For the first time in human history, infections do not head the WHO list of biggest killers in the world. Long-term conditions – such as diabetes, cardiovascular, airways and kidney disease and mental illness – are bigger threats. This is, paradoxically, compounded by the improved survival rates thanks to the 20th century’s medical advances.
This is overwhelming healthcare systems, as they struggle to cope with this massively growing burden and unsustainable costs. Something needs to change.
To date, innovation in disease management has tended to be incremental, with ever-diminishing residual gains via costly refinement of diagnosis and treatment. This cannot be the most effective route to improving global health. Indeed, the United States just experienced its third consecutive year of falling life expectancy– unique in the developed world – and this is in the country that spends at least 30% more per capita on healthcare than any other country.
We have fundamental choices to make. Healthcare innovation can go in two directions: increasingly expensive treatment for the few, or cost-effective healthcare for the many.