Health and Healthcare Systems

This is how precision consumption can improve the health of millions 

 health care diet food measured balanced precision consumption considered healthy good for you better eating

Non-communicable diseases kills 41 million people each year, could precision medicine reduce this? Image: Unsplash/Brandless

Zara Ingilizian
Head, Consumer Industries; Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum
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Future of Consumption

  • 41 million people die each year from non-communicable diseases.
  • But precision technologies, combining personal data, AI and IoT, can help to prevent these illnesses.

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), driven by a combination of genetic, physiological, environmental and behaviour factors, account for 71% of all deaths globally, killing 41 million people each year. One in four people globally have a familial inheritance of metabolic imbalances that increase their risk for these diseases.

Precision technologies, the powerful combination of personal data, AI and IoT, offer new ways to address these risks.

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To achieve a high quality of life, consumers have long desired to improve their personal consumption and lifestyle habits, including those related to sleep, food, exercise and mood management, to positively impact their overall health and well-being. The technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution offer new opportunities to deliver holistic (physical and mental) well-being outcomes for consumers in ways previously unimagined. Furthermore, since precision consumption is inherently preventative, it has the potential to mitigate rising health care costs in the long run.

The recent Precision Consumption 2030 report, produced by the World Economic Forum’s Future of Consumption Platform in collaboration with Sparks & Honey, a technology-led cultural consultancy, outlines the opportunities and challenges of precision consumption for consumers, business leaders, and society at large. Here are some of the key findings:

Precision technologies will transform industries

The total venture capital funding for precision technologies over the last three years was $1.1 Trillion. At the same time, wellness is a rapidly growing business. Wellness tech that enables people to adapt and manipulate their environments is a budding industry, valued at $333 million.

These trends show that personalization is critical for businesses. People are willing to pay up to a 20% premium on certain DNA-based products and services, a move that puts market pressure on all products and services to become deeply personalized.

Longer lives will also transform business strategies. By 2030, longevity gains from precision nutrition will push healthy life expectancy into the hundreds for those with access to the technology. Corporate strategy will need to adapt to longer lives across talent management, R&D, CSR, and marketing.

Precision data is key to unlocking long-term health and well-being

The pairing of biodata with precision technologies has the power to generate a new set of health and well-being outcomes for consumers. From DNA to voice tech, image recognition to the microbiome, digital biometrics to retinal scanning – consumers are now starting to understand the value of their personal, biological data and the implications that the availability of this data has on their potential future well-being. Furthermore, there is increasing awareness that a healthy diet is essential for a healthy brain function.

While still a long way from implementation at scale, according to experts, a good diet must be individualized. As Eric Topol, Executive Vice President of Scripps Research, explains, the idea of a universal diet is overly simplistic. “It contradicts the remarkable heterogeneity of human metabolism, microbiome, and environment, to name just a few of the dimensions that make each of us unique.”

When consumer products and services are designed based on the data of an individuals, the likelihood of behaviour change increases. Personalization and advancements in technology also offer consumers significant potential to greatly improve their overall wellness through near real-time feedback on their individual information and precision recommendations tailored specifically to them.

For the first time, these precise recommendations can offer consumers the opportunity to improve their day-to-day consumption decisions. As Dr. Ali Mostashari, CEO and Co-founder, LifeNome, explains:

“When people do a personalized diet program, we have noticed that the adherence to that program over an eight-week period is around 60% - higher than when people get generic programs.”

A world where an individual can continuously monitor his or her blood-glucose to gain personalized health advice every 60 seconds and “hack” their food intake based on personal chemistry is already a reality. For example, GenoVive uses an individuals’ unique DNA to develop customized meal and exercise programs to empower consumers to make lasting healthy lifestyle choices. New miniature sensors developed at Tufts University can be mounted directly on the surface of a tooth to directly monitor the effects of food intake on the bodies of human being in real time relaying data on glucose, salt, and alcohol consumption.

The continuous measurement of human biodata is at the core of precision consumption – it can empower consumers to make better decisions about their own health and well-being. “Within ten years, we will have unlocked enough secrets of the microbiome to accurately personalize nutrition as the first line of defense against any type of diseases: whether you have eye problems, heart problems, or you’re at risk of stroke,” explains Robin Farmanfarmaian, CEO and Co-founder of ArO.

A public-private ecosystem can enable trust and innovation

Achieving the full potential of precision consumption is fraught with challenges. Trust remains an unresolved issue. There are a growing number of data-rich entities who are leveraging consumer health data in ways that are not transparent. In most cases, these approaches are closed systems. The net result is stifled competition and ultimately, reductions in business dynamism and value for consumers.

According to the report, over 60% of consumer are willing to share data to advance scientific research. This includes their medical data; lifestyle, behavioral and family history data; and genetic info and wearable data. However, 36% of people were not willing to share their data with a private company, if asked. To bring precision consumption to mainstream consumers based on their unique digital biology, the need for consumer protections will only escalate.

What if key stakeholders can join forces to harness the power of technology as a force for societal good grounded in trust and transparency?

The Future of Consumption Platform is working to build a new system called the “Precision Data Collaborative” that aims to identify the guardrails to ensure the privacy and transparency needs of consumers are being met while enabling data-driven knowledge and innovation to thrive. The collaborative has an ambitious goal of onboarding over 1 million consumers over the next three years to create the most trusted and integrated wellness data set in the world featuring biological, physiological, and behavioral data. As a pilot, this public-private ecosystem will include businesses, members of academia, civil society and government.

Through the power of intentional consent, consumers will know how their data is being used, stored, and shared in ways that are consistent with their interests and the context under which it was collected (e.g. health and well-being). The collaborative will allow consumers to provide a holistic view of their current state of well-being to a select group of organizations who will then make product and service recommendations based on personalized inputs, AI and insights. With healthy competition, consumers will stand to benefit: derive benefits from higher quality and efficacy of precision-driven products and services.

Precision consumption can not only improve the quality of data used in public research and consumer health interventions, longer-term, it can also reduce the ever-increasing burden of healthcare costs on the private and public sectors. The journey starts now.

This article is related to the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, 21-24 January 2020.

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Health and Healthcare SystemsFourth Industrial RevolutionForum Institutional
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