Global Health 2040: Trends, Challenges, and Solutions

Open access and open data are starting to reveal facts about the future of our world that many politicians running for office would rather you not know.  So let's take a look at just a couple of reports focused on the future we face. Let's start connecting the dots.

World Bank 2013 Report

The World Bank just released a report in June 2013 entitled, "What Climate Change Means for Africa, Asia and the Coastal Poor".  Here are some extracts from the report related to global health that are worth sharing.

• Scientists tell us that if the world warms by 2°C as projected over the next 20 to 30 years,that will cause widespread food shortages, unprecedented heat-waves, and more intense cyclones.
• In the near-term, climate change, which is already unfolding, could batter the slums even more and greatly harm the lives and the hopes of these individuals and families.
• In Sub-Saharan Africa, significant crop yield reductions with 2°C warming are expected to have strong repercussions on food security. Rising temperatures could cause major loss of savanna grasslands threatening pastoral livelihoods.
• In South Asia, projected changes to the monsoon system and rising peak  temperatures put water and food resources at severe risk. Hydropower and energy security will also bethreatened.
• In South East Asia, rural livelihoods will be faced with mounting pressures as sea-level rises, tropical cyclones increase in intensity, and important marine ecosystem services are lost.
• Across all regions, the likely population movement into urban areas could lead to ever higher numbers of people in informal settlements being exposed to heat waves, flooding, and diseases.
• Expect increases in malaria, diahrea, cholera, TB, hepatitus, HIV/AIDS, SARS, influenza, and other communicable diseases…  not to mention famine, undernourishment,  and starvation.
• Other impacts expected to accompany climate change include mortality and morbidity due to events such as extreme heat and flooding.
• In many parts of Asia, floods associated with sea-level rise and storm surges carry significant risks in settlements where lack of drainage and damages to sanitation and water facilities are usually accompanied by health threats.

National Intelligence Council (NIC) Report – Global Trends 2025

The following are some key points raised in this recent report by the U.S. National Intelligence Council (NIC) entitled "Global Trends – 2025".

• Continued economic growth —coupled with 1.2 billion more peopleadded to the world's population by 2025— will put significant pressure on energy, food, and water resources.
• The pace of technological innovation will be key to outcomes during this period. All current technologies are inadequate for replacing traditional energy architecture on the scale needed.
• Lack of access to stable supplies of water is reaching critical proportions, particularly for agricultural purposes, and the problem will worsen because of rapid urbanization worldwide and human overpopulation as we see an increase of roughly 1.2 billion persons over the next 20 years.
• The World Bank estimates that demand for food will rise by 50 percent by 2030, as a result of growing world population, rising affluence, and the shift to Western dietary preferences.
• Climate change is expected to further exacerbate resource scarcities, as a number of regions begin to suffer harmful effects, particularly water scarcity and loss of agricultural production.
• If or when a pandemic highly transmissible disease emerge as expected by 2025, internal and cross-border tension and conflict will become more likely as nations struggle to control the movement of populations seeking to avoid infection or maintain access to resources.
• Worst case scenario – For the U.S., hundreds of millions of Americans could become ill and deaths would mount into the tens of millions.
• Outside the US, critical infrastructure degradation and economic loss on a global scale would result as approximately a third of the worldwide population became ill and hundreds of millions died.

Canadian Army Report on the Global Security Environment by 2040

According to this Canadian Army report on "Global Security Environment: Emerging Trends and Potential Challenges by 2040", attempts to understand and if possible, anticipate future challenges are essential for effective security planning for the coming turbulent decades.

• Problems of state failure, natural disasters, and the impacts of climate change increasingly mark the global landscape.
• In the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia, forces will continue to be at work straining scarce resources – sowing seeds for rising poverty, disease and instability along the way.
• Increased accessibility to global travel heightens risks the spread of disease to open societies
• Unequal access to advances in health and medicine may fuel increased tensions and actual conflict between rich and poor in both the developed and developing world.
• Novel techniques such as cloning, stem cell research and germ-line engineering raise the specter of a new class system, differentiated by those possessing the ability to “enhance themselves and their offspring” versus those who can't do so.
• Many developed countries – both in the West and elsewhere – will increasingly confront problems associated with population decline and aging.
• Competition for energy resources, water, minerals and metals will generate strife across the globe.
• While trends indicate ongoing and marked improvements in medicine and in public health, the threat of disease will continue to represent an issue of considerable concern for the world.
• Developing nations will remain the most vulnerable. It is likely that tuberculosis, malaria, hepatitis and HIV-AIDS will continue to plague many developing countries in the decades ahead - often with destabilizing results.

What all these reports point to is a range of major challenges facing all nations of the world in the coming 20-30 years. Continuing as is and relying on traditional methods to solve these global issues will not be effective.More “comprehensive approaches” to handling these major global challenges. There is a growing realization of the need for more holistic, multidisciplinary and networked global approaches to effectively take on and overcome the challenges we face.

No single organization, government agency, or nation can resolve these problems. Rather, lasting solutions will require the effective coordination and cooperation of global development, diplomacy and security resources to achieve desired ends.

It may turn out that global collaboration, coupled with 'open access', 'open data', and 'open source' solutions may play a key role in identifying and providing innovative answers to some of the worlds major problems – especially in healthcare.

For more information and predictions on the future of healthcare and health IT solutions, check out the following articles previously published by Open Health News (OHN) - "Health IT Systems in 2040" and "Notes on the Future of Health Care in America: 2020-2050".