Improve health for the BoP, taking a page from GBCHealth members
At the end of January, fodder for belated new years resolutions
As a coalition of companies aligned to promote health worldwide, Schreiber’s organization GBCHealth helps companies design and implement innovative health programs. Created by an initial coalition of 17 companies under founding President and CEO Richard C. Holbrooke, GBCHealth was formerly known as the "Global Business Coalition in HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria." This past June it took on the name GBCHealth in recognition of an expanding array of health areas in which business has the potential to play a critical role, including diabetes and other non-communicable diseases.
After his panel presentation, Schreiber, a managing director at GBCHealth, briefed me on news from their members. Here are five ways business leaders can play a key role in improving health care, with direction from GBCHealth members.
1) Add screening and treatment for non-communicable disease onto successful HIV/AIDS programs
During a teleconference in November, GBCHealth’s Jimmy Lee advised businesses to capitalize on the openness from governments and the UN to accept private sector support. One example of how companies can make headway in the growing epidemic of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) that he cited was to expand existing HIV/AIDS programs (particularly workplace programs) to deliver screening and care for diabetes and other NCDs.
Comprehensive, Home-based Health, Nutrition and Support Services, photo from the Abbott Fund.
Health workers now screen and treat community members for diabetes in AMPATH’s door-to-door counseling and testing service in Western Kenya. Tests and support come from the Abbott Fund, a GBCHealth member, with more support from the Eli Lilly and Company and the Lilly Foundation. To further help the 60,000 persons living with diabetes in AMPATH’s catchment area to manage their disease, Abbott has helped create a diabetes research program, three referral centers and home glucose monitoring services.
Along with diabetes, the system screens for hypertension and infectious diseases including HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria. GBCHealth reports that one critical success factor has been a Clinical Decision Support System in which each person is registered with a unique identifier number, which health workers use to collect data systematically and improve outreach strategies. The system also generates patient clinical summaries and sends reminders about upcoming patient appointments. The result is improved patient compliance with HIV treatment guidelines and increased quality of care.
2) Ask male employees to motivate their wives to seek essential health services
As part of its Healthy Women, Healthy Economies initiative, Schreiber explained that GBCHealth is rolling out the moMENtum Campaign to help male employees become constructive partners to improve women’s health.
moMENtum will provide partnering companies—the list of participating corporations will soon become public—with training curriculums developed by EngenderHealth with USAID support. For example, diamond extractors Debswana and AngloGold Ashanti are bringing together some 500 mine workers to urge families to seek family planning and anti retro-virals when needed, and to go for regular well woman screenings.
“They [male employees] realize that their employer cares about this issue and that senior leadership is participating,” said Schreiber of these normally sensitive issues.
This approach yielded sizable results in a recent pilot: a 150% increase in HIV testing by male employees, 30% increase in their spouse’s use of family planning services, and other benefits like improved productivity and reduced absenteeism in the workplace.
3) Advocate to governments for better health policies
Advocacy is one of the business community’s sharpest—and largely underused—weapons, Schreiber said, citing discussions between the NBA’s David Stern and Washington, D.C. government leaders around needle exchange programs. The talks led to the rollout of programming in the district to prevent the viral disease transmission.
“People who care about job creation listen to business leaders,” said Schreiber, noting that engagement on issues by business leaders may not directly lead to reform in public policy but can open doors for advocacy groups.
One recent example of how GBCHealth has engaged business to advocate for better health policies was around the issue of task shifting at the 2010 African Union meeting. African health and finance ministers discussed the value of implementing task shifting as a cost-effective way to strengthen health systems. GBCHealth and business leaders highlighted that a 3% increase in spending could have a doubling impact on service provision if the incremental investment was combined with a task shifting approach that allowed for much greater community level interaction with the formal health sector.
4) Invest in health infrastructure and products in low income countries
According to GBCHealth’s Pam Bolton, companies are investing to develop products in their core area of expertise that will serve the BoP. She pointed to GE, which recently won an award for utilizing its technologies to remedy gaps and deficits in maternal and child health infrastructure. GE has since 2004 has invested more than $40 million and 3,000 donated products to equip, train, and support services in 158 health centers and clinics in 13 countries throughout Africa, Latin America and Asia. The company has created a reduced-cost baby incubator, the Lullaby, and widely distributed the portable baby warmer Embrace, a low-cost device that resembles a tiny sleeping bag. “It’s a win-win—focusing on [lower income consumers] also helps [GE] get market access,” said Bolton.
5) Learn more about market based health solutions
As large companies are uniquely positioned to affect health delivery on a mass scale, they could provide transformative support to health market innovations, or programs—for profit, nonprofit, faith-based or other—that work to improve privately delivered health care for the poor. The first step would be to use the Center for Health Market Innovations (CHMI) as a resource to better understand the landscape of these programs and polices in developing countries. CHMI’s database of more than 1000 programs in 105 countries includes some that GBCHealth members are supporting, such as AngloGold Ashanti’s TB and HIV campaigns and Coca-Cola’s Men as Partners initiative.
A sample poster from Engender Health and Coca Cola's Men as Partners campaign.
Taking steps to meaningfully improve the health of workers and their communities is no longer an afterthought for large companies, thanks to leadership from GBCHealth members. Health programs are becoming better integrated, with a growing focus on non-communicable diseases, and smarter, with investments into quality and efficiency-boosting technologies like Clinical Decision Support Software. Business leaders are playing an increasingly central role, alongside advocacy organizations, in urging governments to implement evidence-based policies.
At CHMI, we look forward to seeing what 2012 ushers in, in the way of business-led health innovation. A vow by businesses to continue ramping up innovative health investments on would be a resolution worth keeping.