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October 28, 2018

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The future of Shanghai starts with bringing health through food

CREATING a healthy Shanghai is a key component of the “four centers” initiative launched by Shanghai government this year. At Danone, we believe that large organizations like ours can use their scale for positive economic, social and environmental impact. Along the lines of Danone’s mission to bring health through food to as many people as possible, we are committed to actively contribute to the establishment of a healthy Shanghai.

Shanghai has always been dedicated to building a healthy future and efforts made in multiple areas have had a tremendous effect on its health sector. Yet, due to a rapidly aging population, the rise of non-communicable diseases, changing ecological and environmental circumstances and people’s lifestyles, Shanghai is facing multiple challenges and needs to equip its health care system.

Although life expectancy is on the rise, people are not necessarily aging in good health and often have to cope with chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases. This means that a growing group of older people may need long-term medical services. Furthermore, environmental changes brought about by industrialization and urbanization have introduced more factors that require better access to health services. Beyond these systemic and demographic challenges, people’s health literacy and the ownership people take over their health also remains a concern: only 42.2 percent of Shanghai’s citizens exercised on a regular basis in 2016.

The factors influencing health are complex and interconnected, which means they lie far beyond the scope of the department of health alone. A Governance for Health approach that relies on collaboration between the government and society as a whole is necessary to make a lasting change for the better.

The leadership role of government is unquestionable. There should be vertical collaboration between different layers of government agencies and horizontal collaboration across different government agencies. Having all related government bureaus involved in overall planning and coordinated in implementation can be extremely efficient. The Equally Well project implemented by the government of Scotland, for example, gathered various stakeholders from different government bureaus, non-government organizations, academia, enterprise, and public service providers to improve health for the local populace.

Governance for Health stresses mobilizing all of society, particularly companies and civil society, to participate and take on social responsibilities. As a world-renowned company, Danone strives to make it easier for people to choose healthier options each time they eat and drink. We aim to provide more choice through our unique health-focused portfolio that cater to the different stages of people’s lives. We take into consideration taste, social and cultural dimensions and use education to inspire and promote healthier and more sustainable habits.

As many as one in three older people who are hospitalized or living at home are at risk of malnutrition, negatively impacting their health outcomes. We share a desire with everyone in healthcare to do everything to improve patient outcomes and see an opportunity to work with stakeholders to ensure that more and more older patients in Shanghai have access to appropriate nutritional care, positively contributing to the long-term sustainability and affordability of care.


Due to the current health challenges and factors, and taking the core thoughts of “Healthy Shanghai 2030” and the “four centers” initiative into account, here are the recommendations we could make for Shanghai:

1.Plan for a “Healthy Shanghai” and the “four centers” with the Governance for Health Strategy

The five major strategic measures we suggest for building a “Healthy Shanghai” are “Promote Healthy Living,” “Optimize Health Services,” “Refine Health Coverage,” “Build a Healthy Environment,”and “Develop Health Industries.” These plans cannot be achieved by any institution alone, which is why Shanghai needs to set up an all-of-government and all-of-society strategy involving all stakeholders.

2. Build a leadership and organization structure based on health in all policies

Creating a leadership and organizational structure based on Health in All Policies and leading the design, administration, adjustment, and implementation of relevant policies will be instrumental for the journey. We suggest the creation of a high-level multi-department coordination committee within Shanghai’s top-level structure. For example, establishing a public health advisory committee that draws members from institutions such as different bureaus of government, non-governmental organizations, and research organizations in order to strengthen coordination among different departments.

3. Share data to facilitate Governance for Health

Sharing data will facilitate Governance for Health. Sociologists, anthropologists, nutritionists, government health departments and food companies can collaborate to acquire social and cultural information about different dietary habits, as well as nutrition and health data of various specific communities. Sharing such information with other entities can inform business and society developments further.

4. Create a comprehensive health impact assessment mechanism

The Health Impact Assessment (HIA) mechanism is an important tool for implementing Health in All Policies. We need systematically assess different development plans and policies for the economy and society as well as major engineering projects for their impact on health. China’s HIA system is still at its beginning, mostly as part of environmental impact assessment, hence we suggest Shanghai to improve current environmental impact assessment system, establish an agency to conduct HIA and an accountability mechanism for HIA.

5. Create a culture of participation by all citizens, and strengthen supervision by society

Participation by the public and social supervision are also important principles for Governance for Health. We can leverage cooperation with all types of social organizations to reach a larger audience, and further strengthen health and nutrition education, encourage a community volunteer team, improve channels for communications, and increase channels for company participation in health governance.

6. Build an age-friendly city, take a proactive approach to the demographic trend of aging

It will be key to enable financially sustainable health systems and inclusive social care systems that are designed to meet the needs of older people. A “Healthy Shanghai” should also be an age-friendly Shanghai and the “four centers” should be designed to be age-friendly in order to encourage an aging population to live independently and in good health. This proactive approach to aging, will not only help Shanghai face the challenges aging represents but will also guarantee increased longevity, which represents an invaluable opportunity for individuals and society alike.


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