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Healthcare Innovation Can Drive Economic Growth and Healthy Aging


David Boyd, GE Healthcare’s head of European Government and Public Policy


Employers must drive employee health

At the 14th European Health Forum Gastein at the beginning of October, European Health Commissioner John Dalli highlighted that EU cohesion funds, aimed at reducing disparities between EU regions, are to be extended to include a focus on eHealth and new medical technology to bolster healthcare in the applicable regions.

David Boyd, GE Healthcare’s head of European Government and Public Policy was at the meeting and writes:

“This is an important focus from the European Commission. It recognizes the critical role that investment in health technologies and innovation has in getting the economies of Europe moving again, and maintaining the health of the continent’s increasingly ageing population.

The European Commission is working hard to persuade member states to invest more now in health and health technology to save more money in the long run; the thinking being that better healthcare systems mean healthier and more prosperous populations. Access to existing technologies should be made a priority, as there are lots of technologies, solutions and financial mechanisms that are not being used to their full potential.

“The difficulty of course, as Commissioner Dalli made clear,is that Finance Ministers are focused on the short-term pain and not the long-term gain."

Growing old gracefully

The European Union’s flagship Active and Healthy Ageing Innovation Partnership (AHAIP) aims to tackle Europe’s demographic change and its socio-economic implications (more patients, fewer healthcare workers) by championing the growth potential of innovation in health.

“They have a very ambitious target,” Boyd says. “How does Europe secure an additional two years’ healthy lifespan for its citizens by 2020? It will require real co-operation and partnership between all stakeholders. Healthcare and social care need to be linked, integrated, patients need to be empowered to own their health and there must be an increased focus on   diagnosing disease earlier when therapies and interventions have a better chance of success.

What clearly needs to be addressed by the EU is how to overcome the many barriers that currently exist to getting innovative medicines, diagnostics and technologies into clinical use more quickly.”

Company health programs can help tackle non-communicable disease burden

The important role that companies have in helping to tackle the challenge of non-communicable diseases was a key point of discussion at the Forum. Boyd presented GE’s workplace wellness program Health Ahead which sits in stark contrast to the data announced in Edelman’s Health Barometer 2011; essentially saying that businesses are not well-regarded as either a sources of reliable health information, nor as responsible in what they do to promote better health among employees.

“It was striking that our employee wellness program Health Ahead resonates with the key issues identified in the Barometer as essential in driving large scale change,” Boyd says. “A focus on healthier lifestyles, not just disease prevention; personal commitments to action; teamwork and the social dimension of peer support and encouragement; the provision of independent data and advice; reward and recognition from peers, family and friends; and finally web based and other tools to help people  track and manage their own commitments.”