Infectious diseases, high maternal and neonatal mortality rates, illness and ineffective reproductive and sexual health are some of the problems plaguing many places in the world. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal number three “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all people at all ages”, seeks to address these and other health-related challenges. BBVA also strives to promote initiatives in its field to achieve SDG 3, especially through the work of the BBVA Foundation.
BBVA contributes to all of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that seek to address the challenges facing today’s society around the world. For SDG 3 specifically, BBVA aim to finance biomedicine and health research projects, among other things. Support for excellent scientific research has been one of the BBVA Foundation’s fundamental priorities for over a decade now , as part of its firm commitment to generating ground-breaking knowledge. Since 2014, the foundation has channeled its support through two competitions that include biomedicine: the Leonardo grants, which are individual grants for mid-career researchers and creators of culture; and support for scientific research teams.
In Spain, one third of citizens trust online search results for health issues. The information medical experts provide is essential to patients’ trust. In order to offer reliable responses to this huge demand for online information, the BBVA Foundation and the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona launched a website in 2018 based on information provided by more than 200 experts, PortalCLÍNIC. With the theme “Information that takes care of you”, this web portal offers users accurate health related information to help promote prevention and patient empowerment.
The BBVA Foundation awards grants to scientific research teams that include categories of Biomedicine
The BBVA Foundation also carries out several initiatives to fight cancer. Specifically, its program in collaboration with the Hospital Vall d’Hebrón researches new immunotherapy treatments - studies with a €2.5 million budget. This is the second program with the Vall’d’Hebrón Institute of Oncology, the first laid the foundation to find new cancer biomarkers in 2013.
Furthermore, the Institut de Recerca Biomèdica (IRB Barcelona) has brought new hope for colon cancer also thanks to a program financed by the BBVA Foundation, and led by Eduard Batlle’s team. Research found that immunotherapy was effective in this type of cancer and helped reveal why it failed in other types of cancers.
In the fight against this disease, one name stands out, James P. Allison. The BBVA Foundation presented him the Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Biology and Biomedicine category for creating the first oncological drug based on the activation of the immune system. The drug was found to be highly effective against metastatic melanoma, with ten year survival rates around 20 percent. Both James Allison, and two other winners of the Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Biomedicine - Shinya Yamanka, the father of cellular reprogramming and Robert Lefkowitz, who discovered the existence of receptors, which are used by half of today’s medicine - later went on the win the Nobel Prize in Medicine. Other winners of the Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Biology and Biomedicine category over the past eleven editions include Jeffrey Gordon for his findings regarding the role intestinal microbes play in human health; Emmanuelle Charpentier, Jennifer Doudna and Francisco Martínez Mojica for their research into genome editing; and Edward Boyden, Karl Deisseroth and Gero Miesenböck for their pioneering work on optogenetics.
BBVA also strives to help achieve this SDG outside of Spain. In Mexico, Bancomer Insurance provides financial resources when cancer is first diagnosed through the product RespaldoSeguro Bancomer. This product allows patients to receive financial assistance that can be used for treatment or hospitalization expenses.
Through different programmes, BBVA promotes healthy living and well-being universal, which is one of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Objectives (ODS).
Music as medicine
Another activity entails BBVA employees doing volunteer work. In volunteer week, a total of €38,000 were raised for the Theodora Foundation to provide music therapy to 30,000 children hospitalized in Spain. The so-called Doctor Smiles make music the best medicine so that the children can have some fun, resulting in pain relief and even helping overcome fear of any procedure.
The power of music is infinite. It can change people’s lives because “melodies prevails over symptoms because they reflect cerebral blood flow while stimulating and coordinating neural activity,” maintains pianist Robert Jourdain. With this premise in mind, the BBVA Foundation created Sound Mosaics, in collaboration with the Spanish Association of Symphony Orchestras, using music to promote integration and creativity among people with disabilities. In addition, the third edition of the Blue BBVA Challenge featured the project Music to awaken the mind, which used music as a channel to communicate with patients who had difficulty expressing themselves with words.
The World Health Organization warns that physical inactivity can be deadly. BBVA promotes a healthy lifestyle among its employees, with internal initiatives such as Sports Days. Physical activity is fundamental for our bodies, as is knowing what we eat, according to a study by El Celler de Can Roca and Hospital Vall d’Hebron. Introducing the world of flavors, appreciating the textures and components of every dish improves people’s moods, thus revealing their levels of satisfaction and well-being. Another example is current research underway by Jordi Roca and BBVA, regarding disorders in the sense of taste and smell. Captured in the documentary The Sense of Cocoa, this project aims to raise awareness of a problem that affects millions of people around the world, but which receives little attention.
Goals for 2030
Many initiatives are needed to eradicate the different diseases and address health related issues. Millions of lives around the world could be saved by providing healthcare systems sufficient funding, improving access to healthcare services, offering more advice about how to reduce environmental pollution, for example, or promoting healthy habits.