vaccines, tests and treatments.”
Reasonable things to do, right? Well, all of this requires money to do, and the WHO hasn’t exactly been flush with funding. And some people actually think it’s a good idea to threaten or even pull funding to the WHO in the middle of a pandemic.
It’s not every day that you see so many top musicians come together to honor health care professionals. But 2020 has not been your typical year, except perhaps for those who normally sit at home in teepees of toilet paper. Doctors, nurses, and various health care workers around the world routinely make many sacrifices and take risks to care for patients. This year the sacrifices and risks are even higher for many, especially with horrendous shortages of needed personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and the need to stay separate from family and friends. So it can make a difference to know that people are listening.
I am a writer, journalist, professor, systems modeler, computational and digital health expert, avocado-eater, and entrepreneur, not always in that order. Currently, I am a Professor of Health Policy and Management at the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Public Health, Executive Director of PHICOR (@PHICORteam), Professor By Courtesy at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, and founder and CEO of Symsilico. My previous positions include serving as Executive Director of the Global Obesity Prevention Center (GOPC) at Johns Hopkins University, Associate Professor of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Associate Professor of Medicine and Biomedical Informatics at the University of Pittsburgh, and Senior Manager at Quintiles Transnational, working in biotechnology equity research at Montgomery Securities, and co-founding a biotechnology/bioinformatics company. My work has included developing computational approaches, models, and tools to help health and healthcare decision makers in all continents (except for Antarctica) and has been supported by a wide variety of sponsors such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the NIH, AHRQ, CDC, UNICEF, USAID and the Global Fund. I have authored over 200 scientific publications and three books. Follow me on Twitter (@bruce_y_lee) but don’t ask me if I know martial arts.
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