Building Back Better

Building Back Better: Health for All

31st May 2021

In this third installment of Boardroom’s ‘Building Back Better’ series, Lane Nieset continues to explore why associations may be the key to advancing the ambitious goals of a better world – especially when it comes to health for all.

As the pandemic and COVID-19 vaccine have proved, location plays a large role in access to universal healthcare. The economic systems in place have shown their cracks as inequalities have become alarmingly apparent, leading to widespread crisis in countries that lack the medical means and resources to deliver affordable and high-quality care. As societies are rebuilding post-Covid, it’s time for associations to embrace the role they play in setting up minimum standards for health care cross the world, promoting and supporting the right to “health for all” and a clean and safe environment to live in.

Progressing public health

The European Public Health Association’s (EUPHA) definition of public health is the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health and well-being through the organised efforts and informed choices of society, organisations, public and private, communities and individuals, and includes the broader area of public health, health services research, health service delivery and health systems design.”

Half of the world’s population, roughly 3.5 billion people, don’t receive or have access to necessary public health services. And, according to an article from the World Economic Forum, 800 million people spend 10% of their household budgets on health expenses. This, in turn, results in extreme poverty for 100 million of the very same people. As a way to drive the “wellbeing economics for the covid-19 recovery,” the Wellbeing Economy Alliance established 10 principles for “building back better.” One of the priorities: universal basic needs, which means health care coverage available for the global population free of charge at a point of access. But in a point mentioned by the World Economic ForumThe global view is of a fragmented and unequal healthcare system where, all too often, the gaps in society are widening. For years, universal health coverage has been discussed, but little progress has been accomplished.”

In order to develop and execute a successful public health strategy, key principles like equity, access to essential health care, timeliness, results, accountability, placement of strong local leadership and strategic coordination of the effort need to be considered. EUPHA, for example, is voicing the importance of human rights and social justice when it comes to public health issues, stressing that law and policy can be the key tools in terms of improving and establishing public health policy, practice and research. 

In a World Economic Forum article, Royal Philips CEO Frans van Houten notes that digital healthcare tools and services can also help to improve serves in emerging countries, but the issue lies in infrastructure limitations. As a way to address global access and quality constraints, as well as meet the Sustainable Development Goals, Van Houten sites the importance of digital technology, inclusive innovation and progressive partnerships, as well as innovating business models to embrace a multi-stakeholder approach. With global levels of disease on the rise, to tackle the current cycle of inconsistent access, rising costs and falling health outcomes, we first need a new approach to traditional volume-based reimbursements in healthcare, which can act as a constraint in the effective use of health data and the adoption of eHealth solutions,” he writes.

A whole new world

Through knowledge and solution-sharing, associations have an important voice in the global responsibility of safe and cost-effective healthcare and the creation of a regulated healthcare policy. While half the world’s population lacks access to essential health services, nearly one-fifth of spending in the OECD and $1 in the U.S. can be saved annually by eliminating ineffective spending on global health. This is the goal of the World Economic Forum’s Global Coalition for Value in Healthcare, which launched in March with a community of four healthcare innovation hubs in the Netherlands, Portugal, Wales and Denmark. The goal is to identify and develop cost-effective and patient-centered healthcare models by bringing together governments, leadings companies, academia and experts to “co-design and pilot innovative new approaches to person-centered healthcare.”

Another example of a multi-stakeholder approach is Philips’ creation of 10 Community Life Centers in Sub-Saharan Africa, which bring together national and local government, communities, and service provider to develop the community-owned healthcare clinics. Not only do the clinics deliver healthcare thanks to digital technologies, they also serve as economic and social development drivers for these remote and low-income communities, since they feature solar power units, clean water, LED lighting and solutions for waste management.

Green future

Healthcare policies can help serve as a plan of action to guide specific outcomes or help organisations with decision-making and future-planning. They also help employees understand the organisation’s own desires and what their own roles and responsibilities look like within the group. The greening of medical associations, for example, reducing carbon footprint from supply chain and daily operations, relies on staff engagement in order to be successful. The concept of “green health” is one that is becoming widely discussed as the healthcare sector not only applies to the wellbeing of the population, it also refers to the environmental impact generated by healthcare, 80% of which is general waste and the other 20% of which is hazardous and may be infectious, toxic or radioactive. This affects the environment and world’s ecosystem, since it contributes to the loss of global habitat and biodiversity. The Korea Green Hospitals Society, for instance, is a great result from the solution-sharing and education driven by the World Medical Association (WMA). The organisation focuses on low-carbon growth in medical practice to reduce the ecological footprint of hospitals in Korea.

A recent publication in the Italian Association of Chemical Engineering’s Chemical Engineering Transactions (CET)journal explained how healthcare organisations have three major impacts on society: economical, environmental and social. According to the text on “Sustainability at the Healthcare Organizations,” terms like sustainability, transparent management, respect for the environment, and social responsibility are concepts that each day gain more importance in the business scenario, which is becoming not anymore just about financial aspects. Sustainability and these three dimensions must be defined in the organization’s policy and its strategic planning.”

Associations are key to helping connect and define the guidelines and actions for these policies to establish the standards for health care across the globe that places importance on two main aspects: respecting the population and respecting the environment. 

This article is graciously sponsored by Madrid Convention Bureau, whose values align with the Building Back Better concept.

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