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January 26, 2005

Taking the Health Message to Davos

Joining presidents, prime ministers and CEOs at the 2005 meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, is Alfred Sommer, dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Travelling to the meeting of global business and political leaders for a third time, Dean Sommer, MD, MHS '73, has taken on an increasingly visible role as global business and political leaders have come to understand that healthy populations form the foundation of global security and economic progress.

Alfred Sommer at WEF at Davos

Alfred Sommer at the 2004 WEF in Davos, Switzerland (Photo SWISS-IMAGE.CH)

"They have seen the importance of global health, the protection of populations from disease, the necessity of preventing disease everywhere in the world so it doesn't become a global threat, and the development of financing that can provide prevention and treatment," says Sommer. "There seems little doubt that health will be a main theme at future Davos meetings."

Dean Sommer will moderate two panel discussions at the Jan. 26-30 meeting: "A New Market Rx for New Drugs Now" and "Preparing for the Next Global Health Panic." He also chairs the Expert Group on Health within the WEF's Global Governance Initiative, a high-level initiative to monitor progress in meeting the social, economic and environmental goals set forth in the United Nations Millennial Declaration and other documents.

"The Millennial Declaration," Sommer explains, "tries to move the world forward on a wide range of important societal issues by the year 2015. There are things like reducing poverty by half; stemming and reversing the epidemics of HIV, malaria and tuberculosis; and increasing gender equity. We’ve got all these goals that countries have agreed to; but forum leaders are concerned that with no one tracking efforts and investments, it will prove [to be] just so much rhetoric."

Davos, Switzerland

Dean Alfred Sommer joined world leaders for this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos. (Photo SWISS-IMAGE.CH)

The WEF is an independent, international organization that tries to provide a framework in which world leaders and corporate executives can collaborate on solving global problems. The WEF schedules closed meetings where company executives discuss profits, trade and other bottom-line issues, but it also provides for gatherings more open to the press where international experts and leaders can thrash out ways to improve public health, reduce poverty and pollution, and work together on a range of other concerns.

Attending this year’s meeting are German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and recently elected Ukrainian President Viktor A. Yushchenko--as well as more than 1,000 corporate executives, among them George Soros, Michael S. Dell and Bill Gates. (Bono of U2 and Angelina Jolie will be there too, to talk up their favourite international projects and add a dash of glamour to the proceedings.) All attendees will converge on Davos to discuss ways of making life better for people around the globe. --Rod Graham

Read an article by Dean Sommer in the WEF's Global Agenda magazine.

Public Affairs media contacts for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Tim Parsons at 410-955-6878 or paffairs@jhsph.edu.