Future of Health: While the road is bumpy, experts believe people will live older and feel younger

In this day and age, humans have a quality of life that previous generations will only envy. We are spoilt for choice when it comes to healthcare and food. However, with the good, there comes the bad and this period can also be called some of the worst that we have seen in centuries. To highlight the condition, Oxfam last year highlighted that 62 people own as much wealth as 3.6 billion of the world’s poorest people.

Healthcare has been the biggest challenge. With the refugee crisis plaguing various pockets of the world, and developing countries such as India still working towards tackling diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV, encephalitis, malaria, and dengue, just to name a few, we’re still in a phase where we’re still trying to reach that point from where we can steadily advance.

The Sankalp Global Summit 2017 that was held in Mumbai last week saw 800 thought-leaders come together to address some of the biggest challenges humankind faces. One of these topics was the future of health, although they also looked at the future of food, and future of work.

The future of health brings a number of challenges, since the Government of India is currently aggressively working to eradicate tuberculosis by 2025. And while India has become a nation for medical tourism, the road ahead has a lot of hurdles. “The good thing is that if you manage to fix your own problems, they are very applicable to other developing countries and to the developed world as well. We should always play to our strengths. It is good to think about the global issues but act on your own problems first,” said Dr Aniruddha Malpani, Director and Founder Malpani Ventures, who was one of the speakers at the summit.

Another problem faced by not just India, but the world is affordable healthcare for all. People in the United States have raised concerns over US President Donald Trump’s health insurance policy replacing previous president Barack Obama’s policy that many believe reached out to the poorer sections of society.

In India, too, while medical services are subsidized in government and municipal-run hospitals, complex surgeries are still expensive. “A lot of it depends on what your actual definition of healthcare is. If you think that healthcare means doing bypass surgery for everyone then that’s definitely not going to happen. There lies a huge gap, a doctor’s definition of healthcare is perhaps very different from an oddly layman person. A doctor’s definition comprises all about illness care but if you ask are there going to be enough CT scanners or hospitals and that’s your perspective for affordable healthcare for all, then the answer is going to be no. But I think that’s a flawed dimension and I feel that if we use a sensible matrix, then the answer is going to be yes. I feel that unless we have a healthy population, we will never be able to reap our demographic dividend. Hence, it makes a lot of business sense to make sure that young kids remain educated and healthy,” Dr Malpani added.

Another problem faced by both doctors and patients is the insignificant doctor-patient ratio in India. In the Lok Sabha this year, Union Minster Anupriya Patel said as per information provided by the Medical Council of India, there were a total 10,22,859 allopathic doctors registered with the state medical councils or Medical Council of India as on March 31 this year. This means that there is one doctor for every 1,000 people, a staggeringly low ratio, given the number of infection-related deaths in the country. A 2009 report by the Guardian said that 2 million slum children died every year due to infection. The numbers may have come down, but it’ll be a while before India sees a significant drop in infection-related deaths.

However, Dr Malpani says that the problem is the way doctors are distributed. “If we continue like this then the misdistribution will continue, which implies that the number of specialist in Mumbai will keep on increasing but will we be able to get those doctors to go to places where they are needed? So we need to change the way we look at this completely, if we continue what we are doing right now then it will not be a sensible solution.”

With the Central government’s ambitious plan to eradicate tuberculosis by 2025, there are many challenges. While speaking to DNA, David Gallipeau, Chief Impact Office, United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Impact Finance​ (UNSIF) said, “If you look at future of health, Med-Tech Health-Tech and such kind of remedies, this is going to bring a revolution in healthcare. The lifespan of the people will increase, diseases will be eradicated, even medical equipment like cancer mammograms and the introduction of artificial intelligence in learning, identifying and making decisions about cancer that are taking place as we speak is going to get commercialised. Hence, there will be a revolution in both Health-Tech and Med-Tech,” he said.

Gallipeau, however, added that there was a stigma attached to a number of diseases such as tuberculosis, but said that it was a cultural issue. “I was previously working with UN AIDS for combating HIV in 2004 when the stigma was relatively high. There is a way to approach stigma and it revolves around attitudes and mind shifts. Just for the understanding of people that there are diseases out there like TB, AIDS and HIV and we need to fight it out. But there is going to be a big revolution in Health-Tech and Med-Tech without a doubt. People are going to live older and feel younger,” he said.

View full article