What will the future of health and healthcare look like? In a joint series of blog posts by the World Economic Forum’s Strategic Foresight and Health teams, a number of leading voices will present their own visions for the future. Contributions are linked to the Scenarios for Sustainable Health Systems project, the Workplace Wellness Alliance and the Healthy Living Initiative. In the following post, Sarita Nayar, Managing Director, Head of Consumer Industries of the World Economic Forum, will share her perspective on the future of health.

The Indian health landscape has five major influencers: diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and mental health conditions. These diseases affect large part of the population in India: more than 60 million people live with diabetes, an estimated 33% of the population has raised blood pressure, and more than 50% of all deaths are due to NCDs.

In addition to the death and disability burden, non-communicable diseases put health systems and economy as a whole under immense pressure to cope with their heavy costs.

A new study the Forum is conducting with the Harvard School of Public Health, using a macroeconomic growth model, indicates that cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes and mental health conditions will cost India 126 trillion rupees from now through 2030. Mental health conditions will be the greatest contributors to this loss (49%), followed by cardiovascular and chronic respiratory diseases, respectively (28% and 18%). This provides a very compelling economic argument as it represents 1.5 times India’s annual aggregate income and almost 35 times India’s total annual health spending.

However, we know that the majority of these diseases can be prevented through healthy diets, physical activity, avoiding harmful use of alcohol and smoking cessation. The answers lie in effective prevention and management strategies involving, individuals, families, communities, the public and private stakeholders across sectors (health, education, agriculture, urban planning, etc).

This need for multistakeholder collaboration to enable healthy lives shaped this week’s discussions at the World Economic Forum on India. There was a strong sense that transformation of the Indian health landscape can happen and the tide on NCDs can be turned through effective collaboration across stakeholders.

Multiple solutions and areas for joint action have been put forward throughout the week: promoting healthy living in schools targeting children from early ages; leveraging mobile technology to allow broad dissemination of key health messages; fostering a social engagement focusing on the positive aspects of being healthy; and harness ongoing efforts in India (for example: the current government efforts on early diagnosis of diabetes), as an entry point to the broad goal of increasing awareness and education of the general public on healthy lifestyles. In the words of Sadhguru Vasuded “people’s lives don’t wait”.

Business, government and civil society leaders were strongly aligned on the urgency of moving from dialogue into prevention centered action to effectively halt the current course of disease and economic lost output.

The Forum, through the Healthy Living Initiative, welcomes this alignment and is committed to provide a supportive platform for the development of such collaborative actions leveraging the engagement of all interested stakeholders and reaching out to sectors beyond health.

Author: Sarita Nayyar, Managing Director, Head of Consumer Industries of the World Economic Forum

Image: People participate in an early morning yoga session in the city of Chandigarh REUTERS/Ajay Verma