by KATE HAWKINS, STEPS Centre Member

Members of the Future Health Systems Research Programme Consortium are actively engaging in discussions at the Geneva Health Forum. The conference began in dramatic fashion with an assessment of the changing landscape within which health systems are being forged. The opening plenary session featured a range of speakers who aimed to situate health in a dynamic world. Changes in epidemiology, shifts in political and economic organisation, a strong and growing for profit and not for profit sector and a burgeoning role for information technology all featured.

Andy Haines of London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine highlighted changes in epidemiology and demographics which are likely to shape future investment and interventions. As the percentage of people over 65 years old grows in developing countries their health needs will take a growing proportion of health financing. Alongside this chronic disease and diseases of affluence will demand a larger slice of the pie.

Richard Samans from the World Economic Forum talked to the economic drivers of health and their political implications – what he called a ‘cocktail of stimulants’. Emerging economies such as India and China will alter global health governance – demanding leveller playing fields for decision making. States will struggle with how they relate to a private sector and civil society actors who are organising across borders on health issues of interest. Increasing deregulation of health care is, in some settings, reducing the role of the state and reducing trade barriers between countries. He also felt that increased access to information technology would shape the role of health care providers and those who access services.

Information technology was an issue taken up by Kendall Ho (University of British Columbia). He presented on ‘eHealth’ – urging health care workers to respond to the ways in which the Internet, cell phones and other digital technologies have changed the way that we do business. In particular he felt that these technologies could help to improve patient/doctor relationships, increase decision co-creation, streamline inter disciplinary collaboration and speed up judgements on evidence based health interventions.

With this in mind we will continue to use the STEPS blog to report on emerging debates at the conference.