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  • Writer's pictureEmma Iovoli

What can medical affairs do in climate, health and equity? - emerging concensus areas.

My last two blog posts have been a bit philosophical and contemplative. I begin to challenge our existing health paradigms, and courageously untangle any mindsets or assumptions that hold us back. Reflecting in this way can help us get the diagnosis right so that we use our energy wisely, but it has to be balanced with simultaneous pragmatic actions. Otherwise there is a risk that we will not do anything or get anywhere.

So let’s get practical and think about “what” medical affairs can do to tackle climate, health and equity. In my white paper, which is over one year old now, I provide a framework that proposes action areas. As I have continued to engage with individuals and organisations through my work, I predict that 3 consensus action areas might be emerging.

The first is carbon foot printing of clinical trials. Although clinical trial regulations do not yet mandate measurement and reporting of carbon emissions associated with clinical trials, large companies that form part of the Sustainable Markets Initiative increasingly expect Contract Research Organisations to use measurement frameworks already developed. In addition, for companies active in clinical development, carbon emissions generated by clinical trials will be a significant contribution to overall carbon footprint and therefore difficult to ignore. Medical affairs are well placed to contextualise the benefits and risks of undertaking any given trial, taking into account the value of the data generated as well as possible downstream harms from environmental impacts.

The second is environmental factors and health equity. There are signals that companies are starting to explore environmental drivers of health equity to help shift the goal of health systems towards keeping people well rather than treating disease e.g. Novartis Foundation AI4HealthyCities. One such environmental driver is air pollution, typically affecting health in poorer urban community areas. Signals show that air pollution could be most effectively tackled through local community or city-level policy interventions. As ecosystem connectors and data generation engines, medical affairs can partner or convene a broad range of stakeholders and champion aligned data driven goals that improve health.

The third is to focus on the patient, by considering how climate change will affect people living with specific diseases.  This includes better understanding the information the general public are / will be seeking regarding the sustainability of medicines in the context of broader health care. Providing information on medicines sustainability is an inherently complex topic and forward thinking companies are already beginning to tackle this. Medical affairs are the guardians of patient centricity and will play a critical role.

Let me know if one or more of these resonates with you.

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