- Can we reimagine a world where clean air, water and food are available to all?
- How do we create economies focused on health and well-being?
- Are we able to shape communities that empower people to have control over their health and the planet’s health?
These are the urgent questions being asked by the World Health Organization (WHO) on World Health Day 2022, the annual awareness day which unites stakeholders around a key heath priority. At AstraZeneca, we are advancing solutions that address some of these issues and support a healthier tomorrow – for all.
Sustainability is part of our DNA, embedded in everything we do. As a healthcare company, we have a responsibility to innovate and accelerate the delivery of life-changing-medicines, while playing our part to tackle the major issues of our time, for people, society and the planet. Both across our organisation and in partnership with others, we are working to drive system-wide change to build a more sustainable future.
Spearheading collaborations for system-wide change
Delivering improved healthcare outcomes with lower environmental impact requires coordinated efforts across the global healthcare system. We recognise that partnership is critical to achieving this. At the invitation of HRH The Prince of Wales, Pascal Soriot, Chief Executive Officer, AstraZeneca, champions the Sustainable Markets Initiative (SMI) Health Systems Taskforce, a unique collaboration of leaders from global biopharmaceuticals companies, international institutions, healthcare systems, academia and policymakers.
Members of the Taskforce have united around a shared ambition, to accelerate the delivery of net-zero healthcare. Their focus is threefold: decarbonising supply chains, reducing the footprint of patient care pathways and accelerating digital innovation. The Taskforce will also look at opportunities linked to metrics and measurement to assess the environmental impact of healthcare, and engage with stakeholders on the key policies needed for more sustainable healthcare delivery.
We are also founding members of the Partnership for Health System Sustainability and Resilience (PHSSR) a global collaboration to ensure health systems can withstand future crises and shocks. Through this partnership with the London School of Economics, World Economic Forum and Royal Philips, among others, PHSSR provides qualitative and quantitative evidence to inform policy, and promote action at national and international levels to strengthen health system sustainability and resilience.
Enhancing the long-term health of young people
Alongside our partnerships driving health systems decarbonisation and resilience, for over a decade we have been helping young people around the world take control of their health through our flagship Young Health Programme (YHP).The YHP is working to deliver better health choices for brighter life chances through a combination of community programmes, research and advocacy and supports the development of young leaders. Since its launch in 2010, YHP has directly reached over six million young people and trained almost 200,000 young people in over 30 countries, through local and global partnerships.
As part of this, we support the One Young World's Lead2030 Challenge, an initiative matching leading companies with dynamic young people who are taking meaningful action to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Around World Health Day, we are delighted to announce the two latest winners, Vidyut Mohan and Enkhuun Byambadorj, who have led inspiring innovations to reduce air pollution in India and Mongolia. They will be awarded with grants of USD50,000 each as well as a Scholarship to the One Young World Summit and AstraZeneca mentoring to support their work.
Improving air quality for population and planetary health
Innovative thinking like those of our Lead2030 winners is critical to improving respiratory health. With eight million deaths caused by air pollution each year,1 poor air quality is a major environmental and health challenge. In partnership with the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), we are helping to improve respiratory health in the Dunga Beach community through the introduction of biogas technology, reducing exposure to smoke from cooking over wood-burning fires.
Another example is AZ Forest, our commitment to planting and maintaining 50 million trees by the end of 2025. This reforestration initiative will support improved air quality and carbon storage, as well as fostering community and ecological resilience. Building on existing reforestation projects underway in Australia, Indonesia, the UK, and France, we recently announced two new AZ Forest projects in Ghana and the US.
Driving policy change in support of net-zero healthcare
Recognising the interconnection between climate and health, we’re engaging with policymakers around the world to discuss sustainable healthcare solutions and improve patient outcomes while reducing the environmental footprint.
During the recent Expo 2020 in Dubai, we convened experts from the WHO, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Sustainable Healthcare Coalition, and government officials from Egypt and the UAE to discuss how to mitigate the impact of the environment on health, ahead of COP27 later this year. In partnership with external stakeholders and The Health Policy Partnership, our ‘Decarbonising healthcare’ discussion paper explores the interconnection of climate and health in urban settings and the policy levers which are critical to support a healthier future.
The future we aspire to starts today
At AstraZeneca, we are taking action, now, to create a future where we have greater health equity and inclusion and more sustainable care – for our planet, and our health. This isn’t an option, it’s a must do.
1. WHO. The World Health Organization estimates 13 million people die each year from environmentally-related health risks. [Online]. Available at: https://www.who.int/news/item/15-03-2016-an-estimated-12-6-million-deaths-each-year-are-attributable-to-unhealthy-environments. [Last accessed: March 2022].