Health beyond the horizon

Making global health sexy: reflections from Sweden

This week, I had the pleasure of attending the Global Health Beyond 2015 Conference, in Stockholm… A vibrant and very Scandinavian event, I wanted to share some reflections and “sound bites” - as [Prof Rob Moodie]( would call them - from the days.


An international audience of 1300 and an impressive speaker-list. The line-up included the passionate [Richard Horton](, Editor of the medical journal The Lancet, Hans Rosling, a Swedish epidemiology Professor made famous for his sensational YouTube talks on Global Health and development and dynamic NCD duo from New Zealand, Professors Robert Beaglehole and Ruth Bonita. The audience saw the culmination of health, environment and development scientists and practitioners, politicians, economists and business leaders.

Webcast live, I am sure you could find some of the vodcasts very soon online - I highly recommend them.


But what was different about this conference from others? What really resonated and stood out?

The Swedes Make Science Sexy

I was watching a great TED talk recently (openly available, online, 10-20min presentations from internationally acclaimed innovators of all backgrounds). It was a young, female scientist calling for the science community to change the way we communicate our work. Not the contents, but the framing of it. Less jargon, less biomedical and more sexy - was the message. She called on scientists to communicate their work in a way that was more appealing, less exclusive and more dynamic.

At the time, I had thought this was a great idea. Something we in the Global Health field could really take on board. And we’re trying! But scientists don’t have the best track record of making breakthroughs (often of extreme importance and interest) palatable to all.

A great idea indeed, but how?


Well, it turns out the Swedes know. Not only was this a meeting of the highest international scientific standard, but it was incredibly engaging. Complete with Facebook and Twitter-feeds for audiences (internationally - via the webcast) to ask questions, Ikea furniture and an “editor” on stage to pose questions and ideas (similar to an American talk show). Even the odd reference to EuroVision by Prof Rosling when explaining economic growth & Climate Change!

The day was peppered with engaging videos, passionate moderators and talks were more like TED talks, than scientific presentations - although still rigorous in content.

The audience was diverse, many not from a science background and many students, but we had one thing in common - total captivation.

This is how science must be communicated. Not dumbed, not sensationalised - but made sexy.

Some Swedish food for thought

The conference outcomes?

I thought I would share some stand-out thoughts or quotes that arose during the meeting… Ideas, ideals and challenges that we should all reflect on.

Human rights must come with a budget! - Hans Rosling

We cannot stand idle when billions live and die like the poor, and increasingly, live like the poor and die like the rich - Hans Rosling

Extreme poverty reproduces itself - IOGT

Don’t ask others to keep hand washing and live without electricity just so richest billion can do nothing - Jo Jewell, WCRF

There is money in the world!! Reshuffle it from the military into health and social support - Prof Friborg, Swedish Society of Medicine

We saw nature as a #Walmart, this is not how nature works!! - Anon

Why do we use economic growth as our sole reference for progress, instead of health improvement? Shift of focus needed? - Lichtenstein, IFMSA

Can we expect global security when there continues to be such (growing) inequality? - Anon

Rosling @ GH2015, Sweden.

Do we need a nightly globalhealth report, akin to a weather report? Bring this challenge to the people’s living rooms! - Anon

We will continue to lack evidence on effective interventions if obesity and alcohol, for e.g., are not prioritised for action - Anon

NCDs might be the unifying health component of the sustainable development agenda - Robert Beaglehole

We must ask “what kind of life do we want, for us and our planet?!” - Anon

If this has got your imaginations running, be sure to explore more using the Twitter hashtag #GH2015 or through the conference website.

Until next time!


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