Health has long been a meaningful element of our society. Life is the constant pursuit of staying healthy. Education in individual health competencies, self-determination and exertion of influence by patients constitute a component of the health policy. The aim is participatory decision-making between doctor and patient. The activation of patients also has another backdrop. As society ages, there will be more and more people sick and in need of care at a time when the coffers are being depleted, making health a personal task – a civic duty.
Health on the net
More and more people have access through the Internet to relevant health information, which was previously not available in such abundance. This also leads to a shift in the relations of power: the erstwhile patient is turning into the power client, as a self-aware “prosumer” replaces the sick person seeking help. The biggest challenge for experts is to find the really relevant information for the patient, and to facilitate the translation thereof into everyday understanding.
The hit American television series Dr House clearly shows the role that the media can assume in health education and advertising. Thus, in the first four seasons, lupus was diagnosed disproportionately, only to turn out to be always wrong. From cleaners, who expressed this suspicion, to misused books on lupus, to special features and merchandising articles, “it’s not lupus” was a running gag – with such a sustainable effect, that the author and producer of the series, David Shore, was given an award by the Lupus Foundation, because he had raised public consciousness about the disease. House’s medicine dependence might have had another effect: Figures were published in April 2011 that never before had so much Vicodin been prescribed and taken. Within five years, the number of Vicodin prescriptions rose from 19 million to 131 million annually. As dangerous as the medicine may be, it shows how firmly a trade name for a preparation gets entrenched in people’s minds. House = Vicodin pain killer.
Interest in one’s health is good for the person concerned and pays off for society as well. There is discrepancy between being able and willing to be healthy. Being able to be healthy means that people need certain competencies in order to be able to lead a healthy life, such as healthy food, sufficient exercise, social interaction. Willing to be healthy often fails when it comes to organizing daily life, e.g. eating lunch quickly and hastily, sedentary activities, etc. Health has its individual but also its systematic causes. The key question is: who can assume responsibility for a healthy lifestyle most effectively? The answer is the individual, but also institutions such as the state, employers and schools.
The new trendsetters are the so-called token healthy people. They define disease no longer as fate, but as guilt. The guilty are in essence the lower rungs of society. Health is becoming the trademark of the achievement-oriented elite of society. The individualization in the primary healthcare market is one-sided: the individual sensitivities of the patient are ignored, but his individual behaviour is controlled. What is required is an individual, holistic medicinal product to provide healthcare for distinctive people. It is public, because institutions, employers, cities and the state have to create healthier living and working conditions. The individual medicine of the future needs the WE.
Corporate Health – a necessity for companies
Many people overworked at or because of their job, brought about by the merging of leisure time and work. The health policy of companies will in future constitute a key factor of successful business models. A sense of well-being enhances productivity and relaxation boosts creativity: these maxims must be embedded in the corporate health approach of the company. Only then will workplaces turn into healthy workspaces.
Thinking and acting globally – also when it comes to health
Global health regards the health of the world’s population in its global context and deals with the needs and expectations of various nations.
In the year 2000, the United Nations set eight development goals that were to be achieved by 2015. 189 countries, including Luxembourg, are committed to those “Millennium Development Goals,” as they are known. The targets of these goals include, in particular:
- to halve the proportion of people whose daily income is less than US$ 1.25 and who are suffering from hunger,
- to improve the health of mothers and children,
- and to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS.
These Millennium Development Goals have enabled scientists to assess the developments in recent years. In spite of the worldwide financial crisis, the poverty rate and number of malaria victims have dropped and billions of people have better access to water today.
Global health is changing rapidly
Healthcare studies show that access to essential resources is no longer a problem only for the third world. On the one hand, more and more people are finding their way out of extreme poverty to more prosperity (poverty in China, for instance, has dropped from 60% to 16%), and on the other hand affluent people are becoming increasingly poorer (e.g. the child mortality rate is higher in the USA than in Greece, and life expectancy in Vietnam is higher than in Turkey). A new global middle class is emerging, who can afford to buy a bicycle or a television set for the first time.
Newly emerging lifestyles however also have an impact on current disease profiles: Obesity among children for instance is higher in Brazil or Russia than in Germany.
The World Health Organization (WHO) expects a sharp rise in so-called lifestyle diseases such as obesity and Type II diabetes by 2020. In 2008, ca. 80% of people who died from lung disease, cancer and diabetes, came from economically weak countries. For people in Africa, that means doubling efforts for healthcare, as the fight against AIDS and Malaria is not won.
Only joint efforts can make the world population healthier
World nutrition as a basic health problem
World nutrition and global health are not far removed. Health in the 21st century means above all that ca. 9 billion people will have to be fed by the middle of the century. The answer to this challenge will be to achieve or produce as much as possible with as little as possible.
But consumer behaviour in Western industrialized countries must also be put to the test. This includes above all the enormous consumption of meat and the waste of food.