Health of the Future

Increasing threats from pandemics, non-communicable diseases, environmental health and over-burdened health systems alongside persistent health challenges such as water and sanitation are stretching the system. How can we more effectively meet complex health crises?

The 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa dramatically raised awareness of the global burden of infectious disease and raised questions about the preparedness of public health systems. Infectious disease remains a major public health concern around the world, with more frequent emergence of epidemics and pandemics. Within the broader system, we witness the changing health landscape of a global population that is ageing and more vulnerable and has a higher rate of non-communicable disease and increased exposure to environmental pollution and toxins. Non-Communicable Diseases may be the global health crisis of the present and future, with a rapid expansion projected in middle and emerging economies. Persistent threats also continue with the challenges around ensuring safe access to water and sanitation, and the host of complications associated with these challenges, including Cholera. With cross-cutting issues of growing cities, the refocus on health systems in cities is becoming a primary concern.

At the same time, genetic research is demonstrating the clear potential for major medical advances in the coming years against such killer diseases as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, potentially saving millions of lives, especially in the developing world. Examples of this include genomic vaccines,  which are poised to make major inroads in medicine. They offer many advantages, including fast manufacture when a virus suddenly becomes more virulent or widespread. In addition, the emergence of disease surveillance systems has become vital for early identification of public health threats. A wealth of new technologies is increasingly becoming available. New methods are underway for regional and global infectious disease surveillance, with advances in epidemic modelling aimed at predicting and preventing future infectious diseases threats.

Most countries across the globe are facing a formidable challenge to manage the rapidly increasing cost of health care. Spending on health care in countries such as China and India will continue to rise in line with their economic growth, as they will in developed and other emerging economies with rapidly ageing populations. This will place significant strain on budgets, thereby requiring innovative social policy and potentially a greater reliance on civil society and voluntary organizations.

Considerations and tension points for the Red Cross and Red Crescent

  • How can RCRC take advantage of new health innovation technology rapidly to change how we treat medical issues, and also how we better predict and prevent disease outbreak?
  • What changes to regional and global operating models and tools will be required of the Red Cross and Red Crescent to meet more effectively the needs of expanding or rapidly emerging health crises?
  • What role will National Societies have to play in their domestic arenas amidst a backdrop of rising health costs and challenges? Where will the financing and workforce come from to meet these needs?
What are your thoughts?

Are there other elements to this trend that we should be considering?

How do you think it will affect vulnerability and the Red Cross and Red Crescent?

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