The Health Care Companies Changing the World

August 20, 2018, 7:21 PM UTC

Today FORTUNE unveiled its 2018 Change the World list, our fourth annual roster of companies that are addressing societal challenges in the course of doing business. The aim, as I explain in my editor’s letter for our September 1 issue (and dive into some more in my introduction to the package) is to show how the old-fashioned profit motive can be wielded, and indeed is employed every day, to drive efforts that can do good in the world—from reducing the amount of garbage sent to landfills to helping people emerge from poverty with the aid of microloans or skills training.

This list isn’t about charity or the oft-touted “corporate social responsibility” initiatives that companies engage in and promote with gauzy ads and Ed Sheeran covers or coffeehouse folk music. Rather, this is the worthwhile stuff they manage to accomplish while also making a buck—which can have the useful side effect of making the efforts sustainable.

This year we found a slew of companies taking on challenges of health and wellbeing. Mighty drug giant Merck and Aucma, a smaller Chinese refrigeration company, are each trying to halt the spread of Ebola—the first, by co-developing an experimental vaccine against the virus; the second, by manufacturing the portable storage containers that keep this sensitive vaccine at ultra-low temperatures in equatorial Africa, even in rural villages without electricity.

Weight Watchers, meanwhile, is taking on an epidemic of a different sort: obesity. And it’s doing it without fad diets or other unsustainable regimens. What’s Weight Watchers’ secret plan? Eating well and exercising. Go figure.

In India, where there are nowhere near enough doctors to serve the nation’s 1.3 billion residents, Johnson & Johnson is helping local health care workers learn how to do essential, but minimally invasive, surgeries. Insurer Humana is testing an initiative to address loneliness and food insecurity among its covered members, hoping to improve health outcomes and reduce its own costs in the process. Dental supply company Henry Schein is working with dental schools to bring oral care to places that never had it—from refugee camps in Africa to poor Caribbean communities.

Abbott is teaching smallholder dairy farmers how to produce better milk. Why? Because the company’s $7 billion nutrition business requires a steady stream of high-quality milk. And then there’s Dexcom, a San Diego medtech company that connected continuous glucose monitoring with a smartphone—making life better and easier for a huge number of people living with diabetes.

That’s what we call changing the world.

For more, please read our fourth annual list on—and while you’re at it, check out our previous years’ rosters. You can find our Change the World lists going back to the inaugural one in 2015 here as well.

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