World Economic Forum: Vulnerable Populations And The Great Health Divide

Davos, Switzerland, 17 January 2017

A breakfast discussion as part of Oliver Wyman’s participation in the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland.

EVENT OVERVIEWIn an age when information equals empowerment, too often our most vulnerable citizens – the elderly, poor, and those with mental health challenges – lack access to crucial health information. But whilst the challenge is often recognized, our research shows that little is being done about it. And so the health gap grows.

This dangerous disconnect will be the focus of a distinguished panel of experts as they address the question: How can healthcare innovations and information be connected to populations who are deprived of it due to social, economic, or political reasons?


Donald Schwarz
Vice-President, Program, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Sean Duffy
Co-Founder and CEO, Omada Health.

Helen Leis, Partner
Oliver Wyman, Health & Life Sciences Practice

Crispin Ellison, Partner
Oliver Wyman, Public Sector Leader, Europe



The 47th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting is dedicated to the topic of Responsive and Responsible Leadership. Our session will gather leaders from the private sector, governmental agencies, and academia to explore cross-sector solutions to the health information gap.

The scope of this challenge is significant:

  • According to the World Health Organization, low- and middle-income countries bear nearly three quarters of deaths caused by non-communicable disease (cancers, diabetes, heart and lung diseases).
  • The economic toll of this health epidemic is significant: The estimated loss in economic output in developing countries is US$7 trillion for 2011-2015, according to a Harvard University study.
  • Digital distribution of information is becoming increasingly important to disease management; however, just 15.2 percent of the population of the least-developed countries are Internet users. In comparison, 81 percent of the population in developed nations are Internet users.




To further understand the delivery, accessibility, and relevancy of healthcare information for vulnerable individuals, Oliver Wyman and Altarum Institute, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, recently completed a major, multidisciplinary study of the consumer health information space. The study consisted of a consumer research component to understand vulnerable individuals’ healthcare information needs and a marketplace research component to assess how market stakeholders perceive and are addressing those needs.

According to Helen Leis, a panelist and consumer health expert who led this research for Oliver Wyman, the need for better, more accessible information is well understood; but many barriers exist to delivering better information. "Most government and private-sector stakeholders acknowledge the need for more and better health information for vulnerable individuals, but few have made it a priority,” she said. “To address this challenge, we need leaders to commit to working closely together to develop and deliver integrated solutions across societies."

Read more about the research and download the reports.


Crispin Ellison, Partner and Public Sector Lead, Europe Answers 3 Questions
  • 1Why is Oliver Wyman focusing on vulnerable populations and health information in Davos?

    Despite the great strides of the fourth industrial revolution, we also see alarming health trends amongst populations in developing nations and those with low-incomes in developed nations. As leaders gather for discussion of responsive and responsible leadership, it is vitally important we consider how today’s health and information innovations can be distributed throughout societies.

  • 2Is this an issue relevant to developing nations only?

    Not at all. In developed nations, vulnerable individuals face great challenges in accessing both care and health information. Often, health information is written at a level that is not accessible to vulnerable individuals or it is not relevant to their circumstances. For example, diabetes-friendly cooking tips won’t help a person if they lack access to a fresh-food market or stable housing. And the 20% of developed population with no/minimal internet access are increasingly disadvantaged.

  • 3What do you hope attendees walk away from the panel knowing?

    The social and economic burdens of non-communicable diseases are overtaking societies’ ability to cope in all countries. Immediate action is required. Convening leaders to explore how we can better deliver care, health information, and innovations to vulnerable populations is a first step toward managing this crisis.