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Why all of society needs to care about healthcare?

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Katherine Haynes Sanstad
Jun 08, 2016 - reading time 4 mins

By Katherine Haynes Sanstad

Research Director, Health Futures Lab

 

Katherine has been part of IFTF for the past fifteen years as research director, client, affiliate, and friend. She has over thirty years of experience in marketing, communication, public health research, health care, philanthropy, and futures work.

By Katherine Haynes SanstadRead less
Integrated health isn’t just about connecting healthcare, it’s about connecting society
What we can see is that you are completely healthy|iStock_000071790457_Medium

Integrated health isn’t just about connecting healthcare, it’s about connecting society. It’s about reaching out beyond the nurses, doctors and hospitals, and about bringing together every person, from every system, at every stage of the healthcare journey.

 

As it stands, healthcare is just one strand of the larger social fabric determining our health, with the rest being determined by socioeconomic factors, such as income, housing, diet, personal choices.

 

Yet while overall health is the result of an intricate, multifaceted ecosystem, healthcare still sits as one solid whole, drawbridges up, stubbornly disconnected from everything around it.

 

Changing this though, will take time, effort and funding – things that many healthcare systems do not have. Essentially, our globe is not in its best shape – chronic diseases, aging populations, a re-emergence of new infectious conditions – and the harsh reality is that we need to spend our dollars on this, not on re-inventing the entire healthcare spectrum.

 

The good news, however, is that the reinvention starts not with money, but with minds.

We need to re-evaluate the deeply held idea that healthcare providers have a monopoly on healthcare decisions – particularly in developed countries, with entrenched health bureaucracies and extensive regulations. Here, there is often an inherent belief, across all society, that healthcare professionals are the only ones who can control what happens in a person’s health, that the doctor is the one holding all the cards, the one with all the answers.

Questioning this hard-fought for authority is a delicate game.

 

Firstly, it involves convincing healthcare providers that letting go of all decisions is not letting go of authority. It’s simply freeing up their time and resources for something better – no one is losing control, instead, everyone is gaining responsibility. Next, it means educating the patient that some of this responsibility lands with them. Traditionally, there is often a disconnect in how healthily the patient thinks they are living, and how they actually are living. 

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Thankfully, connected health devices can be the key here. The wearer of a fitness tracker might think they are being active, but they cannot deny the black and white data showing they are not being active enough.

Finally, the rest of society needs to play their part too; schools, media, social services, technology companies and supermarkets. Of course, overarching here is the governments and the policymakers, who must enforce country-wide messages. But they need to be backed up by schools educating younger generations on better health choices, by the media spreading the right message, by supermarkets promoting healthier food choices.

 

All of this is already happening on a basic level, and within their own siloes most elements of society are starting to talk about healthier living. Now, we need those voices to get together, because that’s the only way they will get louder.