Mark Bertolini addresses the future of healthcare

Last year, 2012, was an exciting and important one for healthcare around the world and at the World Economic Forum. It was the year of an important presidential election in the US with healthcare at its heart, acting as a referendum on America’s vision of universal healthcare. The issue of healthcare reached other heights around the world, with China declaring universal coverage, joining a group of more than 35 countries that have made universal coverage the new norm for their national health system and citizens. At the end of the year, the Global Burden of Disease study was published, allowing an updated perspective of the priority health issues.

As health became one of the World Economic Forum’s top global initiatives, I was privileged to be the chair of the Health Governors, a group of health industry leaders who work collaboratively to improve two fundamental gaps: access to health and access to care.

The Forum hosted three projects that made immense progress to address these gaps:

Workplace Wellness leverages the role of employers to make the workplace an environment where people can learn about and live health. Catalysed at the Forum as a project, at the Annual Meeting in Davos-Klosters this year we will celebrate its successful spin-off to scale with the Institute for Health and Productivity Management.

The Healthy Living Charter engages a broad spectrum of stakeholders from civil society, industry and government to prioritize health, engage in partnership for the prevention and control of ill-health, and translate the charter principles into concrete and scalable projects.

Sustainable Health Systems gave leaders from within and beyond healthcare an opportunity to look to the future through contextual scenarios that show how diverse the future of health can be. Project participants learned about five countries’ ideal vision of health (China, England, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain) and, more importantly, drafted strategies and concrete actions that could lead to the transformation of health systems towards sustainable access to high-quality care.

I am excited and hopeful that the reports from these projects will lead to vibrant discussions here at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2013 across a wide range of stakeholders that only the Forum could convene. Speaking for the Health Governors, it is our hope that the discussion this week will contribute to changing mindsets and building bridges across a broader coalition of leaders responsible for creating and ensuring health.

Author: Mark Bertolini is Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President, Aetna, USA; Co-Chair of the Governors for Global Health and Healthcare Industry for 2013

Image: A nurse pushes a hospital bed in Switzerland REUTERS/Michael Buholzer