Health January 28, 2019
The State of Global Healthcare

By Stephen Dorrell - World Healthcare Journal

Healthcare in the 21st century faces a series of unprecedented challenges. Much of what we face is born out of the uniquely human talent for spectacular innovation, as radical advances in modern medicine and improved living conditions have allowed us to live far beyond a lifespan which was regarded as normal only a generation ago.

Extended life has drastically altered the balance of populations so that the frailties which come with old age are felt globally. Demands upon our care and support systems have skyrocketed and we are struggling to train, recruit and maintain the workforce that is needed to accommodate this new demand.

But it is only if we fail to take the opportunities which are presented to us that these factors become global crises. There is no such thing as a perfect healthcare system and no society in the world has found the perfect way to reconcile the conflicting pressures on either their healthcare systems or the wider fabric of public services. Now more than ever we need to harness the human ability for innovation to provide comprehensive solutions and fully understand every social determinant of ill health.

Two elements of technological progress are driving change – the first involves clinical advance as a result of better innovation in pharmaceuticals and medical technology; the second is the digital revolution which makes an important contribution to pharmaceutical and medtech, but also has much wider application in health policy. Advances in digital analytics and in our genomic understanding present the opportunity to personalise medicine in a way in which will facilitate the development measures that will prevent ill-health. This will undoubtedly change the ways in which medicine is delivered.

No country should believe that healthcare is somehow different to other aspects of public service. All societies need to integrate health with the wider aspects of public services in order to address the social determinants of health. The requirement to deliver more integrated services is rightly under active discussion throughout the world as every country grapples with the need to ensure that public services effectively serve the needs of its citizens. These needs may be best met by a doctor, but sometimes by a teacher, a social worker or just a friendly neighbour.

Ultimately we should always be citizens first, patients second.

Defining primary care and ensuring that delivery is fit for the 21st century will be crucial to this in every country in the world. In the UK, the NHS needs to get better at channelling resources towards priority services in primary and community services, but our challenges have echoes in every country. In India, for example, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has unveiled hugely ambitious plans for primary care development ahead of the elections later this year. The need to focus on prevention and early intervention is a global priority, not a fashionable cause in western think tanks.

It is effective, actionable insights which make the difference – and which make a different, positive future possible. Our objective is to share those insights and promote current best practice to create better outcomes.

The scientific community is a global community, which needs to be supported by freedom of movement of both practitioners and their ideas. Our objective is to facilitate that exchange and participate in a free and global exchange of ideas.

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