Interview with Herbert Schilthuis, Heineken
This interview is part of a series in which experts discuss key aspects of the malaria issue – innovation, program implementation, finance and policy. We hope the series sparks conversation and encourages others to determine how they can best contribute to the fight to end malaria for good.
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In your opinion what would be some positive game changers in the fight against malaria in the next five years?
A real game changer is of course an effective affordable vaccine.
In the absence of that, many good things have been done in respect to pushing back malaria, however to really get rid of malaria we need a different approach in different regions. Some regions may benefit from a different vector control approach, bednets and IRS may not work under all circumstances, and then there are issues around resistance to insecticides. Effective drugs to replace the ACT’s against which there is developing resistance are really needed.
What do you see as the most important assets the private sector brings to the fight against malaria?
Developing affordable vaccines, drugs and insecticides; lobbying for more effective procedures at WHOPES; helping to create innovative approaches to vector control that may be more effective in certain places. Now the approach may be too one size fits all. LLITN and IRS don’t work well if the mosquitoes bite outside in the early evening for instance. Providing affordable long lasting safe prophylaxis may be an alternative in some cases, that has to be developed.
What do you see as the main business drivers for investing in workplace malaria programs?
Reduction of sickness absence in those places where malaria is a significant risk and possibilities to send expats to certain locations. We never have a workplace malaria program. We do have a health care program and where relevant, malaria is addressed. We use RDT, ACT, LLITN and IPT during pregnancy and where relevant vector control in our sites or personal protection.
How do you see your workplace programs affecting the surrounding community and society at large?
In general, we are in cities and in that respect we have little direct influence on the surrounding communities through our activities. In some cases, our Heineken Africa Foundation programs do contain malaria components aimed at the communities. Our companies sometimes use World Malaria Day to advocate for measures to reduce malaria. In some instances, we may help to push national malaria programs to adopt the WHO guidelines if they don’t do that. For instance, in Burundi Quinine remained the IV medication of choice long after it was clear that IV artesunates are much better. We helped to push that IV artesunates were made available.
How does one go about convincing C-suite leaders of the value of investing in malaria programs?
I don’t see that a separate malaria program is something to convince about, I feel that we should convince companies / chiefs that they need to ensure that their employees and family have access to appropriate and evidence based health care and prevention. Malaria is part of that wherever applicable. Part of occupational health can be addressing malaria transmission in the sites where we work. All this is a more general approach. The C-Suite needs to support the fact that medical care is accessible, then malaria does not need a separate program.
Investing in malaria programs as a separate CSR activity may be useful for some companies where malaria aligns with their business aims or in case of very specific interest from some Chiefs. For Heineken, HIV is much higher on the agenda, The HEINEKEN Africa Foundation is a vehicle for engagement on malaria where appropriate, but for the rest I think addressing malaria is not for the Global level, it is more a local matter of varying importance.
The advantage malaria has is that many of the top executives travel to areas in which malaria is a risk and will therefore from time to time need to take malaria prophylaxis and other measures. Also expatriates need to take measures and some will get malaria from time to time. That kind of proximity may be helpful in getting attention for the issue.
Currently responsible for driving the global health and safety agenda in HEINEKEN, Herbert Schilthuis continues to develop his expertise in infectious diseases, tropical medicine, health promotion and organization of health care. He has been supervising medical care for Heineken employees and their family members in Africa, including the Joep Lange HEINEKEN HIV Workplace Program and advising the Heineken operating companies in Africa on health and safety since 2007. Previous to joining Heineken, Schilthuis worked for the Netherlands’ Health Inspectorate, supervising public health across the country, founded the National Coordination Centre for Travel Health, served on Amsterdam’s Municipal Public Health Department, and worked for Médecins Sans Frontières in South Sudan and Cambodia.
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