May 25, 2016

Health and development in middle-income countries: Implementing a more integrated approach to tackling neglected tropical diseases

Written by Martin Koehring

Health was confirmed as one of the big challenges facing the global economy during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos earlier this year. Healthcare will be at the heart of what the WEF calls the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”.

This post originally appeared on Perspectives.

According to executives polled by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) in the run-up to Davos, the healthcare sector is best placed to benefit from the merging of physical, digital and biological systems in the wake of the Fourth Industrial Revolution; however, the sector is among the least well prepared for this megatrend, the survey also found.

Many middle-income countries (MICs) such as Brazil, China and India could benefit enormously from reaping the new opportunities for healthcare provided by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, but they also need to overcome major challenges. The WEF officially launched The Future of Health as one of its global challenges at this year’s meeting, in order to boost the global response to the new challenges and opportunities facing healthcare. During the launch press conference, Arif Masood Naqvi, the founder and group chief executive of The Abraaj Group, a private equity investing firm operating in many MICs, highlighted that the lack of high-quality healthcare in many MICs endangered growth in these markets. And Arnaud Bernaert, head of Global Health and Healthcare Industries at the WEF, stressed the need to focus more on prevention and the design of smarter cities that are better equipped to deal with healthcare challenges, such as population ageing and the spread of pandemics.

Rapid urbanisation in middle-income countries

The call for more determined action on global health at Davos could not have been timelier: the outbreak and spread of the Zika virus—transmitted by the bite of mosquitoes—in the Americas has highlighted the risk of pandemics spreading rapidly. This risk will likely escalate, with more than half of the world’s population now city dwellers—a share the UN expects to rise to two-thirds by 2050. This explosion in urban dwellers threatens to exacerbate problems with a host of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) that are sometimes not fatal but that can still carry very heavy social and economic costs in MICs.

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