- Bill Gates believes we can predict the future of global health. His belief is based on three fundamental facts from the past that define the current state of this industry: dramatic improvements in recent decades, consistent innovations that bring forth more improvements, and long-term effects of today’s innovations.
- The two key improvements that Bill Gates expects to take place in the next 20 years are the elimination of malnutrition and a shift from a survival-focused to a life quality-focused healthcare in all countries in the world.
- Fundamental improvements in global health are possible only through the united action and focused efforts of all countries, nations, authorities, and organizations. It’s in our power, and it’s our responsibility.
Global health 20 years from now
In October 2019, Bill Gates delivered a lecture at Cambridge University as part of the Professor Hawking Fellowship he received this year.
Gates picked a topic he’s passionate about—global health—and decided to give it a twist he believes would’ve delighted professor Hawking: predicting the future.
People are getting healthier, but not everywhere
Global health is improving at dramatic rates.
Today, the countries with the worst health outcomes are still healthier than the ones with the best health a century ago. Life expectancy has increased tremendously. Within the last 30 years, humankind managed to cut childhood mortality (death of children under five years) in half. Today, many more people are living to see old age than 30, 50, or 100 years ago.
Still, some parts of the world like the sub-Saharan region are suffering from extremely high childhood mortality rates and awful general health outcomes. The reason for this issue is that breakthroughs and innovations are slow to reach said areas.
Innovations lead the way
The general state of things can be changed only through the effective implementation of innovations in the fields of healthcare, communication, and infrastructure. For example, the oral polio vaccine has been available since 1961. However, it didn’t become accessible to all children worldwide until 1988, with the creation of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) partnership.
Moreover, some innovations open the way for more opportunities and further innovations. For example, the Global Burden of Disease study provides a massive pool of data on the epidemiological statistics of global disease. In turn, this data gives insight into the best opportunities for effective research and investment.
This is a long-term game with extremely high stakes: a life-or-death marathon on a global scale.
Here’s what will happen in the next 20 years, according to Bill Gates
Based on his insights into the current research and discoveries in global health, here are the two most important developments that Bill Gates expects humankind to make over the next 20 years:
1. The problem of malnutrition will be solved
Malnutrition is the single greatest source of health inequality in the world. It hinders childhood development (physical and mental), increases the risk of numerous diseases, and generally reduces life expectancy. By solving the problem of malnutrition, we will be able to significantly cut the number of nutrition-related deaths—especially among children in vulnerable areas, like the sub-Saharan region.
Bill Gates believes that one of the primary ways of eradicating malnutrition is by changing the gut microbiome through probiotics and prebiotics. Essentially, this would mean promoting the growth of healthy bacteria that improve the absorption of nutrients, eliminating one of the root causes of malnutrition.
2. Every nation will shift their healthcare focus from just saving lives to also improving lives
Over 50% of all deaths in most parts of the African continent are from preventable causes. These countries are in a constant ”survival mode,” and their healthcare system focuses on saving lives first and foremost. Developed countries have long shifted to a preventive model of healthcare, improving quality of life and avoiding disease. This goes far beyond crisis management.
Bill Gates believes that over the following two decades, all countries will cross the 50% threshold of deaths from preventable causes and focus more on improving lives. The most important steps on the path to this milestone include:
- Solving the problem of malnutrition
- Eliminating malaria
- Stopping the HIV epidemic using novel and potent anti-HIV drugs
Right now is a critical moment for global health.
We have powerful technology that’s improving every day, there are thousands of brilliant scientists working hard on new innovations behind lab doors as we speak, we invest millions of dollars into expanding our horizons—but how will we use this power?
According to Bill Gates, if humankind chooses to channel this potential into global health, the world will be reshaped in the following 20 years. Whole continents will shift from a survival mode to a thriving state. We will focus more on the quality of our lives than on fundamental survival.
For this promise to become a reality, however, all nations in the world must understand the importance of what is at stake and work together for the sake of global progress.
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