Thursday 14 July 2016

Oliver Wyman breakfast at Davos

Back in Davos, I was invited to a very interesting breakfast event by Oliver Wyman on "Sugar, obesity and diabetes - The other global food crisis". I now discovered that they published a report about it in which I was quoted quite extensively. For example here:

There is an article on the Oliver Wyman website about the breakfast event and you can also download a report summarizing our discussion.

Thursday 25 February 2016

World Economic Forum blog: Who should own our health data?

In October I wrote a piece for the World Economic Forum blog on health data and questions around who (should) own it.

Who should own our health data?

The amount of available health-related data is exploding. The increase is driven by both healthcare data, such as electronic medical records, but also user-generated data, such as activity and sleep profiles collected by wearables. The available data is set to more than double every two years until 2020, according toa study by EMC and the research firm IDC. This translates into a 15-fold increase between 2013 and 2020. If one imagines this amount of data stored on tablet computers, the resulting stack, which in 2013 is around 8,800 km high, would be more than one third of the way to the moon by 2020.

Tuesday 23 February 2016

Immunotherapy breakthrough: Did we just get a small step closer to curing cancer?

Nice to see our message on the severity of the NCD crisis is getting picked up. After an article in the German newspaper "Die Welt" covered our report, I just got quoted in a World Economic Forum blog post on a breakthrough in immunotherapy for cancer:

"Non-communicable diseases such as cancer are more than a personal tragedy – they're a threat to global prosperity. Their cumulative direct and indirect cost over the next 15 years will be around five times the cost triggered by the financial crisis in the 15 years following 2008"

Read the full blog here:

Monday 22 February 2016

Can the private sector help achieve universal health coverage?

The next blog post in the series by the World Economic Forum where constituents of the Forum engage with the ideas of my report "How to Realize Returns on Health" is by Sania Nishtar of Heartfile.

Can the private sector help achieve universal health coverage?

Image: Reuters/ Jorge Lopez

When the world committed to ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring prosperity for all with the 17 Sustainable Development goals, we knew no single entity would be able to achieve such lofty goals – it would take collaboration. “A successful sustainable development agenda requires partnerships between governments, the private sector and civil society,” Goal 17 stated.

Friday 19 February 2016

What can technology do for global health?

The World Economic Forum is currently publishing a series of posts engaging with the ideas of my World Economic Forum Report "How to Realize Returns on Health". The first post is by Jonathan Jackson of Dimagi.

What can technology do for global health?

A seven-year-old ethnic Tibetan girl diagnosed with congenital heart disease plays with a mobile phone as she lies on bed before having her surgery at a hospital in Hefei, capital of eastern China's Anhui province, December 22, 2012.
Image: Reuters/ Stringer

This year, the focus of the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting in Davos was on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and how the technology revolution is changing all aspects of our world. The effects are particularly profound in the healthcare field.

Thursday 18 February 2016

World Economic Forum Blog: The silent pandemic that threatens the global economy

On Monday, the second blog by me and the partner I worked for in the last 10 months went live on the World Economic Forum blog.

The silent pandemic that threatens the global economy

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer and diabetes are a silent pandemic of our own making and a real threat not only to human health but to global prosperity. To put this threat into perspective: the cumulative direct and indirect costs of NCDs over the next 15 years will be about five times the costs triggered by the global financial crisis in the 15 years following 2008, according to Bain analysis based on data from the World Economic Forum and Harvard University and the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

Tuesday 2 February 2016

WEF/ Bain report online

My report is online on the WEF website. Let me know what you think!

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After demonstrating in Maximizing Healthy Life Years that health can have a positive return on investment, the 2016 report How to Realize Returns on Health shows how to tackle the silent NCD pandemic: why we should focus on Maximizing Healthy Life Years (MHLY) instead of just treating disease, why we need to act boldly now and how investments into health can have healthy returns in a multi-stakeholder environment by creating Ecosystems of Health.
Developed by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with Bain & Company, this report covers
  • How investments into health can have healthy returns
  • How Ecosystems of Health align private and public stakeholders across sectors and industries
  • How the individual must be put at the center to make these ecosystems happen
  • How Ecosystems of Health create the foundation for market-driven solutions to tackle NCDs and to Maximize Healthy Life Years
  • Important success factors for healthier lives

Thursday 28 January 2016

Are sugar taxes the answer?

Two tools for putting direct financial value on what are otherwise societal costs are regulation and taxes. One example are taxes on sugar which seek to reflect some of the societal cost incurred by obesity: In France beverages with added sugar or sweetener have been subject to an excise duty since 2012 and added sugar in soft drinks has been taxed as part of the Public Health Product Tax in Hungary since 2011 [1, p. 18f].

The effects of these taxes were firstly the desired decrease in consumption. The Mexican soda tax led to a decrease of purchase of sugary drinks by 12% in the first year and most importantly, the biggest reductions have occurred among the poor [1]. 
On the other hand, profitability stayed mostly stable. However, in some case cases profitability also de- or increased [2, p. 30ff] – an indication that price sensitivities vary across products and brands. Thus, taxes appear to not be suitable universal tool. It can be useful to shift buying patterns for commodities, e.g. from cooking oils high in saturated fats to those lower in these fats, but consumers will continue to purchase what they consider indulgences, such as chocolates or high end ice cream, with a certain indifference to the price. Also the introduction of food taxes is highly controversial and usually limited to a small set of food products. In Hungary only 8% of the average total energy intake of an adult women come from added sugars in the taxed product groups (chocolate, sweets, soft drinks) [2, p. 46]. Added sugars in other common product groups such as cakes, biscuits, ice cream, preserves, condiments or fruit yoghurts are currently not subject to the tax. The difficulties in deciding where to draw the line highlight one of the key weaknesses of using taxes as a key policy option.

However, another important effect of these food taxes are that they accelerate reformulations already partially under way to respond to consumer demands for “lighter” or healthier products. An impact assessment of the Hungarian Public Health Product Tax found that 40% of manufactures reformulated their products. Of the reformulations, 30% completely removed the targeted ingredient and 70% reduced its quantities [3, p. 32]. However, the same effect can be obtained by setting clear standards and thereby creating a market for healthy: The Dutch Choices Foundation (cf. p. 7) was able to show that most products carrying their logo have been reformulated to meet their criteria, for example by reducing added sugar in sauces. Furthermore, new products specifically formulated to meet the choices criteria were developed following the launch of the logo [3, p. 10].

Passing regulation mandating healthier products is unlikely to succeed but indirect measures that shape markets in a way that align RoH with RoI are possible. For example current occupation health and safety reporting requirements could be expanded into employee health and the health impact of products and services. The latter creates more transparency for customers, who can use this information in their purchasing decisions. In this regard valuable lessons can be learned from the effect an increased emphasis on sustainability has had on consumer purchasing decisions and consequently the products portfolios of manufactures. Employee health reporting would allow reflecting better health in risk assessments, thereby increasing shareholder value. Other forms of regulations could be standards regarding upper levels of acceptable health impact and the possibility to buy health certificates from low impact companies, analogous to emission certificates.

(The views expressed in this piece are my own and do not reflect the WEF or Bain)

[2]        ECSIP consortium, “Food taxes and their impact on competitiveness in the agri-food sector,” 2014.
[3]        World Cancer Research Fund International, “Curbing global sugar consumption,” 2015.

Wednesday 27 January 2016

Health at the Annual Meeting

Health featured prominently on the program of this year's WEF Annual Meeting. There were over 35 sessions on health in the official and the private program. The meeting started with US Vice-President Joe Biden's moonshot to combat cancer (video above) and later during the meeting the Forum launched health as its 10th Global Challenge. As the health team we had worked hard for the latter, so it was really great to see this become reality.

The new Global Challenge will on the one hand continue my work on how to keep people healthier for longer but also combine it with work on health security and how to handle and combat epidemics of infectious diseases. The idea behind the Global Challenge mirrors the insight from my work that these are issues that transcend healthcare and have to be addressed collaboratively across industry and sector boundaries.

Friday 22 January 2016

Summary of my World Economic Forum/ Bain report

I am at Davos right now, where we will launch the report which I authored for the World Economic Forum. Below the summary - will let you know once the report goes live on the WEF website :)

"How to Realize Returns on Health" - Executive summary
This report focuses on the role of different stakeholders in shaping an ecosystem of health and how to use market forces to make such a system, and the associated returns on health (RoH), happen.
Maximizing Healthy Life Years (MHLY) are investments in preventing non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and mental ill-health. These investments can pay off and generate opportunities across all industries, not just typical healthcare players. All industries are becoming concerned about the health of consumers through the direct or indirect impact of products and services they use, the impact of corporate operations on communities, and the health of employees and the work environment.
An ecosystem of health is always specific to a particular issue, i.e. the RoH sought. Such an ecosystem can align stakeholders with different perspectives around a common goal about desirable returns. The fundamental architecture of an ecosystem of health is based on two roles: health shapers and designers/deliverers. Health shapers who are motivated by social benefits, such as government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or organizations from the private sector, can utilize a range of mechanisms to (re)shape markets in a way that ensures delivering on health outcomes is a viable business. By setting standards and norms, aggregating demand or catalysing behaviour change, these health shapers align RoH with return on investment (RoI) and enable positive business cases for a second type of stakeholder that designs and delivers offerings. This report illustrates these concepts of ecosystem roles (shaping, designing, delivering) and includes multiple examples from different sectors and industries.
In some cases, RoH and RoI are already aligned in the current environment, delivering a short-term payback for private ventures. If they are not, health shapers can strengthen the alignment either by decreasing barriers or by creating additional incentives, such as cost/benefit sharing.Cost/benefit sharing is a renegotiation of costs and benefits and can take either the form of spreading the cost of improved health among stakeholders, sharing the benefits, or both. It can unlock the value of healthy living when beneficiaries of good health and investors are not aligned. This is particularly critical if the project requires a large investment but benefits different stakeholders.
An ecosystem of health creates the foundation for market-driven solutions to tackle NCDs and MHLY. Because markets depend on customers, the individual must be at the centre to make these ecosystems happen. The engine to set MHLY in motion is to increase both demand and supply for healthy products and services. The behaviour of individuals and their underlying habits and social norms play an important role in creating demand and ensuring supply translates into demand. On the other hand, important levers to translate demand into supply include financial viability, either by providing a short-term payoff or through attractive cost/ benefit sharing. Supply can also be driven by an attractive long-term payoff, often a combination of direct financial returns and indirect returns, such as a competitive advantage. Long-term payoffs are more durable with innovative financing models, such as impact bonds, or stronger ties of health impact to shareholder value, e.g. through inclusion of health in stock market indices.
Looking ahead, key areas for action are laying the foundations for ecosystems of health, shaping an individual-centric environment for MHLY and providing the tools and platforms for multistakeholder collaboration and innovation.

Tuesday 19 January 2016

WEF Secondees

So, the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos is about to start. As this means our WEF assignments are almost over, Bain & Company posted short profiles of my colleague Lyu and myself on their website.

Lyu is working on Future of Electricity:
"The Future of Electricity 2016 focuses on how to improve investment attractiveness of power markets in fast-growing countries. The countries need to attract $13 trillion of capital to power sector between 2015 and 2040 to be able to serve enormous new demand for electricity as their economies grow. During the assignment, the team developed eight recommendations for improving investment attractiveness of power markets in fast-growing economies that will help them to achieve social and economic objectives, including universal access to reliable affordable power and environment sustainability."
... and his take on the WEF is:
"Managing the Future of Electricity project in the World Economic Forum was invaluable experience. It combines in-depth industry analysis, its implications for the world and interaction with key stakeholders that shape global agenda in power: CEOs, other senior executives and policy makers. It was also very enjoyable to work side by side with people that live by the Forum's motto – 'To improve the state of the world.'"

My project has been looking at the "Future of Healthy":
"In the first year, the project established "Maximizing Healthy Life Years" as the new currency of economic prosperity and demonstrated that health can yield a positive ROI. The second year of the project focused on how to align multiple stakeholders across sectors and how to set up the right incentives for investments in health. "Ecosystems of Health," which are specific to a particular "Return on Health," align health value with economic value and are set up by shaping markets and supply chains accordingly. These systems harness the forces of demand and supply to improve health of individuals and populations, while also delivering a positive return on investment."
... and I also thought it was a great experience:
"The work at the World Economic Forum was an exciting opportunity to pursue my interest in healthcare. It also allowed me to link my work at Bain, focused at the business side of health, with the work around systemic change that I did for the English National Health Service prior to joining Bain. Being part of the Forum brought me in contact with some of the most inspiring people and working with global leaders really allowed me to have an impact on the global agenda. I truly believe that a problem on the scale of non-communicable disease can only be solved by collaborative action of stakeholders and by harnessing market forces."

Thursday 19 November 2015

Who should own our health data?

I already mentioned that we had a workshop in San Francisco earlier this year. I summarized some of our insights in a blog post for the World Economic Forum: Who should own our health data?

Monday 16 November 2015

Annual Meeting of New Champions in Dalian

One of the exciting parts of my work at the World Economic Forum is that I get to meet interesting people all over the world. I have been running a workshop series on different aspects on how to prevent non-communicable diseases. In June, we were in San Francisco looking what value proposition IT/ tech can have in this space, in September we were in Dalian for the Forum's Annual Meeting of New Champions (also dubbed "Summer Davos"), where we looked into how physical and built environments shape health and in October we ran a final workshop in Tokyo on consumerization of health.

Dalian was particularly exciting as this was my first WEF summit and gave me an idea what to expect from Davos. And we had a fantastic group of people attending my workshop, including two ministers of health, executives from the for- and not-for-profit sector as well as leading academics. Gates Cambridge, my scholarship during my PhD at Cambridge, actually wrote a blog about it, which you can find here.

Thursday 12 November 2015

OECD Health Indicators 2015

For all the number crunchers among us, the OECD has published its "Health at a Glance 2015" report with dashboards and data on health indicators & status, pharmaceutical spending, non-medical determinants of health, health workforce, health care activities, access to care, quality of care, health expenditure and financing, the pharma sector, and ageing and long term care.

My favorite chart is public and private per capita health spending in the OECD countries:
The US are the biggest spender (adjusted by purchasing power) by a large margin but they are also outspending all other countries except the Netherlands and Norway on public health spending. Or to put differently: the amount of public money the US spends on health would be enough to cover all health costs in most other countries.

The full report can be found here:

My work at the World Economic Forum

As you might know, since May I have been taking a semi-break from my work at Bain & Company. Until the Annual Meeting in Davos in January, I am seconded to the World Economic Forum as a project manager for the Future of Healthy project.

FoH is a two year project on the prevention of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). Last year it was all about a paradigm shift from curing disease/ preventing deaths to actually Maximizing Healthy Life Years and how interventions that do so are investments that pay off (the report can be found here). My project is looking at how to bring stakeholder from different sector and industries together and how to align their incentives with positive health outcomes.