Posted: 14 Feb. 2023 5 min. read

In Davos, a global commitment to address health inequities

By Greg Reh, Global Life Sciences & Health Care leader, and David Rabinowitz, senior manager, Deloitte Consulting LLP

We recently returned from the World Economic Forum’s Annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. More than 1,400 business leaders from around the world and across industries participated.1 There were a number of sessions devoted to health equity. Speakers and attendees alike seemed not only acutely aware of the importance of removing inequities but demonstrated a move toward action. Even outside of the meeting rooms, the topic seemed pervasive.

Health equity is not just a health care issue. It can also be a business issue. Lost productivity, preventable illnesses, and high medical costs can have an impact on economies. In the United States, health inequities add about $320 billion a year to annual health care spending, according to Deloitte actuaries (see our report on the Economic cost of health disparities). Health inequities cost European countries more than $1 trillion (€980 billion) a year, about 9.4% of the European GDP.2 And countries in Africa collectively lose $2.4 trillion a year to poor health and premature death.3

It is abundantly clear that health care access alone is likely insufficient to improve long-term outcomes. There seemed to be general agreement among speakers and attendees that businesses, governments, academia, and civil society overall should work together to help address health equity. It seemed fitting that the theme of this year’s event was “Cooperation in a Fragmented World.” Cooperation at a global scale is certainly important. At the same time, many companies are beginning to change their strategies to compete on their ability to ensure equitable health. The combination of cooperation and competition might be the best way to genuinely eliminate health inequities.

Deloitte Global CEO Joe Ucuzoglu moderated a panel titled Health equity as an essential component of stakeholder capitalism. He noted that the COVID-19 pandemic “exposed some very deep societal issues” that made it impossible for the world to ignore the inequities that exist around race, class, gender, and age. The pandemic, along with other health crises and global climate change, have contributed to an increase in the severity of health inequities and have helped to underscore the potential consequences of inaction. Joe also challenged panelists to take a lesson from the climate-change movement and go beyond quantifying the “carbon footprint” and determine how to quantify their companies’ “health footprint.” 

Deloitte Global signs Pledge to make health equitable

During the meeting, Deloitte Global joined 38 other organizations in signing the Global Health Equity Network Zero Health Gaps Pledge. The Pledge is a commitment to help advance health equity and support better health outcomes. This multidiscipline group of participants includes patient advocacy organizations, financial services groups, technology companies, biopharmaceutical companies, health systems, and health plans. It is important to note that health equity may not be an issue just confined to the health care and life sciences organizations. In some way, it could touch every business, every community, and every person.

The Pledge is a public statement from its members declaring their commitment to take concrete steps to improve health equity across sectors and geographies and to help build a resilient and inclusive global economy that could drive value for all. We were moved by the eagerness and willingness to participate in this initiative. It calls on participants to take meaningful action. We were also struck by how seriously some companies are taking the requirements the pledge asks of our enterprises.

A baby born in Japan today can expect to live 30 years longer than a baby born in the Central African Republic. The Pledge is a promise to take action to change this situation. The Pledge is part of the Global Health Equity Network (GHEN), which brings together stakeholders from the public and private sectors to help advance a collective vision of zero health gaps, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The mission of the GHEN is to work with key decision makers from leading companies—in collaboration with governments, academia, and civil society—to look for ways to improve health equity. Participation from such a wide range of organizations can raise the visibility of this initiative and also could boost the profile of the signatories themselves.

Deloitte Global’s engagement with the Pledge follows Deloitte US’s recent $1.5 billion investment in initiatives to help create a more equitable society, including dedicated investment in health equity over the next 10 years. Deloitte and the Deloitte Health Equity Institutes are also working with the World Economic Forum to create standards for health equity measurement and to build a set of sustainable tools that can help embed health equity directly into “stakeholder capitalism” where corporations focus on serving the interests of all their stakeholders (e.g., employees, customers, communities, and ecosystem partners).

The goal of ending health inequities in a “fragmented world” may likely require cooperation and collaboration among businesses, governments, academia, and civil society. We are optimistic that we are on the right path. As more organizations join the Pledge, the movement could gain the momentum needed to reduce and eventually eliminate health disparities that have been integrated into society over centuries. Five years from now, we expect that efforts to reduce health inequities will have moved far beyond the Pledge and be at a point where strategies have been implemented and their impact is being measured and continually improved.


1 Davos 2023: What you need to know about better business, World Economic Forum, January 16, 2023

2 Health inequalities in Europe, EuroHealthNet, 

3 Productivity cost of illness, World Health Organization,

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