Bridging Worlds - Good Health is Good for Business

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May 02, 2019
by Oscar Tollast
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Bridging Worlds - Good Health is Good for Business

Salzburg Global Fellows explore the role of businesses in promoting inclusive economies within the communities they are based Copyright Salzburg Global / Katrin Kerschbaumer

Following fruitful discussions on effective policies promoting more inclusive economies, Salzburg Global Fellows moved their attention toward the responsibilities of businesses and how they could greater assist communities moving forward.

On Monday afternoon, participants of Bridging Worlds: How Can We Use Business and Economic Development Strategies to Support Better Health? took part in a plenary and were asked to consider  two questions: what role do businesses play in promoting inclusive economies within the communities in which they are based, particularly anchor institutions? To what extent is this role health enhancing?

Fellows heard one of the obstacles working with businesses is miscommunication. Ideas and messages need to be translated into a language shared by other stakeholders. Health can be complicated, but business is simple, one participant suggested. Somebody gives you money, and they expect a return on their capital.

There are steps professionals within the health sector can make, such as highlighting the benefit of the decent work agenda and reaffirming how businesses can mitigate against ill-health. The same participant indicated while business may be simple, business people are not simpletons. It is important authentic communication takes place between stakeholders.

Businesses are good at adapting, but uncertainty is best avoided. For businesses to take action, Fellows heard, conditions need to be in place where leaders feel inspired to enact change.

One participant said a leader is a busy person, and for something for them to address personally, it has to be something they feel they cannot delegate to someone else. The best examples of leadership they had seen involved leaders who had guided others around them to enact their vision.

During the discussion, participants reflected on the social determinants of health. One speaker said they were interested in the role of businesses addressing these determinants through their economic power.

Citing universities and hospitals as anchor institutions “rooted in place,” the speaker said organizations like these had a self-interest in adopting policies that benefitted the communities they served. Asked to comment on hospitals, in particular, the speaker said these institutions are recognizing they are not just there to respond to disease. It is their job to help produce healthier communities. Rather than damaging the business model, they’re strengthening it.


The Salzburg Global Seminar program, Bridging Worlds: How Can We Use Business and Economic Development Strategies to Support Better Health?, is part of the Health and Health Care Innovation multi-year series. More information on this multi-year series is available here.