Cross-section of ideas, leaders meet at Davos

For any business leader, and particularly for a professional communicator, Davos provides an extraordinary opportunity to engage, form relationships, and gain insight from a cross-section of leaders.

For any business leader, and particularly for a professional communicator, Davos provides an extraordinary opportunity to engage, form relationships, and gain insight from a cross-section of leaders – from heads of state and CEOs to academics and other global thought leaders.

The World Economic Forum's website references its commitment to “improving the state of the world,” and when you're here, you immediately recognize you're in the presence of remarkable leaders and thinkers committed to the common goals of transparency, collaboration, and building trust to shape the global agenda for good.

I'm accompanying Cigna's CEO, David Cordani, who just participated in a high-level panel discussion about new models for aging societies. The panel was introduced by Dr. Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization, and moderated by David Bloom, professor of economics and demography at Harvard University's School of Public Health. The panel examined aging and its broad impact, from the composition of our global workforce to consumer habits and on the structure of our healthcare and pension systems.

Europe's fiscal crisis and the global economy might be generating more buzz, but a serious discussion on the consequences of our aging populations worldwide could hardly be timelier. The European Commission designated 2012 as the “Year for Active Aging,” and with good reason.

As the only businessperson on the panel, Cordani noted that many of the challenges we face today, from financial crises to the growing costs of treating chronic illness, are rooted in ineffective health policies for aging populations. Research increasingly demonstrates the direct correlations between health and wellness and economic prosperity. Healthcare innovation can serve as a real driver for economic growth in the 21st Century, and it is incumbent upon nations to begin viewing health not as a cost crisis, but as a potential economic catalyst and gateway to all sorts of productivity and quality-of-life improvements. 

To that end, Cordani is urging those here to rethink how we structure and provide healthcare, not just for the elderly, but beginning at birth and throughout the cycle of life. Through global collaboration and improved stakeholder engagement, we can tackle these tough challenges together, with endpoints of increased social good and prosperity, and later lives that are healthy and productive.

Davos is all about engaging with multiple stakeholders you don't normally have an opportunity to meet face-to-face on how we can collectively address the most difficult societal challenges. I've already seen first-hand that Davos offers a terrific environment for idea-sharing and building the levels of trust necessary to shape agendas, generate ideas, and convert concepts into actions.

Maggie FitzPatrick is CCO at Cigna.

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