A sustainable healthcare system ensures high quality care without depleting natural resources, draining people's life savings and leaving behind large carbon footprints. It's what every individual, organisation and country aspires for. Healthcare professionals, policymakers, businesses and the general public all play a pivotal role in the development of a healthcare system that can be sustained and will benefit everybody in the years to come.
The Challenges of Modern Healthcare Systems
The increasing demand for healthcare services and diminishing resources continue to challenge healthcare systems on a global scale. Besides the inefficient use of natural resources and financial instability of a country, it's clearly the lack of education in healthcare management and disease prevention that has caused a spike in the number of people seeking treatments for a wide range of chronic conditions.
Education in health and wellness shouldn't be confined within the four walls of a clinic or school; it's a constant process that begins at childhood. Maintaining proper nutrition, a healthy lifestyle and a sound mind leads to a healthy wellbeing. Unfortunately, many these days prefer the shortcut to a temporary respite from pain and illness rather than be educated, hence hurting themselves more as well as the environment and the country's financial resources.
Quality patient care refers to the application of treatment methods that produce lasting results, not a band-aid solution. So long as everybody continues to rely on superficial approaches, they will deal with the same cycle of symptoms over and over again.
Moving Beyond the Status Quo
Even though Australians are lucky enough to have access to a world-class healthcare system, which has raised living standards and life expectancy greatly, it has, paradoxically, become a victim of its own success and raises concerns to the ongoing sustainability of the system. This is primarily due to our ageing population, especially if one considers that the 65+ age group is projected to reach 8.8 million by 2057, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
Equally alarming are the forecasts for our health budget, which is likely to double as a proportion of GDP over the next 40 years. A large portion of this is accounted for by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) – the system that ensures that the latest medicines are dispensed to patients at a government-subsidised price. If the current system is clearly not sustainable, what is a viable alternative and how can we avoid this looming crisis?
Gearing Towards a Sustainable Healthcare System
One way of ensuring long-term sustainability of our healthcare system may well lie in utilising natural therapies as part of a broader approach to providing healthcare services and encouraging wellness.
Different forms of complementary medicine are increasingly being integrated into existing healthcare systems, where their holistic approach and focus on preventative health measures can help to avert many health problems before they arise. This will no doubt be beneficial to different sectors as it guarantees the following:
- Lowers total healthcare costs as people veer from the pharmaceutical-based approach
- Promotes health and longevity
- Reduces the negative impact of chemicals from drug manufacturing on the environment
- Empowers everyone to take charge of their health through a healthy lifestyle and diet
- Reduces absenteeism rate in the workplace and boosts productivity
- Boosts the financial sector
Jimi Wollumbin from One Health Organisation (OHO), a not-for-profit organisation that advocates sustainable, noninvasive, community-driven initiatives for primary healthcare, has a very definite vision of the concept.
"Sustainable health care is inseparable from sustainability in general. We can't have healthy populations and unhealthy financial structures, crumbling communities and polluted ecosystems," Jimi says.
OHO has gone further and developed a roadmap to global health, which advocates a "multi-sectoral integrative approach to world health" that places communities at the heart of healthcare provision.
Encouraging Freedom of Choice
For our dream to become a reality, policymakers, planners and health practitioners must come together to develop a framework for inclusion of a range of healthcare options in a sustainable healthcare system.
There also needs to be a move to focus on the quality of healthcare outcomes, as opposed to merely ensuring longevity―an area which complementary medicine is especially strong on. Consumers must also be free to make their voices heard to ensure that they can contribute toward the development of a healthcare system where they're free to exercise their right to make an informed choice of the type of health services, products and practice that suit them best.