Merck, a leading science and technology company, recently convened experts from diverse reputable organizations such as UN, UNICEF, UNAIDS, World Obesity Federation, and McKinsey at the company’s headquarters in Darmstadt, Germany, to debate relevant questions such as: What are the most urgent threats to our children’s long-term health? What can be done both inside and outside the classroom? And how do schools, parents and communities share responsibility?
As global life expectancy continues to increase, World Health Organization statistics show that the children of today are likely to be the first to live 100 years. But living 100 healthy years – with vitality and mobility – and the challenge of equipping children to do so, was the subject of yesterday’s second annual ‘Global Consumer Health Debate’.
Uta Kemmerich-Keil, CEO and President of the Consumer Health business of Merck commented: “One thing is for certain: the earlier we start working with kids on how to look after themselves, the better the long-term impacts. If this debate helped strengthen the health education for my own kids here in Germany, as much as children from Brazil to India, then we are getting better at building a global future of healthy adults, able to enjoy a long life to the fullest.”
The event released the findings of the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) white paper: “Kids and Old Age”. This worldwide study describes the current landscape: What according to parents, educators, policy makers, research institutions, and development actors can be done to better prepare kids for a long and healthy life? Key findings include:
- Today’s children will be less healthy than today’s adults over 65 when they reach that age.
- Lifestyle-related problems are likely to contribute to chronic disease in later life and are already causing health problems among children.
- Across the five countries surveyed, schools are targeting the main perceived problems, such as lack of exercise, but are ignoring mental health issues.
- There is little evidence that such school education programs are managing to stem rising rates of obesity and mental disorders.
By bringing many actors together, the debate “joined the dots” between all those responsible for children’s health and well-being, and created consensus around collaborative thinking and common goals.
However this debate – and the diversity of actors and opinions – highlighted how our childhood lessons are drawn from far beyond our homes and schools, such as community efforts and policy-level support. The key message is that by working together on complementary efforts, our kids will be better equipped to become tomorrow’s healthy adults and elderly.
The international panels included voices as diverse as government representatives of South Africa (Ministry of Basic Education), UN representatives of education, children’s and health priorities (UNICEF, Every Woman for Every Child/UN, UNAIDS), Brazilian and Indian community-based organizations (Inmed Brazil, Smile Foundation) having huge impacts on the ground, business consultants to the health industry (McKinsey), and the World Obesity Federation.
The event marked an important milestone in Merck Consumer Health’s journey to prepare society for a new era of humans living 100 healthy years. This business purpose is at the heart of Merck Consumer Health’s WE100 movement, aimed at raising awareness of healthy living, for people of all ages. While the report and the debate helped to focus the global conversation, it seems to be even more crucial to create and take action. WE100 is Merck’s commitment to do so.