Our anemic healthcare: can our children help us?

Whatever the political divides, citizens worldwide agree that responsible government should provide adequate healthcare for the whole population. Unfortunately, both patients and clinicians often get too subsumed in the weight of immediate crises to agitate beyond their own current concerns.

Healthy children can help inject our anemic healthcare systems with new blood.

We need to mobilize the largely healthy sectors of our population, for example our youth, to deal with the anemic state of health resourcing to prevent it from becoming a chronic, incurable illness. Worldwide, public sector institutions are being starved out of the funding needed to meet increasing demands and visa restrictions are leaving many of these institutions in intellectual and service poverty.

Judging on past history, commercial commitment to backfill the gap is unlikely. UK companies contribute just 1% of GDP toward research and development. Germany commits only double that.

The US is no better. Whilst the level of private sector involvement is much higher, the future is no less compromised. Traditionally, US pension funds invested, rather bravely, in securities that reflected the retirement needs of their largely healthy, working contributors. Those investments included fossil fuels, health care and government bonds. Now, risk-averse pension funds are giving over the investment responsibility for their funds to mutual funds.

That seems to be a sensible move as the mutual funds are international and large enough to promise stable investments, and a long-term view, to protect the funding of our future retirees.  On the surface, it appears to be a win for healthcare. For example, Vanguard one of the top three US mutual funds, is the largest investor in Pfizer, the largest pharmaceutical company in the world.

However,Vanguard invests only 13.2% of its portfolio in health care, ranking it number five, compared with its top two investment areas, technology companies such as Apple and Microsoft (20.4%) and financial institutions such as JP Morgan (19%). The net result can only be a decrease in long term healthcare resourcing.

Healthy children, largely unheard in health care debates, have important roles to play. In the same way they have effectively raised the temperature of concern about the future of our planet, they can help inject our anemic healthcare systems with new blood.

There are many ways to engage our children. Health education taught in schools could be expanded to incorporate more health advocacy. For example, giving our children skills in community action to help save and strengthen health infrastructure is a good start. Also, National Child Health Days, rather than focusing on mental and physical ill health and health promotion, could showcase the integration of children as activists in the struggle to improve health care resourcing for their future needs.

 Otherwise, it is their future health that is in jeopardy, as the recent epidemics of vaccine-preventable viruses and opiate painkillers exemplify.

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