Healthy Leadership

49537763 - the word "pope" written in vintage ink stained wooden letterpress type in a partitioned printer's drawer.

Luxembourg, December 14, 2016  Healthy Leadership refers to a method and expresses an ambition. Health can be understood as an equilibrium, whereas sickness is telling the story of imbalances, broken ties and disruptions. If leaders are in charge of an organisation, they are responsible for the well-being of that living organism as well.

Business is not only about products, services and outputs, it’s about people, processes and production as well. Great leaders are strongly related to their workers and the production processes. They can “feel” their company and they feed it. They nurture it and care for it, not because of profit first, but because of their love for the venture they have created or operate.

The ambition of healthy leadership can be compared to the ambition of healthy people, healthy communities or a healthy environment. Health is an evolving state in our hands. Deteriorating it is easy and quick. Maintaining health is a matter of motivation often triggered by anxieties to fall ill. Reestablishing health, by contrast, is hard work. It requires  skills and outside support, most of the time for a longer period. World Health Orgainzation (WHO) and many Governments are promoting prevention as the best way to keep healthy.

There are many fitness-industries and approaches for healthy people and many workshops for healthy leadership. Whether you attend them because you feel obliged, or because you are afraid of negative shortfalls, or because training brings pleasure to you, doesn’t matter at first. Taking a second look at your motivation nevertheless changes everything you do. A successful fitness approach must fit with your personality to be effective!

Looking for new and innovative methods in the Leadership arena, brought me — as many others — to Pope Francis. He is perceived as a special Leader being the CEO of the biggest organised religion, the first international church structure and the most prominent opinion leader in social moral affairs.

Remember, when he took over from Pope Benedict XVI, the boat was in turmoils: finance scandals and priest abuses all over the place were the top news. More control and more of the same strategies stood against a new way of leadership on a ship which looks at nearly 2000 years of history.

Pope Francis first convinced because of his personality. He bowed to the faithful first and only after receiving their blessings and prayers he provided his blessing. Many observers and commentators describe at length both his humbleness and his resolve, but they overlook his method

But why is it so hard to see the method a contemporary leader uses on a daily basis? That is without any doubt because you normally do not see any methods in action. We are trained to look at people, at their input and their output. But what happens in people we do not see? What happens in leaders often remains a secret.

However, Pope Francis makes no mystery about his Leadership principles. He has even written down his four principles in his open public letters, like the Joy of The Gospel (Evangelii gaudium).

In my research and new book I condensed his public, but undetected  Formula into an octahedron for many to use in their daily leadership challenges. As everything in leadership starts with self-leadership I tested his formula for patients to find out, that it works as a tool for healthy self-leadership in critical situations.

I tested it for the healthcare workers, like physicians and nurses, to show that it also works for those at the front-end of healthy leadership. And thirdly, I applied it to the governance and management structures in healthcare, where again it worked.

But why should anybody deal with this Formula provided by a Pope? And why should one enter into a Formula tested for Healthcare, when you are not working in that field? First, because one day you might be a patient. Secondly, because Healthcare is only an example: you can replace sickness by crises and healthcare by crisis-management.

Thirdly, because you want to discover a successful method. Fourth, because as all great methods, the Pope Francis Formula, works as an open-source code without any request to your belief: you do not need to be religious to use it, because the formula is a purely pragmatic one based on reason only. Finally, because it is an open didactic instrument for many different businesses.

Eager to discuss that Formula with you!


Erny Gillen, gesund geführt im Krankenhaus, Foto Lex Kleren

Erny Gillen, gesund geführt im Krankenhaus, Foto Lex Kleren

Erny Gillen, Dr. theol, is an international expert in ethics and leadership. He just published “Healthy Leadership in Healthcare. The Pope Francis Formula”. With his “Moral Factory” he accompanies leaders and managers personally when it comes to difficult ethical dilemmas or leadership issues. He taught ethics in Luxembourg and in Germany for more than 20 years and led Caritas in Europe and internationally, Church administration as well as  businesses in Luxembourg. Until May 2015 he was President of Caritas Europa and First Vice-President of Caritas internationalis.

Summary: Pope Francis uses a concise and specific Formula when it comes to ethical leadership. His Formula fits into an octahedron and I call it “Healthy Leadership” because it’s all about us and it doesn’t exclude anyone. The Formula is an open method for people who want to achieve their goals together with others.


Video ReferenceDiscern & act 29 11 2016 © Erny Gillen  Twitter: @ErnyGillen and @moralfactory  

Facebook: erny.gillen LinkedIn: Erny Gillen 

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China & USA: Green Health Care Partners


Yang Hongwei of the China National Health Development Research Center speaks at a forum on the Construction and Development Strategy of a Green Health Care System, March 23, 2016, Beijing, China (Photo courtesy China National Health Development Research Center) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

 SAN FRANCISCO, California, October 13, 2016 ( News) – A delegation from the Chinese health sector came to the Bay Area in September to identify strategies that can address the health effects of climate change and foster green, environmentally sustainable, climate-resilient health care in both China and the United States.

 The Chinese group was hosted by Health Care Without Harm, a U.S.-based international coalition of more than 250 organizations. Their collaborative campaign for environmentally responsible health care aims to transform health care worldwide so that it reduces its environmental footprint and becomes a community anchor for sustainability and a leader in the global movement for environmental health and justice.

Health Care Without Harm programs include: medical waste, toxic materials, safer chemicals, green building and energy, healthy food, pharmaceuticals, green purchasing, climate and health, transportation, and clean water.


Hosted by Health Care Without Harm, a group of Chinese health experts hammers out strategies with their U.S. counterparts, San Francisco, California, September 2016 (Photo courtesy Health Care Without Harm) Posted for media use.

The visit was supported in part by the U.S. State Department’s People to People Exchange program.

 Around the table were the members of Chinese delegation headed by Yang Hongwei of the China National Health Development Research Center, and representatives from members of the U.S. Health Care Climate Council, including Dignity Health, Gundersen Health System, Kaiser Permanente, Partners Healthcare, and Virginia Mason.

In addition to meeting with the health system leaders, the Chinese delegation toured Bay Area hospitals to learn how U.S. health care systems are implementing sustainability strategies while working for better health outcomes.

This marks the beginning of a collaboration between health sectors in our two countries to make health care greener and more environmentally friendly, while protecting public health from climate change,” said Josh Karliner, international director of program and strategy for Health Care Without Harm.

 “The fact that the presidents of both countries have prioritized addressing climate change creates space for the health sectors in China and the United States to step up together to address one of the greatest health challenges of our time,” said Karliner.

He is referring to an event in November 2014, when President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping stood together in Beijing to make a historic U.S.-China Joint Announcement on Climate Change, emphasizing their personal commitment to a successful climate agreement in Paris and marking a new era of multilateral climate diplomacy as well as a new pillar in their bilateral relationship.

They are not alone. Many scientists and public health experts recognize that climate change will impact the health of billions of people around the world.

WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan told a WHO Western Pacific regional meeting in Manila on Monday, “…health has some of the most compelling evidence-based arguments for interpreting climate change as a potential catastrophe. Simply stated, the Earth is losing its capacity to sustain human life in good health.

 “The challenge, of course, is to convince officials in energy, agriculture, transport, housing, and urban design to pay attention to the health consequences of their policies that affect the environment,” said Dr. Chan.

Health Care Without Harm warns that a crisis could arise over heat-related deaths, respiratory diseases, the spread of malaria, Zika virus and Dengue fever, water-borne diseases, or the prospect of millions more refugees.

Climate change is no longer an environmental problem in the distant future, says the health organization. It is now an immediate global health threat affecting everyone.

Historically, the United States has been the top emitter of greenhouse gases and has led the world in per capita emissions. Today, the U.S. is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases, after China.

U.S. health care is responsible for nearly 10 percent of current emissions – or 655 million metric tons – the equivalent of the entire United Kingdom’s contribution to climate change. China faces similar problems.

Representing close to six percent of China’s economy and 18 percent of the U.S. economy, the health care sector can play a leading role in moving both societies toward a more sustainable, environmentally friendly future.

In China we have launched several research projects to identify a route map to greener health care buildings, operations and service delivery in our national system,” said Yang Hongwei, who serves as deputy director general of the National Health Development Research Center, a national research institution established in 1991.

After decades of development, the National Health Development Research Center has become an institution of scale with over 100 researchers and research fellows. It works as a national think-tank providing technical consultancy to health policy-makers.

Health Care Without Harm has been working with the National Health Development Research Center since late 2015. Since then the National Health Development Research Center has joined Health Care Without Harm’s Global Green and Healthy Hospitals Network.

The Global Green and Healthy Hospitals community has 702 members in 39 countries who represent the interests of over 20,800 hospitals and health centers.

We are pleased to visit San Francisco, share our experiences, and learn from health systems here,” said Yang. “We look forward to more cooperation in the future.

In addition to identifying opportunities for health systems in both countries to grow toward greener health development, meeting participants explored future joint actions.

They agreed to organize a follow-up meeting in Beijing on green health care, and build a health care component into the 2017 U.S. – China Climate Leaders Summit in Boston.

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Hope for Cancer Patients in Genomic Data Sharing

By Sunny Lewis

BELFAST, Northern Ireland, May 23, 2016 ( News) – Oncologists share information about their cancer cases through medical journals and conferences, but now cancer experts want to assemble big data files on millions of cancer patients from around the world for high-performance computers to analyze.


Professor Mark Lawler of Queen’s University Belfast’s Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology is leading the genomic data-sharing movement. (Photo courtesy Queen’s University Belfast) Posted for media use.

Professor Mark Lawler of Queen’s University Belfast’s Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology believes analysis of patients’ genetic information will reveal relationships that could hold the keys to revolutionizing cancer prevention and care.

“Cancer is an incredibly complex disease, and it is constantly changing. Each person’s cancer is different,” Lawler said. “The key to staying ahead in the fight against cancer is to properly understand how the disease evolves. We need to look at the big picture and identify patterns between groups of patients, whose information currently resides in different databases and institutions.”

Professor Lawler is corresponding author of a paper on the subject published last week in the international journal “Nature Medicine.

“The term ‘big data’ refers to huge amounts of information that can be analyzed by high-performance computers to reveal patterns, trends and associations,” said Lawler. “In medical terms, this includes clinical and genomic data that is derived from patients during, for example, diagnostic testing and treatment.”

“Imagine if we could create a searchable cancer database that allowed doctors to match patients from different parts of the world with suitable clinical trials,” Lawler said. “This genetic matchmaking approach would allow us to develop personalized treatments for each individual’s cancer, precisely targeting rogue cells and improving outcomes for patients.”

 Professor Lillian Siu from Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and the University of Toronto is joint lead author on this study. “With the development of new technologies that have enabled the rapid and affordable profiling of cancer tumors, there has been an explosion of clinical and genomic data,” she explained.

 “Hospitals, laboratories and research facilities around the world hold huge amounts of this data from cancer patients. But this information is currently held in isolated ‘silos’ that don’t talk to each other,” said Siu. “It is this lack of information sharing that threatens the advancement of tailored patient care.”

The paper by Lawler and Siu highlights the potential of ‘big data’ to unlock the secrets inside cancer cells and enable the development of more effective personalized treatments.

“To do this,” said Lawler, “we must break down the ‘data silos’ that Professor Siu refers to and ensure that genetic and clinical information is shared.”

For example, an experimental drug that stimulates the immune system, used in combination with chemotherapy, shrank tumors in patients with pancreatic cancer, according to a preliminary U.S. clinical trial of 47 patients published in April in “The Lancet Oncology.”

Pancreatic cancer is often diagnosed too late for patients to have surgery, as their disease has started to spread. At this point, doctors can use chemotherapy and combinations of other therapies to control the disease, but survival remains low for these patients.

 The immunotherapy drug, known as PF-04136309, attacks certain immune cells found in pancreatic tumors. These cells prevent other parts of the immune system from attacking the cancer. Research has shown that the drug can alter this response, and help turn the immune system on again.

Professor Andrew Biankin, a Cancer Research UK expert in pancreatic cancer based in Glasgow, said, “There is a desperate need for new ways to treat pancreatic cancer. And this promising early stage study suggests that treatments that harness the power of the immune system may be of benefit to people with pancreatic cancer when combined with chemotherapy.”

If shared, the genomic data from the 47 test patients in this initial study could be of great help to others with similar pancreatic cancers.

Lawler also co-chairs the Cancer Task Team of the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health (GA4GH), established in 2013 to create a common framework for the responsible, voluntary and secure sharing of patients’ clinical and genomic data.

GA4GH’s founder, David Haussler of the Genomics Institute at the University of California Santa Cruz, is a co-author of the genomics data-sharing paper with Lawler and Siu.

Growing quickly, GA4GH is a partnership among scientists, clinicians, patients and the IT and Life Sciences industry involving more than 400 organizations in over 40 countries.

Members range from small hospitals and laboratories to major genomic centers like the Broad Institute in the United States, BGI in China, and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the United Kingdom, even Google and Amazon.

Writing in Bio-IT World, Aaron Krol points out, “These members have signed on to GA4GH out of recognition that, twelve years after the completion of the Human Genome Project, the growth of genomic data has outstripped the containers built to hold it. Most of the computational structures that scientists use to deal with DNA data were invented ad hoc, at a time when sequencing even the genome of a single bacterium was a huge accomplishment. Through its Data Working Group, GA4GH wants to replace many existing standards, conventions, and file formats with new ones that will scale to searching through genomes at the level of whole populations – and, crucially, make it easier for separate organizations to share data.”

It may be a good idea to share genomic data in an effort to conquer cancer, but there are many challenges, as Professor Lawler acknowledges.

“This data sharing presents logistical, technical and ethical challenges. Our paper highlights these challenges and proposes potential solutions to allow the sharing of data in a timely, responsible and effective manner,” Lawler said. “We hope this blueprint will be adopted by researchers around the world and enable a unified global approach to unlocking the value of data for enhanced patient care.”

Professor Lawler is funded by the Medical Research Council and Cancer Research UK. The paper, entitled ‘Facilitating a culture of responsible and effective sharing of cancer genome data’ is published in “Nature Medicine,” Volume 22, Number 5, pp 464-471 May 2016.

Video by David Haussler: The Quest to Conquer Cancer: Computer Geeks to the Rescue! (14 minutes)

Featured Image : Scanning electron micrograph of a multi-cellular prostate tumor treated with nanomedicines carrying the anticancer drug doxorubicin. The purple regions show areas of cells dying through programmed cell death, or apoptosis, while the yellow-green regions are healthy cells. (Photo by Khuloud T. Al-Jamal & Izzat Suffian / Wellcome Images) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Smartphones, Wearables Empower Health Providers

Paper Skin is a simple paper-based device that detects changes in electrical conductivity. (Photo courtesy King Abdullah University of Science and Technology)

By Sunny Lewis

CYBERSPACE, April 7, 2016 ( News) – Device development at the intersection of smartphones, wearable and flexible electronics, everyday materials and healthcare is advancing quickly.

Scientists are working on smartphone microscopes to detect skin cancers, smartphone software to diagnose ear infections, and smart contact lenses to track blood sugar levels.

Wearable electronics show promise for wireless health monitoring and touch-free computer interfaces. One lab is making paper skin that can detect touch, pressure, temperature and acidity.

And then, of course, there’s the Apple watch.

Skin Cancers Show Up Under Smartphone Microscopes

Smartphone microscopes could improve detection of skin cancers in developing countries, dermatologists at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston (UTHealth) said in February.

SmartphoneMicroscope“Doctors in some remote areas don’t have access to the high-powered microscopes we use to evaluate skin samples,” said Richard Jahan-Tigh, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. “Doctors there could conceivably use their smartphones to photograph growths and forward them for examination.”

A smartphone microscope can be made with a 3 mm ball lens, a tiny piece of plastic to hold the ball lens over the smartphone lens and tape to grip everything in place. Typically used for laser optics, a ball lens costs about $14 at an electronics store in the USA.

A doctor or technician holds a smartphone microscope over a skin sample on a slide. The doctor then either reads the sample or takes a photo and emails it to a pathologist for interpretation.

A study conducted by Jahan-Tigh and colleagues at McGovern Medical School and Harvard Medical School found smartphone microscopes to be “reasonably accurate.”

Findings appear in the journal “Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine.”

The World Health Organization reports between two and three million non-melanoma skin cancers and 132,000 deadly melanoma skin cancers occur globally each year.

Ear Infection Detection

Researchers at Sweden’s Umeå University, collaborating with scientists at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, have developed a way to simplify the diagnosis of ear infections, which annually affect half a billion children worldwide.

The software-based method is a cloud-based analysis of eardrum images taken using an otoscope, an instrument normally used in the medical examination of ears.

Images of eardrums, taken with a digital otoscope connected to a smartphone, are compared to high-resolution images in an archive and automatically categorized into diagnostic groups.

The method is described in “EBioMedicine,” a new publication of the British medical journal “The Lancet.”

Accuracy is as good or better than the rate of 64 to 80 percent achieved by doctors using traditional otoscopes for diagnosis.

“Because of lack of health personnel in many developing countries, ear infections are often misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all. This may lead to hearing impairments, and even to life-threatening complications,” said co-author Claude Laurent, researcher at the Department of Clinical Sciences at Umeå University.

“This method has great potential to ensure accurate diagnoses of ear infections in countries where such opportunities are not available at present.”

Smart Contact Lenses Help Diabetics

Samsung has applied for a patent in South Korea for contact lenses that can project images into a wearer’s eyes. The lenses embed a camera, an antenna and sensors controlled by blinking. A smartphone is needed for processing.

The South Korean copyright authority has published the application made by the consumer electronics firm in September 2014, reports the technology blog Sammobile this week.

Under the Samsung patent application a sensor on the lens is usable as a monitor for blood glucose levels.

Now, diabetics prick themselves to get a blood sample that they test for blood sugar with a portable electronic device. But many grow weary of puncturing their skin on a daily basis.

Samsung applied for its smart contacts patent in 2014, the same year Google received patents  in the United States for its smart contact lenses.

In July 2014, the Swiss healthcare company Novartis announced that its eye care division, Alcon, would license the smart lens from a division of Google Inc.

Google and Novartis now are collaborating on a glucose-monitoring contact lens for diabetics that can detect the glucose in tears.

A smartphone or wearable computer, eyeglasses, jewelry, a scarf, hat or headband can incorporate a reader for the lens-embedded sensor.

Human trials of the Google-Novartis smart contact lenses are expected to begin this year.

Smart Scalpels

To make the removal of brain tumors more precise, David Oliva Uribe designed a “smart scalpel.”

While not wearable, this scalpel is smart enough to locate cancerous tumors in the brain. It contains sensors that by wiping a surface can determine whether the area is healthy or tumorous.

President of Mexican Talent Network Abroad chapter Belgium, Oliva said the device took six years to design. The mechanical and sensory parts were made at the University of Hannover, Germany, and neurosurgery hospitals, and the digital processing developed at the Free University of Brussels.

The smart scalpel is designed to be used in the operating room when a brain tumor is diagnosed and must be removed.

Sensors in the scalpel warn the neurosurgeon with visual and/or auditory displays about the status of the tissue. Results are obtained in less than half a second, saving vital time during an operation.

The prototype has been tested in artificial tumors and brain tissue from pigs. Human trials are next.

Oliva says the sensor technology can be miniaturized and adapted to detect tumors in the stomach or intestine. He foresees the use of smart scalpels in robot-assisted surgeries.

Test Papers

Everyday materials such as aluminum foil, sticky note paper, sponges and tape, are being used by electrical engineers at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia to develop a low-cost sensor that can detect touch, pressure, temperature, acidity and humidity.

Their work was published on February 19 in the inaugural issue of the German journal “Advanced Materials Technologies.”

Current research employs expensive and sophisticated materials and processes. But this sensor, called Paper Skin, performs just as well, integrating multiple functions using ordinary, inexpensive materials, its developers say.

“Our work has the potential to revolutionize the electronics industry and opens the door to commercializing affordable high-performance sensing devices,” said Muhammad Mustafa Hussain, KAUST associate professor of electrical engineering from the University’s Integrated Nanotechnology Lab.

” Here we show a scalable ‘garage’ fabrication approach using off-the-shelf and inexpensive household elements.”

The team used sticky note paper to detect humidity, sponges and wipes to detect pressure and aluminum foil to detect motion. Coloring a sticky note with a pencil enables the paper to detect acidity levels, while aluminum foil and conductive silver ink were used to detect temperature differences.

At Stockholm’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Swedish researchers have a new synthetic paper that allows simultaneous screenings for multiple conditions.

Unlike standard paper-based diagnostic materials, the structure of the synthetic paper is predetermined, not random.

“We also eliminate the variation between different sheets of paper because of differences in the structure, so all the medical tests will be as accurate,” said Dr. Jonas Hansson in the Micro and Nanosystems department at KTH.

The synthetic paper can tell more than whether a person has a disease or not. It can enable a user to determine the concentration of one or more biomarkers in a body fluid.

A combined pregnancy and HIV self-test could be conducted with a single sample on the synthetic paper because different parts of the paper can be used for different types of tests.

The KTH researchers say heart attack screening is one future possibility, helping patients get test results within 20 to 30 minutes, not the much longer wait times common in hospitals today.

Watching Your Heart

The best known wearable healthcare device is the smartwatch developed by Apple Inc. The Apple Watch incorporates fitness tracking and health-oriented features integrated with iOS and other Apple products and services.

The heart rate sensor in Apple Watch uses technology known as photoplethysmography. Difficult to pronounce, the science behind it is simple. Blood is red because it reflects red light and absorbs green light.

Apple Watch uses green LED lights paired with light‑sensitive photodiodes to detect the amount of blood flowing through a wrist. When a heart beats, the blood flow in the wearer’s wrist – and the green light absorption – is greater. Between beats, it’s less.

By flashing LED lights hundreds of times per second, Apple Watch can calculate the number of times the heart beats each minute.

Relying on a wirelessly connected iPhone, an Apple Watch selects the best inputs for whatever the wearer is doing. When running indoors, it uses the accelerometer. When cycling outdoors, it uses the GPS in the phone.

Even when the wearer is not in a dedicated workout, the Apple Watch tracks movement, supplying – as with all these technologies – information key to improving fitness and health.

Main image: Paper Skin is a simple paper-based platform that detects changes in electrical conductivity according to external stimuli. (Photo courtesy King Abdullah University of Science and Technology)

Image 01: Using a smartphone microscope, UTHealth’s Richard Jahan-Tigh, M.D., is able to detect non-melanoma skin cancer about 90 percent of the time. (Photo courtesy UTHealth)

Featured image:  Google and Novartis are collaborating on a glucose-monitoring contact lens for diabetics. (Photo courtesy Google, Novartis)

Zika Virus ‘Spreading Explosively’ Across the Americas


Microcephaly is a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age. Babies with microcephaly often have smaller brains that might not have developed properly. (Drawings courtesy Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Public domain.

By Sunny Lewis

GENEVA, Switzerland, February 2, 2016 ( News) – The head of the World Health Organization Monday declared the spread of the Zika virus to 24 countries in the Americas “a public health emergency of international concern.”

Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that is new to the Americas. Since Brazil reported the first cases of local transmission of the virus in May 2015, it has spread within Brazil and to 23 other countries and territories in the region.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that four million people could be affected by the Zika virus over the next 12 months.

Arrival of the virus in Brazil its spread across the Americas has been associated with a steep increase in the birth of babies with abnormally small heads and incomplete brain development, a condition called microcephaly.

The Brazilian government has confirmed that the Zika virus infection in pregnant women can cause microcephaly in the fetus, but not every pregnant woman who is infected will have the baby with a small head.

Also associated with Zika infection is an increase in cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a poorly understood condition in which the immune system attacks the nervous system, sometimes resulting in paralysis.

“A causal relationship between Zika virus infection and birth defects and neurological syndromes has not been established, but is strongly suspected,” says the WHO.

WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan Monday convened an Emergency Committee meeting of 18 experts and advisers via teleconference to gather advice on the severity of the health threat associated with the continuing spread of Zika virus disease in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Acting on the advice of the Emergency Committee, Dr. Chan Monday declared that the recent cluster of microcephaly cases and other neurological disorders reported in Brazil, following a similar cluster in French Polynesia in 2014, constitutes “a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.”

No vaccines exist to prevent infection with the virus. It is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which also spreads dengue fever. There are no specific treatments or rapid diagnostic tests for Zika.

Dr. Chan said WHO will prioritize the development of vaccines and new tools to control mosquito populations, as well as improving diagnostic tests.

“A coordinated international response is needed to improve surveillance, the detection of infections, congenital malformations, and neurological complications, to intensify the control of mosquito populations, and to expedite the development of diagnostic tests and vaccines to protect people at risk, especially during pregnancy,” she said.

At present, the most important protective measures are the control of mosquito populations and the prevention of mosquito bites in at-risk individuals, especially pregnant women.

“The Zika virus was first isolated in 1947 from a monkey in the Zika forest of Uganda. Its historical home has been in a narrow equatorial belt stretching across Africa and into equatorial Asia,” Dr. Chan told the WHO Executive Board in a January 28 briefing.

“For decades, the disease, transmitted by the Aedes genus of mosquito, slumbered, affecting mainly monkeys. In humans, Zika occasionally caused a mild disease of low concern,” Chan explained.

In 2007, Zika expanded its geographical range to cause the first documented outbreak in the Pacific islands, in the Federated States of Micronesia. From 2013-2014, four additional Pacific island nations documented large Zika outbreaks.

“The situation today is dramatically different,” said Dr. Chan. “Last year, the virus was detected in the Americas, where it is now spreading explosively. As of today, cases have been reported in 23 countries and territories in the region. The level of alarm is extremely high.”

WHO is “deeply concerned” about this rapidly evolving situation, in part because conditions associated with this year’s El Nino weather pattern are expected to greatly increase mosquito populations in many areas.

PAHO anticipates that Zika virus will continue to spread and will likely reach all countries and territories of the region where Aedes mosquitoes are found.

Yet, the Emergency Committee found no public health justification for restrictions on travel or trade to prevent the spread of the Zika virus.

Only about one in five people infected with the Zika virus will feel sick. In those that do, symptoms are usually mild and can include fever, rash, joint pain and red eye.

The role of Aedes mosquitoes in transmitting Zika is documented and well understood, while evidence about other transmission routes is limited, says the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the regional office of the World Health Organization for the Americas.

Zika has been isolated in human semen, and one case of possible person-to-person sexual transmission has been described. However, says PAHO, more evidence is needed to confirm whether sexual contact is a means of Zika transmission.

Zika can be transmitted through blood, but this is an infrequent mechanism. Standard precautions that are already in place for ensuring safe blood donations and transfusions should be followed, PAHO advises.

Evidence on mother-to-child transmission of Zika during pregnancy or childbirth is also limited. Research is currently under way to generate more evidence regarding perinatal transmission and to better understand how the virus affects babies.

There is currently no evidence that Zika can be transmitted to babies through breast milk.

In the coming weeks, the World Health Organization will convene experts to address critical gaps in scientific knowledge about the virus and its potential effects on fetuses, children and adults.

In Brazil the number of Zika infections is estimated to top 1.3 million cases, according to the medical journal “The Lancet.”

President Dilma Rousseff will broadcast a plea to all Brazilians to wipe out the Aedes mosquito in a video recorded Monday for broadcast nationwide on Wednesday.

Brazilian government officials are even considering cancelling this summer’s Olympic Games, just seven months away.

Presidential Chief of Staff Jacques Wagner said Monday that “there is the possibility of cancellation of the Olympics in August because of the seriousness of the problem.”

In the United States, President Barack Obama is taking steps to warn the American people and help them to protect themselves.

The U.S. mainland does have Aedes species mosquitoes that can become infected with and spread Zika virus. U.S. travelers who visit a country where Zika is found could become infected if bitten by a mosquito.

In a meeting with Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Thomas Frieden, and other health and national security advisors, Obama emphasized the need to accelerate research efforts on diagnostic tests, to develop vaccines and therapeutics, and to ensure that all Americans have information about the Zika virus and steps they can take to better protect themselves.


Mosquito populations should be reduced and controlled by eliminating breeding sites, authorities advise. Containers that can hold even small amounts of water where mosquitoes can breed, such as buckets, flower pots or tires, should be emptied, cleaned or covered to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in them. Larvicide can be used to treat standing waters.

All people living in or visiting areas with Aedes mosquitoes should protect themselves from mosquito bites by using insect repellent; wearing clothes that cover as much of the body as possible; using physical barriers such as screens, closed doors and windows; and sleeping under mosquito nets, especially during the day when Aedes mosquitoes are most active.

Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Featured image:  The Aedes aegypti mosquito spreads Zika and dengue fever, among other illnesses. (Photo by James Gathany) Public domain.

Ushering in a new era of corporate accountability


DAVOS, SWITZERLAND, January 22, 2016 – Ushering in a new era of corporate accountability, a group of leading corporations and health organizations is calling for the voluntary public reporting of workforce health metrics. The initiative of the Vitality Institute is led by a working group of representatives from more than a dozen organizations, including IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, PepsiCo, Unilever and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The group met for more than a year to discuss and debate best practices for reporting workforce health metrics. The products of their meetings, a report and two health metrics scorecards, are being released in Davos, Switzerland, where business and political leaders from around the world are gathering at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum.

“A healthy workforce is a more productive and profitable workforce, so the health of a company’s employees is extremely relevant to investors, shareholders and boards of directors,” said Derek Yach, chief health officer of Vitality and the chair of the Health Metrics Working Group. “Sadly, many companies have a better sense of the wear on their machinery than the health of their employees. It is time to give workforce health the high-profile visibility it needs.”

Evidence is mounting that workforce health is critical to the financial health of a corporation. This month’s Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine contains three studies that examine the stock prices of companies with high-performing employee wellness programs. All three studies found companies with high-performing employee wellness programs outperformed the Standard and Poor’s index by 7 percent to 16 percent per year.

“We need to raise the bar through enhanced transparency, encouraging companies to manage, measure, and report on health metrics; and boards of directors, investors, and shareholders also need to start asking the right questions with respect to health,” said Erika Karp, the founder and CEO of Cornerstone Capital.  Karp was not a member of the working group but is familiar with the report. “Health metrics reporting will enhance good governance as well as prospects for companies to operate profitably and sustainably over the long term.”

Yach added, “By engaging in health metrics reporting, companies benefit through improved understanding of their business models, better decision making, increased investor confidence, improved reputation, and greater stakeholder support.”

Vitality and the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) will look to work together and with major reporting bodies to obtain consensus about how to incorporate health metrics into corporate reporting. In the meantime, investors, stockholders and boards of directors are asked to encourage companies to report workforce health metrics in their annual reports, integrated reports and 10-K reports.

The report and the scorecards can be found online at:

The Health Metrics Working Group consists of the following organizations and experts:


·         Allegacy Federal Credit Union

·         American Heart Association

·         Discovery

·         Edelman

·         Health Partners

·         Humana

·         IBM

·         Johnson & Johnson

·         Lendlease

·         Merck

·         Novo Nordisk

·         PepsiCo

·         Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

·         The Vitality Group

·         Unilever


·         Laurie Bassi, McBassi & Co

·         Ian Duncan, University of California Santa Barbara

·         Ray Fabius, HealthNEXT

·         Ron Goetzel, Johns Hopkins University

·         Ron Loeppke, US Preventive Medicine

·         Daniel Malan, University of Stellenbosch

·         Eileen McNeely, Harvard University

·         Nico Pronk, Harvard University

About Vitality

The Vitality Group is a member of Discovery Ltd., a global financial services organization offering an incentive-based health and well-being program to employers as part of their benefits program. With a foundation based on actuarial science and behavioral economic theory, Vitality encourages changes in lifestyle that reduce health care costs, both in the short run and long term, by rewarding members for addressing their specific health issues. Vitality well-being programs serve companies in a wide range of sizes and industries, improving individuals’ health and wellbeing as well as employers’ bottom lines.

The Vitality Institute is an evidence-driven, action-oriented research organization dedicated to building a culture of well-being by promoting health and preventing chronic diseases. The Institute aims to unite leaders in the public and private sectors to transform evidence into action and build a culture of health. The Institute was founded in 2013 by the South African insurer, Discovery Limited, as part of its commitment to health promotion and well-being programs that advance social good.

Hundreds of Hospitals Lead the 2020 Health Care Climate Challenge


By Sunny Lewis

RESTON, Virginia, August 29, 2015 (Maximpact News) – More than 1,200 hospitals and health centers in 13 countries are pledging to take meaningful action on climate change in a worldwide campaign to mobilize the health care sector ahead of the United Nations conference on climate change this December in Paris.

There, governments around the world are expected to adopt a universal, legally-binding agreement to take effect in the year 2020 limiting greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change.

The 2020 Health Care Climate Challenge, an international initiative from Health Care Without Harm’s Global Green and Healthy Hospitals Network, invites health care systems and hospitals everywhere to reduce their carbon footprints and protect public health from the warming climate.

The 2020 Challenge is the first international effort to track emissions and take measurable actions to reduce the health care sector’s carbon footprint.

“At a time when climate change is posing one of the greatest threats to public health, hospitals and health systems are stepping up to help the world kick its addiction to fossil fuels,” said Josh Karliner, global projects director for Health Care Without Harm.

“This is a leadership moment for health care,” Karliner said.

“In every region of the world, health care can lead by example,” said Veronica Odriozola, executive director of Health Care Without Harm Latin America.

“Whether it is an off-the-grid clinic deploying solar power to run its operations and help electrify a community, or a large hospital reducing its own emissions to address respiratory disease from air pollution, we can all move toward low carbon health care,” she said.

The 2020 Health Care Climate Pledge relies on climate change and public health information from The Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change convened by the prestigious British medical journal

“We know that climate change is already exacerbating a wide range of health problems the world over,” the Pledge states. “As the earth warms, infectious diseases like malaria and dengue are spreading to new locations, threatening to reverse hard won health gains in many parts of the planet.”

“Heat waves are growing in intensity and number, killing tens of thousands outright and aggravating asthma, heart disease and heat stroke. Increasingly severe storms, droughts and floods, harm human health and put oft-overstretched and ill-prepared health systems at risk,” states the Pledge.

“Kaiser Permanente is making this pledge because climate change isn’t a distant threat,” said Kathy Gerwig, vice president and environmental stewardship officer with Kaiser Permanente, one of the largest American not-for-profit health plans.

“The health impacts of a changing climate can be felt today in the form of increasing rates of asthma, spread of infectious diseases, heat stress, and injuries from severe weather events,” said Gerwig. “By addressing climate change for the future, we are improving the health of communities today.”

The Pledge warns, “If greenhouse gas emissions remain unchecked, climate change will, within a matter of decades have severe pervasive and irreversible effects, undermining the food and water supply in many parts of the world, setting off mass migrations, and thereby triggering potentially unmanageable public health crises.”

Sonia Roschnik, who heads the Sustainable Development Unit of the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, views the challenge as an opportunity. “We recognize that not only does climate change present a huge challenge for the health and care sector in England but also a great opportunity to change the way we work – to improve the health of people and communities, save money and help the environment.”


IMAGE: One megawatt elevated solar array above parking garages at Kaiser Permanente’s Santa Clara Medical Center, California reduces the facility’s carbon footprint. (Photo courtesy Recurrent Energy)  Featured image: from Health Care Without Harm challenge

The Evolving Meaning of Sustainability

By Marta Maretich  @maximpactdotcombaby hands plant

Sustainability is a key concept for our times. For impact investors who want to put their capital behind better ways of doing business, it’s an important indicator of investability. But what exactly do we mean when we say “sustainability” or “sustainable”?

The dictionary sheds a little light.

1. Conserving an ecological balance by avoiding depletion of natural resources.
2. Able to be upheld or defended.

Originally taken from the biological sciences, the term sustainability first referred to conservation of natural resources. Though it retains this meaning, sustainability today can mean different things in different contexts. Sustainability in its classic sense and new uses of the term are proliferating as sustainability goes mainstream in business and popular culture.

The mainsteaming of classic sustainability

The definition is changing as the movement goes mainstream. More businesses are taking steps to incorporate sustainability into their operations as well as their performance metrics; national governments are regulating and incentivizing it in a number of new ways. Meanwhile investors are increasingly making non-financial performance, including sustainability, a priority when choosing where to place capital.

All this means that “sustainability” is an evolving idea with increasingly diverse interpretations. Most sustainability efforts still focus on the environment, however, with an emphasis on maintaining ecosystems and conserving natural resources for future use.

Sustainable forestry: Saving forest habitats has been an active area for impact investors. Despite the collapse of carbon markets, organizations like Rainforest Alliance are expanding their activities. Certification schemes like the FSC are helping sustainably sourced wood to become standard in building and consumer goods.

IrrigationSustainable agriculture: Impact intermediaries like Root Capital and development organizations like OPIC have developed successful models for promoting sustainability in agriculture. Encouraged by government regulation and subsidies, big agribusiness companies like Monsanto and multinationals like Coca Cola, are now pursuing sustainability strategies.

Sustainable water use: With changing climate in places like California driving the adoption of more sustainable water policies, businesses and services are springing up to meet a newly-defined demands. Driven by regulation, large multinationals including Unilever are beginning to look at water sustainability from a number of angles: their own use, water use by suppliers, and the water needed to use their products.

Sustainable mining: Mineral extraction is a sector with a raft of social and environmental issues and has been avoided by many social investors. That may change as groups like the IIED work to build the commitment to sustainability across the industry.

Sustainable energy: The focus is on wind, water, solar and other forms of generation and storage, such as hydrogen cell batteries. A popular area for impact investors, even designer Vivienne Westwood has committed GBP£1 million to sustainable energy. Big fossil fuel companies are also putting money into it. Though their motives are often questioned, it is a sign of how far the notion of sustainability is becoming part of the fabric of corporate life in the developed world.

Sustainable consumer goods

Sustainability has taken on a new meaning in consumer markets as it has become a persuasive selling point for everyday goods and services. Public enthusiasm remains high for brands with sustainability credentials and sustainable practices, far from being unusual, are now what consumers expect of businesses.

Sustainable fashion: The fashion industry has been thriving in a throwaway culture, but the photograph of a lady in a dress of flowerssustainable fashion movement hopes to change attitudes and move toward sustainability. To keep up with this vibrant movement, follow top tweeters in fashion sustainability and check out the five top sustainable fashion stories of 2014.

Sustainable building: Changing the way we build and design cities could make a huge difference to our future and, increasingly, governments are regulating for sustainability in construction processes, materials and design. This is reshaping the construction industry, especially in the developed world. Construction companies are adapting the way they source and use products and materials and new education centers, like this one at Harvard, and this one in Edinburgh, are training the sustainable builders of the future.

Sustainable tourism: More people are taking vacations than ever before, but increasingly tourists want to avoid damaging the environment, squandering natural resources or hurting local communities. The global travel industry is waking up to this fact and offering sustainable tourism to the masses. Portals such as Sustainable Tourism Online provide go-to resources for the public and professionals who want tourism to be good for the planet and the communities in host countries.

Evolving meanings: Financial sustainability

Beyond its original, environmental meaning, sustainability has recently developed a financial meaning that applies in some sectors. Governments strive to make public services “sustainable”. Non-profit organisations try to create “sustainable” programs to deliver mission. In this context, sustainable can mean both environmentally sound or financially viable for the future or both.

Sustainable healthcare: Concerns about being able to afford healthcare for citizens in the future is driving innovation in healthcare delivery and finance models.In a bold move, the UK health service, the NHS, is embracing both environmental and financial sustainability.

Sustainable transportation: Concerns about climate change, contracting budgets and public pressure are encouraging many governments, including China’s,  to organize public transportation policies around sustainable principles, in both the financial and evironmental senses.

Sustainable finance: In a final evolution, “sustainable finance” seeks to apply the principles of sustainability to banking and investment. Impact investing and its sister disciplines across the spectrum of social finance including responsible investing, ethical investing, social investing and microfinance form part of this growing movement, which seeks to revolutionize the use of market methods to create better social and environmental outcomes.  Sustainable finance methods are now being put to use in a wide, and growing, range of contexts, with new techniques and approaches developing across the sector. For more on sustainable finance,  browse the top five stories in sustainable finance for 2014.


Sustainability has moved from the margins to the mainstream and is now a widely-accepted approach being incorporated into many areas of business, finance and the consumer marketplace. As it continues to expand its influence, sustainability will continue to evolve new meanings and serve as a paradigm for conservation and wise stewardship of the environment, human and natural resources and, now, capital. This movement is positive, but for impact investors seeking sustainable investments, it will mean taking a closer look at all claims for sustainability and determining exactly what is meant.

Want to comment? Tell us how you are innovating in sustainability? Tweet us @maximpactdot com

Impact Investors: What Did You Do in the Healthcare Revolution?

finger pushing digital button with cross symbol

By Marta Maretich, Chief Editor @maximpactdotcom

Healthcare is undergoing a global revolution. Demographic changes, including aging populations and rising levels of affluence in many countries, are altering health priorities for citizens and governments alike.

Meanwhile an explosion in healthcare technology — both in new devices and in the increasing importance of data — is transforming healthcare from the inside out, changing both capabilities and expectations and creating new opportunities as well as new ethical and practical challenges.

All this is driving a new wave of healthcare investment  — and setting the stage for impact investors to enter an exciting global marketplace.

A picture of health in 2014

Aging populations in developed and emerging economies are behind many of the changes now emerging in healthcare markets.  By 2017, there will be 560 million under-65s on the planet; by 2050 there will be 2 billion over-60s, according to World Health Organization (WHO) figures.  People everywhere are living longer, including those in emerging economies, due to improved access to medicine and better control of infectious diseases. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that this longevity will lay a heavy burden of healthcare demands and costs on states and individuals alike. A more affluent lifestyle for a bigger slice of the global population creates problems of its own, too.  Obesity is rising worldwide, especially among children, with far-reaching implications for the future health of populations. Similarly, chronic diseases are on the up, many of them, like diabetes and heart disease, associated with changing diets and a sedentary modern lifestyle.

And yet this picture of rising global affluence masks a sobering reality: as many as one billion people on the planet still a lack access to any kind of healthcare system. This problem remains particularly acute in developing countries, but it touches the developed world too. Women and the poor, especially in rural areas, are particularly at risk.

New needs, new costs

There’s evidence that governments around the world are already stretching to meet the changing healthcare needs of their populations.

In developed nations, healthcare is set to become the second-largest category of government spending overall. In the US, the Affordable Care Act is radically altering healthcare care access and delivery with cost implications for private, state and federal providers. In Europe, governments are struggling to maintain high healthcare standards in the face of a stagnant economy and budget cuts.

Meanwhile, developing nations, such as China and India, and regions like the Middle East, are set to increase healthcare spending significantly to meet growing local demand. In a parallel move, development agencies such as the WHO are looking for ways to do more to meet the healthcare needs of the world’s poorest populations.

In all these parts of the healthcare sector, private capital is set to play a bigger role as national governments as well as development agencies and healthcare nonprofits look for innovating ways to finance healthcare.

Impact steps up

Healthcare is a natural area for impact investors, as a few pioneers have already realized. In a recent survey of the sector, just 6% of impact assets under management were committed to healthcare (as opposed to 21% in finance and 11% in energy). It’s a modest beginning. However, interest is on the rise among fund managers, with 39% of those surveyed planning to increase their allocation in the coming year.

This upswing in interest is evident across the sector. New impact metrics have already been designed for healthcare and June 2014 marked the first convening of SOCAP Health, an event dedicated to social investing in the “untapped” health market. Pay for performance, community health initiatives, and the importance of gathering health and wellness data were some of the topics discussed, giving a taste of the conversation to come.

Foundations with a mission commitment to healthcare are also getting into the impact investing arena. California has recently been a proving ground for impact investing by foundations who are playing an important role in developing the impact market for other investors. A 2012 survey from the California Healthcare Foundation, itself an impact investor, revealed that 13 US foundations (and 3 non-foundations) made over $81 million dollars of investment in healthcare in 2012, some of it directly, some through intermediaries. Investment continues, especially in community health clinics in the wake of the ACA, with demand up and impact being carefully monitored.

Collaboration with governments

As the G8 taskforce report on social impact investing suggests, governments will be likely partners for impact investors of all kinds in the years ahead. With private finance playing a greater role in footing the bill for healthcare in many countries, impact investors will have many more opportunities to collaborate with governments, for example helping finance Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) and other pay for performance schemes.

The most successful impact investors are already doing this, according to a recent study of leading impact funds. Working with governments in sophisticated ways, they view the relationship as  “an ongoing, evolving partnership, directly or indirectly influencing the development of public policy at the investee, market, and field levels”.

This “policy symbiosis” between governments and impact investors has the potential to bring needed capital into the public sphere in many areas, but especially in the growing healthcare market. Development agencies, too, are liberalizing their approaches to financing social benefit work, and impact investors will have collaborative role to play here.

Are we fit for the future?

The private healthcare marketplace is taking off around the world. There’s no question that there will be multiple opportunities for all kinds of private investors to make money and, possibly, to do good.

But impact investing, with its blended value approach, has a special role to play in making sure the benefits of the healthcare boom reach the people who really need them. Working side by side with governments, nonprofits and development agencies, impact can take the lead in bringing affordable, accessible healthcare to a world in need.

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