Tackling Global Health Problems Together

Today’s guest post comes to us from our Senior Director, International Government Affairs, John Steele. 

Global challenges require global solutions. This relatively simple idea shapes Lilly's efforts to deliver on our promise to help make the world a healthier place for people today, and tomorrow. The need for a collaborative approach becomes particularly important when we consider the challenges that affect people across national borders, like an aging population, or the growth of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

As we reflect on strategies to improve global health the question becomes: what mechanisms can we use to help us discover and create these global solutions? 

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to join Lilly’s Senior Vice President for Corporate Affairs and Communication, Bart Peterson for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) China CEO Forum. APEC is an organization of 21 countries in the Asia-Pacific region with a common goal to promote free trade and increase prosperity in the region. At the CEO Forum, Chinese, US and other APEC business and government leaders convened to explore ways the region can cope with an aging, and ailing, workforce. 

These issues represent two of the main obstacles we face today, and could continue to face in the future. Currently, NCDs account for 60% of deaths worldwide, and these numbers are expected to rise. Furthermore, recent statistics show that the total number of people aged 60 and over is expected to double by 2050. To address these challenges we must work together.

Bart’s remarks focused on a new study on the impact NCDs on worker productivity. The study is a joint project of the APEC Business Advisory Council on which Bart serves as one of the 3 U.S. members and APEC Life Science Information Forum.  Preliminary results are staggering in terms of the high rates of mortality (especially vis a vis communicable disease), the lack of progress in prevalence reduction, and the cost in an era of aging populations.   It is blindingly clear that NCDs must be addressed by all stakeholders if there is any hope for sustainable public and private sector budgets (i.e., limiting health and pension liabilities) and economic growth. 

One place we can start is the private sector. Companies and organizations around the world can develop and design innovative programs to help improve and educate their employees. Additionally, we will need governments to create a policy environment conducive to primary prevention (not getting sick in the first place) as well as secondary prevention (successfully diagnosing and managing NCDs).   

The bottom line is that no single government, organization, or entity can tackle this challenge alone. We must rely on multilateral and multifaceted approaches if we want to identify the information that will lead us to solutions for this truly global challenge. Luckily, the work has already begun and will continue. Next month, APEC will convene a high level meeting in Beijing on health issues.  The final results of the ABAC health study on worker productivity will be released at that time at which point we can share the data.   Together, we will continue to pave the way for future research, and innovative solutions.