How to build a better health system

How to build a better health system:
How to build a better health system:

How to build a better health system:


Our healthy future cannot be achieved without putting the health and wellbeing of populations at the centre of public policy.

Ill health worsens an individual’s economic prospects throughout the lifecycle. For young infants and children, ill health affects their capacity to acumulate human capital; for adults, ill health lowers quality of life and labour market outcomes, and disadvantage compounds over the course of a lifetime.

Many of the conditions that can make change possible are in place. For example, ample evidence exists that investing in public health and primary prevention delivers significant health and economic dividends. Likewise, digital technology has made many services and products across different sectors safe, fast and seamless. There is no reason why, with the right policies, this should not happen in health systems as well. Think, for example, of the opportunities to bring high quality and specialised care to previously underserved populations. COVID-19 has accelerated the development and use of digital health technologies. There are opportunities to further nurture their use to improve public health and disease surveillance, clinical care, research and innovation.

To encourage reform towards health systems that are more resilient, better centred around what people need and sustainable over time, the Global Future Council on Health and Health Care has developed a series of stories illustrating why change must happen, and why this is eminently possible today. While the COVID-19 crisis is severally challenging health systems today, our healthy future is – with the right investments – within reach.

1. Five changes for sustainable health systems that put people first

For a start, greater investment in population health would make people, particularly vulnerable population groups, more resilient to health risks..

High-quality universal health coverage (UHC) is paramount. High levels of household out-of-pocket payments for health goods and services deter people from seeking early diagnosis and treatment at the very moment they need it most. Facing the COVID-19 crisis, many countries have strengthened access to health care, including coverage for diagnostic testing. Yet others do not have strong UHC arrangements.

How to build a better health system:

Such systems protect people from health threats, impoverishing health spending, and unexpected surges in demand for care.


Third,is an historic underinvestment in the health workforce, with estimated global shortages of 18 million health professionals worldwide, mostly in low- and middle-income countries. Beyond sheer numbers, rigid health labour markets make it difficult to respond rapidly to demand and supply shocks. .  Others have lifecycle pharmacists and care assistants.

Imagine a ‘well-care’ system that invests in keeping people healthy

Imagine a patient named Emily.

Emily was 65lb (29kg) above her ideal body weight, pre-diabetic and had high cholesterol. My initial visit with Emily was taken up with counselling on lifestyle changes, mainly diet and exercise; typical advice from one’s doctor in a time-pressured 15-minute visit. I had no other additional resources, incentives or systems to support me or Emily to help her turn her lifestyle around.

I saw Emily eight months later, not in my office, but in the hospital emergency room. Her husband accompanied her – she was vomiting, very weak and confused. She was admitted to the intensive care unit, connected to an insulin drip to lower her blood sugar, and diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

These diseases can be largely prevented by primary prevention, an approach that emphasizes vaccinations, lifestyle behaviour modification and the regulation of unhealthy substances. Preventative interventions have been efficacious.