Urgent action is needed to combat the climate crisis and ensure energy security - for the health of the planet and its people.
Health and Healthcare

Health and healthcare at Davos 2024: What you need to know

Deep dive

Urgent action is needed to combat the climate crisis and ensure energy security - for the health of the planet and its people. Image: World Economic Forum/Marcel Giger

Julie Masiga
Digital Editor, World Economic Forum
Kate Whiting
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • Urgent action is needed to combat the climate crisis and ensure energy security - for the health of the planet and its people.
  • World leaders at the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting in Davos will discuss how to accelerate progress and improve health outcomes.
  • Key sessions and reports will look at how climate change affects health, how to close the women's health gap and how digital tools can transform healthcare.
  • Check back here for regular updates throughout the week and use the navigation bar on the right to catch up on what you've missed.

“The climate crisis is a health crisis.”

These were the words of the World Health Organization’s Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at the first-ever Health Day at COP28 in December.

The year 2023, the hottest on record, saw life-threatening heatwaves, wildfires, floods, storms and hurricanes.

More than a third of the global population lives in areas that are highly susceptible to climate change, says the WHO, and the health burden is only going to grow.

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Tens of thousands more people will die from heat stress and climate-linked diseases including malaria, as well as malnutrition as crops fail each year between 2030 and 2050.

Agenda

The UN now focuses on climate change as a health issue too. Here's why

But the health impacts of climate change have a disproportionate impact on indigenous communities and women in particular.

The World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos will feature discussions on climate, women and health, and three key reports will be launched, which look at the economic impacts of climate change, how to close the gap in women’s health, and how digitalization can transform healthcare for good.

There was also a focus on longevity and how to ensure an ageing workforce can stay healthy, with the emphasis on what organizations can do.

The health imperative has come to the fore. We've seen health being so linked to working well to being productive in your work... There's a huge connection between health and the state of your finances.

Martine Ferland, Chief Executive Officer, Mercer & Vice Chair, Marsh McLennan

Live updates on key sessions

Dive into the key quotes, tweets and YouTube clips from Davos sessions on health and healthcare.

What to know from Day 2

As the human dimension of climate change takes centre stage, panellists discussed the approaches, evidence and data needed to mitigate the health impact of the climate crisis today.

"The climate crisis is a health crisis," said Vanessa Kerry, Co-Founder and CEO of Seed Global Health.

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Brazil's Minister of Health, Nisia Trindade Lima said: "In order to build resilient health systems, we need to conceive systems that focus on equality and that are going to be developed and implemented hand-in-hand with government, civil society and the private sector so that we can have plans that reduce carbon emissions, that implement sustainable measures in the health system itself."

"We have to stop talking about [the climate crisis] in terms of degrees Celsius and start talking about it in lives," added Bill Anderson, CEO of Bayer AG.

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"Women do live longer in poor health," said Lucy Perez, Senior Partner at McKinsey & Company, which has collaborated with the Forum on research on the women's health gap.

"That is what this health gap refers to. [We found] the majority of this health gap that exists is actually impacting women during their working years, between the ages of 20 and 60, not at the end of life.

"A lot of this gap is also the result of conditions that are actually not female specific. A lot of the women's health burden is associated with conditions that impact both men and women, but impact women differently or disproportionately."

The global economy loses $36.9 billion a year as a result of super bugs. This session explored how global economic policies can continue to accelerate action on this urgent health issue.

What to know from Day 3

Digital transformation and AI could revolutionize access to quality healthcare by empowering doctors, detecting diseases and sparking drug discoveries.

Paula Ingabire, Rwanda's Minister of Information Communication Technology and Innovation, joined panellists to discover how multi-sectoral partnerships and actions can power the future of health.

At every stage of life, millions of women around the world are unable to access the care, treatment and support they need.

With only 1% of healthcare R&D invested in female-specific conditions, panellists including India's Minister of Women and Child Development, Smriti Zubin Irani, discussed the key actions and commitments needed to achieve gender health parity.

Women have no problem speaking up. The problem is, how much are they heard? And I think that articulates the gap.

Smriti Zubin Irani, Minister of Women and Child Development, India

"Public-private partnerships have done well, both for the private sector and for citizens at large and I think women's health is one such arena in which much is to be done. But it can only be done if the public-private partnership and the development sector can spearhead it," said Smriti Zubin Irani.

The Forum's Closing the Women’s Health Gap report finds the global economy could get a $1 trillion boost by 2040 from preventing fewer early deaths and health conditions among women.

GDP impact of closing the women's health gap for the top 10 conditions
How closing the women's health gap could boost GDP. Image: Closing the Women's Health Gap

Anita Zaida, President, Gender Equality, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said women were best placed to identify the most prevalent issues in women's health.

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In the past 30 years alone, global levels of obesity have tripled.

Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association, joined Glen Tullman, Founder and CEO, Transcarent, and Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen, CEO, Novo Nordisk Foundation, to discuss how societies and health systems can better prepare for and respond to this challenge.

"Portion control matters a lot," said Brown, as people equate the size of their plate in a restaurant to value. "There are many good advocates, but not all companies are there."

Thomsen said there needs to be similar food labelling criteria across companies.

Education is also important, as is access to healthy food.

"The largest amount of sodium is consumed in bread, but most consumers don't understand that," added Brown.

She said prescribing healthy food, integrating it into the healthcare system, could make a dramatic change to health outcomes in the US.

What to know from Day 4

Data indicates that women spend a greater part of their lives in ill health and disability compared with men and are more likely to have their concerns dismissed, misdiagnosed, or missed altogether when they seek help.

Paula Bellostas Muguerza, Senior Partner and Europe Co-Lead, Health at Kearney, joined this press conference which presented new findings on women’s health and called for a public-private effort to redesign healthcare with women in mind.

Kearney has led an open letter, signed by more than 40 partners in the newly launched Global Alliance for Women's Health, to call for action to redesign healthcare with women in mind.

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We don’t understand women’s biology as much as we understand men’s and disease manifests differently in women, said Muguerza.

We don’t invest in women’s health – only 3% of capital goes into ‘femtech’. Women’s concerns are often dismissed or ignored and women get diagnosed four times later than men.

While the power of technology offers many opportunities, it also poses challenges and risks, particularly for the mental well-being of children and young people.

Kathleen Pike, Professor and Founding Director of the Columbia-WHO Center for Global Mental Health, Columbia University, joined Julie Inman Grant, Australia's eSafety Commissioner, David Kenny, Executive Chairman, Nielsen and Angelique Kidjo, Musician and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, explored the latest science on the impact of social media on children’s and teenagers’ brains and what is needed to keep them safe in the digital age.

Rates of anxiety and depression among young people have spiked during the pandemic and they're not back to pre-pandemic levels, explained Pike. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among adolescents.

"The rates of stress, hopelessness, fear, panic, lack of motivation, feeling a loss of purpose, are growing and growing and growing - and social media is definitely part of the story.

"There's some data that say increased mental health issues are associated with excessive use. It's correlational. There's some data to say it's causational, but we're really early on in terms of figuring out whether or how it starts.

"Something is going badly wrong with young brains."

The role of parents, politicians and regulators and the social networks in supporting children and applying 'virtual seatbelts' were discussed.

What to know from Day 5

We all want to live longer, healthier and disease-free lives - science can help us achieve that future.

Alex Zhavoronkov, Founder and CEO, Insilico Medicine, joined Kim Samuel, Director of The Samuel Group, Stanley Bergman, Chairman of the Board and CEO, Henry Schein, Michael Hengartner, President, ETH Board, and John Dongo, Vice-Curator of the Harare Hub to explore the latest breakthroughs.

Ageing is associated with many diseases, but understanding the hallmarks of ageing can help in finding ways to slow down the ageing process and reduce the probability of age-related diseases.

Catch up on the session here.

Reports you need to know about

“There is no doubt that extreme weather events are exacerbating health issues worldwide and putting strain on healthcare systems already stretched to the limit in some regions,” says Shyam Bishen, the Forum’s head of the Centre for Health and Healthcare in the foreword to this new report in collaboration with Oliver Wyman.

It finds that, by 2050, climate change will have caused as many as 14.5 million deaths - and the economic impact on human health will be more than $12.5 trillion.

The research analyzed six major climate-driven event categories as drivers of negative health impacts: floods, droughts, heat waves, tropical storms, wildfires and rising sea levels.

It finds that floods pose the highest acute risk, accounting for 8.5 million deaths. Droughts, indirectly linked to extreme heat, are the second-highest cause of mortality with an anticipated 3.2 million deaths.

Meanwhile, heatwaves will take the highest economic toll at an estimated $7.1 trillion because of the loss in productivity from the extreme temperatures.

Although women live longer than men, on average, they spend 25% more of their lives in debilitating health.

The women’s health gap equates to 75 million years of life lost due to poor health or early death per year, finds this Forum report in collaboration with the McKinsey Health Institute.

But reducing this gap would help 3.9 billion women to live healthier lives – giving women an extra seven healthy days a year, on average, adding up to more than 500 days over a lifetime.

It could also boost the economy by $1 trillion by 2040 from fewer early deaths and health conditions, and a greater capacity for women to contribute to the economy and society.

For every $1 invested in women’s health, the report projects there would be around $3 in economic growth.

Closing the health gap requires four main areas to be addressed: Science, care delivery, data and investment. Stakeholders need to develop a cooperative and comprehensive strategy to improve health equity and foster economic growth, concludes the report.

The climate crisis is just one of the pressures on the global healthcare system. These include a workforce shortage of more than 10 million healthcare workers; rising costs; a growing burden of chronic disease and wasteful spending estimated at around $1.8 trillion, according to the Forum’s Transforming Healthcare report.

But healthcare provision is inequitable. Access to healthcare and health outcomes vary massively between countries, with half the world’s population lacking access to essential services. Women, as we’ve seen, often experience poorer health outcomes than men.

Digital health innovations and data-driven digital tools could herald a new era of value-driven healthcare - and help to reduce health inequalities, says the report.

It features examples of lifesaving digital front-end solutions, such as m-mama, an emergency referral system in Sub-Saharan Africa, that transports pregnant women and newborns facing complications to healthcare facilities.

This white paper by the World Economic Forum, written in collaboration with ZS, highlights the most promising use cases for patient-facing generative AI solutions, their biggest barriers to adoption and actions stakeholders in healthcare and beyond can take to overcome these barriers. The paper also offers six short case studies illustrating how companies and institutions are already making these use cases a reality.

Image: Transforming Healthcare: Navigating Digital Health with a Value-Driven Approach

But healthcare provision is inequitable. Access to healthcare and health outcomes vary massively between countries, with half the world’s population lacking access to essential services. Women, as we’ve seen, often experience poorer health outcomes than men.

Digital health innovations and data-driven digital tools could herald a new era of value-driven healthcare - and help to reduce health inequalities, says the report.

It features examples of lifesaving digital front-end solutions, such as m-mama, an emergency referral system in Sub-Saharan Africa, that transports pregnant women and newborns facing complications to healthcare facilities.

More to read on health

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Related topics:
Health and HealthcareDavos AgendaGlobal HealthClimate and NatureGender Inequality
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Contents
Live updates on key sessionsWhat to know from Day 2 What to know from Day 3 What to know from Day 4What to know from Day 5 Reports you need to know aboutMore to read on health

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