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Water filters, malaria control, smart phones help address global health problems

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Nine private sector companies around the world that are addressing global health challenges through strategies as diverse as a water filtering, non-surgical male circumcision and the use of smart phones to quickly report malaria information, won the 2012 Business Action on Health Awards presented by GBC Health during its annual conference held in New York in May. The awards, presented annually, recognize the best corporate programs developed to address global health needs.

The winning projects dramatically reduced malaria among gold mining workers in Democratic Republic of Congo, combatted avoidable blindness in developing countries, created a program for integrated management of malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis in high-incidence areas in Uganda, bridged gaps between urban and rural health care in an earthquake-affected area of China, created African-based manufacturing of mosquito nets, used smart phones to track malaria in Botswana, developed non-surgical devices for male circumcision that can be done easily in rural settings, and distributed water filters in Kenya through a program funded by carbon credits.

GBC Health, which represents more than 200 private sector companies engaged in business support for improved global health, decided in 2011 to expand its mission beyond HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria to take on a wider range of global health challenges and the 2012 contest attracted entries from companies working across all six continents, in dozens of countries, half of whom had never before competed. This year’s awards “showcase an unprecedented diversity of innovative private sector solutions to global health problems,” said John Tedstrom, President and CEO of GBCHealth. “Collectively, these programs demonstrate the unique power of business to help overcome our world’s most pressing health challenges.”


The winners by category were:

Workplace/Workforce Engagement: General – Chevron Corporation

Chevron Corporation implemented an enterprise-wide Cardiovascular Health Program to reduce employees’ risk of developing cardiovascular disease. To date, it has been deployed in 11 countries, including Angola, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Nigeria, Philippines and the United States. Of roughly 35,000 eligible employees, approximately 17,000 have completed the risk assessment and 11,000 have enrolled in follow up programming. Participants previously at risk of developing coronary heart disease within the next 10 years have reduced that likelihood by more than a third.


Workplace/Workforce Engagement: Special Focus on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis or Malaria –Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold

Tenke Fungurume Mining (TFM), a mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo majority owned and operated by Freeport-McMoRan, developed its Public Health and Integrated Malaria Control Program (IMCP) in partnership with International SOS after baseline research showed high malaria prevalence among employees and their families. Since the program’s inception in late 2007, the malaria incidence rate among employees has reduced by 66% and prevalence in their communities has dropped by 47%.


Community Investment: General – Standard Chartered

Seeing is Believing, a global partnership between Standard Chartered and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), combats avoidable blindness in developing countries. As of 2011, Seeing is Believing projects had reached over 28 million people, providing over 2.8 million cataract surgeries, treating 1.9 million people for River Blindness, distributing nearly 168,000 pairs of spectacles, supplying 2 million people with vitamin A supplements, and providing 14.4 million individuals with preventive treatment and education services.


Community Investment Special Focus on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis or Malaria – AstraZeneca

AstraZeneca worked in partnership with the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF) to create a program focused on integrated management of malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (TB) in the high-incidence areas of Luwero and Kiboga, Uganda. The program focused on improving community-based prevention methods, constructing and equipping 10 clinical laboratories, and training health system staff. Since the project’s inception, 6,618 local people have been trained and more than 1.5 million patient visits have occurred. In the districts covered by the project, malaria deaths in hospital declined by half between 2007 and 2011 and new TB cases dropped by 10%. New HIV diagnoses fell from 11% to 7%, with 69,730 tests now carried out per year, three times the annual figure at the start of the project.


Application of Core Competence – Cisco & Sumitomo Chemical Company

Cisco Systems, Inc.: In 2008, a magnitude 8.0 earthquake displaced 4.8 million residents and claimed 68,000 lives in China’s Sichuan Province. Recognizing that a long-term response was needed, Cisco collaborated with the Chinese government to create a 21stcentury medical delivery system called Connecting Sichuan, bridging the gap between urban and rural healthcare with advanced communication technologies. The network enables providers throughout the healthcare system to interact and share resources.

Sumitomo Chemical Company Limited: Sumitomo’s groundbreaking Olyset® technology incorporates insecticide directly into polyethylene filaments which, when woven into bed nets, provide long-lasting protection from the mosquitoes that spread malaria. To get nets to users in Africa faster and to make a lasting contribution to local economic development, Sumitomo Chemical decided to establish a major manufacturing base in sub-Saharan Africa. Its joint venture with A to Z Textile Mills has become one of the largest employers and together the companies’ two Tanzanian factories produce 30 million nets annually.


Partnership/Collective Action – HP

The Disease Surveillance and Mapping Project is a public-private partnership between HP, Positive Innovation for the Next Generation (PING), Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), Mascom and the Botswana Ministry of Health (MoH). Before the project, the process of tracking notifiable diseases in Botswana was manual and slow. The PING program uses smartphones to collect data on malaria activity to streamline data collection and analysis to improve the quality of disease surveillance. By the end of the pilot, 93% of facilities were reporting on time (compared to 20% beforehand), and MoH officials had been notified of 19 potential malaria outbreaks to which they were able to respond immediately. The pilot was so successful that the MoH plans to expand PING’s mobile platform to track all notifiable diseases in Botswana.


Technology for Health – PrePex by Circ MedTech

Clinical trials have shown that male circumcision can dramatically reduce a man’s risk of HIV infection. In response to the challenge of rapid scale-up of voluntary medical male circumcisions in countries with high HIV prevalence but limited health resources, Circ MedTech developed the PrePex device. PrePex is an innovative non-surgical device administered by minimally-skilled nurses in rural settings in just a few minutes with no injected anesthesia. Not only is the procedure much faster and cheaper than surgical methods, it is safer, too, and has been recognized by global leaders as having the potential to revolutionize HIV prevention and save millions of lives by making scale-up a reality for Africa.


Health & Beyond: Eradicating Root Causes – Vestergaard Fransden

Launched in 2011, the Carbon For Water program has distributed approximately 880,000 LifeStraw® Family water filters to 91% of households in Kenya’s Western Province. Carbon For Water is designed to be fully self-funding, as carbon credits can be claimed and sold for avoiding the greenhouse gas emissions associated with burning wood to boil, and thereby purify, water. Expected health benefits include reductions in waterborne diseases and respiratory illnesses. The program also has a positive environmental impact, achieving a reduction of 1.4 million tons of carbon emissions in its first six months.


Heineken was awarded the 2012 Business Leadership Award for its long-term commitment to tackling most challenging health issues including trailblazing work in HIV/AIDS, malaria and Vesico-vagina fistula. The 2012 Frontline Heroes Award was presented to South-African based mothers2mothers, whose more than 1,500 HIV-positive Mentor Mothers deliver life-saving information to other HIV-positive women in sub-Saharan Africa.


This story was prepared from information on the GBC Health website and an April 30, 2012 media release entitled Technology, innovation and prevention lead field for the 2012 GBCHealth Business Action on Health Awards

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