April 8, 2013

Global Partnerships and World Health Day

By Guest Author

Yesterday was World Health Day, and marked the 65th anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization.  This year’s theme, high blood pressure, might seem to be a “first world” health problem to many, but heart disease actually affects over 1 billion people in every region of the globe, and is a major concern in the developing world.

High blood pressure rates are highest in some low-income countries in Africa, with almost half of adults in many African countries thought to be affected.  And in these places, it’s not just a matter of cutting out saturated fats or eating more heart-healthy cereal.  It is not uncommon for villages in countries like Tanzania to be several walking hours from the nearest medical facility, and even people that do have access to treatment rarely have the education to recognize the early warning signs of heart disease or understand how to reduce the risks with proper nutrition and exercise.

Companies like Abbott have recognized this issue and joined in public-private partnerships around the world to address the greatest needs in global health.

At Abbott, we have partnered with the Government of Tanzania to modernize the Muhimbili National Hospital while building new laboratories in over twenty regional hospitals.  The Abbott Fund has invested over $4 million and donated nearly $1 million in Kenya to utilize cell phones or simple GPS systems to provide health care and education to people whose homes were too remote to get treatment before.  In India, Abbott, the Abbott Fund and PATH have created a fortified rice supplement called Ultra Rice.  This solution to malnutrition takes a staple of India’s diet and packs it with enough micronutrients to provide a half of a child’s daily requirement of iron in just a single serving.

AbbotFund

Abbott and Partners in Health survey land in Central Haiti for the site of a future nutritional production facility.

And projects like these are good for business, too.  In Haiti, Abbott and Abbott Fund joined with Partners In Health (PIH) to address sustainable nutrition solutions to a nation struggling with food shortages by introducing peanut-based foods to treat malnutrition and provide local business opportunities.  Construction and staffing manufacturing plants to produce these foods will also bring new jobs and training to local workers.

These stories aren’t unique to Abbott.  Businesses know that development efforts to improve health, establish rule of law, and address poverty all serve to open up new markets.  But companies cannot tackle these efforts alone.  Across the globe, businesses are partnering with the governments and non-profit organizations that have the expertise, field operations and unique tools to be successful.  These critical partnerships are helping to create a stable environment for American business to flourish while creating a better, safer, and healthier world for us all.

Andrea Durkin is the Senior Director of Global Government Affairs & Policy for Abbott, and a board member of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition.