SEARCH: looking into heart health in the emerging world

Swiss Re and the Harvard School of Public Health collaborate to gain a better understanding of health and disease risk in emerging markets.

Health conditions are evolving rapidly in the emerging world as sedentary lifestyles and changing diets contribute to higher rates of first world diseases such as cardiovascular disease. This is a challenge both for public health systems and for rapidly expanding life and health insurance markets. To gain insights into health trends in the emerging economies of Brazil, China, India and Mexico, Swiss Re and the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) launched the SEARCH project - the Systematic Explanatory Analyses of Risk factors affecting Cardiovascular Health.

Gaining more knowledge

Worldwide, life and health insurance premiums in 2012 stood at USD 2,621 billion. Emerging markets accounted for 15% of this total, a little under USD 400 billion. Over the next ten years, Swiss Re expects the global life and health market share of emerging and high growth countries to grow to 27% of the total.

Knowledge is vital to any sort of insurance. Without being able to estimate the risk, it is impossible for re/insurers to price premiums so that risk coverage is affordable and that the risk pool is sustainable. In the case of life and health, this data concerns illness, public health, life styles, environments and life expectancy.

Valuable synergy

Such data is well established in developed markets with long histories of life and health insurance products. This is often not the case in emerging markets. To further grow and develop these markets, data is a key requirement forpublic and private institutions.

Both HSPH and Swiss Re need to connect risk factors to health outcomes. And both require better quality data and a deeper understanding of how measurable parameters influence health care costs, longevity, and the quality of life as we age.

The SEARCH research collaboration aims to develop data sources upon which new scientific findings can be based. The main focus for Swiss Re will be to better quantify health and disease risk factors. This data can provide a significant contribution to the understanding of future health and mortality trends, and so improve underwriting. The same data will be used by HSPH to develop and test preventive health measures and health policies.

Specific subject areas addressed include risk factors such as smoking and air pollution; and disease treatment and prevention practices for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

Collaboration results have recently been published in the Risk Dialogue Magazine on Health risk factors in major emerging markets.

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