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To help people obtain their right to the highest possible level of health, we must begin designing tomorrow’s health systems today

By Ashling Mulvaney, Sustainability Strategy and Healthy Heart Africa, AstraZeneca

Healthy Heart AfricaIn the past, health systems were designed to make sick people well again. People engaged with the health system only when they needed it.

This model no longer works—and it leaves countries vulnerable to emerging health challenges.

Noncommunicable diseases are now responsible for 7 in 10 deaths worldwide, and they’re projected to reduce global economic output by a cumulative $47 trillion by 2030.

The complex demands on 21st century health care have led us to rethink the purpose of a health system, and how health systems best serve the needs of individuals, families and communities. The health systems of tomorrow must help people maintain optimal health over their entire lifetimes, from infancy through old age.

Over a century of experience in treating cardiovascular disease has taught us critical lessons about how to evolve today’s health systems.


First, we must work together to integrate NCD care into the existing health-system infrastructure. Often this means integrating new NCD services into systems that were designed to control infectious diseases.

Second, we must partner with public, social franchise, and faith-based facility networks to strengthen the delivery of health services within community settings—bringing services as close as possible to where people live, work and socialize. No one actor can do it alone.HHA_march_WHD16

Third, improving the capacity of health systems to deliver convenient, affordable access makes good business sense. Health fuels economic growth, which drives innovation, strengthens markets, and ensures that social benefits are distributed more broadly.

AstraZeneca is applying these lessons every day in programs like Healthy Heart Africa.

Working with NGO partners like Amref, Kenya Conference Of Catholic Bishops (KCCB), Touch and others, we are helping governments in Africa to integrate cardiovascular care into programs originally created to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS. Through these collaborations, we are increasing the numbers of people screened for cardiovascular disease and providing patented medicines through a no-profit/no-loss model. We aspire to reach 10 million people living with high blood pressure across Africa by 2025—an ambitious, but achievable goal.
The Healthy Heart Africa program is teaching us what it will take to deliver NCD care at scale within resource-limited settings, where addressing NCDs requires strong collaboration between many public and private groups. Flexibility and real-time innovation are key to developing models that work at the local level.


[1] Page 6: First, NCDs already pose a substantial economic burden and this burden will evolve into a staggering one over the next two decades. For example, with respect to cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, cancer, diabetes and mental health, the macroeconomic simulations suggest a cumulative output loss of US$ 47 trillion over the next two decades


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