The global average life expectancy rose from 66.4 years in 2000 to 71.4 years in 2015, according to the World Health Organization. Yet there are regions of the world where deaths from chronic diseases are on the rise—and in younger populations. For philanthropists, there remain abundant opportunities to make a difference.
In this executive summary of J.P. Morgan’s Philanthropy Field Guide: Global Health, we look at health trends and their impact on opportunities to improve wellness outcomes around the world.
The many factors that influence people’s health and quality of life include these themes:
There is also a strong link between income and health. As Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, observed, “The biggest enemy of health in the developing world is poverty.” Individuals living without decent shelter, good sanitation or sufficient food and clean water are at a higher risk for disease, injury and mental illness.
Additionally, good health enables individuals to thrive and be productive members of society. Every $1 spent on health may result in up to $20 in income growth within a generation.
Philanthropic efforts to boost health outcomes around the world today connect with innovations in many fields:
Efforts to improve health through the use of technology—particularly the use of smartphones—are predicted to grow. Smartphones can help bolster accessibility to medical care using text messaging and phone counseling, in addition to capturing more patient data that can be provided to medical professionals.
Scientists are increasingly exploring the role of each person’s genetic composition to develop precision therapies for specific diseases. This fits with the large-scale investment in outbreak preparedness following recent Ebola and Zika crises, creating vaccines to counter previously disruptive epidemics.
Studies have shown that the smoke from traditional cook stoves has led to premature births in many low-income countries. To address this and other challenges, health leaders are now fostering collaborations among engineers, technology developers and agricultural, environmental and sanitation experts to find holistic solutions.
Given these wide-ranging developments, there are broad opportunities for philanthropists to promote good health. Consider:
Philanthropists can support researchers in scientific discovery, which might include chemical analysis in a laboratory or data collection in the field. During the later stages of research and development (R&D), private donors can fund clinical trials to test the effectiveness of new technologies. Although R&D efforts are high-risk (and high-cost), they could ultimately prove to be game-changers in combating disease.
Public policy is critical to the health of a country and influences how individuals access and experience the country’s health system. Philanthropy can help ensure that policy development is informed by research, expert opinion and the experience of individuals who will be affected by new guidelines. However, philanthropists supporting advocacy projects must be comfortable with ambiguity and willing to work amid rapid change.
Investment in sanitation and clean water initiatives creates high returns: Every $1 invested returns $5.50 in lower health costs, fewer deaths and higher productivity, according to the World Health Organization. There are several avenues philanthropists can take in this regard, including water sector policy and administrative management, research on and implementation of waste disposal and other hygiene interventions, water conservation and river basins development.
Road traffic injuries were one of the top 10 causes of death globally in 2015. Opportunities for improved safety here include encouraging lower driving speeds and the use of seatbelts and helmets, and providing funding to improve infrastructure, such as crosswalks, lane markings and public transportation systems.
As you make your first steps toward supporting health-related initiatives:
The J.P. Morgan Philanthropy Field Guide: Global Health includes more information on the ways individuals can make a difference, highlights notable funders, and provides helpful resources for those who want to explore more. Please contact your J.P. Morgan advisor to receive your copy of the report.
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