Public Health, Women, and Corporate Responsibility


November 2003 Volume I Number 3

Net Contents
I. Network Presentation
“Public Health, Women, and Corporate Responsibility” Hosted by Pfizer

II. Network Presenters
Dr. Barbara DeBuono, M.D., M.P.H., Senior Medical Director / Group Leader, Pfizer Public Health Group

Mark. A. Goldberg, Senior Vice President, National Coalition on Health Care

Dr. Jo Ivey Boufford, M.D. Professor, Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, NYU

III. Network’s New Donor
The Ford Foundation is WNSF’s newest Founding Sponsor

IV. Network Next Events
Unilever to host panel, “The Consumer as Stakeholder” Eileen Fisher to sponsor holiday benefit party

V. Network Concept

I. Network Presentation
Thanks…to all who attended WNSF’s luncheon presentation, “Public Health, Women, and Corporate Responsibility,” hosted by Pfizer at Pfizer headquarters in NYC on October 31. And to those of you who missed it, we look forward to welcoming you to our next scheduled event on December 2 (see section IV, below).

II. Network Presenters
The luncheon panel on October 31 was the Network’s fifth event and coincided with the first anniversary of its founding almost exactly a year ago.

“Public Health, Women, and Corporate Responsibility”: Three speakers addressed this topic from three different perspectives-Dr. Barbara De Buono represented the corporate angle for the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, Mark Goldberg added the view of a health care “activist” for the National Coalition on Health Care, and from an academic point of view, Dr. Jo Ivey Boufford, Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, presented the results of a recent study by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) on the future of the public’s health. All speakers agreed that there is a need for a stronger emphasis on health promotion and prevention by both corporations and health care providers.

Nancy Nielsen, Senior Director, Corporate Citizenship at Pfizer spoke of the dilemma in the pharmaceutical industry: The balancing act of investing in advanced research and development while assuring that medicine is accessible and affordable to people who need it today. She also welcomed Dr. Ann Goodman, co-founder and Acting Director of the Women’s Network, who moderated the panel and the lively discussion.

Dr. Barbara DeBuono, Senior Medical Director of Pfizer Public Health Group, focused her remarks on women’s health issues. Women are critical health care decision makers, controlling about 69 percent of the annual amount paid for health care in the US ($1.1 trillion in 1995) and making health care decisions in 75 percent of US households. Women account for 60 percent of all physician visits. While taking care of their children, their husbands, sometimes their parents and often their community, women tend not to take enough care of their own health.

The female population is increasingly affected by serious diseases (cardio-vascular diseases (CVDs), cancer, depression, arthritis) and—due to their longer life expectancy— are prone to chronic diseases which may effect their quality of life if not treated appropriately. CVDs are often under diagnosed and under treated in women and kill more women than breast cancer does. The CVD mortality rate in women is steadily increasing, while the rate for men is going down. Women also suffer disproportionately from depression, a disease that is hard to detect and often under diagnosed, but seriously affects their overall health. “Women perform well while suffering from serious depression”, warned Dr. DeBuono. She recommends better communication between the health care provider and patient as a first step toward improving health. The patient should leave the doctor’s office knowing exactly what is going on and what should and can be done.

Mark Goldberg, Senior Vice President for Policy and Strategy at the National Coalition on Health Care, stressed health care’s political factor, which is being played out in the current presidential campaign. Nearly 44 million Americans were without health care in 2002. An increase of 2.4 million uninsured marked the largest single year increase since 1992. Even more disturbing: close to 90 percent of uninsured households have an income of more than 25,000 dollars a year. The companies that do not offer coverage, said Goldberg, “are offloading the cost to other people.”

He also pointed out deficits in most benefit packages. Many health care programs do not sufficiently cover chronic diseases, like hypertension, asthma, heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Of people age 18 to 44, 21 percent suffer from at least one of these diseases. Of those in the 45 to 61 age range, 57 percent need special health care. Like Dr. DeBuono, Mr. Goldberg advocates better communication and information for patients: He emphasized preventative health care through life style changes and increased awareness. Most patients don’t get enough counseling.

As major financial contributors to the U.S. health care system, companies can use their influence to contribute to the policy debate and the improvement of the overall health care system, argued Mr. Goldberg. Companies’ health care coverage costs have increased 14 percent this year and 43 percent since 2000. By using their negotiating power—as they do with other suppliers—companies might be able to create better, more affordable and more efficient health care plans

Dr. Jo Ivey Boufford, Professor, Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University, pointed to specific examples of companies reducing their health costs by investing in prevention information campaigns. She reported that Citibank after investing $1.9 million in health promotion saved approximately $9 million on health care costs. Age appropriate preventive services, said Dr. Boufford, are often not even included in health plans. She suggested tax incentives as one way to encourage companies to invest in health promotion and prevention campaigns.

Overall population health in the U.S. is not what it could be, stressed Dr. Boufford, quoting the IOM’s recently released report, “The Future of the Public’s Health in the 21st Century:” The U.S. spends more than 13 percent of the GDP on health, more than any of the other 39 industrialized countries, but the health of the American people lags significantly. In addition, the U.S. health system was ranked 37th in the world by the World Health Organization. Only one percent of total US health expenditures is spent on public health and prevention, and 99 percent of healthcare dollars are targeted to illness after it occurs.

Of premature deaths, 50 percent can be attributed to risk behaviors, 20 percent to environmental factors, and an additional 10 percent are due to inadequate access to medical care. Diet and activity patterns, which might be changed through better information and prevention policy, were responsible for about 28 percent of premature deaths in 1990. As many as one million Americans die each year from preventable health problems. Therefore, Dr. Bouford emphasized, people should be informed, educated and empowered about health issues.

Dr. Boufford stressed that society as a whole must invest to control infectious diseases and assure clean air and water and safe blood, food and drugs. Critical to achieving better public health is a combined effort by government public health agencies, communities, the personal health care delivery system, employers and businesses, media and academia.

III. Network’s New Donor
WNSF thanks new Founding Sponsor, the Ford Foundation, for its generous contribution to the Network.

IV. Network’s Next Scheduled Events
Unilever will host WNSF’s next luncheon panel, “The Consumer as Stakeholder: Women Consumers and Corporate Citizenship,” on from noon to 2pm on December 2 at Lever House in New York City. And Eileen Fisher Inc. will sponsor a benefit holiday party at its Soho boutique on December 9 from 6pm to 8pm, with 10 percent of purchases donated to WNSF. Look for emailed invitations to RSVP to these events.

V. Network Concept
The concept of the Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future is to provide a forum for business and professional women to congregate, reflect and act on the converging issues of corporate social responsibility and sustainable development. Through meetings and simple electronic support tools, the Network aims to facilitate the exchange of experiences and best practices on these vital workplace issues. By creating a new network of executive women, the Network seeks to: improve responsible practices in workplaces; sensitize corporate culture more generally to issues of sustainability and social responsibility; and encourage a public commitment locally, nationally and internationally to sustainability principles.

The Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future is a 501c3 organization.

For more information, please contact: Ann Goodman, Acting Director Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future
Please direct inquiries to:

Fiscal Agent: National Environmental Education & Training Foundation
1707 H Street NW, Suite 900
Washington, D.C. 20006
T: 202-833-2933
WNSF Board Member/NEETF Liaison: Deborah Sliter, Vice President of Programs

Board of Directors: Linda Descano, COO, Women & Co., CitiGroup; Muni Figueres, formerly of the Costa Rican Foundation for Sustainable Development; Joanne Fox-Przeworski, Director, Bard Center for Environmental Policy, Bard College; Ann Goodman, President, Telesis Consulting and Acting Director, WNSF; Clair Krizov, Executive Director of Environmental and Social Responsibility, AT&T; Joyce LaValle, Senior Vice President, Interface Inc.; Kathy Robb, Esq., Partner and Head of Environmental Practice, Hunton & Williams; Deborah Sliter, Vice President of Programs, National Environmental Education & Training Foundation.

This issue of Net Notes from the Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future was written by Irmintraud Jost and edited by Ann Goodman.

The Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future gratefully acknowledges Founding Sponsors AT&T and the Ford Foundation for their generous grants.

“Plans to protect air and water, wilderness and wildlife are in fact plans to protect man.” – Stewart L. Udall

“Forget the damned motor car and build the cities for lovers and friends.” – Lewis Mumford

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