Each of us has had the privilege of serving for many years as minister of state. Although we come from different parts of the world – one from Senegal, the other from Norway – we share the experience that good government can accomplish great things.

Good government can lift whole populations. It can support those in desperate need. It can help protect the innocent. It can enable amazing technological breakthroughs. What no government can do is single-handedly solve the world’s problems. It needs to work with others.

In particular, government needs to work with the private sector. Businesses have the ability to rally the public by providing solutions and applying know-how to problems of any size.

As business leaders gather in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, we hope to engage them in thinking more creatively about how their work can be applied to global health.

We each serve as volunteer board members for the GAVI Alliance, a public-private partnership whose mission is to save children’s lives and protect people’s health by increasing access to immunization in developing countries. Since the year 2000, the GAVI Alliance has helped immunize more than 440 million children, saving six million lives.

We strongly support private sector contributions to this cause and urge other business leaders to join us. In fact, we are keenly impressed by the growing corporate awareness that the world’s biggest health challenges – including how to reach the 22 million children who go unvaccinated each year – also have profound economic implications.

Vaccine-preventable diseases such as pneumonia, measles and deadly diarrhea take an enormous toll on people in developing countries. We have both seen this first-hand. Companies recognize that their competitiveness and the health of the communities where they do business are mutually dependent. Global health means economic health. We all are stakeholders.

This is why it is imperative that both the public and private sectors work together. Businesses have invested in GAVI because they know that one of the strongest ways to promote global health is through immunization. Vaccines provide a strong return on investment (ROI). Among GAVI’s private sector partners:

  • Vodafone is working with GAVI to deploy mobile health technology in 100 remote health facilities in Mozambique to improve immunization coverage and reduce drop-out rates. Vodafone’s mobile technology will enable health workers to register and update vaccine records, send targeted alerts to caregivers and monitor vaccine stocks.
  • Lions Clubs and LDS Charities each have deployed global networks of volunteers to help GAVI publicize vaccination programmes, provide vaccine services and educate families about preventable disease.
  • Comic Relief has highlighted immuniation to millions in the United Kingdom through BBC telethons and through its partnership with British Airways.
  • ELMA Foundation is funding GAVI’s new Supply Chain Fund to help quickly overcome roadblocks in delivering temperature-sensitive vaccines to remote areas.

Companies are expanding beyond traditional philanthropy and instead favour initiatives that make a measurable and long-term impact on individual lives and entire economies. Funding and supporting the delivery of life-saving vaccines is one proven way that the private sector can obtain measurable, long-term and extremely cost-effective results.

The GAVI model is designed as a sustainable approach that puts countries on track to self-sufficiency.  If we – the public and private sectors – collectively seize the moment, we can accelerate progress toward a world in which every child, everywhere, is fully immunized. And we all will be better for it.

Awa Marie Coll-Seck is Minister of Health of Senegal. Dagfinn Høybråten is Chair of the GAVI Alliance Board. He also is Secretary-General of the Nordic Council of Ministers and previously served as Vice-President of the Norwegian Parliament and Minister of Health. 

Image: A nurse holds a vial of vaccine at the Dodowa new town health outreach point in Dodowa. REUTERS/GAVI/Olivier Asselin/Handout