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What Corporations Need to Know About Public Health

If companies getting involved in the public-health domain hope to make a difference, they must have a deep understanding of health systems, including the institutions, organizations, and resources that comprise them. And they must use that understanding to devise a clear, data-based strategy for measuring impact.

NAIROBI – Corporations are increasingly moving into the public-health domain. Companies like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft are being “pulled” by market opportunities for non-traditional actors to “disrupt” health care. Others are being “pushed” by the imperative – highlighted by events like the COVID-19 pandemic – to act as responsible community stakeholders, such as by helping to address health inequities.

When such pull and push forces intersect, there are often important opportunities to align economic and social objectives. But if strategic corporate philanthropy is to improve public health, those charged with making decisions and allocating resources must have a deep understanding of the health system, including the institutions, organizations, and resources that comprise it, and the complex interactions among them.

According to a framework established by the World Health Organization, health systems have six pillars: service delivery; development and deployment of a health workforce; collection, analysis, and use of critical health information; provision of essential medical products, vaccines, and other health technologies; financing; and effective leadership and governance. To meet a population’s health needs, all six must work in harmony, in an elaborate process involving inputs, activities, outputs, outcomes, and impact.