Innovation Needed to Eliminate Health Disparities
While there have been substantial reductions in mortality and the burden of disease globally over the past decades, significant disparities in health outcomes and healthcare persist at the local, national and international levels. We believe these health disparities are rooted in three key systemic causes:
- Lack of access to health services
- Substandard quality of healthcare and treatments
- Social and physical systems that negatively impact health, including unsafe water, unstable housing, and inadequate access to nutritious food.
The private sector, in cooperation with civil society and government, can play a major role in solving these health challenges; innovation in data collection, analytics, and technology has driven major health improvements over the past century. Leading global health researchers have declared that, for the first time in human history, we have the financial and technical capacity to eliminate key health disparities between lower and higher income nations, preventing nearly 130 million deaths by 2030 – and this can be achieved within our lifetimes. (1, 2) Strategic investment in research and development of health technology, particularly by the private sector, is central to realizing this vision.
(1) Jamison, D.T. et al. “Global health 2035: a world converging within a generation.” The Lancet (2013); 382:1898-955.
(2) Boyle, CF, Levin, C, Hatefi, A, Madriz, S, & Santos, N. “Achieving a “Grand Convergence” in Global Health: Modeling the Technical Inputs, Costs, and Impacts from 2016 to 2030.” Published Oct 9, 2015; DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0140092
IBM – A Leader in Health Improvement
IBM has long played a leading role in advancing health through technology (see IBM’s healthcare chronology). Building on that experience, in 2015 IBM launched the Watson Health unit. Watson Health leverages cognitive computing to solve complicated health and medical challenges for patients, physicians, policy makers, researchers, and health insurers across the globe. Cognitive computing is a new era in technology, where IT systems are no longer programmed - they understand and continuously learn. Watson can analyze high volumes of data, understand complex questions posed in natural language, and propose evidence-based answers. These cognitive capabilities are leading the way in breaking through longstanding barriers to improving individuals’ and populations’ health.
IBM Corporate Citizenship also has a rich legacy in supporting community health and health research around the world. Through this work, IBM has seen an increasing need for thought leadership and technical support on complex community and population health issues. This need, in concert with the introduction of cognitive computing for health improvement, has led IBM Citizenship to create a new philanthropic program – IBM Health Corps.
About IBM Corporate Citizenship
IBM’s comprehensive approach to corporate citizenship aligns with our values and maximizes the impact we can have as a global enterprise. We focus our community engagement and corporate service programs on specific societal issues, including the environment, community economic development, education, health, literacy, language and culture. These are areas of urgent societal need where we can apply IBM’s technology and talent to solve problems.
Through IBM’s Corporate Service Corps and Smarter Cities Challenge – two pro bono Corporate Citizenship programs that immerse IBMers in NGOs and city governments for three to four weeks to tackle critical problems – IBM has seen an increasing need for support on complex community health and population health issues. Examples of past IBM Citizenship projects addressing health issues include partnering with Ghana Health Serivces to lower mother-to-child HIV transmission; working with International Medical Corps to build resilience around health, sanitation, and livelihood in Ethiopia, and joining with the city of Birmingham, AL, USA to address food insecurity.
Learn more at ibm.com/responsibility