Cities are developing health care ecosystems that are not only focused on diagnosing and treating sickness but also on supporting well-being through early intervention and prevention, leveraging digital technologies.
The pandemic and health crisis have made the case clear: communities have a role in creating a better health environment. And there is a reason to continue with this approach when the crisis has ended. Globally, five of the top ten causes of death are related to unhealthy behaviour.1 This brings into the spotlight the need for preventive medicine. The factors that affect a person’s health and behaviour are complex; therefore communities (physical and virtual) must play a part.
Cities will develop healthcare ecosystems that move away from purely focusing on diagnosing and treating sickness and injuries to supporting well-being through early intervention and prevention. Instead of being designed and funded to treat patients individually, healthcare services will have a greater appreciation of the interconnectedness of communities. The social determinants of health will be better understood, and government and the private sector will collaborate to address the challenges.
As care moves outside hospital walls new community players and disruptors will have a crucial role in the new ecosystem. Scientific advances and the affordability of personalised healthcare (genomics, micromics, metabolisms and behavioural economics) will ensure that care is tailored to individuals and their families. The citizens’ health journey will be underpinned by interoperable data and analytics guiding them through positive health choices and behaviours.
Cities have a responsibility to create a healthy environment. Smart Health Communities (SHC) engage patients, companies and public entities to deliver digital health services, in order to develop and shape communities, reducing costs dramatically, improving wellness and longevity, and promoting economic growth.
As cities of the future are expected to be densely populated, having an organised health ecosystem will be crucial. Furthermore, growing digitalisation and integration of IoT across a city’s ecosystem is making the development of smart health infrastructure a priority. Governments around the world are acting as enablers and catalysts of change. A city, as a geographic SHC, can drive a shift towards preventive and curative therapies as well as providing solutions that foster collective and cooperative healthy behaviour, and generate and analyse interoperable data to predict risks and evaluate impact. While privacy is a concern, investment in smart public health initiatives generates a substantial ROI for cities whilst improving public health and well-being.2
A Smart Health Community:
Smart Health Communities target consumer-centric health and are usually co-owned by public and private entities and citizens. For example New York established an evidence-based SHC named NDPP (the New York State Diabetes Prevention Program) for adults with diagnosed prediabetes or who are at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. The programme enhances reach and convenience while enabling participants to use virtual monitoring and engage with life coaches and fellow participants. 3 4 5
“The pandemic quickly catalysed the awareness of the relationship between public health and community-based health and in many cases highly localized insights into neighbourhood-based health. Public health goals are only relevant to the degree to which they can be implemented at the local scale of the community or the urban neighbourhood.”
-Uwe Brandes, Faculty Director, Georgetown University Global Cities Initiative
“In Cascais, with all the healthcare authorities - the National health authorities - we have helped in creating dashboards and heat maps, trying to anticipate the next step of this virus. My team was working on a daily basis, trying to use technology to help building up knowledge surrounding COVID.”
-Miguel Pinto-Luz, Deputy Mayor of Cascais