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World Health Summit: The end of an era in science and medicine

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World Health Summit Press Conference: "The end of an era in science and medicine" (The photo is free for usage – © World Health Summit  2012)
World Health Summit Press Conference: "The end of an era in science and medicine"

(ausschließlich in englischer Sprache verfügbar)

Lessons learned after three days of World Health Summit 2012 project a drastic scenario: the status quo of global health standards is dismal; the existing system is about to collapse; economic growth cannot be expected soon; and first negative effects of austerity are being observed. The fourth and final day of this year’s Summit even pronounced the end of an era in how we do science and medicine, due to the rapid evolution of information technology.

In accord with earlier speakers, Gerd Binnig (Nobel Prize Laureate in Physics 1986), Volker Wetekam (CEO, GE) and Phillip Phan (Interim Dean, Johns Hopkins Carey Business School) highlighted positive effects the present paradigm change might cause. “IT will change health-care dramatically,” Gerd Binnig stated and elaborated how the enhanced possibilities of machines can and should be used as tools to improve cancer treatment. “Every cancer is different, which is where personalized medicine comes in,” merging the best of two worlds: human contextual intelligence and machines’ processing abilities.

Likewise Volker Wetekam put his finger on benefits the information age offers for updating health systems. If treated right, patient information can be computed where needed and in the right format. IT can support rising regional activities in health-care.

However, after several failures in recent years several obstacles remain. Systems and programs have to interact better; the wealth of information has to be provided in a manageable way; and the education of health-care workers has to be adjusted to the change in utilizing computers. Human expertise will never be substituted by machines, as Nobel Prize Laureate Gerd Binnig emphasized.

The authoritative participants of the press conference agreed the end of an era though information technology looms. But do these possibilities make the world a healthier place? This question was the central topic of the concluding panel discussion.

Health-systems worldwide face a multitude of changes – some of them implementable for the better. For example, IT already provides patients the means for self-care and self-management, which will be a crucial part of fighting Non-Communicable Diseases in the future – themselves a central topic at World Health Summit 2012 due to their disastrous impact.

Improvement is possible, but the need to act is now. The need to adjust to contemporary and near-future scenarios and demands is urgent, the time for  postponing decisions has already run out. Together, positive change is possible. But the effort has to be multi-sectoral and multi-thematical.

The World Health Summit, held under the high patronage of Angela Merkel and François Hollande will be continued in Berlin in October 2013. In the meantime, the first World Health Summit Regional Meeting will be held in Singapore, April 8th – 10th, 2013.


World Health Summit 2012
October 21st – 24th, 2012
Langenbeck-Virchow-Haus, Luisenstr. 58, 10117 Berlin


Tobias Gerber

Media & Communication Manager World Health SummitWorld Health Summit

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