The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Initiative on Health and Economy works to promote health as an economic asset around the world. This month, the Chamber traveled to Saudi Arabia to promote public-private partnerships in support of the Saudi government’s health goals.
What are Saudi Arabia’s challenges?
Saudi Arabia has a young population, which is an enormous asset. According to a recent report from the Global Initiative, Saudi Arabia’s population has a below-average share of people over the age of 45. However, as its population ages in the years to come, Saudi Arabia’s labor force will experience a severe loss in workforce productivity. Of all countries included in the report, Saudi Arabia is projected to have the largest margin of projected GDP loss by 2030.
Saudi Arabia also exhibits a high burden of disease. The burden of non-communicable diseases, in particular diabetes, is particularly high at 167 years lived with disability per 1,000 people in the country.
To address these challenges, the Saudi Council of Ministers proposed two important health goals as part of a policy roadmap for economic reform. The first – Living Healthy, Being Healthy – emphasizes making good lifestyle choices to prevent disease, particularly emphasizing activity and organized sports. The second – Corporatization for Efficient and High Quality Health Care – pushes for more competition and transparency among health service providers.
Why do these challenges matter to the U.S.?
Economic growth depends on the health and prosperity of a country's citizens – in particular its workforce. Economic costs related to lost productivity are high and projected to increase, and they threaten to impose heavy burdens on businesses, governments, and individuals now and in the years to come.
The U.S. Chamber represents global providers of health innovation and technology, including large employers in Saudi Arabia. The Chamber and its members have significant incentives to work with the Saudi government to support its health targets. Through public-private partnerships, Chamber members have opportunities as health service providers, employers, and community leaders to encourage employee wellness and support health policy goals.
How can U.S. companies create positive change?
As employers in Saudi Arabia, Chamber members contribute their leadership and support through employee health education efforts. In a recent example, over fifty people attended a Chamber-hosted health screening at the headquarters of Al Jeraisy, a Saudi company in Riyadh. Healthcare professionals from MetLife and Abbott provided employees information on the importance of early detection, diagnosis and management of disease, and fitness experts and nutrition providers gave demonstrations to attendees.
As the Saudi Ministry of Health has recognized, public-private partnerships are essential to the success of healthcare delivery systems. There is significant potential for the continued implementation of programs to deliver the latest in innovation and efficiency to the citizens of Saudi Arabia, such as proposals around data tracking and behavior modification, capacity building in health testing and diagnostics, and collaborations between businesses to provide greater access to primary care.
Citizens in Saudi Arabia and around the world must recognize their health as an important asset - to themselves, their families, and their communities. Working together, government and business can cooperate in improving health that will lead to further economic prosperity.