Commercial determinants of health and the global financial markets (P3)

Think bigger and think smarter!

Let´s make informed decisions and learn and change the market the healthier way! 

The final day in Gastein is coming to an end and we are at the Closing Plenary, where the focus is on the commercial determinants of health and the global financial markets.

In his opening speech, the EHFG President Clemens Martin Auer reminded us to think bigger, think smarter and be bold and bright, and with this good reminder we dived into the plenary. Martin McKee, the moderator, took over and gave us an insight into the plenary where the focus was on MONEY, investments, markets and of course health.

I have to use some of the space in this short blog to share the story of Dr. Bronwyn King (founder and CEO of Tobacco Free Portfolios) and her amazing journey. She started her talk by showing a short video about a Dutch patient who is suing a tobacco company for attempted murder and grievous bodily harm, and then explained her personal story, that started only about 8 years ago when she found out that her pension fund was being invested in tobacco stocks, and as a radiation oncologist who was trying to save the lives of patients often suffering from lung cancer that was usually related to tobacco use, she could not believe it and had to take action. Now, to cut a long story short, she took on the tobacco industry: this has lead to stocks dropping as well as to many pension funds, banks and other commercial organisations divesting from tobacco stocks. It truly was amazing to hear from a person who is so personally involved and it really made you sympathise with her cause. I think it is important for all the Young Gasteiners like myself, as well as for other figures in public health, to see and hear that there are individuals out there making a difference. But this is only the start, there is more to do and we need to move forward.

The rest of the session was used to discuss the growing acknowledgment of the need for the public health community to address the issue of the responsibility of private and public investors in relation to the commercial and social determinants of health, and the central theme of the panel discussion was therefore to discuss how to align commercial and health interests.

Some ideas were raised; the challenge to maximise the social impact of private companies’ actions and of business models, that mainly lie in the implementation of measures to quantify the positive social impact of private companies’ initiatives. Specific forms of training in finance for public health experts and in introducing “social” business education were discussed, as were the recent outcomes of the UN High Level Meeting on NCDs.

After this session, I would really encourage people to check their pension funds and also ask the right questions. Do we talk about health and economics? Do you know where your money is going, and are you aware of your investments?

Last on the agenda was the Hackathon Results and Prize Ceremony. Three great teams presented their products that had been developed over the previous 36 hours. The teams were: Healthhackers that developed GObot, Alco that developed Drops and S.P.I.R.I.T that developed Ride4Ride. Alco – Drops won the audience prize and HealthHackers – Gobot won the jury award. Congratulations to the winners and good luck!

And with that we wrapped up the 21st EHFG conference! Thank you and have a great journey back home! 🙂

This Blog was written by the Young Gasteiner Rúna Stefánsdóttir

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