“Health is an eternal theme of humanity – and a strong, healthy and sustainable society is our common pursuit. So let us dream, but then let us return here to earth to do the work that is needed to attain health and harmony at home." Minister Chen Zhu, Minister of Health, China, 2013.” (2)
‘Opening a window to the future….
Opening a window to the present….
So what brings us from the bucolic ‘outback’ scene to the apparently inevitable and inexorable journey to the perils of 2050? Many things and they impact both directly and indirectly on healthcare.
Chief amongst them is the ageing of the population. This does not just burden healthcare and healthcare resources directly but indirectly as it places pressure on the environment – where in the future will water come from, what will we breathe if we have no forests and if the atmosphere we live in is dense with harmful chemicals?
We face a future characterised as follows:
- ‘We will live longer lives, with greater possibilities for healthy ageing’ (but a danger of unhealthy ageing). ‘;
- We will be more urbanised and interact more with artificial intelligence;
- Climate change and scarcities of energy, water, biodiversity and food will have a fundamental impact on health and survival;
- Science and technology will advance rapidly, with linkages across information, robotic, health and bio- technologies, profoundly affecting public health and medicine’.
- “In Bangladesh, continuous lifelong, portable, electronic health records are being developed based on unique biometric identifiers assigned at birth as part of universal vital events and health information systems”. Dr Tim Evans, James Grant School of Public Health, Bangladesh
- “In Shanghai they have community-based self-help groups organized with government input that help each other in terms of learning how to control their blood pressure and blood sugars, how to live a healthier life, group exercise etc. I think we need more innovative ways to deal with ageing.” Meeting delegate, January 2013
- “We need to put health not only in the hands of doctors, nurses, pharmacists or dentists- like many of us here, including me - but health must also be in the hand of the active citizen.” Suwit Wibulpolprasert, Ministry of Public Health Thailand, 2013 (2)
- ‘Large, centralized institutions with top-down, expert-driven thinking may not be the only, or best sites for the ideas, leadership and action for health futures’. (2)
In addition to gathering information of how healthcare is delivered in different countries and innovative approaches to this, amongst the questions to be addressed are:
1. Does your government and do your healthcare authorities recognise an ageing population as posing a threat to future generations’ wellbeing?
2. Do you consider the ageing of the population to be a problem in your country? If so how will this manifest itself in your context? If not a problem why is it not so?
3. What are the consequences of the ageing of the population in your part of the world?
4. What if any steps are being taken by government and healthcare authorities in your country to address the problems of an ageing population?
5. Do you consider the steps being taken to be appropriate/adequate (if not, why not)? How might you approach this differently?
6. Is there any recognition in your country of ‘the patient journey’ as a means of improving healthcare quality and redistributing the cost burden?
7. Is it sustainable to continue to focus on hospital care as a means of addressing healthcare needs, especially in the light of the ageing population? What are the alternatives?
8. Would a shift to a primary care focus (or homecare focus) ameliorate the burden imposed on healthcare delivery as the population ages?
9. What do you see as possible solutions to the future challenges facing healthcare?
We must start to address these issues now before we are so overburdened and overwhelmed by the immediacy of the problems that will surely come that we are powerless to deal with them.
The work we do now may ameliorate the problems for us but, importantly, may provide a better future for the people of 2050 such as those in Santiago we were introduced to at the beginning of this story.
前人栽树,后人乘凉 “One generation plants the trees, another enjoys the shade” Chinese proverb.
Chief Executive Officer
(1) "La liberté pour Rêver" and "La liberté pour parler" are essays written in French by French Nobel laureate J. M. G. Le Clézioand translated into English as "Freedom to Dream" and "Freedom to Speak" and published by World Literature Today .
(2) Dreaming the Future of Health for the Next 100 Years White paper from the Global Health Summit Beijing China, January 26-27 2013