The Business of Health needs Multi-Sectoral thinking

University of Sydney Business School Univative team

Back row: Prof. Elizabeth Cowley, Prof. Paul Griffiths, Prof. Corinne Mulley, Prof. David Grant, Prof.  Steve Simpson
Front row: Ms Clare Hughes, Prof. Chris Rissel, Assoc. Prof. Teresa Davis

The Breakfast launch of the Business of Health Research Network brought together four different sets of stakeholders with an interest in health research. Representatives from companies operating in the health and food areas, non-profit organisations, Government /policy makers and Business School researchers debated to prioritise research interests at the intersection of Business and health.

The Dean of the Business School Professor David Grant welcomed invitees and Associate Dean Research Professor Elizabeth Cowley introduced the speakers. Professor Steve Simpson, Charles Perkins Centre , University of Sydney made the opening remarks, describing the cross disciplinary vision of the CPC and how the Business of Health research network was one of the inter-connected nodal points of the Centre's projects. The overlap between Business and Health he pointed out is sometimes an area of tension and ambiguity, growing out of the divergent goals that corporation and public health pursue. This was echoed by Clare Hughes, Cancer Council NSW, when she spoke of some of the barriers to collaboration between the corporations and health advocacy groups. John Lang of Alere voiced the need to focus on the common ground- such as employee and workplace health and productivity. Chris Rissel, Director of NSW Preventive Health, emphasised the collaboration of all sectors in promoting activity, exercise to build healthy populations.

These multi- sectoral perspectives were followed by table discussions (each table with a mix of representatives from business, Government, Non-Profit and academic sectors) discussing their research priorities in the area of business and health. Representatives from organisations as diverse as Alere, Aldi, Unilever, PwC, Sanitarium, Corporate Bodies, McNair Ingenuity, Delta MV Knowledge Solutions, Cancer Council NSW, Diabetes Council Australia, CHOICE , the National Congress of Australia's First People, NSW Office of Preventive Health, Transport NSW, Australian Bicycle Council, Healthy Kids Initiative NSW, City of Health, NSW Health and the Department of Education all engaged in animated conversations. The table conversations were described by Rob Tyson (Associate Director, Economics and Policy at PwC) "I haven't been at an event for some time where the conversation has been so lively and such diverse points of view have been debated by a mix of participants who have the potential to really make a change. It was refreshing and lays a great foundation for future work and engagement."

The tables were facilitated by a member of the Business School who compiled all the ideas and helped the group to come to a consensus about the 'single top priority' for research in the area. These were compiled and summarised by the research network co-Leader Professor Corinne Mulley. The key priorities identified from the table discussions clustered around three areas:

  1. Balancing economic benefits of food industrialisation with social and community wellbeing including studies of corporate social responsibility, and initiatives that channel back profits and/or tax revenues from commercial food production to community gardens, food access programs and building up public transport.
  2. Evidence Based Solutions that all sectors can engage with so as to align purpose and build collaboration, most particularly between corporations and public health: in the areas of employee and workplace health, using workplace champions, healthy eating in the workplace and identifying the right incentives for corporations and employees to engage in healthy behaviours.
  3. Evaluate existing interventions, promotions and initiatives and widen the ones that are seen to be working. The strong message here was not to reinvent the wheel, identify the ones that are working and use an evidence base to transfer between sectors.