Today, more than one billion people lack access to basic healthcare services. The overwhelming majority of these people are in the developing world, where leading causes of death still include preventable and treatable diseases that have been nearly eradicated in the developed world for decades. The human, economic and societal costs of this reality are immense and pose a formidable challenge to global well-being.
Health problems are one of the most common triggers for the onset of poverty, and the costs associated with illness—including both direct costs like medical bills, and indirect costs such as lost income—can be catastrophic for the poor. Moreover, poor health often results in additional burdens for other family members and impairs the ability of adults and children alike to work and learn (thereby fostering conditions that perpetuate poverty).
Disparities in healthcare access and quality exist both within and between countries. The healthcare challenges in developing countries are particularly acute: higher rates of mortality and malnutrition; lower rates of access to medical expertise, technologies, and life-saving vaccinations and drugs; lower rates of access to maternal, neo-natal and child healthcare; and lower rates of contraceptive use (for purposes of both disease prevention and family planning). In addition, cultural factors can make it difficult particularly for women to get necessary healthcare services, and people in rural areas are especially disadvantaged in terms of access to healthcare facilities.
There are an increasing number of social enterprises and public-private partnerships emerging to tackle these realities. These include innovative healthcare education and delivery approaches; non-profit and for-profit ventures to improve both accessibility and quality of healthcare services; and healthcare products and services targeted to the needs and ability to pay of the world’s poor (e.g. lower-cost vaccinations, vision screenings and rapid-response ambulances). In addition, new approaches to healthcare financing are being developed and deployed—including micro-insurance products and various risk-sharing arrangements—which serve to bolster and expand the reach of these enterprises in critically important ways.
Supported long-standing impact investing client Calvert Foundation, that underwrote an innovative medical credit fund providing debt capital to health clinics in Sub-Saharan Africa, the world’s poorest region, to help scale these clinics and provide reasonable health care to those that need it most.
UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
Working with students from the Harvard Law and International Development Society, the firm assisted the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, with research and analysis for his upcoming bi-annual report on the adequacy dimension of the human right to food and the impact inadequate diets have on non-communicable diseases. The research discussed the role of the private sector in influencing people’s diets, and also focused on policies states could adopt to combat the spread of non communicable, diet-related diseases.