Health and wellbeing are central to the human experience. Whoever you are, wherever you live, being and feeling healthy and well are goals we strive for throughout our lives. Yet, the way people think about health and wellbeing is constantly changing. Right now, humanity is witnessing one of the greatest ever shifts in approaches, accelerated by technological developments and innovation, but also by other factors such as the global pandemic. Many of us are left reevaluating society’s approach to health, questioning its purpose, business models, incentives, and community education.
In the context of this disruption, NTT sets out a vision for Health and Wellbeing. A more human-empowered, knowledge-driven and technology-enabled approach. The redefined concept focuses on prevention, better outcomes, lower costs, and more natural experiences for those involved. Individuals are supported by a shared ecosystem, collaborating across governments, institutions, businesses and organizations. Central to the idea is the definition of health as a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing and not merely as the absence of disease or infirmity.
The future of health and wellbeing needs to be human-centric; this means putting people at the center both on the demand and supply-side of prevention and care, encompassing every touchpoint across the journey. To realize this vision across all life stages, individuals must take responsibility for their health and wellbeing, making a life-long commitment to a continuous effort. However, the individual needs support and guidance to do this. The future blueprint for health and wellbeing demands the orchestration of multiple and diverse agents to form a functional ecosystem. All of society’s stakeholders must interact, collaborate, and provide support if we are going to make a change.
On the individual level, each person needs to commit to a personal contract to make health and wellbeing an integral part of their lifestyle. We have long known its benefits, but it is only now becoming more achievable due to the support from advances in science and technology. The incentive is to maximize the time spent being healthy and happy and minimize the time spent healing or in an assisted condition.
To support individuals and their healthier lifestyles, we need robust, human-friendly systems. Silos that result in disconnected and fragmented care need to be repaired. Beyond that, core attitudes need to change and look beyond the cure to understand the cause. More focus needs to be placed on empathy and emotions and ethics, resilience, respect, and transparency.
The third sphere of action involves the community. Every individual belongs to several communities, all of which will play a key role in accelerating the collective shift towards human-centric health and wellbeing. As we propose structural and systemic changes that are complex and lengthy, the support of communities is vital. These changes apply to physical communities (including families, work teams and neighborhoods) and digital communities (including social media connections, communities of interest and crowds).
There are some key challenges to implementing a human-centric health and wellbeing model. One such challenge is the lack of trustworthy, accessible, and ready-to-use knowledge. Part of the problem stems from the viral spread of misinformation online, which exacerbates existing polarization. In addressing this, we can turn to education and a more concerted effort to help people understand why a healthy lifestyle is essential for themselves and their communities and broader society.
Another challenge is shifting the focus from treatment to the preservation of good health. To make this shift will require an overhaul in the design of our existing health systems, which remain aimed at treatment once someone is already ill. Further issues surrounding data also pose difficulties. Currently, health data remains siloed in disaggregated systems. Emerging technologies are set to help, allowing for the sharing of data across vast systems. Yet, the sharing of data needs to be carefully managed. If data is to be shared, it must be shared safely and securely to protect individuals’ privacy.
Living through the Covid-19 pandemic has made us realize the extent to which communities and broader society play a role in our health. We have learned that the decisions and actions of those around us, from our neighbors to policymakers in government, can directly impact our health and wellbeing.
We can build on the collective learnings from the pandemic to change our approach to health and wellbeing. Through a concerted and collaborative effort, and by using innovative technologies being developed at pace, we can look to a future where maintaining and promoting people’s general wellbeing is the core aim for society.