September 30, 2019

Partners for SDGs: How Private Sector Initiatives Are Tackling Barriers To Care & Promoting Healthy Living

Each year at the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA), world leaders take a close look at progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of targets to help the world build towards a better future.

A component of SDG 3, good health and well-being, was at the front of discussions at this year’s UNGA, as world leaders met to discuss how to reach universal health coverage (UHC). UHC is the aspiration to provide everyone with access to high-quality health services while ensuring that their use does not expose then to financial hardship.

A challenge of this size and scale – ensuring adequate access to healthcare for all – requires an “all hands on deck” effort. That means the public- and private- sectors need to find collaborative ways to work together. It also means recognizing that innovation in care is driven by the private sector, and we cannot undermine those efforts.

Major progress has been made in improving the health of millions of people, increasing life expectancy, reducing maternal and child mortality, and fighting against leading infectious diseases. But even while we are seeing improvements in some global health indicators, we are also seeing new challenges. There has been a global shift in the burden of disease from infectious to noncommunicable, chronic diseases, which many countries’ health systems are not equipped to face.

Each day, businesses partner up and lead initiatives to improve health across the globe and achieve SDG 3. It’s critical we continue to support these efforts and work hand-in-hand. Here’s a few examples: 

  • Astellas Partnered With Public And Private Partners To Create Birthing Centers To Curb Infant Mortality: In the Banten province of Indonesia, infant mortality rate, under-five mortality rate, and maternal mortality rate were relatively high. To help improve community health and medical care, Astellas worked with the Indonesian Ministry of Health and People’s Hope Japan to establish birthing centers and health clinics to improve education on health issues as well as implement community health and nutrition improvement projects. By March 2012, Astellas had donated 3 birthing centers and health clinics to People’s Hope Japan’s projects. At the inception of the project in 2009, there was no place to consult with a doctor in the area. Now, over 70 patients visit the clinic each month, and more than 50 percent of pregnant women have a safe birth at the clinic where a mid-wife is permanently stationed.
  • Novartis Partnered With A Brazilian Foundation To Provide Meningococcal Vaccines: Around 3,000 cases of meningococcal disease are reported annually in Brazil. Through a strategic alliance initiated in 2009 by Novartis and Ezequiel Dias Foundation (FUNED), Brazil’s National Immunization Program received vaccines against Meningitis C, the most prevalent type of meningococcal disease in the country. The program was structured to ensure that all Brazilian children up to two years of age received vaccination against Meningitis C. Moreover, the partnership was structured to include a technology transfer over 5 years that would make Brazil self-sufficient in the production of the vaccines. Since the beginning of the program in 2010, the partnership delivered over 20 million doses of the vaccine to the National Immunization Program. Based on early trends from 2011 and 2012 derived from population-based data, there was a 50 percent reduction in the incidence rates of meningococcal disease in children less than 2 years of age, the age group targeted for vaccination.
  • AstraZeneca Launched An Initiative In Canada To Promote Healthy Living And Help Fight Noncommunicable Diseases: In Canada non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes accounted for 62.7% of the country’s deaths in 2011. The initiative, “At My Best,” sought to encourage healthy living habits from an early age. It takes a three-pronged approach to health promotion combining physical activity, healthy eating, and emotional wellbeing. At My Best reaches more than 100,000 Canadian young people each year, and has officially been endorsed by the College of Family Physicians of Canada and has been implemented in over 4500 primary schools across the country. Almost half a million children have participated in At My Best since it was introduced.
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb Partnered With Organizations In China To Raise Awareness And Early Detection Of Diabetes: In China, over 92 million people live with diabetes and 148 million are considered pre-diabetic. Community healthcare providers were struggling to adequately provide care and resources for diabetes prevention and management. To build a patient-centric, community-based diabetes prevention and care program to help those in Shanghai’s Lianyang and Ruijin districts, Bristol-Myers Squibb partnered with Kunhao Technologies, Lianyang Community Health Center, Ruijin Street Community Health Center, Ruijing Hospital, Shanghai Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and Shanghai Charity Foundation. The partnership set up door-to-door education initiatives, peer groups, and screening services to foster awareness and early detection. Moreover, the project built up medical training capacity and leveraged technology in order to improve community doctors’ ability to diagnose, treat, and manage diabetes. The partnership is estimated to have an overall value of $526,987 and an impact on around 100,000 lives.

The livelihoods of billions of people are at stake, and success in achieving UHC and SDG 3 by 2030 will require world leaders to wield all the tools at their disposal. Promoting private sector engagement and addressing real barriers to care is the way forward.