Tackling global health care challenges

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Last week, I attended the first World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) in Doha, Qatar. It was a huge affair with more than 800 people attending from 67 countries – leaders in health care mixed with figures from sport, business, journalism, and politics. The purpose of the summit was to bring together people – with the power to change existing ways of working – to find new and innovative ways to tackle a variety of global health care challenges. As Lord Darzi, chair of WISH, reminded us in his opening address, such challenges are not going to be solved by doing more of the same.

Over the two days I engaged in some very interesting discussions around the use of innovations in health care, particularly around the re-design of care services – an area we have explored in our Time to Think Differently work. Many countries have had to deal with the same barriers that we now face – including professional resistance and insufficient attention to the process of implementation. There was agreement that health care should be patient driven and that, regardless of the complexity of our systems, lawyers should not re-design care systems.

Increasing costs in health care was another common topic of discussion, and I have arrived back in the United Kingdom with a far greater awareness of some of the cost-containment solutions being explored by low and middle income countries. As Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, reminded me, we have much to learn from examining other health care systems. All ideas need to be tailored to local circumstances, but let’s hope the successful diffusion and exchange of some of these solutions will be part of the legacy of WISH.

Fifteen innovations from across the globe were on display at the summit, including a state-of-the-art ambulance with a trolley in the centre to allow paramedics to work on both sides of the patient if necessary, designed by the Royal Society of Arts. Papers on a variety of topics, including mental health, obesity, road safety, antimicrobial resistance, use of big data, accountable care, and patient engagement, were released at the summit, as was a new study on the adoption of innovations across eight countries. This study identifies and assesses key factors associated with successful adoption of health care innovations – an interesting read.

The summit delivered many powerful messages about how we might transform care: about prevention, managing demand, sharing data, and collaborating within systems of care. But, for me, what made Doha really worthwhile was the powerful keynote address delivered by Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize winner and Chairperson of the National League for Democracy, Burma (Myanmar). She spoke passionately about the need to re-build good health care services in her country so that everyone has access to care. But more importantly she reminded us of the importance of caring: ‘The kind of innovative health care to which I look forward to is one rooted in human values and in spirituality…’


Nick Pahl

British Acupuncture Council
Comment date
03 January 2014
Thanks for this blog - very illuminating.

When you mention about Aung San Suu Kyi and how she highlighted the importance of caring that is rooted in human values and in spirituality...inevitably it resonated with the values of Acupuncture. I really do think that acupuncture should be increasingly seen as a valid approach to clinical practice - we offer personable healthcare that focuses on the patient’s best interests and respect for medical science. and ethical practices in medicine. The evidence for acupuncture for key health issues such as Chronic pain is also excellent - as seen by its recommendation in new Guidelines for Chronic Pain produced last month by the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network.

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