Friday, October 12, 2012

Healthcare: The Key is Prevention

We spent the last few days at the Health 2.0 Conference in San Francisco. The conference showcases cutting-edge innovation transforming the health care system, mostly in health IT. Health providers, insurers, pharmaceutical companies, and hundreds of other players in the ecosystem participated.
Healthcare is a big business – the average American spends $7,000 a year on healthcare. That’s over 2 trillion dollars!!
     Some more numbers: Healthcare is the 5th largest economy in the world. It is bigger than the entire economy of France!! And the industry is expected to grow. A good market for businesses to be in.
Except for the growing burden on the US economy.
America’s healthcare is very ineffective. Although we spend much more than any other country in the world, by most parameters the US is not even in the top 10 healthy countries. For example, we are only #50 in life expectancy.
Many new companies cropping up are figuring out innovative ways to cut costs, increase efficiencies in processes, solve data interoperability issues, and ultimately undo many years of seemingly illogical policy, regulation, and business decisions.
All this is great. We need to reduce inefficiencies in the system.
   And it’s a big but.
      If America really wants to be healthy, we need to spend more time and effort on prevention. If people don’t get sick in the first place, we can save billions of dollars that are now spent to fix. If each American lost just 10 pounds, healthcare costs would plummet by several billions dollars.
One of the things we did not see enough of at the conference, and in general, is an underlying discussion of the role food plays in healthcare. Yes, food.
     The number one cause of disease in the US today is food! Over-consumption of nutrient poor foods has led to the obesity epidemic, diabetes in numbers never heard of before, and many other diseases.
What can we do to push the better food agenda? How can we create mechanisms to encourage individuals, companies, and healthcare stakeholders to invest more time and energy doing something about food?

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