Falling Walls Conference 2022: How health and sustainability are related

Komthing is as important for our life as our health, little can be as drastic as physical limitations or mental suffering. Accordingly, a good ten percent of public spending worldwide went into this area even before the corona pandemic – this relative share is higher in Europe and the USA and lower in Africa. In absolute numbers, the differences are even greater. Health and sustainability are closely intertwined – climate change or air pollution bring illness and stress, at the same time the healthcare sector is also a significant burden on the environment, and prevention is the much more sustainable alternative to therapy, as two sessions of the Falling Walls conference made clear.

The first took on the issues of depression and dementia – with the pharmaceutical company Biogen as a sponsor. With regard to Alzheimer’s disease, which is after all a global health crisis, there has been a lot of hope for the company in recent years: with the antibody aducanumab, Biogen last year received approval for the first new Alzheimer’s drug in the USA in around 20 years. But although it removes deposits in the brain, according to studies it probably does not improve memory.

Common triggers

The remedy is at least a new approach, says Anthony Hyman, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics and recently awarded the Körber Prize for discoveries of previously unknown cellular processes – for which he also received that of Silicon Valley billionaires awarded “Breakthrough Prize 2023”. “If you can’t take the first step, how do you get into the whole process,” says Hyman, who also founded a company himself.

between dementia and depression there are some similarities, emphasizes the psychiatrist Mazda Adli from the Berlin Charité: Both are major challenges for global health, the WHO estimates that there are more than 50 million dementia patients and 280 million patients with depression worldwide – the latter are around five percent of all Affected adults, the proportion is slightly larger in seniors. The causes are multifactorial, says Adli: There are genetic as well as environmental influences, air pollution with fine dust, for example, is a trigger for both diseases.

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