As the population grows and diseases evolve, access to health care around the world is becoming more pertinent. Astounding medical advancements are helping solve many conditions, and there is plenty more work being done to improve health and well-being across the globe.
Investing in healthcare & well-being
The funds below hold investments that touch on the theme of healthcare, whether through research, developing or implementing new treatments, or improving wellbeing in other ways. These funds still hold a diverse range of companies meaning that there may be some crossover within the responsible investing themes.
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Why is access to healthcare important?
In the UK, we are lucky enough to have the NHS, which grants residents 24/7 access to medical services for free. Unfortunately, many countries do not have this basic need, with some opting for a privatised medical system whilst others don’t have a good medical infrastructure in the first place.
Access across the globe
A couple of the problems health care services are facing around the world are recruitment and financing. In the UK, for example, there is a shortfall of approximately 100,000 NHS Staff, and this number is only set to rise. The US has also seen increasing shortages of doctors and registered nurses across the country, with estimates stating that the country could be short of around 121,000 doctors by 2030.
Health care in America is provided predominately by private sector organisations, with insurance being required for treatment. However, as of 2016, there is an estimated 15.5% of the US population who do not have health insurance due to costs.
To improve the eating habits, the UK Department of Health introduced the 5-a-day campaign in 2002 following a recommendation from the World Health Organisation. This campaign suggested that adults should be eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day to promote health benefits. It has since been claimed that we should in fact be eating closer to ten portions per day to adequately improve our well-being.
Another attempt to boost public health and well-being was the introduction of a sugar tax in 2018 with the aim to reduce consumption of drinks with added sugar. This tax alone is set to generate approximately £520 million annually, which will then be used to fund sport in schools. Similar taxes have been implemented across the world, with some cities in the US introducing a soda tax and further debates on whether the tax should be applied nationwide.
Change4Life and Couch to 5K
The government has launched a couple of initiatives to help fight obesity and promote healthy living. One of these is Change4Life, which was launched in 2009 and aims to get people eating better and moving more by offering tips, recipes and exercise ideas, with a focus on families. They have partnered with many companies, including Disney, to help make changing to a healthier lifestyle more fun for kids and adults.
Couch to 5K is another government program launched through the NHS and takes you through 9 weeks of running, building up from a total beginner to running 5 kilometres. It was released as both a podcast and a separate app, trying to appeal to as many people as possible.
Health care has been a heavily researched and invested field for many years, with new innovations constantly being created. Although the testing and regulatory process for medical devices and treatments is quite long, there are many advancements in progress at the moment.
Cure for Diabetes
One such innovation, for example, is the development of an artificial pancreas for Type 1 diabetics. The device is worn outside the body, and monitors insulin levels, delivering the hormone automatically when needed and making living with diabetes much easier.
In the long term, scientists are currently researching the pancreatic cells that produce insulin in the hope that they can develop a way to replace the cells, effectively curing type 1 diabetes. Whilst this cure may still be 10 years away, it is still extremely promising for the roughly 400,000 people currently living with the condition.
Big strides have been made in recent years, with cancer survival rates increasing from 1 in 4 to 1 in 2 over the past 40 years. Detection is a large focus at the moment, with more advanced blood tests and even breath tests being researched to pick up early signs of cancer much sooner.
On the treatment side, improvements in radiotherapy are currently being developed, which will lead to more precise treatment that reduces the effect on other areas of the body. Clinical trials have also begun on treatment that alerts the body’s immune system to the cancer cells, allowing the body’s own defences to launch an attack.
Around the world, the population is aging quite rapidly, with the number of people aged over 60 having tripled since 1950. This is thanks to a rising life expectancy, in large part due to new medicines and treatments. In order to help the aging population live independently for longer, and to enhance their later life, robots are currently being researched and developed to assist.
Companion robots are just one type of robot set to assist. They act similarly to pets in the sense that their main purpose is companionship; keeping the elderly company and reducing the effects of loneliness. They can also help with small tasks such as finding lost objects around the house, carrying items from one room to another, and reminding the owner to take their medication.