Growing By Investing In Health Across The Americas

Business and government leaders discuss the importance of investing in healthcare and citizens’ well-being for a better future for the nations of the Americas.

Air Date: June 8, 2022

Moderator: Dr. Felicia Marie Knaul, Director, Institute for Advanced Study of the Americas

Featured Guests: Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services, United States of America, Sarah Aiosa, President, Latin America, Merck, Dennis Ostwald, Founder and Managing Director, WifOR Institute, Lisa Paley, Lisa Paley, Region Lead, North America, GSK Consumer Health, Guillermo Pepe, CEO, Mamotest

The 2022 IV CEO Summit of the Americas, hosted by The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Department of State, was held in Los Angeles to bring together business and government leaders for in-depth discussions about the future of the Americas. On Day 1 of the summit, a panel discussion entitled “Health as a Strategic Investment for Growth” brought forth ideas about fortifying regional economic growth by investing in healthcare.

Moderator Dr. Felicia Marie Knaul, Director of the Institute for Advanced Study of the Americas, led the panel on this topic featuring Hon. Xavier Becerra, United States Secretary of Health and Human Services, Sarah Aiosa, President of Latin America at Merck, Dennis Ostwald, Founder and Managing Director of WifOR Institute, Lisa Paley, Region Lead of North America at GSK Consumer Health, and Guillermo Pepe, CEO of Mamotest.

Identifying and Fixing the Gaps in Healthcare

Across the Americas, healthcare hasn’t been treated as a long-term investment; rather, it’s been looked at as an expenditure.

“We still haven’t quite brought together the words finance and healthcare to really be unified together,” said Hon. Becerra. “This is where I believe the work that we’re seeing done at the G20 and the World Health Organization, where we’re now combining the health minister’s work with the finance minister’s work, will help us speak more in one language about what it means to invest in healthcare.”

In agreement, Aiosa continued by discussing changes populous nations should implement to create a resilient healthcare system so they can become prosperous.

“We need strong leadership coordination across all ministries — health, education, finance, trade, public-private partnership, as well as with civil societies — we need the right mechanism to do so,” Aiosa said. “Lastly, we need to be able to have the financing.”

“I think we all need to be much more aware, across the hemisphere, of being inclusive in the way that we approach solving the problems,” Paley said.

Positioning Health as a Macroeconomic Sector can Influence Investing

Looking at the future, Ostwald discussed what investing in healthcare could look like. He began by explaining why rating agencies should be taking into account how a country invests in healthcare.

“If countries don’t invest enough in public or private investment, they [rating agencies] should downgrade them because we need to take care of our citizens,” Ostwald said. “We need metrics, and we need to position health as a macroeconomic sector. Statistical authorities should report on the GDP contributions and impact on the labor market in every country.”

In agreement, Pepe described how the healthcare industry needs to change.

“It’s a vicious cycle, healthcare,” Pepe said. “It’s an ambitious cycle. It’s reactive. It’s antiquated. It’s behind every other sector in terms of acquiring and using technology.”

Existing Investments Play a Role in Economic Recovery

While there is plenty of work to complete around healthcare investments, significant efforts are being made. These existing investments play an important part in economic recovery, as “better health creates more money,” according to Ostwald.

Paley described how government policies have contributed to the improvement of healthcare systems, such as added benefits in the CARES Act, which provided relief to many through discounts from health savings accounts to cover everyday needs.

“The economic benefit that we know on this is for every dollar spent on an over-the-counter medicine, we save six to seven [dollars] in the healthcare system in total,” Paley said. “For the U.S., that was over $100 billion per year of savings.”