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CEO Perspective

Five things we’re focused on in 2023

The city of Buenos Aires carried out a tactical urban planning project aimed at redistributing the use of streets, gaining space for pedestrians, and achieving a real change in drivers’ behavior so that they adapt their speed to 20 km in school environments. Children and adults painted streets with messages calling for slower speeds and dedicated bike lanes.

At Vital Strategies, we believe everyone deserves to be protected by equitable and effective public health systems. That means the places we live, work and play become engines for health.

As we begin 2023, we are already deep at work with partners around the world—especially governments and civil society groups at all levels—to advance health toward the center of public policymaking. That means healthier schools, safer roads, cleaner air, nutritious foods and data-driven policies that seek to prevent death and disease. It means pushing back against the influence of industries whose products—from tobacco to sugary drinks to alcohol—shorten the lives of their consumers.

As a global organization of innovators, scientists, researchers, advocates and communicators, we are working in partnership in more than 70 countries around the world to reimagine evidence-based, locally driven policies and practices to advance public health. As we look forward in 2023 and beyond, we are focusing our energies and expertise on five areas of work:

Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs)

Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs)—such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease— are responsible for 71% of all deaths globally and have a disproportionate impact on poor and marginalized people and communities. We address leading NCDs with proven interventions that need to be implemented at scale. Vital also works with partners to counter the commercial interests that drive NCD risk factors, such as tobacco, ultra-processed foods and alcohol. In 2023, we expect to see the effects of recent policy victories in Latin America, with several countries newly mandating warning labels on the front of ultra-processed food and others implementing new or increased taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages. Vital is also ramping up RESET Alcohol, a groundbreaking $15 million initiative launched in late 2022 to reduce alcohol-related harms in hard-hit countries, with a focus on alcohol taxation and other pricing policies.

Urban Health

The rapid urbanization of the world requires a focus on cities if we want to improve health. Health infrastructure, policies and the built environment must improve air, water and housing conditions, promote access to services, and be sustainable. As cities develop, they will promote health and equity when driven by intersectoral work informed by public health. Through the Partnership for Healthy Cities, Vital Strategies works with a global network of 70 cities whose mayors have committed to policies to prevent NCDs and injuries. From creating smoke-free areas to restricting the marketing and availability of unhealthy foods in schools to saving lives through safer roads, these cities are models for the role health-centered policies can play in making cities more sustainable, equitable places to live.

Environmental Health and Climate Change

Our health as humans is deeply connected to the health of the environments where we live. The vast majority of people—90%—breathe polluted air, which causes more than 6 million deaths annually from cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, stroke, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorders, and cancers. Climate change presents an existential threat to people, cultures, food and water systems and ecosystems across the globe. Targeting emissions reduction to achieve the greatest and most rapid co-benefits to health can increase political, public and financial support to achieve climate goals. In addition, Vital has expanded its work on childhood lead poisoning and continues to work on air quality management with the government of several countries and cities including Jakarta, Indonesia, which is implementing a new regulation on emission standards and using low-cost sensors to strengthen air quality monitoring.

Injury Prevention

Injury is a leading cause of death among youth and young adults. From preventing road crashes to a nonpunitive approach to overdose, governments must adopt a public health approach to injury prevention that addresses root causes and promotes sustainable solutions. Vital Strategies has been working since 2019 to help state governments prioritize health as the United States faces a growing overdose crisis. In 2022, Vital fought stigma with statewide and nationwide strategic communication campaigns, and helped secure policy wins in four states. In 2023, Vital will build public support and push for further wins in the states where we work: Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. In 2023, our Road Safety initiative will increase focus on motorcyclists in many of the cities, states and countries where we work with governments to reduce road crashes.

Public Health Systems

Public health institutions such as ministries of health and local health departments require strong evidence collection and data analysis systems to address the leading risk factors for disease and social inequity. They also require tools and organizational solutions to influence policy and to maximize the efficient use of resources for greatest impact. In 2023, we plan to expand our work with governments and civil society partners at national, state and local levels to strengthen the policies, programs, processes, and people that comprise sustainable public health systems and, in turn, drive improvements in population health. Two areas where we work intensely are how to build robust and linked civil registration and vital statistics systems to guarantee all people are counted and to help dozens of governments gather and analyze data and evidence and design policies and laws based on that data that promote health.

As we move into the new year, we encourage you to join us and learn with us. We are launching our new season of VitalTalks, our speaker series, which brings together leading voices from diverse fields to discuss today’s most pressing public health challenges. Make sure you’re signed up for our email newsletter here to receive invites to our events and notifications about our recent publications and work.