MAKE A DIFFERENCE | workplace culture / mental health / wellbeing

Health Our Most Precious Asset – and How Technology Can Help Nurture It

Living with a pandemic has become the new normal and has made the world realise the value of health as the cornerstone of prosperity.

The Global Reset

There is no doubt that the fracture lines of society have been horribly exposed by COVID-19, with those in the poorest health and living in deprived communities hardest hit.  For some countries, the immediate threat has receded at least for now- whereas for others, like in the U.S.A. and South America, worse is yet to come.  Most experts agree that we will be living with the pandemic for some time, even if a vaccine becomes available in the next year.

So far governments around the world have injected over $9 trillion to save the global economy.  While governments and healthcare systems wrestle with the immediate crisis, businesses have had to act quickly too.

Almost overnight, major companies shifted most of their employees home to work remotely, and patients turned to chatbots, apps and video calls rather than travel to the clinic to see their doctors. The pandemic has shown how quickly we can make radical changes to our lifestyles, abandoning habits and practices long seen as essential- and leaving empty trains and desolate city centres in the process. These shifts may not be temporary either- indeed may become permanent reminders of dramatic behavioural and cultural shifts underway.

Rather perversely, many positives are unfolding that are powerful and compelling.  For one thing, leaders have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how societies can provide healthier, better, greener, and more equitable outcomes for all,  an opportunity that the World Economic Forum has hailed as the Great Reset.  The cornerstone of this Reset is a new ‘stakeholder capitalism’, a more socially responsible version of capitalism to restore social justice and ensure that wealth is distributed more fairly amongst all stakeholders in society.

Prevention is the ‘Cure’

A recent McKinsey report estimates that the cost of ill health was about 15 percent of global real GDP in 2017, and that the COVID-19 pandemic and its repercussions will reduce global GDP by 3 to 8 percent in 2020, concluding: “Long-term prevention and health promotion, which encompasses more than 70 percent of the benefits we identified, cannot simply be left to healthcare providers or healthcare systems. It is quite literally everybody’s business.”

So then, preventative health needs to be at the centre to build up health and economic resilience. Indeed, arguably the even bigger crisis looming is the chronic disease ‘epidemic’- delays in cancer diagnosis and  backlogs of cases have all increased with people fearful of seeing doctors and going to hospitals, only adding to the significant burden that existed before the pandemic.  The recent OpenSafely study showed that people with obesity, diabetes, coronary heart disease and hypertension, were much more likely to die from COVID-19, all mostly preventable diseases linked to social inequalities too.

Technology as the Enabler

So how can technology help us with preventative health?  How we can harness science, technology and data to keep us healthy and well, and live a good life – not just from the beginning but right through to the very end?

The book Live Longer with AI: How Artificial Intelligence is Helping Us Extend our Healthspan and Live Better Too explores the latest cutting-edge developments that are enabling us to live longer, healthier and better lives.  It examines the vital role of data, the richest renewable resource on earth that only becomes more valuable the more it is connected, and how AI can accelerate our understanding of the wider determinants of health.

The book discusses the impact that AI has on understanding the cellular basis of aging, how our genes are influenced by our environment and why the solutions for living longer are linked to living greener.  It explores  why the data we generate in our lives and harnessed daily by companies like Apple, Facebook and WeChat is so valuable; and how sharing it will help us individually but also benefit wider society in key areas of research, including aging biomarkers, enabling us to predict and manage dementia and other chronic diseases of ageing, and become more resilient to future pandemics.

Finally, the book compels us to think about health in a different way, not just about treating disease but more importantly, as our greatest personal and societal asset to protect.  To make the most of the Global Reset underway – and not ‘waste the epidemic’- we need to focus global attention on helping people keep healthy and well and minimise the health and wealth inequalities that have divided us.

The book ‘Live Longer with AI: How Artificial Intelligence is Helping Us Extend our Healthspan and Live Better Too’ will be published on 9 October and is available for pre-sales on Amazon here. Readers of Make A Difference Media can use the following discount link to save 20% off the full book price. 

About the author

Tina Woods is a social entrepreneur and pioneer in health innovation – connecting science, government, business and academia to align thinking and take action – solving real world problems and capitalising on new opportunities amidst uncertainty and change.   She is the Founder and CEO of Collider Health and Collider Science and Co-Founder and CEO of Longevity International that runs the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Longevity (APPGL).  She is the co-author of The Health of the Nation: A Strategy for Healthier Longer Lives published by the APPGL in February 2020, and now setting up one of its key recommendations, the ‘Business for Health’ Coalition launching in October.