Editor's note on the HEALTH edition 2011
In this edition of The Fifth Conference we explore the future of health and healthcare. The health sector, in its broadest sense, is clearly ripe for innovation. There are a number of severe challenges that need fixing, like the inequality in healthcare globally, the looming budgeting and staffing crises in the developed world and the fact that so many of us end up with incurable and painful diseases. In this edition you’ll learn about the innovations (and the people behind those innovations) that will transform the way we take care of our health, both personally and institutionally. We take both a global perspective and, in the second section of the book, a Belgian perspective.
Innovation is needed in healthcare for many reasons, but most fundamentally, innovation is needed because life is too short and often too painful. Obviously that statement is fraught with philosophical and moral issues. People may disagree for any number of reasons; it is nature’s way, it is God’s will, three scores and ten is enough, and so on. Personally, I think this is rationalization at work – “it’ll happen to all us, so we might as well learn to accept it with serenity”.
No. We shouldn’t accept it. A human body takes close to two decades to get to maturity, a human mind increasingly needs three decades and beyond that continues to learn and develop, until Alzheimer’s strikes. When we’re young we think we’ll live full lives until the ripe age of 80—examples aplenty around us—but the fact is that most of us won’t. In Europe the healthy life expectancy is only 67. And from the age of 50 onwards it’s time to start worrying about cancer and cardiovascular disease. The fact is that just as we edge into a phase of maturity, so the first signals of our impending end appear. Economically, that strikes me as poor deal. As a society we aim to spend ever more on our youth—a knowledge economy will require a lot of lengthy education—but we only receive about three decades of productive career time in return, before ageing and chronic disease take their toll on people’s lives and public budgets. And philosophically, even morally, it makes no sense at all. Human imagination and its achievements (from art to the internet) so surpasses the raw limitations of our animal form that it seems a particularly bad deal that life today is still so very short and brutal. Innovation is needed, if only because we can imagine a better future.
About Frank Boermeester
Frank is co-founder and editor of The Fifth Conference, a virtual think tank that seeks to understand the innovations that are shaping our future. He also runs a copywriting agency and manages occasional research projects for corporate clients.
Frank is a trained market researcher and research psychologist, with MBA, and has extensive experience in various types of business research and writing. He has worked in the UK, South Africa, New Zealand and Belgium.
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