March 16

Viewpoint: Global health innovations can be game-changers at home, too

Rich and poor countries used to struggle with different sets of health issues: obesity in one versus malnutrition in the other; heart disease and cancer as leading causes of death in rich countries, deaths from infection topping the list in poor countries.

That is changing. India and China each have more people with diabetes and obesity than does the United States, while Zika and other tropical diseases have come ashore here. Lengthening life spans around the world ensures that cancer and dementia impose huge burdens on health care systems at home and abroad. Equally important, both rich and poor countries face the challenge of making health care affordable: High costs impede access to health care in poor countries, and rich countries worry that their skyrocketing health care costs are unsustainable — in the United States, health spending is projected to grow at an average annual rate of 5.8 percent until 2025.

This global convergence of health issues calls for universal solutions. It has begun reshaping how we think about health care innovation. For decades, health care expertise and investment flowed in one direction, from rich countries to poor countries. That is no longer the case. Take, for example, an effort by Ascension Health — America’s largest nonprofit health system — to change its approach to patient care. For more than a year, Ascension has been sending patients who need open heart surgery and hip replacement to a hospital in the Cayman Islands run by Narayana Health. This Bangalore-based health care group is best known for providing inexpensive heart surgery to India’s poor. Its doctors perform these procedures at a fraction of what they cost in the US.

Source: STAT (link opens in a new window)

Health Care
global health, healthcare innovation