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Rethinking the Roles of Commercial Brands for Public Health

Whose job is it to tackle the health issues and behavioral habits that lie at the heart of prevention? Everyone’s. While such issues have long been viewed as the responsibility of governments, the tide is shifting as a new wave of everyday change-makers rise up and innovations are making a global impact. And amongst these change makers are every-day brands with meaningful marketing budgets that are making headway in promoting key behaviors that have long-lasting impact.

Imagine a world where, from sunrise to sunset, the brands you love and use every day positively impacted every member of your family—and that these brands made it a priority and a responsibility to make impact matter. That world will only happen if we are able to foster stronger, trusting, evidence-based relationships between the private and public sector. This is the future we should all strive for, where brands can actively integrate key public health actions into their marketing strategies that are in sync with societal needs—and thus contribute ongoing resources to strategically promote development rather than making occasional, haphazard CSR donations, making a positive difference with each product sold and with each campaign delivered.
My vision is a world where every brand is contributing to a pressing health need, where companies shelter the growth of these brands, and where government facilitates an environment for such brands to operate.

The talk will explore how we can define a new discipline - Marketing for Public Health -- unpacking the connections between brand marketing and public health further with carefully selected brands that have had a significant impact on public health, with a specific focus on hygiene, nutrition and Well-being.

Dr. Myriam Assa Sidibe is one of the world’s leading experts of brands that drive health outcomes through mass behavioural change. From within Unilever, she has created a movement to change the handwashing behaviours of one billion people, the single biggest hygiene behavior change programme in the world, and conceived and established the multi awards winner UN recognized Global Handwashing Day – now celebrated in over 100 countries.

Myriam’s approach to pushing boundaries and challenging the status quo has been pivotal to leading a paradigm shift in the way public private partnerships for health/well-being are managed and funded, leading her to be recognized as one of the top 10 Intrapreneurs in the world. Her foresight in establishing Lifebuoy’s social mission has resulted in being replicated across Unilever as best practice examples for brands looking to positively impact the world whilst driving market share.

Over the past 20 years, she has worked in over 20 countries in Asia and Africa for the public sector and the private sector, arguing for a more transparent relationship between the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors, advocating the need for businesses to gain growth and profits from engagement in social and health issues in order to build more sustainable, effective interventions, and is a regular commentator in the media on this. Myriam regularly presents her work on WASH and Nutrition at key public health events (Scaling-Up Nutrition Global network, Women Leaders in Global Health). She is equally recognized in the creative world (speaker at Health Lions in Cannes) and is a Ted speaker The simple Power of Handwashing - Ted Talk. Myriam is a trustee of WaterAid, the world’s largest civil society organization on Water and Sanitation and a commissioner for the Lancet on the future of health in Africa. Myriam is from Mali and holds a doctorate in Public Health from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a Masters in Water and Waste Engineering from Loughborough University, UK. She was trained as an Agricultural and Environmental Engineer from McGill University, Canada.

Myriam is currently on sabbatical from Unilever to Harvard where she is a senior fellow at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at Harvard Kennedy School.