How do you define ‘Healthcare’? Treating disease? Improving mobility? Taking drugs to reduce pain? Perhaps all of these? This illustrates that healthcare is very much focused on treating illness, rather than preventing it. Our system can be better termed ‘ill-healthcare’. With an ageing population and growing burden of non-communicable disease, the NHS is overworked and unsustainable. So as we move into the 72nd year of the NHS, it is time for a reorienting of healthcare systems to focus on disease prevention by taking a ‘health in all policies’ approach to promote health.
This doesn’t mean getting rid of the NHS, or viewing prevention in opposition to healthcare, rather it should be part of the wider system of care. This solution ensures the NHS can be sustained, by easing pressure on treatment centres so they can provide more effective and efficient care.
An important element of this is ensuring that we have an accurate understanding of how the health of the population is likely to change into the future. Advances in data analytics and computing technology are a key driver of this understanding and can provide cheap and easy ways to save costs to both the public and private health systems.
Population health science is essential for the future of healthcare.