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How zero health gaps will boost the economy – 100 companies agree

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Health professionals vaccinating a man in off-white shirt: The Zero Health Gaps pledge will promote interventions to help eliminate health disparities.

The Zero Health Gaps pledge will promote interventions to help eliminate health disparities. Image: Unsplash/CDC

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  • The World Economic Forum is working with partners to eliminate health disparities globally by securing public buy-in from global cross-industry leaders to embed health equity as a core consideration of their institutional strategies.
  • The Global Health Equity Network launched a Zero Health Gaps Pledge during the Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland in January 2023, with initial commitments from 39 partners.
  • Now, as the Pledge reaches 100 signatures in its first year, the Network is launching a Zero Health Gaps Dashboard and a Health Equity Partnerships Platform at Davos in January 2024 to amplify best practice and catalyze community-based partnerships.

The impact on advancing health equity.

Health inequities currently cost the global economy around $42 billion in untapped productivity. That’s a serious blow to the national gross domestic product (GDP) of countries – for the European Union, costs amount to 1.4% of GDP – but more importantly it means that not everyone is fulfilling their human potential in all aspects of health and wellbeing.

The Global Health Equity Network (GHEN) – a World Economic Forum initiative that brings together leaders to advance health equity – launched the Zero Health Gaps Pledge seeking commitments from CEOs across industries and regions to institutionalize the goal to eliminate health disparities. Beginning with 39 signatories at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2023, the Pledge now has over 100 signatories, with major companies such as Bayer, Siemens Healthineers, Fresenius and Becton Dickson recently signing on. The GHEN supports organizations in measuring impact and developing multistakeholder partnerships to advance health equity while engaging standard-setting bodies such as the International Financial Reporting Standards to ensure health equity becomes core to sustainability and social impact reporting.

Have you read?

The GHEN is co-led by Deloitte, the American Heart Association and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and is the only global, cross-industry initiative tackling health inequities from both medical and non-medical drivers of health. Over 100 companies are already engaged in the initiative, including many of the world’s largest employers such as Agility, AstraZeneca, BP, Pfizer, Salesforce, Sanofi and others.

Pledge signatories take action on advancing health equity across their workforce, offerings, communities and broader ecosystems. These lighthouse initiatives on health equity are profiled in the newly launched Zero Health Gaps Dashboard, which highlights case studies from Pledge signatories. Kaiser Permanente, for instance, identified that underrepresented communities, including communities of colour, face disproportionate barriers to good health. In response, the care consortium set up the Community Support Hub, which addresses basic needs that can cause health inequalities e.g. adequate housing and minimum nutritional standards. Its screening service connects members requiring support to community-based resources and government assistance programmes.

Medtronic, who have also taken the Pledge, launched Medtronic LABS as an independent non-profit health systems innovator to develop community-based, tech-enabled solutions for underserved patients, families and communities across the world. Through their open-source technology platform and recipe for health systems strengthening, Medtronic LABS provides sustainable and localized healthcare solutions that deliver measurable patient outcomes. Their approach integrates three elements – digital technology, health systems strengthening and partnerships – to work directly with countries’ governments and health systems to deploy integrated approaches to primary care that prioritize patient outcomes and health worker efficiency.

The need for health equity has come into sharp focus as public health crises have disproportionately impacted under-resourced and historically marginalized populations.

Nancy Brown, CEO, American Heart Association and Co-Chair, Global Health Equity Network

What's the challenge of prioritizing health equity?

While many organizations from both within and outside of health and healthcare have been forthcoming in signing the pledge and taking action on health equity, achieving a world with zero health gaps will require buy-in from all organizations across sectors, regions and industries.

Non-health and healthcare organizations have a role to play in eliminating drivers of health inequities, such as racism, bias and deep-set inequities in the social, economic and health drivers of health inequality – responsible for 70% of access restraints.

And there is a business case for health and well-being to be prioritized in the workplace, such as providing healthcare coverage and childcare benefits or listening to workers about what will contribute to a mentally and physically healthy workplace, as it benefits the economy and productivity within the organization.

The GHEN is therefore calling on leaders from all sectors, including financial services, consumer goods and other industries, to sign the Pledge and join the network.

Individual health outcomes are often directly influenced by the choices companies make since those decisions influence factors outside the healthcare system. Working collectively through the GHEN, leading companies have the ability to significantly contribute towards eliminating health disparities globally.

Joe Ucuzoglu, Global CEO, Deloitte and Global Health Equity Network Co-Chair

Our approach to addressing health equity issues.

The Pledge and broader work of the GHEN aim to eliminate health disparities globally by securing public buy-in from organizational leaders across regions and industries to embed health equity as central to their institutional strategies, initiatives and investments while supporting them in measuring impact and developing multistakeholder partnerships.

Since the GHEN’s launch at the Sustainable Development Impact Meetings 2021, and the subsequent launch of the Zero Health Gaps Pledge at the Forum’s Annual Meeting 2023 in Davos, Switzerland, the GHEN has continued to drive action and share best practice on advancing health equity through undertakings such as:

  • The launch of the Zero Health Gaps Dashboard, highlighting lighthouse case studies on health equity action.
  • The launch of the Health Equity Partnerships Platform, a user-driven matchmaking platform accelerating place-based partnerships on health equity.
  • The development of a novel set of organizational health equity measurement tools and standardized systems, including the integration of health equity into sustainability reporting standards.

“We are delighted to see the continued support across sectors and regions for the Zero Health Gaps Pledge, reflected in both the growing number of signatories and the action organizations are taking to advance health equity. The Pledge – and the broader work of the Global Health Equity Network – highlight the opportunity that public-private platforms like the World Economic Forum present to accelerate multistakeholder collaboration to address global health inequities.”

Shyam Bishen, Head, Centre for Health and Healthcare, World Economic Forum

How to get involved?

The GHEN is managed within the Forum’s Centre for Health and Healthcare, which is committed to pioneering strategies that enhance global healthcare, ensuring the well-being of people across societies and nations.

Any organization can sign the Pledge and get involved in the work of the GHEN, including sharing case studies on our dashboard. More information on getting involved can be found on the GHEN website.

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