It's around 25°F in Davos, Switzerland today. Thousands of world leaders have arrived for the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting. These powerful men and women will spend the next five days setting a course for 2012.
As an ambassador for the global health organization PSI and a member of the WEF Global Shapers, I am really following what's going on there, primarily because it includes a significant number of young leaders who will add their ideas on strengthening the global economy.
I am really hoping that the leaders of the world's most powerful companies walk away understanding the economic importance of global health. And that they make improving global health part of their business plans.
I can't fathom that 2 to 3 billion people live in poverty -- many in the developing world, where access to basic health care is limited. I recently read that the poorest two-thirds of the world's population has a US $5 trillion purchasing power. So, with simple investments in the delivery of basic health products and services, people struggling to survive can become more active consumers and producers.
New markets for goods (including American products) will develop, economies will become more vibrant and profits will rise. Most importantly, mothers will be healthier and children will regularly attend school. It really is a win-win.
The U.S. Congress understands this.
On December 23, as the rest of us were finishing up last minute holiday shopping, President Obama signed into law the "Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012." Really, this long-winded title should be renamed: "The Other Jobs Bill."
All year, Republicans and Democrats had been discussing ways to improve the American economy and create jobs. With the bipartisan appropriations bill, Congress "put its money where its mouth is." The bill increased U.S. global health aid for 2012. Other aspects of foreign aid were reduced -- but global health went up. This is because Congress understands the many benefits of American investment in global health.
Government support alone can't solve global health epidemics like malaria, HIV, unsafe drinking water and maternal mortality. Corporate involvement and investment is essential.
That's why these discussions at Davos and the subsequent actions are so important. It's an amazing opportunity for health organizations like PSI to link arms with companies such as Unilever and Procter & Gamble in the fight to improve drinking water and expand hand washing.
In such trying economic times, the need for all of us to work together is greater than ever.
And I really believe Davos is the perfect place to start.