The global health industry cluster is a funny thing. Certainly a lot of the large industry clusters in our region focus on selling things mostly outside the region (that’s how we generate wealth!), but they seem somehow more connected also to our daily lives: Microsoft sells most of its software to the rest of the world, but we all interact with Windows or Word on a regular basis; Boeing sells most of its planes overseas, but we all do enough flying or drive past Boeing Field enough to think of it as a hometown asset; Starbucks or Amazon, same thing.
Global health, though, does all of its work overseas and that’s its whole point. It’s about improving health in developing countries, so even though a lot of research, education, philanthropy and product/program development happens here, we don’t really have that visceral connection to it. TB and polio? Those are so sepia-toned in our American history images. Malaria? That’s a black and white photo!
So it’s not a huge surprise that the presence of the “Davos of global health” doesn’t get a huge amount of press. But the Pacific Health Summit is just that, bringing top decision-makers in science, policy, industry, medicine, and public health to Seattle to discuss how to combine effective utilization of scientific advances with appropriate policies for prevention, early detection, and early treatment of disease. Pretty cool stuff.
The question becomes, how do we best support and celebrate this industry cluster when it’s below the average person’s radar? I’m going on a tour this Friday to learn more about it, but one of the ideas I’ve heard floating around is trying to take some of the health innovations that are being developed for other countries and apply them to issues here in the U.S. The work that Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is doing globally for example can very much benefit cancer patients here in the region. And of course, we’re talking about making a much larger public presence for this industry each year.
Anyway, keep a lookout on the street for World Health Organization Director Margaret Chan…if you see her, tell her how much you appreciate the incredible work that our region’s global health industry does in the world, and then direct her to the nearest Starbucks.
UPDATE: Related story.