Business Supports Human Health
I follow the work of Business Fights Poverty from the U.S. and appreciate what is being done. I agree that business can be an important player in fighting poverty. Business makes a tremendous difference around the planet in many ways.
However, something troubles me. WHAT business produces, its goods, services and production methods, have an impact on human health. That impact is either beneficial or not, damaging or not. It can be a double edged sword even.
One of your latest initiatives, using 'impact assessment' to bring business planning into alignment with development outcomes, leads me to suggest an additional type of assessment that might add to helping fight poverty through business efforts.
'Health impact assessments' are beginning to be used here in the US, much like environmental impact assessments. Health impact assessment in the business and development context would focus on helping business assess the 'health friendliness' of their products and how to improve their health impact.
In well-resourced countries consumers are now learning about the health-impact of lifestyle and other personal choices. They are purchasing differently, buying healthy products and avoiding ones that are not... thus turning the marketplace and business healthier and greener. As health awareness grows, the marketplace functions beautifully to encourage business to produce what is supportive of human health.
But how is this health-oriented consumerism brought to people in poverty who are simply trying to survive? And where markets are not as fully developed and responsive as in the developed world. I believe the answer, at least in part, could lie with businesses who are willing to ask tough questions about their products and services and to make what they offer more supportive of human and environmental health. They might even use their advertising dollars to encourage consumers toward choosing health, including their own product.
Wealth generation through the business sector is the source of a country's economic ability to fight poverty and address other social concerns. This is the current model across the globe whether a country is rich and using its own resources, or poor and relying on the generosity of other nations to help it fight poverty. (The latter, of course, comes with all the attendant issues that economic aid can generate in foreign affairs.)
But what would happen if wealth were generated from products and services that do not harm, or do less harm, to humans and their environment? What if business generated both wealth and health for a country?
There is always business to be done and profit to be made. When business is willing to work with human health in mind, I believe we have found a surer, safer way to elimination of poverty. We are reducing the "government has to fix it" piece, perhaps even making our way toward a time when government will see far less need to regulate business.
What business takes into poor countries will come back to all of us as either benefit or loss, economically and socially, in terms of human and environmental health.
Asking business to address itself to issues of poverty is not easy. Asking it to consider the impact of its own products on human health even less so. What is good for human health? Who says so? What should happen when obvious health damage is being done? How does the process get started? All good and tough questions to be asked.
Perhaps we start with discussion and exploration. Business Fights Poverty seems an appropriate platform from which to begin. Thanks for your work!