A New Way to Play Connect the Dots

Posted on June 20, 2008 by ELCA World Hunger

Every morning I wake up, eat breakfast, and treasure my time reading the New York Times, especially the health section. My time spent with the Health section is important to me; not only does it keep me current and advance my Public Health studies, it also serves as a time to play my favorite game “Connect the Dots”.

My version of “Connect the Dots” begins with finding a news story, proceeds with me connecting how this story relates to other sectors of society, and ends with me figuring out how the story can impact the future.

One of the stories that caught my eye this week and thus ensued a wonderful game of Connect the Dots, was a story capturing the introduction of a new social index: the Access to Medicine Index.

What is the Access to Medicine Index?

The Access to Medicine Index is a social index that intends to “engage (the pharmaceutical) industry through transparency” and assesses how the top pharmaceutical companies are providing their life saving medications to individuals in the developing world. According to the Access to Medicine Index website, “one out of three people lacks access to essential, affordable drugs or vaccines. Improving access to medicines could save 10 million lives each year. The Access to Medicine Index highlights efforts by drug companies to help close the gap and encourage them- and all other stakeholders- to do more”(Access to Medicine Index).

Though the New York Times calls this ranking “unusual”, I think this Index is rather exciting because it holds much potential.

How the Index is calculated is based on how a pharmaceutical company spends its’ money in these eight areas: Management, Influence, Research and Development, Patenting, Capacity, Pricing, Drug Donations, and Philanthropy. Though there are no benchmarks or industry standards, other than the established rankings set by the individual pharma companies, this is the first step in assessing how this industry provides access to their medications to the world.

An Index like this has the capability to encourage the public to hold these companies accountable in providing access to their drugs to the poor and wealthy alike. Furthermore, this Index provides another method for stakeholders to enforce corporate accountability standards through these companies being socially responsible.

In terms of the future, if the Index would go one dot further and report on how drug accessibility has reduced diseases of poverty, improved health, and has seen a decline in hunger and poverty, then this Index could serve as social indicator of human advancement. Drawing this link is all too important, because though drug accessibility is important, we must know how these drug treatments are contributing to the overall health of the world. Capitalizing on this juncture could redefine what it means to be socially responsible through corporate endeavors.

In this game of Connect the Dots I can see endless links and a great future for this Index. What this Index has accomplished thus far is a feat on its own, but in the way industries must change and grow in order to compete, this Index will need to do so as well. As long as the Access to Medicine Index becomes respected amongst the industry, public, and stakeholders and develops benchmarks, this Index will be regarded as a premier social tool ensuring social responsibility, corporate accountability and the future of nations unborn.

REFERENCES

McNeil, Donald. “Index Ranks Pharmaceutical Groups According to Third World Outreach”. The New York Times. June 17, 2008. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/17/health/17glob.html?ex=1214452800&en=28e3bc9ff22d4a21&ei=5070&emc=eta1.

The Access to Medicine Index. http://atmindex.org/

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