Director’s corner April 2019

Peter Friberg.
Peter Friberg, Director SIGHT

Dear reader

The clock is ticking. We are four years into the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development (SDGs). At SIGHT we try to have the Agenda at the forefront. SIGHT is about to commence a Lancet-SIGHT Commission on SDGs 3, 5 and 16. In the UN 2030 Agenda, the goal SDG 16 contains, among many targets, the fight against corruption. Therefore, I am deeply struck by the evolving story about the biggest bank of Sweden, Swedbank, and the accusations about huge money laundering, and the connections with former Ukraine president Viktor Jusjtjenko. With all rules and legislation in place, these dark businesses still occur. My respect goes to the Swedish Television and the journalists for unravelling these dodgy affairs. Society must fight corruption with every kind of weapon imaginable.

These issues were high on the agenda at Prince Mahidol Award Conference (PMAC) in January 2019 where SIGHT participated. The overarching theme was:” The political economy of the NCDs – A whole of society approach”. Corruption and the strengths, as well as weaknesses of institutions are clearly involved in commercial determinants of health. The heavy advertising from the big alcohol industry in low- and middle-income countries is just one, but an ugly example. Another serious journalist, Olivier van Breemen has recently published a book:” Heineken in Africa – a multinational unleashed” (2019), describing the dark business several countries actually have with Heineken. Van Bremen’s book starts with the company’s advertising slogan in Sierra Leone:” Transparency is beautiful if you have nothing to hide”. It says it all. Luckily, the Global Fund stopped its partnership with Heineken.

I was impressed by these young people and their courage, to undertake the task to challenge these global health leaders, firing tough questions about gender and climate change.

Together with the Swedish Public Health Agency and the National Swedish Diabetes register, SIGHT organised a PMAC side meeting on “Examining SDG interlinkages: How to reduce the growing diabetes burden?”, where participants had to identify SDG targets in relation to diabetes in terms of both prevention and treatment. Unexpectedly, very few could be found, which gives opportunity for countries to invent their own targets and indicators.

Assigned by the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, SIGHT is happy and honoured to have had the opportunity to contribute to the organisation of the inaugural WHO Partners Forum in Stockholm, April 9 and 10. SIGHT was also engaged in organising a breakfast meeting on “climate change and health” and a youth-led event at The Swedish Society of Medicine, in which Director General of WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Seth Berkley from Gavi the Vaccine Alliance and Peter Sands from the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria participated in a panel discussion together with students to figure out how to secure long and healthy lives for generations to come.

I was impressed by these young people and their courage, to undertake the task to challenge these global health leaders, firing tough questions about gender and climate change. For me, and SIGHT, it is a privilege to work and engage with students and young professionals. They constantly push us to consider important issues for caring about the planet and our future. That is truly underpinned in my own life, becoming grandpa three times in eleven months!