This week saw the launch of the Institute of Global Health Innovation (IGHI), which aims to bring together academics, including engineers, to improve health and reduce health inequalities.
Based at Imperial College London and headed by robotic surgery pioneer Prof Lord Ara Darzi, the IGHI will work with governments, NGOs and business to ensure that innovations in healthcare and health policy have a significant impact across the world.
Darzi said: ‘Healthcare systems all over the world are facing completely different pressures compared with 20 years ago. Life expectancy has increased dramatically, lifestyle diseases such as obesity are rife, and non-communicable diseases such as diabetes are increasingly becoming a problem in developing countries as well as in the west.
‘We can’t just build more hospitals or buy more beds; the whole way in which we provide healthcare has got to change. The world is crying out for low-cost, high-impact technologies that can be employed widely across the globe.’
IGHI’s deputy chairman Prof Guang-Zhong Yang is currently developing miniature wireless sensors that can be worn on the body to monitor a patient’s health remotely. Such devices, he said, will be useful for developed countries with burgeoning elderly populations as well as in countries where healthcare services are limited.
‘State-of-the-art technology does not have to be expensive, and innovation should not be just for the west,’ Yang said. ‘Our challenge is to find common ground for innovation, so we can develop safe, effective and accessible technologies that can benefit people in both developed and developing countries.’
Research at the IGHI will also seek to develop innovative systems for training medics and improving patient safety using low-cost methods.
Darzi said: ’Technology is the means to the end; it’s not the end. We need the right business models around technologies to make them sustainable in any healthcare system, whether it’s in Africa or in Scotland.’
Prof Darzi is widely regarded as one of the world leaders in the field of minimally invasive, or keyhole, surgery. Click here to read more