“Health is a human right. No one should get sick and die just because they are poor, or because they cannot access the health services they need.” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’s, Director-General of the World Health Organization, assertion serves as the basis of World Health Day 2019, which we celebrate on April 7. The theme of this year’s World Health Organization (WHO) campaign is universal health coverage – the idea that every person and every community should have access to necessary and affordable health services.
Health coverage includes the full range of healthcare services one needs throughout his or her lifetime – ranging from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care. These health topics are key components of primary healthcare, which can address the majority of people’s health needs throughout their lives. It also seeks to address broader determinants of health – such as social, economic and environmental – through public policy initiatives, and empowers individuals and communities to advocate for such policies. Beyond health, investments in primary healthcare can also lead to economic growth as people live healthier, longer lives and continue to stimulate their local economies.
The holistic approach to health prescribed by an effective healthcare strategy is pivotal in optimizing health from prevention to cure. It has, for instance, been well-documented that four risk factors (poor diet, physical inactivity, tobacco use, and excessive alcohol intake) lead to four chronic diseases (cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic lung disease, and various cancers) that contribute to 60 percent of deaths worldwide. A robust prevention agenda would have meaningful impacts on mortality and morbidity, as estimates of the number of deaths attributable to non-communicable diseases are close to 650 million by 2030. This number exceeds the total cumulative global deaths from smallpox, black death, Spanish flu, World War II, and AIDS. The estimated costs of treating chronic diseases globally are $47 trillion by 2030, which represented greater than 60 percent of the global GDP in 2015. Augmenting health coverage with a robust prevention agenda would lead to reductions in total healthcare costs by handling health issues on the front lines and reducing downstream costs associated with hospital admissions.
Although universal healthcare remains a controversial issue and there are many differing viewpoints as to how best to provide communities with healthcare services, we can all agree that everyone deserves access to healthcare and that society as a whole benefits when its members are healthy. Vitality believes wholeheartedly in the importance of disease prevention, which is why our program provides members with the tools to adopt healthier behaviors through our focus on the right science, the right technology, and the right incentives.
At Vitality, our mission is to protect and enhance the lives of our members by incentivizing members to make healthier decisions for themselves, for their families, and for their communities. That is why Vitality, along with our network of insurers across the globe (including AIA, Generali, John Hancock, Manulife, Ping An, and Sumitomo Life) have made the following pledge:
We, as part of the global Vitality insurance network, commit to make 100 million people 20 percent more physically active by 2025. This represents roughly 10 percent of the global health and life insurance population. With lifestyle diseases growing dramatically, often due to a lack of physical activity, we believe advances in behavioral science, combined with technology, can be used to help people be more physically active. We strive to be a positive force for good in society by changing the lives of millions of people.
We know that WHO’s Sustainable Development Goal target of achieving universal health coverage by 2030 will require innovative thinking by governments, nonprofits, companies, and communities. As a company that prides itself on its science- (clinical, behavioral and data) based approach to prevention, we look forward to being part of this incredibly important conversation.
Read more about the Global Vitality Network’s pledge here.
Read more about World Health Day 2019 here.
 Bloom, D.E., Cafiero, E.T., Jané-Llopis, E., Abrahams-Gessel, S., Bloom, L.R., Fathima, S., Feigl, A.B., Gaziano, T., Mowafi, M., Pandya, A., Prettner, K., Rosenberg, L., Seligman, B., Stein, A.Z., & Weinstein, C. (2011). The Global Economic Burden of Noncommunicable Diseases. Geneva: World Economic Forum. http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Harvard_HE_
Lianne Jacobs, Product Analyst, has a master’s degree in Public Health from Yale University. She is the only indoor cycling instructor who can’t ride a bike. She enjoys traveling the world, laughing at her own jokes, and tricking her husband into eating baked goods made with hidden vegetables.