Image Credit: GIZ, Photo by Schmoo Theune. - Photo: 2022

Can Businesses Fill in The Gaps Left by WHO?

Viewpoint by Christian Jahn

The writer is Executive Director of the Inclusive Business Action Network (iBAN).

BONN (IDN) — In September 1978, the member states of the World Health Organization adopted the Alma-Ata Declaration, officially establishing the goal of ‘health for all’ by the year 2000. The declaration was the first to recognise the need for urgent action to ensure access to primary health care for all people and call for governments to establish strategies for a better, healthier world.

Forty-four years later, that goal has yet to be achieved. For the past two years, global health systems have been pushed to their limits, trying to manage the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Inequitable vaccine access and collapsing health systems show how vulnerable health systems are.

Even beyond COVID-19, global health for all is not in reach. Estimates before the pandemic found that around half the world’s population cannot access essential health services. Furthermore, millions across the globe are struggling to access the healthy and nutritious food they need.

If we do not want to wait another 44 years to achieve health for all, our health systems must operate across silos and cooperate with other sectors. Innovative and inclusive businesses can fill the gaps in providing health services, especially in countries where public health systems are still not accessible to especially low-income people.

A chronic problem in health systems is continuity of care. Once patients leave health facilities, the care burden often falls to family and friends and disproportionately on women across the globe. However, businesses are harnessing digital innovation to ensure affordable, continued care.

For instance, Omnivida, a health-tech company in Colombia, provides a digital ‘control tower’ for patient care at home. The platform aids patients with chronic illness by using analytics to personalise care–even helping them to take preventative action–empowering patients to self-manage when possible, and serving as a guide through complicated health administration. The service is completely free to users and does not require stable internet, allowing the most vulnerable to access the care they need.

In addition to continued care, the cost of medications is a huge limiting factor for health. As the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated, people living in low-income countries struggle to affordably access medicines. Inclusive business is not only delivering affordable medication but is also ensuring that patients adhere to treatments.

Dawaa Dost is partnering with local grocery chains to deliver low-cost medications via an online platform. Users can upload their prescriptions to the platform directly to find the generic versions they can afford. As a result, users can save up to 80 per cent compared to the original versions. The platform also helps improve medicine adherence using a system of reminders with social rewards.

Another critical aspect of health for all is nutrition. The number of people across the globe suffering from hunger is on the rise for the first time in decades. Children lacking adequate nutrition will be affected developmentally for life. To help provide a healthy foundation for children, innovative businesses are working to bring affordable and nutritious food to families.

For example, Baby Grubz was established after its founder experienced difficulties finding healthy and affordable baby food. The company produces safe, healthy food for families across Nigeria, Ghana and the United Kingdom at a low cost. To date, Baby Grubz has improved the nutrition of over 200,000 children. Through their work, this inclusive business is helping provide the next generation with the healthy foundation they need to thrive.

Stories like these are emerging across the globe. Businesses can leverage innovation to fill the gaps in our current health systems, enabling the world’s most vulnerable and marginalised to access the services and care they need.

We may have missed our target of ‘health for all by 2000’, but we can make progress now by working across sectors to fill in gaps. Innovative and inclusive businesses offer huge potential to strengthen the health systems in a more collaborative way and work together to deliver health for all. [IDN-InDepthNews – 19 July 2022]

Image Credit: GIZ, Photo by Schmoo Theune.

IDN is the flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence. You are free to share, remix, tweak and build upon it non-commercially. Please give due credit.

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