The rise of cardiovascular disease in two rapidly growing countries—Mexico and Brazil—was the focus of a symposium organized by Swiss Re and Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) on October 15-16, 2013 at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Cambridge, Mass. Both institutions commemorated landmark birthdays at the event, as 2013 marks the 150th anniversary of Swiss Re and the 100th anniversary of HSPH.

Public health experts, academics, and insurers were among those who attended the symposium, titled “The Impact of Cardiovascular Risk Factors on Healthy Lifespan and Mortality in Brazil and Mexico.” Nearly a dozen HSPH faculty members were among the more than 20 speakers who discussed topics related to the global rise in noncommunicable diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, now the leading cause of death worldwide. Among the other topics were smoking, the role of diet and physical activity, and indoor and outdoor air pollution.

In his welcoming address, HSPH Dean Julio Frenk said, “The essence of public health is to understand the relationship between risk factors and health outcomes and to then address the most significant of those risk factors, with the expectation that they will lead to improved health and prevent premature death.” Reinsurance companies such as Swiss Re, he noted, also aim to understand and manage risks.

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