What is a healthy society? And how can we achieve healthy societies? While people in many countries are living longer, they are not necessarily living healthier lives. Changes in societies have contributed to improved health but have also caused many challenges and risks to people’s health and well-being. The effect of the ongoing crisis on our health systems and other aspects of our societies has shown a vulnerability to pandemic threats.
Last month, Wilton Park hosted a meeting outside of London featuring leaders and experts from a range of areas including health, climate, food, urban planning, local and national government, civil society, consumers, the private sector and international agencies to discuss how we can achieve “Healthy societies for healthy populations.” A newly-released report on the same subject has been published, which summarizes the insights and recommendations from the event. Also available is a podcast where participants share their inputs on how to achieve healthy societies.
The report highlights conversations from the event, including an exploration of the social, economic and environmental determinants of healthy societies. Given that there is a large body of evidence for these determinants, event participants stressed that political will and political action are vital to taking necessary steps towards healthier societies. “No one sector, discipline, stakeholder, community or country alone has the solution. Leadership is crucial at all levels – community, local and national government, regional and global – to undertake cross-sectoral action which results in healthier societies. Striving for equity in all efforts to create and sustain healthy societies is paramount.”
Event speakers also encouraged cross-sectoral approaches for improving and prioritizing health. Expectations are changing for the private sector, and the report discusses how to frame the problem of unhealthy societies as an opportunity for business.
The report concludes with four practices that can be undertaken to make real progress towards healthy societies. First, we need to establish the meaning of healthy societies, and instill that ideal as a meaningful goal for the communities in question. Next, we need to encourage political leadership and cross-sector cooperation based around common goals, transparency and trust. Third, we need to share our success stories and use case studies to show that action is feasible, and to give other societies real blueprints to work on. Finally, we need to not lose sight of long-term goals and to deal with immediate obstacles and opportunities in a way that nurtures the longer-term goals.
Note: Wilton Park is an executive agency of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Established in 1946, it convenes more than 60 high level international policy events a year. This Wilton Park dialogue was held in in partnership with the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Wellcome Trust and the World Health Organization.