Efforts to promote good health and well-being in the 19th century helped pave the path for the United Nations’ World Health Organization (WHO). This, in effect, provided the drafters of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with considerable support for SDG 3, which aims to ensure healthy lives and well-being for all at all ages.
Here is a look at the need for efforts to promote health globally—and how impact investors are working to help meet it.
Global Health Crises
Among the current leading threats to the world’s health and safety, many fall within the scope of SDG 3, according to the WHO. For example, noncommunicable diseases like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease are responsible for over two-thirds of all deaths worldwide. Influenza is responsible for 650,000 deaths a year, and Ebola and other high-threat pathogens have devastating effects, as data from the 2014–2016 outbreak in West Africa shows.
At the same time, lack of access to primary care and essential health services deprives billions of a fundamental building block of universal healthcare. In some cases, available care is passed over. Consider vaccine hesitancy: vaccinations have prevented as many as 3 million deaths, and improved vaccination rates could prevent another 1.5 million, according to the WHO. Yet antimicrobial resistance due to overuse of antibiotics, antivirals, and antimalarials takes a toll, too, threatening to revive long-curable diseases.
Meanwhile, given the interconnectedness of the SDGs, SDG 3 is one of six reviewed under the theme of “eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world” by the UN’s High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. Similarly, progress on goals related to environmental well-being and equality stands to benefit personal and population health.
To better focus the theme for impact investors, the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) has defined health investment opportunities as those that facilitate access to health services and workers, medicines, and technologies. These investments should offer equal access, measurable quality, and affordability for those they serve.
While many SDG areas command impact investor interest, SDG 3 was targeted by 58% of respondents to the Global Impact Investing Network’s latest annual investor survey, trailing only economic growth, poverty, and inequality themes.
According to the World Economic Forum, private equity has backed good health and well-being initiatives for decades, with a focus on establishing hospitals, laboratories, clinics, pharmacies, and medicines to treat noncommunicable diseases. Frequently, such efforts fill the void created by government funding limitations and nongovernmental organizations’ general emphasis on infectious diseases. Separately, investments in medical technology have allowed for improved diagnostics, testing, and administration.
A WHO-funded study concluded that $274 billion must be spent annually to progress toward SDG 3 targets by 2030, while $371 billion a year could fully achieve those goals by that same year. As the PRI notes, the investment opportunities vary widely, but since access to health services and products is a basic human right, each is essential.
Want to learn more about investing in good health and well-being? Read:
- Private Equity Supports Healthcare in Emerging Markets
- 5 Ways Climate Change Endangers Human Health
- Can Healthcare Partnerships Help Meet the Needs of Base-of-Pyramid Populations?
- Healthcare Resources Get a New Tool: Development Impact Bonds