While on a walk with my younger son over the holidays, we got into a good discussion about the future of health care. After taking a class on health economics this past semester, he wanted to share his perspective about the need to “do something” to deal with the high cost of medical services that are pricing people out of health care in many countries.
This year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities, observed December 3, takes as its theme: “Inclusion matters: Access and Empowerment for People of all Abilities.” Under this umbrella, the U.N. and other international agencies urge inclusion of persons with “invisible disabilities” in society and in development efforts.
At times, many of us have felt a sense of loss or detachment from our families, friends and regular routines. We also have experienced nervousness and anxiety about changes in our personal and professional lives, as well as real or imagined fears and worries that have distracted, confused and agitated us.
Reading Nobel Laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s masterpiece “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” one is confronted with an unsettling reality: In the mythical town of Macondo, violence is an accepted mechanism used by successive generations to deal with individual and social conflicts. It also inflicts enduring pain on the town’s people long after disputes are settled with blood.
The media have been reporting these days that the U.S. economy continues to grow, and more people are being hired each month, bringing the unemployment rate down to 5.6%--a level not seen since the late 1990s. Unfortunately, in some parts of the world, the negative impact of the 2008 Great Recession continues to be felt. Among some European Union countries, the share of the unemployed remains at unprecedented high levels, particularly among young adults. In Spain and Greece, for example, the unemployment rate is about 25%.
Nowadays there is an awakening of interest in the international community to understand mental illness in its different manifestations and societal impact, and to identify ways to effectively deal with these often misunderstood, neglected and stigmatized conditions.
The debate in the United States on how to change a health system that is geared to treat illnesses to one that focuses on preventing people from getting sick stirred my curiosity on how companies can improve employee health. After all, employees spend most of their waking hours at the workplace.
If economists view mental health as one component of human capital, as we typically view physical health, then it’s a natural step to the corollary view that good mental health leads to productivity enhancing behaviors such as increased labor supply, greater effort, enhanced concentration, and so on. Given its productive role perhaps mental health, often neglected in the policy realm, deserves more attention. Unfortunately there are precious few studies till date that actually establish such a link between psychological health and productivity.
For decades, the leading causes of mortality have differed between low income countries and high income countries. Those who have worked their careers in health and development probably never thought they would see the day when maternal/child health and communicable diseases would not be the leading health burden in many low income countries.
The new actor is non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which are characterized by chronic diseases (cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and chronic respiratory disease), along with injury and mental health which are now responsible for half the health burden in South Asia. Thus, the challenge now is how best to juggle this “double burden”.
Currently, many compelling reasons are pushing countries toward starting to tackle NCDs. From both a social and political standpoint, South Asians are 6 years younger than those in the rest of the world at their first heart attack. This type of trend threatens a country’s ability to fully capitalize on the demographic dividend from a larger mature working force because healthy aging is necessary, which in turn, requires tackling NCDs.