This edition includes:

  1. How consumers view health is their body a car, fortress or tree?
  2. Active Aging: How social exclusion impacts health.
  3. The future of UK Health and Wellness four possible future worlds.
  4. What is a multi-cultural society and how do we get there?

The provision of health services, certainly in the affluent world, is heading towards a moment of disruptive change. Large and powerful drivers of change are converging on it from several directions.

An aging population – even if it is aging better than in previous generations – increases underlying demand for health services. As does the steady increase in obesity levels.

Technology opens up new – and often expensive – avenues for treatment, whether of replacement body parts or new approaches to managing or modifying body cells. Information and communications technologies also create new approaches to monitoring health, and potentially of medicating as well. Personalisation of treatment becomes increasingly possible. And meanwhile the costs of genomics, and of their implications for predictive health, continue to plummet.

The story is further complicated by three more factors. First by the pressures on public expenditure across the affluent world, which means that almost everywhere governments are looking to reduce their spending on health, often by exporting it to end users through insurance schemes. The second factor is the rapid decline of the pharma sector’s business model, which has been dependent on managing patents on drugs with large markets to cover the high costs of development. And the third is the increasing role of public health and preventative health programmes in improving overall health outcomes for the population as a whole, often at much lower cost than the conventional approach of managing sickness or injury when it occurs.

There are further wrinkles as well. Although much of the focus of health policy discussions is about physical health, mental health outcomes seem to be worsening, and these have all sorts of hidden costs attached to them especially for the older generations. It is a sharp contrast to the narrative about the wealthiest generation in the planet’s history taking three or more international holidays a year.

The surge in economic inequality over the past 25 years has also told its story in terms of health outcomes. Richest and poorest within the same cities have very divergent life expectancies. And values also matter in the way we imagine health and choose how to manage it.

All of this means that the future of health is unusually open at present, in the sense that change could be more disruptive than the conventional stories about ‘Health 2.0’ or universal genetics allow for.

All of this creates a large degree of unpredictability. While many of these factors seem relatively certain (aging population, increasing diffusion of technology, pressure on public budgets) they could combine in ways which are highly volatile.

In this themed edition of FutureProof, therefore, we are drawing on some of our recent insight into the future of health. In the first article, Radha Patel looks at Global MONITOR data on the metaphors we use to think about our bodies, and how these are changing internationally. In the second piece, Jo Phillips and Eloise Keightley explore the health impacts of aging, again drawing on some of our global data. And, finally, Camilla Parke introduces the health and wellness scenarios developed recently by our London office – with a more European perspective.

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