Big Opportunities and Inspiring Examples on World Hepatitis Day
A few years ago I had the privilege of leading a team of highly committed health professionals to provide healthcare services to some of the most marginalised people in our world: rural communities in South Sudan who were enduring immeasurable suffering from the 22 year civil war and ongoing ethnic conflicts. We trained nurses, midwives and community health workers; immunised children; improved health and hygiene practices; ran 25 primary healthcare facilities; treated severely malnourished children and pregnant mothers; and started the long journey to build Government health systems from scratch. Consumed by the enormity of the task, my world became communities, Government, UN, civil society and donors. I failed to consider the possibility of ‘big business’ becoming a development partner and instead only engaged with the healthcare industry as a provider of vaccines, pharmaceuticals and medical supplies.
In the course of developing the SDG Industry Matrix for Healthcare and Life Sciences over the last few months, I have been greatly encouraged by the extensive industry efforts to ‘create the world we want’. Big companies are finding ways to put their competitive interests aside in order to co-develop solutions to both old and new health challenges. Companies are collaborating with each other and with the UN, civil society and other stakeholders.
What is the SDG Industry Matrix?
The overarching purpose of the SDG Industry Matrix is to inspire and inform greater private sector action to drive inclusive, sustainable prosperity. We hope it will spark new innovative approaches, prompt companies to replicate successful activities in new markets, catalyse new collaborations and increase participation in existing collaborations. It has been jointly conceived and produced by KPMG and the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) and it includes examples submitted by dozens of UNGC signatory companies and insights from a roundtable discussion convened in South Africa.
What are the biggest opportunities?
We identified the following four most significant areas of “shared value” opportunity and these are illustrated in the SDG Industry Matrix with multiple examples for each of the 17 SDGs:
1. Preventive healthcare: Collaborate with Governments, the UN, civil society, health insurers, technology providers and other stakeholders to improve population health and well-being through increased preventive action.
2. Universal health coverage: Collaborate with Governments and healthcare insurers to achieve universal access to free or affordable healthcare including people on low incomes in low, middle and high income countries.
3. Resilient healthcare: Develop healthcare systems which are resilient to shocks and changes arising from climate change, environmental stress, population growth, fragility, antimicrobial resistance, and increasing morbidity from ageing populations and unhealthy lifestyles.
4. Environmentally sustainable healthcare: Invest in resource efficient buildings, production processes, logistics and services which reduce the environmental footprint of healthcare products and services.
Reflections on World Hepatitis Day
Four hundred million people are living with viral Hepatitis (Hepatitis A, B, C, D and E) and these viruses kill 1.4 million people every year – more people than are killed by HIV, TB and malaria. Thursday 28th July marks World Hepatitis Day which this year raises awareness of how to prevent and treat Hepatitis B and C. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends vaccinating all children against Hepatitis B and it promotes the use of sterile equipment for injections and other medical procedures, as well as safer sex practices. When I was working in South Sudan I was surprised to learn that many people were buying injectable medications in the local market (often out of date and incorrectly stored) because they believed they were more effective than the oral medications we were prescribing at our health facilities; reducing unnecessary injections is another strategy which WHO is promoting to reduce Hepatitis transmission.
The SDGs aim to ‘accelerate the pace of progress in fighting…Hepatitis’ in order to ‘combat Hepatitis’ by 2030. The World Hepatitis Alliance was set up to tackle this challenge and our SDG Industry Matrix reveals other examples of industry action on Hepatitis. For example, the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations is exploring creative financing solutions to scale up prevention and treatment of viral Hepatitis, whilst Bristol-Myers Squibb has established a Centre of Excellence at the Liver Foundation in West Bengal (India) which is (inter alia) strengthening awareness of Hepatitis.